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Amy Campbell

Amy Campbell
Editor
acampbell@vpico.com

Full Disclosure: Self-Storage Customer Service Should Begin With Honesty

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A Guest Installment by Molly Bilker, Editorial Intern, Inside Self-Storage

I’ve talked with my family about self-storage a lot over the course of the last year. As an out-of-state college student in my freshman year, there was one thing I knew about the trip home: I didn't want to drag everything the 900 miles it took me to get to Arizona back the same way. In fact, with the bookcase I'd assembled and the desk chair I'd bought, I didn't think I was capable of getting everything back home at all.

A couple of months before it was time for me to move out, we found a local self-storage space to rent. Everything looked good; it was nearby, about 10 minutes from the dorms, and close to the airport. When we got to the facility, I was happy to see that it offered boxes and locks for sale so I wouldn’t have to hunt down my own.

We took a rickety and unnerving golf-cart ride through the gate to the unit, which we had already rented online.

This is where I was disappointed. We'd rented the cheapest space we could—I am a college student, after all—but we had been given no indication that the space was up a flight of stairs. While we could manage it, the unexpected staircase complicated our ability to get my furniture into the unit.

A second, more dismaying discovery was that the 5-by-5-by-8-foot space we had rented was not, in fact, exactly 5 by 5 by 8 feet. The ceiling of the unit was also the roof of the storage space, which meant it slanted sharply downward. It may have been 8 feet high at the doorway, but by the time the ceiling hit the end of the unit, it was maybe 4 feet. Would everything fit?

Our concerns were narrowly avoided when we discovered the bookshelf fit inside the unit with its edge against the ceiling and directly in front of the door.

While these unexpected problems were handled without a hitch, they added extra stress, surprise and frustration to the concerns already upon me as I prepared to head home. For anyone managing a self-storage facility, I would recommend full transparency about the state of the storage unit a customer has rented. Is it the full size as advertised? Is it on the second floor? Will it be far away or difficult in any way to access? Will the incredible Arizona heat cause every white object in the storage space to yellow?

That was another problem. I forgot how hot the summers are in Arizona and how hot everything inside my storage unit would get without climate control. All of my white dorm linens were yellowed, which was another frustration I experienced as I unpacked for school this year.

Always consider how weather conditions may affect what the customer stores. Providing some tips would be helpful. After all, the customer may not even think about the hazards when she's preparing to keep things stored away. Make sure you warn customers about any unexpected hurdles they may (or will) encounter while storing their property. That way, they stay happy. And if they're happy, so are you.

Molly Bilker is a sophomore journalism major at the Downtown Phoenix campus of Arizona State University. She is interning with the VIRGO Business Solutions Network, writing for Inside Self-Storage. She also writes for the “Downtown Devil,” a student-run, online publication for downtown Phoenix, where she has assumed the position of blogs editor and copy edits. Molly can be reached at mbilker@vpico.com.

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