Self-Storage Crime Knows No Boundaries, Not Even the Potty
A Guest Installment by Gina Six Kudo, General Manager, Cochrane Road Self Storage
We recently experienced a petty theft in the potty area of our self-storage facility. Nothing significant was taken, just a couple of nice touches we added when we remodeled our customer restroom. We had decided to upgrade from the run-of-the-mill facilities we had to provide a pleasant place for people to do their “business” in what many have likened to the best restrooms in Las Vegas.
With so many people appreciating the nicer touches we installed to ensure everyone’s “visit” was a pleasant one, I was understandably upset when I discovered our wall clock and liquid-soap dispenser were missing—two of the three items that weren't bolted down. All told, the items cost about $35. Add in the state of California’s tax plus our county tax and the cost rapidly approaches the $50 mark.
As many of my peers do, we watch and are acutely aware of who is onsite at any given time. The time of day when the items disappeared was particularly quiet. It didn’t take much sleuthing to determine that the person who had just driven out of our gate took the items. Just to be sure, I phoned a friend who happens to also be a business customer to inquire if the soap dispenser was in place when he used the restroom earlier that day.
After some jovial teasing, asking if I was surveying customer cleanliness habits (and more specifically his), he confirmed our conclusion; the items had been in place about 30 minutes prior to us finding them MIA.
Alas, what to do? We know who was onsite during the time of the theft, and the suspect was the brother of a female customer who was not present at the facility. He and his gang of thieves came to move her things out of storage. We know someone from their group went into the restroom followed by another who was in and out to either use the bathroom or lift our property.
We knew we weren’t going to get the items back, and we had no irrefutable proof they took them. C’est la vie. The original items were carefully selected to go with the décor, and to add insult to injury, the store we purchased them from is no longer in business. It was irritating to be sure, and at the end of the day, I had to run to a local store for a $5 off-the-shelf, disposable, hand-soap dispenser. I replaced the other items with similar-quality goods.
To vent a bit of frustration, I turned to the folks on Self-Storage Talk (SST), the industry’s largest online community, and posted a thread asking fellow managers how they would have handled the situation. Some of the responses were sympathetic, some informative and some funny like this one from Madman: “Next time you see them onsite, swap out the TP for the poison ivy kind.” Advice has ranged from putting in a keypad to confronting the culprits to bolting everything down.
Based on the responses from SST members, petty theft (including tenants stealing items from the restroom) and other crimes are not uncommon at our facilities. The July issue of Inside Self-Storage features articles on facility safety and security and includes numerous responses from SST members. The issue should be hitting mailboxes around June 10.
In the meantime, I encourage you to peruse SST to read the full slate of member insight and experiences with regard to deterring crime, working with law enforcement, fearing for safety in the workplace, dealing with onsite injuries, and much more.
Crime at our facilities is never a pleasant experience, no matter how incidental. In our case, we learned a valuable lesson, and I’m just glad we thought to bolt down the artwork and the valet chair.
Gina Six Kudo is a moderator on Self-Storage Talk and general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She has more than 16 years of self-storage experience, and a strong customer-service and sales background.
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