Just Say No! Sometimes, It’s OK—Even Best—to Turn Away a Self-Storage Customer

As a self-storage operator, you know every rental contributes to facility success. Still, some customers don’t seem worth the hassle. Where do you draw the line when a prospective or current tenant stirs up trouble? Is it OK to just say no?

Wendy Carlson, Property Manager

October 30, 2020

4 Min Read

My first job, at age 15, was bagging groceries. Like most new hires back in the day, I was taught “the customer is always right.” And I accepted it as the gospel of retail. In the 30 years since, I’ve learned the customer is not always right. Don’t get me wrong; I believe in providing superior customer service. At my self-storage facility, we hold a very high standard for our employees. Still, there are times when customers won’t be pleased no matter what you do, or maybe they just aren’t the quality of tenant you desire.

So, when is it OK to say no to a rental or let a tenant walk? What if sales are down? Maybe you’re under a lot of pressure from the owner to bring in more money. Can you afford to lose a customer right now?

Maybe you’ve had to decline a new rental because a prospect doesn’t have valid identification or a mailing address. Some situations are easy to assess. But depending on the scenario, you might be tempted to ignore your Spidey senses when a prospect says something like:

  • I have to be out of my apartment in 30 days and need a place to put my stuff until I find a place to live.

  • What’s your cheapest unit? I don’t care what size it is.

  • Is there a bathroom here? Do you offer 24-hour access?

Occasionally, you may have to make a difficult decision regarding an existing tenant. If your occupancy is low, you may feel like you must give in to unreasonable behavior to keep someone from moving out. You might worry about what that person will say or do if you ask him to leave. Where do you draw the line?

Let’s say you have a renter who’s in a foul mood and puts up a defensive attitude. He’s rude to you and other customers, and ignores facility rules to satisfy his own needs. Do you just put up with it for the sake of making a buck? I recently had this encounter (edited for profanity):

Customer: I need a 5-by-5 right now.

Me: Have you ever used storage before?

Customer: No

Me: Ok, I can help you with that. Can you tell me a little bit about what you're storing so we can make sure it’s the right size?

Customer: Just rent me the unit already. I don’t need you trying to upsell me, OK.

Me: *Blinks eyes* Excuse me?

Customer: Just do your job, OK. I don’t have time for this.

Me: OK. I’m trying to help you, not upsell you. [I say as the customer begins to curse under her breath.] But now you’ve crossed a line, so you can just go on down the road to another facility. I won’t rent to you today. [I point to the door as I say goodbye.]

Customer: [Grabs keys off counter and leaves while calling me names.]

Listen: You don’t have to put up with this kind of disrespect from any customer, ever. He can take his attitude somewhere else. I understand there are many people under stress right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s loss of employment and income. We have wildfires and social unrest, plus hurricanes. I mean, 2020 is just crazy, right? Regardless of what’s going on in the world, it doesn’t excuse this kind of behavior. I refuse to let someone come in and treat me or my staff in this manner. Sometimes the extra income just isn’t worth the hassle.

When I think of the notices that’ll be sent, the time it takes to terminate a lease, the headaches that come from the arguments these types of customers will give you, the mess they’ll inevitably leave behind, the damage they can do to your property’s reputation … Is it really worth it? Remember, you’re responsible for protecting your property. If you suspect there’ll be an issue with someone who thinks he’s above the rules, or who shows disrespect, don’t be afraid to deny the rental. You must decide what you’re willing to put up with and where to draw the line for your business. It is OK to just say no!

Wendy Carlson has 10 years of experience in self-storage, beginning as a relief manager, then becoming an area manager. She’s currently a property manager at a Washington self-storage facility. Wendy has been married for 28 years, raised and homeschooled three kids, and is now an empty-nester. Connect with her on Self-Storage Talk where she goes by wc1974.

About the Author(s)

Wendy Carlson

Property Manager

Wendy Carlson has 10 years of experience in self-storage, beginning as a relief manager, then becoming an area manager. She’s currently a property manager at a Washington self-storage facility. Wendy has been married for 28 years, raised and homeschooled three kids, and is now an empty-nester. Connect with her on Self-Storage Talk where she goes by wc1974. 

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