DEAR WALDMANS: Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever face such a situation. I have been in this business for more than 10 years and thought I had witnessed everything. I was taking my usual afternoon walk--I try to do that each day when it seems quiet to check the lot for any debris and look for any problems. Sometimes I talk to the tenants and make sure they don't have any complaints. Usually, it is just a walk. I pick up a few pieces of trash and enjoy being out of the office. This one particular afternoon was quite unusual and shocking.
On several afternoons, during my afternoon walk, I had noticed the same tenant coming into the facility and going into his unit. In looking back, I remembered he was not the friendly type. I never thought much of it; after all, there are some people that want to talk, then there are others that want to be left alone. After a while, you come to know those that want to be friendly and others that just wish to visit their unit. This afternoon was different.
I noticed as he drove up he seemed to be deep in thought, not even looking around. I suppose I was being nosey, but something just didn't feel right with this guy. Why did he come to the unit each evening? Why was he so unfriendly? It was as if he were checking on a relative in a nursing home or a hospital. I was curious. He jumped out of his truck and took out a large bag of dog food and a container like one you would fill with a beverage for a family reunion or fishing trip. He never noticed that I was standing across the parking lot, as I was hidden by several vehicles in between us. When he opened the door to the unit, I realized why he had been so secretive. There stood a mother dog and several puppies. Gasping with absolute dismay, I was appalled that a person would lock up an animal in a storage unit.
Without really thinking, I immediately crossed the parking lot and questioned his behavior. He was arrogant and very annoyed with me. At one point I knew he was going to hit me. Luckily, another tenant came in about the same time and asked me if there was a problem. I asked him to please call the police. Have you ever had such a terrible situation happen at your facility? I am still shocked, and know I did not handle the problem appropriately. What would you have done?
--Shocked in Cleveland
DEAR SHOCKED: It is difficult to understand how people can be so cruel. We had a shocking event take place right here in a small town in South Carolina. It seemed that a mother was actually locking her 17-year-old daughter in a storage unit every morning. On the morning she was caught, she was being watched by the police after a tip from a witness. The child had been kept out of school since second grade because the mother felt she was a slow learner. For most of her life, she kept the child locked in the house during the day, where she would watch television and dream about becoming a model. Then their house was destroyed by fire and the mother and daughter were forced to move into a motel. The mother had a problem trying to hide her daughter in the motel room. At one point the maid found the girl locked in the bathroom. It was then that the mother thought of keeping her in a storage unit.
She took the girl to the unit each morning and left her with no electricity or bathroom and only warm soft drinks and a jar of peanut butter to eat. The mother was arrested for child neglect. Today the girl has a different life. She is married, and her mother-in-law, a teacher, is helping her learn to read. Her biggest surprise in life outside was that people interact with each other. Since the marriage, she has been seeing her grandparents, aunts and uncles more often, but she does not speak to her mother. When the mother appeared in criminal court, she plead not guilty by reason of insanity. She was ordered into a state mental hospital.
My question is, where were the relatives when this abuse was occurring? Didn't anyone realize there was a problem? What about the maid that found her locked in the bathroom? Strange events seem to be happening, and as a community we need to keep our eyes and ears open and report any suspicious activities to the authorities immediately.
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.
Views and opinions on legal matters are those of the authors. Professional counsel should be obtained before any determination or positive action is taken.