Each year, we donate most of the money we give to charities between Thanksgiving week and the Christmas holiday, a time when Americans are feeling more generous. Self-storage managers are also more prone to be generous when it comes to tenants during this time period. I really hate to come across as a Scrooge but, now more than ever, may actually be the time to be hard-nosed with our customers.
We all like to believe in the best in everyone, but how many times have you felt burned when you were so understanding to a person in dire straits? Is it the same person who repeatedly hits your lien sale list? Sometimes the best favor we can do for that person is to stand firm on the amount due or go to auction and relieve the tenant of the responsibility, especially since these repeat offenders never actually take the responsibility. It seems to be always someone or something else's fault they can't pay.
Just like those of you reading this, I can feel like a real Scrooge in enforcing policies and laws regarding payment, but sometimes it just has to be done. At Self Storage Talk there are several threads about delinquent tenants, sketchy customers, liens and auctions. Holding an auction around the holidays is something we all try to avoid, but there are times when you just have to do it. Rest assured you’re not alone and it may be best to either auction or get the tenant to pay up.
Take this example: Customer Joe hasn't paid on time for months. He's your typical chronic late-payer. Joe is always full of reasons why he can't pay. Yet you continue to get Joe's rent. Maybe the boss is on you about collections, or you're self-motivating and trying to get your collections done before the boss mentions it. Try as you might, the year ends and you've still got some high outstanding rents due.
Then in late January in walks Mrs. Joe, whose husband is still delinquent and headed toward auction. She grouses about not knowing why her husband didn't pay, then tells you a story about the wonderful (read: expensive) trip Joe took her on over the holidays. As you Ooh and Ahh and smile at Mrs. Joe (remember you’re a professional manager) you wish you had stuck to your guns earlier and pushed Joe for on-time payment with the tools at your disposal.
Don't take on someone else's guilt. Each of our tenants signs a legal and binding document. It’s simply your job to enforce it. You didn't write it, you’re not the enemy. At times, simply reminding customers of this fact is enough to get timely payments out of them.
A non-paying customer is the guilty party and you need not feel any remorse at performing your job to the letter of your state's laws. Once in awhile someone may actually thank you for making them address the storage issue and saving them money. It's rare, but it does happen, so in a strange way an auction can actually be another item in your valuable customer service bag of tricks.
Besides, if Joe won't pay, the auction buyers are eager and willing to give you their money, especially this time of year. In effect you’re doing your part in the grand scheme of things to keep the economy moving and maybe even helping Sam the Auction Buyer keep his family fed at the same time. What a wonderful manager you are!