During the planning stages of the ISS Summer Expo in Reno-Tahoe, there's been a lot of discussion among our team about "hot" topics in self-storage. What's on the horizon for this business? A subject that keeps cropping up is eBay, specifically storage operators who use it as a means of making a little bit of extra cash for themselves and tenants.
I'm not talking about listing storage units on eBay as a means of boosting occupancy, though there are operators doing this. A quick search just now shows LGS Storage in Fort Myers, Fla., has listed storage space on eBay at a rental rate of 75 cents per square foot per month. The company is also renting space for vehicles, boats, RVs and campers this way. Based on the company's eBay feedback, it's not clear if it's been successful renting space in this manner, but I suppose there's no harm in trying!
But what I'm referring to in this post is something different: A tenant (or someone off the street) decides he has a bunch of stuff he no longer wants. He'd like to sell it and make a bit of scratch. An enterprising self-storage operator offers to sell these items on eBay for the customer, with each taking a slice of the profit.
Why would the customer approach the storage operator to handle the sale vs. list the item(s) on eBay himself? There could be many reasons: The person isn't familiar with eBay, or doesn't have a computer, or doesn't have the time or inclination. If any of you have sold items via online auction, you know it can be a time-consuming process. eBay is a complex universe, and you need to understand all its policies, procedures and politics. You have to photograph the goods, write a solid description and use the web software to build the listing. It's not difficult, but you do need to be very detail-oriented. For example, you've got to decide on shipping methods and costs and payment methods, among many other things.
A lot of people would rather just throw things away than deal with finding the appropriate donation location or deal with a web-based sale. This is where storage operators can step in and fill the gap. "Are you going to toss that lava lamp? Why don't you let me sell it on eBay? If someone buys it, you'll get X percent, and I'll keep X percent for my time and effort. It won't cost you a thing, and you'll make a bit of extra cash, whereas throwing it out won't earn you a dime!" Bingo! You've got an instant ancillary source of income.
There are even companies now that specialize in helping storage operators understand and use auction services on customers' behalf. Let me give you an example: A few weeks ago on UKPRwire.com, I read an article titled "Brighton Swaps Clutter for Cash With New eBay Drop-Off Shop and Home-Collection Service." It's about a company called Auctioning4u that is opening a chain of eBay drop-shops in collaboration with Big Yellow Self Storage.
So customers in Brighton bring their unwanted items to one of these stations at a Big Yellow facility, or they can even arrange a pickup! Then the eBay "expert" evaluates the items and handles the entire auction process from there. Customers have nothing left to do but wait for a check to arrive in the mail. Everybody wins.
The financial arrangement between the auction company and Big Yellow is not clear, but you know the facilities are making something. If you want to check out some U.S. companies that offer a similar service, read this article about The Online Outpost, or visit www.aditonline.com.
Any of you experimenting with an eBay or other auction site in the operation of your self-storage facility? Please share your experiences by posting a comment to this blog!