DEAR WALDMANS: Please help me. My facility looks more like a tar lot than a storage facility--and I don't mean a car lot either. I manage a storage facility and really enjoy my work. The problem is that I am a neat freak and I want the entire business to look as if it was just inhabited by Storage Maids Inc. I believe neatness is one of the most important assets in a facility, and when my customers walk through the front door, I want them to be impressed by our immaculate office. The rest of the facility looks just as great as the office, I might add.

There is one problem, though, and it's occurring more and more. Oil spots from tenants' vehicles or sometimes storage trucks and buses are staining our parking lot. It has developed into somewhat of a disaster. I have tried everything to remove these stains caused from the leaky vehicles, but the entire lot is concrete, so the stains shows up like tar spots. It totally ruins the image of the storage facility. I realize my tenants don't understand my philosophy for neatness, but this really irritates me. Without losing my temper with the tenants, what is the solution to this problem?

--Tar Lot in Melbourne, Fla.

DEAR TAR LOT: It sounds like your facility is something right out of a home-decorating magazine. I would love to take a tour of your facility--it would certainly be nice to see such a neat and clean place. It sounds like you have tried just about everything to keep the lot cleaned from stains. It's really tough having concrete as your parking lot for the very reason that it shows a lot of grease, oil and dirt. For someone as particular as you are, I understand this could be very nerve-racking.

It is difficult to tell your customers that their truck or car is leaking oil and you want them to fix it because it ruins the image of your facility. This is also a good way to lose business, since most of your tenants have probably rented a truck or used a moving company to transfer their goods. By all means, don't lose your temper and take the leaks out on the tenants. I can see it now: hot, tired individuals having moved furniture all day in the heat, and here comes the manager to tell them their truck is leaking fluid. Can you imagine what a scene that would make? Not only would they probably assume you were a little crazy, but also consider taking their business elsewhere. And I'm sure your facility owner would not be happy with that solution to your problem.

So calm down and try just one more thing: kitty litter. Believe it or not, kitty litter is great to soak up the oil. We have tried all the expensive oil absorption products, scrubbed and rubbed, and found kitty litter is almost as good and a lot less expensive. Just spread a good amount of it over the oil spot and let it sit for awhile. It will actually draw the oil from the concrete. Remember, nothing works all the time, but something is better than nothing.

A father-daughter team, the Waldmans are self-storage owners/operators and attorneys. In addition, Ms. Waldman holds a master's degree in labor and employment law from Georgetown University. The Waldmans are co-authors of the industry's leading series of books on self-storage operations: Getting Started, Forms, Policies & Procedures and South Carolina Tools. Another creation of Ask The Waldmans are their colorful posters designed exclusively for the self-storage industry. Comments and questions for ASK THE WALDMANS may be sent to: The Waldmans, P.O. Box 21416, Charleston, SC 29413.

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Views and opinions on legal matters are those of the authors. Professional counsel should be obtained before any determination or positive action is taken.

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