Sponsored By

When the Crazy Comes Keeping Yourself and Your Self-Storage Tenants in Check

Most self-storage operators have had at least one interaction with a tenant who's irrational, inappropriate or even dangerous. Some have even reacted poorly themselves in a heated moments. So how do you keep calm when faced with crazy? Here are some pointers on staying Zen, diffusing the situation and knowing when to call for backup.

Amy Campbell

July 16, 2015

4 Min Read
When the Crazy Comes  Keeping Yourself and Your Self-Storage Tenants in Check

By Amy Campbell

Maybe it’s the heat. It could be the stress of moving stuff in or out of a self-storage unit. Perhaps it’s just that more people are in foul moods. One thing is for sure: there have been more than a handful of out-of-control tenants—and one self-storage manager—in recent weeks. Here’s a sampling from recent news items:

  • A customer at Cordata Self Storage in Bellingham, Wash., was arrested after allegedly pointing a BB gun at another tenant during a dispute over facility-gate entry.

  • A self-storage tenant is facing a murder charge after shooting and killing a man he believed was stealing from his unit at AAA Stow-A-Way Storage in Paducah, Ky.

  • Two men got in a fight after one man’s dog kept growling at the other guy’s pooch. The incident escalated when one of the guys stabbed the other!

  • A manager at A B Mini Storage lost her cool with a customer after the tenant accidentally locked herself inside the property and was unable to exit because she didn’t have a gate card. When the offsite employee arrived at the site 45 minutes later, the customer claims the manager “flipped her the bird.” Once free of the property, the tenant claims the manager sent her a text and called her “dumb.” The manager claims the tenant was aggressive, but admits her text was out of line.

These “what the heck?!” moments appear quite frequently on Self-Storage Talk (SST), the industry’s biggest online community of storage professionals. You can find a number of strange tenant interactions, bizarre requests and behavior, and other peculiar accounts from operators in the “Tales From the Trenches” forum. Thread titles include “I Couldn’t Make This Up If I Tried,” Did That Just Happen” and “I Don’t Know If It’s a Full Moon Here.” So, yeah, crazy comes quite often at self-storage facilities.

The question is, then, how do you handle it? Sometimes it takes more than just simple customer-service skills to handle inappropriate behavior, a criminal act or just someone who’s out of control. A recent article on the ISS website offers operators advice on the do’s and don’ts of handling difficult self-storage customers. First, of course, is to keep your cool. You should also watch your tone and choose your words carefully. As for the don’ts, author Linnea Appleby recommends to never get caught up in the backstory. While you need to hear the customer out, your goal is to find a resolution that is acceptable to all parties. For more guidance on the topic, check out this “Sounds of Storage” podcast.

I recently came across a great website brimming with advice on how to deal with difficult customers. It features 105 tidbits on diffusing angry customers and how to react to insults, swearing and otherwise rude behavior.

Sometimes, it’s not an angry customer facing you, but two or more tenants battling it out. While you may be tempted to intervene, it’s usually better to let the authorities handle it. As you can see from the incidents above, sometimes it’s best not to get involved. It’s also important you understand the difference between varying shades of anger versus potential violent behavior. This article highlights the signs of anger, abusive behavior, verbal abuse and potential violence. Whether aimed at you or someone else on the property, it’s vital to take every threat seriously.

But if you’re the one out of control? Everyone gets frustrated, loses his temper, has a bad day and, sometimes, says things that are out of line. Perhaps a tone slips out when haggling with a tenant for the umpteenth time about a late fee. Maybe your body language shows you’re tense and feeling combative. Fortunately, there are ways to stay calm when thing go awry. You know the drill: Take a few deep breaths, don’t take it personal and bring those amazing customer-service skills to the forefront. It’s critical to remember that this is a person standing in front of you. Maybe he’s an obnoxious, self-righteous idiot, but still a human being. Don’t sink to his level. Remain in control and do what you do best. In case you need a refresher on customer service, here’s one of my fave articles, “Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service.”

Let’s face it, life is super busy, complicated and moving at warp speed. Everyone loses it now and again. The important thing to remember is your words, actions and body language can diffuse a bad situation—or escalate it. When in doubt, smile. It’s hard to be angry when you have smile on your face, and your goofy grin might disarm your fuming tenant long enough to turn things toward a more positive direction.

How do you keep your cool in heated situations? Share your advice by posting a comment below or in this SST thread.

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

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