ISS Blog

Self-Storage and Terrorism: Social Responsibility

The papers have been smattered this week with stories of self-storage facilities being visited by counterterrorism officials. Because of bomb scares in Denver and New York, the FBI and Homeland Security Department distributed a document to police nationwide, urging them to visit with local self-storage facilities and work with employees toward uncovering suspicious behavior. The document states that self-storage units have been used to harbor terrorist activity in the past and could be used in such a way again. Specifically, the concern is the making of bombs.

(See "AP Reports on Document About Storage and Terrorist Activity" and "Denver Storage Facilities Visited in Connection With Terrorist Concerns.")

Separate from the document circulated to law-enforcement by the Feds, an alert was distributed to thousands of self-storage managers, owners and companies by the Self-Storage Association, warning of the potential use of units for illegal and terrorist activity. (See "Self-Storage Association Issues Terrorism Alert to Facilities.") The alert begins: "Evidence from police investigations, foiled plots, and past terrorist attacks reveals terrorists have used commercial storage facilities, including self-storage units, to store explosives or other supplies prior to attacks."

The SSA document provides a list of potential indicators of suspcious storage use, including:

  • Insistence on paying in cash, sometimes weeks or months in advance.
  • Seemingly excessive concern about privacy.
  • Visits to a storage unit late at night or at unusual times.
  • Suspicious deliveries to the storage unit, particularly from chemical supply companies.
  • Exhibiting nervousness or evasiveness when approached by rental employees or security personnel.
  • Unusual fumes, liquids, residues, or odors emanating from units.
  • Discarding of chemical containers in storage unit dumpsters.
  • Stockpiling of cell phones, timers or similar electronic devices.
  • Indications of burns or symptoms of exposure to chemical substances.

What do you consider to be your level of responsibility in this arena? Do you carefully screen tenants? Do you report suspicious tenant behavior to local officials, or are you wary or lazy about getting involved? If you think you can't make a real difference, consider Jordan Garand, the co-manager of Guardian Self Storage in New Windsor, N.Y. He helped authorities put a stop to a terrorist plot, simply by tipping off police about some suspicious tenants. Turns out the four men were intending to blow up Air National Guard Cargo planes and two Jewish facilities in New York City.

If you are a facility manager or owner, you may be feeling nervous about the possiblity of Feds knocking on your door. Don't be. Consider this a partnership in benefit to the nation. By cooperating with officials, you can build a stronger relationship with local law enforcement and put your customers' and community's mind at ease.

If you'd like to share your concerns and thoughts with fellow operators, chime into one of these discussions on the Self-Storage Talk online forum:

You might also want to arm yourself with more info about screening tenants and safeguarding your facility. Consider these articles from ISS magazine:

Have a safe and terror-free weekend.

Self-Storage Association Issues Terrorism Alert to Facilities

The Self Storage Association (SSA), in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this week formally sent a written alert to thousands of self-storage owners, managers and companies about the potential for illegal use of self-storage units in connection with terrorism. These alerts were disseminated nationally and posted on the SSA member-only website in the wake of recent arrests in Colorado and New York.
Investigators believe alleged terrorists could store illegal materials or assemble them in storage units as part of a domestic terrorism plot. Authorities have requested that anyone suspecting terrorist, suspicious or illegal activity contact the Joint Terrorism Task Force in their area, the FBI or local law enforcement immediately.
The alert was sent to the SSA’s 6,000 member companies, its affiliated state associations and their members, and thousands of individual facility managers.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, and the creation of the DHS, the SSA has cooperated with federal, state and local government officials to ensure that its membership is educated and informed as to the threat of terrorism and ways to detect suspicious activity in and around self-storage facilities.

Related Articles:

AP Reports on Document About Storage and Terrorist Activity  

Denver Storage Facilities Visited in Connection With Terrorist Concerns

Have you been visited by the Feds? [Self-Storage Talk]  

Bronx Self-Storage Facility Shut Down During Bomb Scare

Bronx Self-Storage Facility Shut Down During Bomb Scare

The block surrounding American Self Storage in High Bridge, N.J., was shut down on Wednesday after a reaction by bomb-sniffing dogs at the facility set off a terror alert. A tip led investigators to the storage site, where the dogs indicated something suspicious.

The FBI zeroed in on three boxes at about 10:15 p.m. The contents were not disclosed.
Source: New York Post, Terror Scare in Bronx

Related Articles:

AP Reports on Document About Storage and Terrorist Activity  

Denver Storage Facilities Visited in Connection With Terrorist Concerns

Have you been visited by the Feds? [Self-Storage Talk]  

U-Store-It Offers Free Storage to Atlanta Flood Victims

U-Store-It Trust's Atlanta self-storage facilities will offer one month of rent-free storage now through Oct. 31 to victims of the recent Atlanta floods. U-Store-It has 9 locations in the region for customers who are in need of storage space as a result of damage to their homes. Eight days of prolonged rain has caused severe damage to the city and surrounding areas.

