Amy Campbell, Senior Editor

February 11, 2009

2 Min Read
What does 'free' really mean ... and does it involve risk?

That's the question we addressed yesterday during our Legal Learning Webinar with Jeffrey Greenberger, who raised attention to the fact that use of the word "free" in certain self-storage applications can involve a level of risk.

The online event, formally titled "No Such Thing as ‘Free’ in Self-Storage: The Potential Cost of Dicey Words," got off to a rocky start with some audio issues (and for that, we do apologize); but once we got rolling, attendees learned the potential impact of incorporating free offers into a self-storage marketing plan and operational schema. Seemingly harmless promotional ploys such as "free use of truck with move-in" can be misleading and downright inaccurate, particularly if use of the truck carries with it certain conditions, such as the tenant must purchase insurance for the time he uses the vehicle or replace any gas he uses.

During the event, the question log was flooded with inquiries from owners and managers wanting to know if their particular offer could put them at risk of litigation. For example, an operator offers a tenant a free month of rent with a 12-month lease. Is that one month really free? Not of the tenant has to pay for 12 additional months of rent to get it, Jeff says; and state attorneys general, who are currently examining similar issues within the cell-phone industry, could eventually turn their eyes to storage.

"As always, I am just warning you to be careful. It may only be a matter of time for private attorneys, who see the cell-phone case, to start thinking about using the same strategy with self-storage facilities," warned Jeff in a corresponding article published in the January 2009 issue of Inside Self-Storage. "Please consider banning 'free' from your self-storage vocabulary to steer clear of costly legal battles ahead."

Immediately after the webinar, Jeff continued the somewhat vigorous conversation regarding free self-storage offers in a thread on Self-Storage Talk, the industry's largest online community. He asks, "What are you offering to your customers either to entice them to lease or to stay? Are any of you offering any of these inducements for free? Do you plan on changing your practices after hearing the webinar?" The thread has already had 24 replies and more than 250 views, which tells us there are many of you using "free" offers—and have concerns about how those play out. (You can even join the conversation now by clicking HERE.)

So let's now expand the breadth of the discussion still further by getting some comments in the blog. Tell me about the freebies you're using as part of your operation. Some of you may even have them published in your YP ad. After all this info, are you rethinking your strategy?

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Senior Editor, Inside Self Storage

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like