How Much Is Too Much?
At first blush, the pushback by the newspapers is a setback for our industry. But I have to wonder if some of the changes made to self-storage lien laws have gone too far. I agree with any change that makes advertising more effective and competitive for self-storage operators. However, I don’t necessarily agree that completely moving away from default sale advertising in some form of readily available newspaper is a good idea.
Think about obituaries or birth announcements. Many of us start our day by checking these newspaper listings. In this digital age, they’re often checked online; but the offering of a common place for this information remains vital to the community.
The same is true of self-storage newspaper advertising. I’ve had many facility operators tell me over the years (and many recently), that after multiple attempts to contact the delinquent tenant, including Certified Mail and other notices or letters, it was the newspaper ad that got his attention. When the ad ran, a family member, co-worker, employer, church member, etc., saw the legal notice and contacted the tenant or the facility. For whatever reasons, the newspaper ad and the threat of follow-up action still gets results. When you get rid of newspaper advertising in total, you lose a potentially effective collection tool and a real way to reach your tenant.
Printed newspapers may be going the way of the dinosaur, but that doesn’t mean newspaper advertising of storage lien sales should go away completely. While my friends in Michigan may disagree, I wonder if they’re really getting as much response to the sale notices they publish on their own websites vs. what they might get if they published in a newspaper or newspaper website.
When the euphoria of “Storage Wars” wears off and you go back to having sales with a few buyers bidding as low as possible for units, you’re going to miss those newspaper advertisements that coerced payment. Perhaps we need to find a middle ground. We can bemoan the objections of the newspaper lobbyists, but the fact is they have become active in monitoring self-storage lien-law changes. They’re going to fight and, as in Florida, block proposed changes to lien laws, which might contain improvements more critical than getting rid of newspaper advertising.
There’s an old expression, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Perhaps it’s time we look to reach détente with the newspapers by agreeing to non-traditional or online newspaper advertising to pass other significant savings and changes in our industry bills and legislation.
Jeffrey J. Greenberger is a partner with the law firm of Katz Greenberger & Norton LLP in Cincinnati and is licensed to practice in Kentucky and Ohio. Mr. Greenberger primarily represents the owners and operators of commercial real estate, including self-storage owners and operators. To reach him, call 513.721.5151; visit www.selfstoragelegal.com .