Related Articles:

SpaceMax Offers Free Self-Storage to Georgia Flood Victims

A-American Self Storage Offers Free Storage to California Fire Victims

U-Haul Offers Free Storage to Washington Flood Victims

Being the Customer's Ultimate Self-Storage Solution (By Being Other Things First)

Good customer service is important for the success of any business, but in the current economic climate, it’s even more critical. In the struggle to differentiate yourself from competition, it’s easy to get caught up in price wars, discounts and specials because these are tangible things we can point to easily.

But it’s been proven that price is fourth or fifth on the list of reasons why people rent at a particular self-storage facility. Location, convenience and trust are consistently the top three reasons people choose one facility or another.

Why, then, do we focus so much on price? Because it’s the great American conversation-starter. What do we ask when we know nothing about a product? “How much is it?” The question of price is usually not the important one, but it’s generally the one that gets the conversation started. From here, consumers begin to evaluate the product. They determine how price leads to the answer to their real question, which is “Will this be the solution I’m looking for?”

This is where the job of great customer service begins. When a potential tenant asks the price, he’s indicating initial interest. It’s your job to explore his situation further and give details to help him understand the value of your product and the reasoning behind the cost. Remember, self-storage is an extension of a person’s home or business. The prospect needs to like and trust you.

There are several things you must “be” to help the consumer decide you are the solution he is seeking: appropriate, knowledgeable, interested, genuine, nice ... and ready to close the sale.
Be Appropriate

Don’t assume your prospects know anything about self-storage. Or that they don’t. The question “Have you used self-storage before?” will define where the conversation should begin. This is an important step to creating rapport and trust. If you have the same sales pitch for everyone, you’re losing more business than you know.

You’ll lose the attention of an experienced storage user when you launch into a diatribe about electronic gates and cameras. He knows this already, so you’re wasting his time. Get to what’s important to him.

However, someone who hasn’t used storage before will appreciate this information. The last facility he called may not have asked this question or explained the features that could sway his decision. Be appropriate to each situation. It may be all the same to you, but to each prospect, it’s unique.

Asking if the customer has used storage before also helps you determine what industry lingo needs to be explained. A previous user will probably understand things like “prorate,” “anniversary billing” and “climate control, whereas a new user may not. If you speak to him like he should understand, it will make him feel foolish and uninformed, which will negatively affect any rapport you’re trying to create. Remember that each new prospect is an individual. Treat him as such.
Be Knowledgeable

Being knowledgeable means understanding your product and services well enough to recommend the right things for each prospect. We tend to confuse “selling” with “telling.” If you feel like the caller is holding the phone away from his ear as you ramble on about everything you know about self-storage, you’re probably right and have lost the sale.

If you haven’t engaged the caller in a two-way conversation, it’s unlikely that you’ve created enough connection with him. Yes, you might score well on your phone shops, but your business will suffer. The caller is only interested in finding a solution to his problem, and as soon as you lose focus, you lose the business. Tell him what he needs to know to sell him what he wants.
Be Interested

To be successful, you must be interested in the things that drive the business. That means you must be interested in what drives the customers. Why do they need storage? How did they hear about you? What is happening in their life right now for which your product can be a solution? How quickly do they need this solution? What are they storing? How long will they need storage? These aren’t nosy questions, but absolutely necessary to determine the best solution for customers’ needs. It makes good sense to get answers to these questions.

Wouldn’t you be concerned and uncomfortable if your hair stylist didn’t ask how you wanted your hair done and just started cutting? Or your doctor gave a diagnosis without the right information? Or your server just brought out food without asking what you want? It’s not nosy, it’s your job! This is your chance to build rapport, make acquaintances and a potential long-term, good customer.

Note: If you have not asked for the prospect’s name and callback information, you have not succeeded in being interested.
Be Genuine

It’s pretty easy to tell when someone is genuinely interested or just doing their “job.” How often have you walked into a retail store only to hear the sales clerk greet you with a tired, bored, sing-song, “Hello, how are you?” You know the clerk is only doing it because he must and doesn’t really care how you are. Don’t be that person. People will store at a facility where they feel comfortable and trust the staff. Be yourself. Be real.
Be Nice

Self-storage is a sales, retail, people job. Being nice to people is key. Not some of the people some of the time, but all of the people all of the time, regardless of the circumstances in their life or yours. If nice is not your normal state of mind when you wake up in the morning, maybe you should consider a different career.
Be Ready to Close the Sale

Don’t wait for the prospect to just say yes; ask for his business. When you feel you’ve done a good job of being appropriate, knowledgeable, interested, genuine and nice, ask for the sale. Let him know you’re interested in doing business with him. He needs space, you sell space; it’s the perfect fit. Have confidence and expect a “yes.”

