Has anyone seen the show “Storage Wars” on television? No? Or at least won’t admit to it like you won’t admit to watching “My 600 Pound Life” or “Hoarders”? Yeah, I don’t watch any of those either.
Anyway, Storage Wars is about people who abandon their storage units, leading to the contents being sold at auction. The show involves some entrepreneurs who bid on abandoned storage units for fun and profit, hoping that what is inside (beyond what they can see from the open doorway) justifies what they paid. I now know where their raw material comes from.
Who here has a storage unit? Anyone? Well someone has to, as storage spaces have become one of the hottest new real estate uses to come along in quite awhile. These units give you the chance to clear out your garage and stow it all in a safe, secure facility for just a few extra dollars a month. So that you can refill the garage with more junk to store for free, is how I think it usually works, but I digress.
I can claim some moral superiority here because I have not yet succommed to paying to store junk that should not be at my house. I have felt all warm and smug as I have kept the junk at home to trip over and look at every day, or at least every day I go back to those far, dark corners of my basement. But when there became a need to store old business records, I caved and made a trip to the local U-Hoard. Boxes and boxes of closed files went into a nice, clean, 10×10 room made of corrugated steel. And there they remained. Until quite recently, when I finally had to go to war with my storage unit’s managers.
The problem is that I think I have figured out their business model: Advertise a nice low price to get people in the door. Then, after awhile, if nobody has moved the stuff out, start the rent hikes. Slowly at first, in little increments that someone may not notice – or at least won’t take the time to dig back to see if the auto-pay withdrawal is higher than the one from two or three months ago. Soon, though, you will be paying something close to the cost of a rented room, only without a bathroom or kitchen privileges. Or heat, for that matter. Really, if I went in with a couple of others we could rent a comfy two-bedroom apartment for about the same combined storage rental, and be able to heat up a can of Ravioli when we get tired of box-moving.
I used to wonder about those urban legend stories where someone killed a guy, then kept the body in a deep freeze in a storage unit. I now know that this would never work because at some point the killer would be paying a monthly rental close to the price for a three bedroom ranch in an average subdivision.
When I got online and saw that I could move to another unit in the same building for less than half the monthly cost, I sprang into action and reserved one. Then I called. “Say”, I suggested, “here’s the thing – why don’t we just stop playing games and you charge me what you are advertising?” That, the nice young woman on the other end of the phone call said, would require a request to her “district manager”, who might approve a reduction. But probably not one that big.
So, as far as I can tell, it works like this: I have to ask for a new lower rate. Which they may or may not approve. If they approve it, I will spend my nights wondering how much less I could have gotten approved. If they do not, then I keep asking in $10 increments until the nameless, faceless man approves? I wonder if this is like when you buy a car and the salesman excuses himself to “run it past the manager to see if I can do it.” We all know that the salesman knows full well what he can or cannot do before he gets out of his chair But longstanding custom requires him to go have a seat in the manager’s office, where they chat about last night’s game or how late each of them stayed at the bar the night before before going home and getting bawled out.
Anyway, I decided to go all in on the game and rent the new unit and give notice on the old one. Same building, same size room, but down one floor. A movin’ we will go. It seems kind of pointless, but measures must be taken. Some of the stuff will go to the shredder due to age and maybe in another year or two we can move to a smaller room. At some point in the next few years it will all be gone. Until then, the storage facility has met its match in the guy who has figured out that being a loyal customer is a sucker’s game.
I suppose I could have the last laugh by never getting rid of any of those old boxes of records, then stopping the auto-pay. Then some other poor sap would pay money only to find a bunch of worthless old papers and he would be the one who would have to haul it away. Then the cycle starts over when someone puts $300 of household goods into a unit they will pay $3000 for over the course of two or three years.
You don’t suppose that maybe there is a Reddit group that pools money and buys into self-storage facilities, do you? Maybe I need to look into that.
Image credit: Photo by SarlaWu, offered for free use on Pixabay.com