Storage Facilities Research

Part
01
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Part
01

Storage Facility Insights

Storage units are widely used these days but there are some factors that may dissuade people from using them. Some of them include partial access through the day, inadequate customer service, hidden charges, untidy storage space, and mismanagement on the company's part. Further details about each of these factors are outlined below.

Operating Hours

  • One of the things that customers dislike about self-storage spaces is the unavailability of their space 24/7.
  • This deprives customers of the freedom to access their belongings at the time of their choosing.
  • For example, a customer complained about his storage facility not being available throughout the day. He said about Extra Space Storage, "Friendly staff and quality units. My only complaint is that I cannot access my unit 24/7."

Customer Service

  • Bad customer service has been one of the most common reasons, across many industries, that angers customers; the same is the case with self-storage units.
  • Most of the complaints reported by customers were about rudeness on call, responsiveness, and even incorrect information. This is mainly due to untrained or poorly skilled customer service officials.
  • One of the customers said about Public Storage, "Not Satisfied. The rubber seal on the roll up door was broken and mice would enter my unit. Management said they would repair seal. I had to call district manager several times (she never returned my call). Took 2-3 months to repair the seal."

Hidden Charges

  • Another common complaint regarding storage units is that of hidden charges. This is due to unexpectedly high rents that the company charges as opposed to those that were originally conveyed.
  • One of Public Storage's customers said, "I chose Public Storage as a place to store my belongings from my house and stored it there for 5 years. When I moved my stuff there it was the middle of the month or towards the end, whatever. They prorated the month for me and gave me a month for $1.00 or something to that effect... I finally finished my new home and went online and scheduled my move out which was Oct 2. I closed on Monday the 30th. They are charging me for the entire month! I called the DM and Regional who said they do not prorate and just blew me off."

Messy Storage Space

  • Storage units that are untidy and not properly maintained often turn customers away.
  • Apart from the aesthetic unpleasantness that comes with untidiness, the risk of pests and molds, to the contents of the storage unit, increases. A similar issue was faced by a client when they went to retrieve their winter clothes from the storage unit. The complainant said, “We open the box with our daughters’ shoes [and] there was white mold. We spot white mold on the walls of the unit, furniture, dresser, mattresses, & boxes… Our kids are depressed and disturbed by the lost [sic] of everything.”
  • One of the reasons why storage spaces are untidy include the failure to evacuate the unit from previous customer's belongings before handing over access to the new customer.

Mismanagement

  • In some cases, the companies can be very careless towards their customer's belongings, which obviously translates to an unpleasant experience for customers.
  • A family experienced such a mishap where they lost all the contents of the storage unit due to the company's mismanagement. A car accident that led to the customer's mother's death left them homeless, after which they signed up for a storage unit where they stored all their belongings. Later, they found out that the company mistakenly auctioned off the contents of the storage unit.
  • The customer was extremely disturbed by the loss. They said, "I cried for three days straight. This has been so devastating that it affects my emotional well-being every day and likely for the rest of my life…so unfathomable."

Other Issues

We also found other similar issues that cause displeasure to customers. These include break-ins, finding rodent droppings inside the storage unit, water damage to stored contents, etc.

Length of Occupation

  • Most of the customers that rent out a storage unit do it for a longer term. According to a survey, 52% of the respondents said that they rented for a year or longer.
  • As per the same survey, only about 13% of renters occupied a storage unit for 3 months or fewer.

Research Strategy

To find out issues and/or factors that people dislike about storage facilities, we turned to review sites, e.g. Consumer Affairs and Better Business Bureau. We were able to identify several issues that have been the cause of unrest among customers. We have also included examples of actual reviews given by customers on these platforms for each issue we identified.
Part
02
of four
Part
02

Storage Unit Treasures

Some truly stunning finds have been uncovered from storage unit facilities over the years. These include things like items that could be used to make explosives, porn magazines, etc., however, we have provided a list of the most lucrative finds from storage units in terms of their monetary value. Further details about these items are given below.

1. $7.5 Million in Cash

  • The most lucrative find from a storage unit ever has been $7.5 million in cash. The cash was found in a storage unit when a person bought a storage unit in auction for as low as $500.
  • The location of this storage unit was not disclosed for obvious reasons, i.e. to prevent a spark of crime in the area.
  • This story was uncovered on a reality TV show, Storage Wars, hosted by Dan Dotson.
  • The original owners of the storage unit, who sold the unit to Dan, approached the new owner through their attorney and asked for the money back. They offered $600,000 in return, however, the deal finally settled for $1.2 million when the new owner denied accepting the offered amount.

2. Beach Boys Memorabilia

  • A radio station in Florida found royalty cheques, handwritten lyric sheets, musical arrangements, and photographs belonging to The Beach Boys in a storage unit they purchased for $300. The storage unit was told to contain 'documents and paper', which turned out to be much more than that.
  • The band members tried to reclaim the material through a lengthy court battle, however, they were later sold in a sealed bid auction for a price of $6 million.