If you don’t get one, don’t take it personally, just retrace your steps and find out what part of the solution you’re missing. Ask what else the prospect needs to know, do, etc., to make a decision, and then try to provide that missing piece. Then ask for the sale again. Set an appointment, take a reservation or complete the deal. Any step forward in the sales process is a successful close.
Be the Solution

Remember, price is just the conversation-starter, the small talk you politely make until the real and meaningful conversation begins. Start with the end in mind. Be the right answer to the consumer’s real question ... “Will this be the solution I am looking for?”

When you can manage to be all of the things listed above, it’s only natural that you’ll become the solution that gets the business. Will you get it all of the time? No. Will you get more than you’re getting now? Probably. If you truly operate with the end goal of being the solution for each customer, you’ll see your success skyrocket.
Linnea Appleby is president of Sarasota, Fla.-based PDQ Management Solutions Inc., which specializes in the self-storage facility management and offers complimentary services such as operational consulting, new facility startup, property audits and the “Income Finder Service.” Appleby is a regular contributor to industry trade publications and a frequent speaker at tradeshows and events. She is also a past president of the Florida Self Storage Association. To contact her, call 941.377.3451; e-mail; visit 

Related Articles:

Community Relations Create Self-Storage Profit

Service Matters! Eight Steps to Superior Customer Relations

10 Tips for Making a Good First Impression in Self-Storage

Self-Storage Talk: Best Qualities in a Self-Storage Manager

21 Guns Stolen From California Self-Storage Unit

At least 21 firearms were reported stolen from a self-storage unit at All American Self Storage in Roseville, Calif. According to a police report, the weapons included handguns and rifles, and were part of the tenant’s relative’s collection, which had been stored in the unit since January 2008. The tenant discovered the burglary Sept. 10 while visiting the unit.

Tenants are allowed to store weapons in self-storage units, but state law requires them to be stored unloaded and separate from ammunition.

A police spokeswoman said the serial numbers from the stolen firearms will be entered into a statewide database.

Source:  Granite Bay,  Cache of Guns Stolen From Storage Unit 

Related Articles:

NY Police Arrest Self-Storage Burglary Suspect

After the Incident: 10 Rules for Dealing With the Media

Self-Storage Video Surveillance: Choosing a Vendor

Self-Storage Talk: Have You Been Visited by the Feds?

Seven Units Damaged by Fire at Virginia Beach AAAA Self Storage

An early-morning two-alarm fire at AAAA Self Storage in Virginia Beach, Va., is being called suspicious by fire officials. Fives storage units were burning and the fire was rapidly spreading when fire crews arrived just before 5 a.m. It took 45 minutes to get the blaze under control. Four of the units had heavy fire damage and all the contents were destroyed. Three more units had moderate damage.

A $1,000 cash reward is being offered to anyone who can offer information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about the fire should call the Crime Line at 888.LOCK.U.UP.

Source:  News Channel 3,  Suspicious 2-Alarm Fire Damages Self-Storage Units in Virginia Beach

Related Articles:

Fire Blazes Through New Alexandria Self-Storage Facility

Fire Breaks Out at Pittsford Mini Self-Storage

Recovering From Facility Fire

Fire Breaks Out at Everest Self Storage

ISS Blog

What's Your Marketing Plan?

For the last two years, the Wal-Mart in my neighborhood has been undergoing transformation to become a “Super Wal-Mart” complete with retail, groceries, a McDonald’s, nail salon and photo studio. We’ve watched as construction crews shaped and molded the giant building, and suffered in confusion as store employees moved products around inside the store. During this time, employees had little information to offer shoppers about when the store would be complete.

About two months ago, groceries began appearing on shelves. A few weeks later, the beginnings of a McDonald’s appeared. Then 29 days ago, I noticed a small sign as I walked through the doors: Opening 28 days. As the days ticked by, there was more activity: fruits and veggies and frozen foods were put in place, the deli began taking shape and the McDonald’s opened for business.

I began to closely watch for info on the grand re-opening, speculating on what kind of marketing the retail behemoth would conjure up. I imagined door hangers and fliers announcing a celebration. Maybe a huge banner draped across the building’s brick façade or wind socks whirling and dancing. After all, we’d been waiting for the store to open for nearly two years.

But nothing came. Until yesterday, opening day. Stuffed between the Safeway and Fry’s weekly food mailer, there was a one-page glossy flier. But rather than announce the grand re-opening in a big way, the flier had the Wal-Mart logo on one side with a silly graphic that looked like a sun and the words, Let the WOW begin. On the other side was the tagline: Not just a new look. A new way to save. And underneath, in maybe 14-point font, was the grand opening announcement: Your new Wal-Mart is opening at 59th Ave. and Bell Road. It was followed by a few points about wider aisles and more options. A decent-looking flier, but hardly worthy of announcing something as major as a huge expansion.

