letter to the editor

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Dear Inside Self-Storage,

We have been managing self-storage facilities for more than 15 years. We have found that, much like bartenders or hairdressers, storage managers have a special bond with their customers. They get to share in victories such as the opening of a new business, moving into a new home, a new job, the purchase of a new “toy,” travel and holidays. They also share tenants’ disappointments: bankruptcy, divorce, eviction, illness, death in the family, etc.

We witness sad events in some of our customers’ lives, and we provide a service that encompasses more than keeping their things safe. We can make a difference in how a person feels when he drives away from our facility. Being helpful, considerate, compassionate or humorous can be rewarding, giving us a sense that we’re doing more than just providing space for goods.

It’s a shame this interaction between managers and customers is not always a high priority for our supervisors and owners. Their focus is often on the bottom line, and many don’t care about the people who really pay the bills. A lack of integrity is a major problem in this industry. Following are what we see as fundamental issues in self-storage ownership:

1. Owners should take responsibility in maintaining their product. In our experience, many couldn’t care less if their air-conditioners and equipment work properly, roofs leak, flooding occurs, units are infested with pests, break-ins take place, etc. This idea that “You rent at your own risk, insurance is available for purchase” allows owners to be haphazard about maintenance.

2. Owners raise rents to cover their operating costs or increase revenue, claiming this should be no problem for a qualified manager. In truth, rent increases always cause friction in the manager/tenant relationship.

3. Owners say we should never waive late fees, but in our view, it always builds good will to waive the fee the first time. It’s also a good idea to waive it if a person may move out because of it, or when it’s so excessive it doesn’t make sense. Managers should have the freedom to waive late fees when appropriate.

4. Owners often have the attitude that on-site housing is an asset to the manager and part of his salary. What they fail to acknowledge is it’s really to their benefit to have someone looking after their investments round the clock. The on-site apartment can be restricting for a manager, and having people bother you after hours can be stressful. The real focus should not be on compensation but on a manager’s ability to help someone in an emergency at any time of day.

5. Owners often want their managers to attend seminars or listen to training tapes to help them be more effective and make more money for the facility. But some of the ideas presented in these things are ridiculous and impractical. Owners should also learn new things, keeping in touch with trends in the industry.

We hope you enjoyed our little tirade. It’s not meant to be accusatory, but enlightening. The wonderful service our industry provides is not only financially rewarding, it makes peoples’ lives a little easier. We have made a good living in this profession, but helping people is a bonus that enriches our own lives.

Tana and John Calvert
Jupiter, Fla.

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