6 Myths About Buying and Selling Packing Boxes at Your Self-Storage Facility

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By Rob Kaminski

In the self-storage industry, there are a number of myths about buying and selling cardboard boxes, the type customers use for packing and moving and facility operators offer as retail product. Maybe it’s because so many operators focus only on their core business. Or perhaps it’s because some myths about the process are so widely accepted. Whatever the reason, it's worthwhile to explore and maybe debunk some of the more harmful misconceptions.

Buying Myth No. 1: All Boxes Are the Same

It's true renters will use liquor cartons, banana boxes and other makeshift containers to pack their belongings. That’s their choice. But if you sell them boxes and they crumple, topple or simply fall apart, their quality reflects badly on your self-storage business, especially when your name is on the box.

Some peddlers will show up with “bargain” boxes. They may be a factory closeouts or oddly sized. Or—now this is tricky—they may be “green” boxes that are made mostly of recycled, corrugated material. While we all want to recycle, material that is more than 20-percent recycled weakens dangerously if it's corrugated. One tipoff is these boxes tend to have a lighter, almost yellow color.

The boxes you buy should all display a manufacturer’s certification stamp on the bottom. Aside from identifying the maker, it should show an edge-crush-test figure of 32 pounds per square inch or better. Now, there have been some who fraudulently display the stamp. Your best defense is to deal only with well-established suppliers. They wouldn’t risk losing your business for a one-time sale. Once you know not all boxes are the same, you’ll be more likely to question why these peddlers can sell their boxes so cheap, right?

Buying Myth No. 2: You Have to Buy a Lot to Save a Lot

How many times have you seen stacks upon stacks of boxes on display at a self-storage site? And you can bet there are more in the back. The facility probably has enough tape and bubblewrap to last a year, too. The manager probably thinks he saved a bundle. But did he? Consider the capital he’s tied up in all that inventory.

Retail professionals are smart enough to use their suppliers’ warehouse as their own. They try to keep inventory as low as possible. They rely on trusted suppliers who can deliver orders in a few days. Such suppliers offer free shipping, which is a big savings, on reasonable minimums and inventory-control systems such as reorder tags for displays and ordering histories to help determine product movement. Moreover, reordering boxes regularly makes it a snap to order smaller quantities of other retail needs on the same order.

Buying Myth No. 3: Corrugated Prices Rise Without Warning

This is another myth some box merchants use to oversell their customers. While it’s true the corrugated-cardboard market fluctuates due to domestic and overseas demand, established suppliers can usually anticipate those price moves. Partnering with a respected supplier is how you can anticipate them as well.

A reputable supplier will notify regular customers before prices jump so they can calculate how much additional stock the customer might want—or not. A supplier who wants to keep your business will never pressure you to overbuy.

Selling Myth No. 1: Customers Are Very Price-Conscious

Some self-storage pros still believe their prices have to match that of Walmart or The Home Depot. The fact is the average consumer is only aware of how frequently bought products are typically priced. That’s why supermarkets have to work on such low margins.

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