And that’s all, folks. No door hangers, car fliers or even a huge welcoming banner out front. Wal-Mart spent two years reshaping its store, but put zero marketing behind its efforts.

Yes, you’d have to be an idiot not to notice the store was expanding. However, when you’re hoping to grab business from other nearby markets, including the Sprouts across the street, it deserves more than a pathetic one-page flier shoved into mailboxes.

When was the last time you looked at your marketing program? Have you missed an opportunity to reach out to your community and let them know you’re there? Marketing should be your No.1 priority in today’s economic climate. It used to be having a great site with all the bells and whistles, with an excellent customer service-oriented manager at the helm was all you needed to lure customers. Now, most of your competitors offer the same things. So what sets you apart? Your marketing.

If you’ve always relied on your Yellow Pages ad, wake up! Everyone has a YP ad. If you think your bright sign located on a busy road is going to ensure people turn into your parking lot, you’re wrong. You need a marketing plan.

If you’re not sure where to start, we can help. First, review the great articles on marketing from experts like Derek Naylor, the people at Michaels Wilder, and Mel Holsinger in the ISS online articles archive. These articles will guide you in the right direction.

Second, take advantage of the marketing seminars at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo. If you can’t make it to the upcoming expo in Washington, D.C., plan to be in Las Vegas, March 1-3. Learn from these industry experts. These guys and gals are owners, managers, consultants and vendors. They know the business and are more than ready to help.

Lastly, hop onto Self-Storage Talk and see what other owners and managers are doing. Some are working with local charities, others are experimenting with mailers. And if you have an incredible marketing idea, tell us about it.

Looking ahead, our January issue spotlights facility promotions and marketing. We have an amazing line up of great editorial on everything from online marketing to developing a direct marketing campaign. Plus, I’ll give you more details on all the remarkable marketing campaigns submitted to the ISS “Best in Self-Storage Marketing” Contest. I promise, you’ll be inspired by these campaigns.

Don’t be a Wal-Mart, thinking everyone knows who you are and what you have to offer. Tell your customers your story, and invite them to be a part of it.

AMERCO Real Estate Opens U-Haul Self-Storage in Texas

AMERCO Real Estate opened U-Haul Center Prosper in Texas, expanding its network of self-storage facilities. U-Haul Prosper features 101,975 square feet of storage with 1,161 units, 709 of which are climate controlled. The three-story facility has 24-hour security with electronically controlled access and individually alarmed units.

U-Haul Center Prosper also has many green features, including a permeable ground cover, which provides environmental and storm-water benefits, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Another green feature is the U-Haul Self-Storage Reuse Center, which redistributes gently used household goods, furniture, sporting equipment, bikes and clothing formerly.

Customers can also purchase environmentally friendly packing supplies, including boxes made out of recyclable materials, 100 percent biodegradable packing peanuts, and moving pads made from recycled denim.

“We are pleased to be expanding our presence in Prosper, and look forward to continuing our long-standing relationships with local communities throughout Texas,” says Carlos Vizcarra, president of AMERCO Real Estate.

U-Haul owns 1,091 storage facilities across the United States and Canada. Since 1989, AMERCO Real Estate Co., an affiliate of U-Haul International Inc., has been responsible for providing real estate services to AMERCO subsidiaries that include more than 1,350 U-Haul moving and storage centers throughout the United States and Canada.

Related Articles:

U-Haul Offers Free Storage to Washington Flood Victims

Amerco Real Estate Purchases White Tanks Storage for $4.3 Million

Amerco Buys Atlanta Self-Storage Facility for $2.75M

Grubb & Ellis Brokers Sale of Palm Springs Storage Facility

SpaceMax Offers Free Self-Storage to Georgia Flood Victims

SpaceMax Storage in Atlanta is helping Georgia residents affected by the recent flooding. The self-storage company is giving flood victims one and a half months of free storage. SpaceMax is also offering free use of its moving trucks to residents who qualify.
“SpaceMax is a new company in the Atlanta market,” says John Rinehart, manager of the company’s midtown Atlanta location. “Our rationale for helping is simple. Our facilities are extremely large so we still have plenty of rentable square feet empty and available. There’s no way we can possibly rent all of that out over the next few months while local residents are cleaning up, and we know that people in our community are in need of what we have right now, so we can’t think of a better way to put this space to good use.”
SpaceMax Storage has climate-controlled, multi-story facilities in midtown Atlanta, the Virginia Highlands area and Decatur. People in need of storage due to the flooding should call 404.733.1400.

Related Articles:

A-American Self Storage Offers Free Storage to California Fire Victims

U-Haul Offers Free Storage to Washington Flood Victims

US Storage Centers Helps California Fire Victims

Metro Self Storage of Mound Donates $700 to Food Shelf