Part of my morning routine involves combing the web for fresh news about self-storage. Most of the time, my findings are pretty clear-cut; but every once in a while, I get a curve ball. Take this photo, for example, which came up on a Yahoo! news search:
Was this image of a storage facility in Brooklyncomplete with police officer and ominous yellow caution taperegarding an incident that took place at the building in question? Did it have anything to do with self-storage at all? Here's the caption (AP, Dima Gavrysh):
An NYPD officer stands guard by the Pinnacle Self Storage building in Brooklyn, New York, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006. A New York City man who works with African drums was stricken with inhalation anthrax that appears to have been caused by contact with untreated animal skins from the Ivory Coast and not a criminal or terrorist incident, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The connection between the building and the incident doesn't become clear until you do a news search on the facility name and discover the drum-maker was working on animal hides in a storage unit at this facility when he came down with flu-like symptoms. That settles the ambiguity of the caption, but it doesn't solve the PR nightmare Pinnacle now faces.
I point this out, not to exacerbate the facility's plight, but because it demonstrates something important regarding the nature of our business: Storage is susceptible to unfortunate incidents because hard luck is part of the human condition. And what is self-storage, if not a collection of human testaments, parceled but thriving, each within its own sharp shell?
This could happen to any of you. As storage operators, you deal in the stories of people's lives. And when those stories get ugly, you are sometimes part of the tale. This puts the onus on you to steer the public eye toward more pleasant sights. For every body in a barrel or unit full of stolen goods, we need ten reports of charitable donations, community events and successful businesses. That's the only way to ensure people see something positive on the same page as the off-putting.
It's no secret that storage frequently falls prey to the scrutiny of vigilant if not relentless press. Most mornings, it's a victory to find mind-numbing dividend reports and acquisitions at the top of the pile. If it's not drug- or crime-related, it's good news where this industry in concerned.
The question is, can we change the way the world sees us? Those precarious boxes of Life sometimes come with a price. But surely they must come with blessings as well?