3. Action Comics # 1

  • A storage unit auctioned in California contained a copy of Action Comics # 1 and that too in a good condition. The comic book was said to have been stolen from Nicolas Cage's home.
  • The comic book was sold for $2.16 million in 2011.

4. Hollywood Memorabilia

  • An abandoned storage unit was said to have contained 40,000 pieces of autographed work, publicity photographs, scripts, posters, Tim Burton art, costumes, and Disney film cells in 2011.
  • Richard Kraft, who was reportedly a Disney fan, had collected all of the stuff over the course of 25 years. The contents of the storage unit were valued at more than $1 million.

Other Valuable Items

  • Apart from the items mentioned above, other valuable items found in storage units include "James Bond's 'Wet Nellie' Lotus Esprit submarine ($751,000), pirate chest stuffed with 16th-century gold coins ($500,000), 1927 Harley-Davidson 8-valve motorcycle ($407,540), original art by Frank Gutierrez ($300,000), car collection including 1956 Ford Thunderbird ($300,000), civil War antiques ($200,000), 1966 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 ($159,500), ‘The Golden Pool’ painting ($155,000), Elvis Presley newspapers ($90,000), Michael Jordan recruitment letters ($50,000), classic video games ($50,000), Rare Burton snowboard ($31,313), faceless cash ($24,000), antique guns and slot cars ($20,000), piano ($12,000), a letter from Herbert Hoover and other historic documents ($10,000), and original Amelia Earhart photos ($1,000 each)."

Research Strategy

We started our search to look for unique, interesting, unusual, and/or expensive treasures abandoned in storage units. While we found a ton of interesting and unique things as well, we decided to outline the most valuable things in terms of their monetary value.
Part
03
of four
Part
03

Storage Unit Events

People are most likely to rent self-storage spaces during summer and early fall. Further details for the times of the year and life events during which people are more likely to rent storage units are documented below.

Renting Likelihood by Quarter

Occupancy rates show that people are more likely to rent storage from April to September each year although the difference is not too significant.
  • The occupancy rates for Public Storage during the first quarter in 2018 stood at 92.3%, while the rates for Q2, Q3, and Q4 were 94%, 94%, and 92.6% respectively.
  • The occupancy rates for Q1-Q4 2017 were 93.1%, 94.6%, 94.6%, and 93.1% respectively.
  • The occupancy rates for Q1-Q4 2016 were 93.7%, 95.4%, 95.4%, and 93.7% respectively.
  • As per Extra Space Storage, "the self-storage business is subject to seasonal fluctuations." They saw the highest occupancy levels towards end-July, whereas the period extending May to September generally exhibits higher occupancy rates as opposed to lower occupancy rates in late February to early March.
  • Life Storage reports "greater occupancy during the late spring, summer and early fall months due to the greater incidence of residential moves and college student activity during these periods."
  • CubeSmart reported the occupancy levels to be "generally slightly higher during the summer months due to increased moving activity. "

Life Events

There are certain life events that create situations where renting a storage space makes sense.
  • 9% of storage unit users rent the space to store property that they receive in inheritance.
  • 11% of users rented the space to store a relative's property who had to face disruptive issues with their residence.

Research Strategy

In order to determine the times of the year that people are more likely to rent self-storage, we aimed to include month-wise occupancy rates for storage units. However, this information was largely unavailable. Instead, we found seasonality information in terms of generalized periods throughout the year. We utilized annual reports of companies that provide self-storage facilities throughout the US to provide occupancy information for seasonality. We have also included information for life events during which people are more likely to rent storage units.
Part
04
of four
Part
04

Storage Unit Goods

People use self-storage spaces for a variety of reasons, e.g. for storing unwanted items, for storing valuables, for storing memories, etc. There are, however, certain trends in what people store the most in storage spaces. Further details about the most stored goods in storage spaces are documented below.

1. Furniture

  • Furniture has been known to be one of the most-stored items in self-storage spaces for long.
  • Many people buy new furniture but find it hard to let go of their old furniture. This is where storage units come into play.

2. Family Photos

3. Kid's Toys

  • Apart from family photos, kids' toys have also been reported to be found frequently in storage units.
  • This may be because an average kid owns 238 toys but typically plays with only 12 of them. Children in the US represent only 3.1% of the global child population, however, they consume 40% of the toys worldwide.

4. Clothing

  • 10% of respondents in a survey that belonged to the Midwest region said that they used storage units for clothing.
  • The motivation behind storing clothes in a storage unit is to save space.

5. Recreational Equipment

  • A little over 15% of residents from the Northeastern US, who responded in a survey, were found to be storing recreational equipment in storage units.
  • They did so in order to store their equipment until the season arrives for their use. In summer, they store winter equipment and in winter, they store summer equipment.

Other Items Commonly Found in Self Storage

  • Other items that are commonly stored in storage units include electronics, appliances, documents, collectibles, vehicles, books, media, and newspapers and magazines.

Research Strategy

We have outlined some items that are commonly stored in storage spaces. Although there are many listicles available that enlist items that people commonly store in self-storage, we have focused on finding items that have been statistically proven to be the most common items. In doing so, we have utilized a number of different news and media articles and extracted the most relevant information.
Sources
Sources