Do Americans Need Self-Storage?
I recently came across an MSN article about the self-storage industry that bothered me a bit. Titled "7 Reasons Self-Storage Is a Bad Idea," it suggests Americans should save their bucks and purge their stuff rather than pay a monthly self-storage rental bill.
Of course, this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time someone takes aim at the “uselessness” of the self-storage industry. Far from perceived as an actual “service” by some, self-storage is still considered wasted money by a large portion of consumers who have either never used it or simply don’t see the benefits. In fact, the picture accompanying the article shows a bucket of money being poured into a toilet.
While the article does make a few valid points—reality TV aside, the majority of stuff in a storage unit does not become more valuable over time, monetarily speaking—the benefits of the service are completely missed. Rather, it focuses solely on the financial aspect. Of course, this article does appear on the “Money” page of MSN, so saving, cutting costs, improving one’s finances are hot topics. Still, I thought I’d offer a rebuttal to a few of the article’s points.
As mentioned above, the first point is “most stored objects depreciate in value.” For the most part this is true—if you’re talking about “financial” value. However, for many families, no price can be put on an heirloom being stored for future generations.
The second point, “extra offsite storage promotes acquisition,” really speaks to the out-of-control hoarder, rather than average tenants. Simply having a storage unit doesn’t necessary mean you’ll become a hoarder, unable to give up items. Rather, the majority of tenants use storage during a life-changing event.
It’s easy to refute No. 3: “storage fees can be a financial drain.” Those who stay on top of their payments don’t face any unnecessary fees. The article suggests the $65 rental fee could be used to buy something else in the long term. You could apply this point to a number of items people spend money on every day. Tell me again, how much does a coffee cost at Starbucks?
The fourth point, “storage facilities often lack adequate security,” is just flat out wrong. Yes, not every single self-storage facility has door alarms and video surveillance, but the vast majority of operators recognize the need for security and have taken steps to ensure their tenants’ belongings are safe. The statement: “There doesn't appear to be any uniform approach to security measures across the self-storage industry” is downright incorrect.
“If you can store it for years, you can live without it,” is also way off base. The article notes professional organizers say if you haven’t used something in six months, you can live without it. How exactly do seasonal items fit in with this idea? What about military tenants, people who are temporarily downsizing or kids who move back home with Mom and Dad after college? This doesn’t even take into account the hundreds of small businesses who rent units. See my rebuttal on No. 1 if you need more convincing.
Point six, “unpaid storage bills equal secured debt,” rings true. Once again, the tenant who pays his bill on time will not have a problem
The article again gets it wrong with the last point: “storage services are of questionable value.” Who’s to say what something’s value is from one person to the next. I don’t drink coffee so you’ll never see me spending $6 for a specialty drink. But I will spend the equivalent on something else I do value. Someone else may revel in that $6 morning coffee. Who am I to say, “What’s wrong with the coffee at your house?”
My point is, people use self-storage for a variety of reasons because it’s a service. Just like buying coffee—or any food or beverage—going through a carwash, getting a manicure. These are all things we can easily make or do ourselves, yet we choose to go somewhere else. Self-storage operators already recognize the industry as a service. It’s time the rest of the world does, too.
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