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March 1, 2007

4 Min Read

Whether or not your self-storage facility is near a military base, you have an opportunity to help military customers. As a self-storage manager, I often ask myself, what can we do for our troops that would be equally good for business? Well, we can certainly treat military tenants with the utmost respect and give them incentives to store their belongings with us.

A large number of our troops are deployed overseasmany in war-torn locales or staging areas awaiting deployment. The last thing on their mind should be worries about their stuff in storage. We can furnish peace of mind by trying to understand what they may be going through.

While the law provides certain protections to military personnel, my feeling is we should often go above and beyond. Usually, when service members come to our store, they let us know theyre going to be deployed for a while, and they make arrangements to assure their rent stays current. However, sometimes deployment gets extended and they may forget about the storage obligation. How can we help them?

How to Help

First off, I believe storage facilities should display the American flag daily and include We support our troops on their signage. Also, make it a policy to provide some kind of discount to active military personnel; consider free time, a rent reduction, waiving of administrative fees or a free lock. Always ask your customers if they are active military. Many military personnel have so much pride they wont ask for special treatment and may miss out on your beneficial policies. Those who serve, however, will be happy to provide their military identification.

Also ensure when they complete their rental agreement that they give you alternative contacts such as spouse and parents. Keep in mind that many of these men and women rely on someone back home to take care of things while theyre away, and if you cant reach one person, you should have someone else to contact. Service members first contact choices are often spouses, and its not uncommon for them to relocate with other family members during longer deployments; their contact information may not be good for long.

If theyre willing to provide it, get their company and platoon information. You may be able to stay informed about what theyre doing through the media. Ask if theyre going overseas and able to receive e-mail and telephone calls. Many of these troops are stationed in areas where they may be contacted and, in fact, may welcome some communication with people back home. Also check if they have an address at their station.

Strongly suggest military personnel purchase customer-goods insurance if they dont have coverage. This cannot be overstated. Things happen, and the last thing someone in the military wants to see is their stuff stolen, lost in a fire, etc., and then have no insurance on it. For many of these people, the stored property is their whole life, and it has meaning to them. Protect it as best you can.

Reaching Out

Contact the local military base (most of them have a public relations office) and let the staff know you support our troops by offering discounts and providing good customer service, and that youll make every attempt to communicate with military customersno matter where they may be sent.

Donate to the Military Family Fund. Most bases have a fund set up for the families of the persons deployed. Many military personnel arent highly paid. While theyre gone, if a transmission goes out on their automobile or a tragedy occurs in the family, this fund is available to help them out. Also, if you have customers who want to donate furniture, appliances or clothes, consider directing them to a local veterans organization.

Finally, take a minute out of your day to send a card to our troops. Visit the website www.letssaythanks.com to send a card somewhere overseas. Believe me, they appreciate it.

Helping our troops is good for them and good for our business. Do what you can, and youll be rewarded many times over for your efforts. 

Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management, based in Tucson, Ariz., offering facility management, consulting and development services to the self-storage industry. He is also president and cofounder of the Self Storage Education Network, providing online-based manager and owner education (www.selfstorageeducation.net). For more information, call 520.319.2164; visit www.proselfstorage.com

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