Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Unavoidable Storage Centres

I was packing my worldly goods again, when I noticed a change in the behaviour of those running the booming business of storage centres.

As places go, storage centres have always been extremely odd. Tales of murder victims in freezers, ill-gotten gains and terrorist related items being ‘stored’ are legion. People even hire rooms in storage centres and hide that they are living inside, although I am amazed that it’s cheaper than renting a house. They are often places of quiet desperation, where the detritus of failed relationships is stacked in tea-chests, next to a failing ebay company and some old videos the owner can’t bare to throw away.

Many people, myself included, have noted storage centres, and the role they play in enabling people to hoard possessions when homes are getting smaller. I wandered round the ancient building, fascinated by just a peek into dusty rooms. One held a life-size Mr. Punch, elsewhere there were packing boxes and bicycles, toys, furniture and burst bin bags full of mouldy old clothes.

They are very expensive nowadays. Competition for custom is hotting up. Phoning a storage centre to request a quote is on a par with comparison shopping for insurance, but here the sales people are oily than rather than slick. Try asking for a direct price and they avoid the subject, asking if you are student (“…you sound so young!”) and making a big show of not selling you too much space (so easy to spot) and instead piling on ‘extras.’

Extras? You mean a door is optional, or a ceiling. No: but wait, they are trying to sell you their ‘free’ van. It’s only available if you book really quickly, and then you have to drive it yourself, so if you can’t drive, well need I finish? Not much use really. Beware ‘offers.’ They last for one-two months, after which in the complex language of subterfuge, prices escalate.

Then they call again: they promise to meet the offer of any ‘reasonable rival.’ They are more pushy and duplicitous than the worst estate agent. They call casually once more, surprised then hurt that you’ve used another company where prices are reasonable. The problem is that within the big group of famous companies, no matter what, how fair and reasonable they claim to be, the price eventually offered is exactly the same for all of them. How strange.
Thankfully, I found an established family firm, and by established I mean they’d been keeping things safe in the same warehouse for 150 years. Imagine what they must have seen. I worried what would happen if payment didn’t go through, and joked about a bonfire of my vanities in the delivery bay. They said no: it’s not like that. But we both know they hold a trump card, that is my worldly goods, under a lock with combination known only to them, while I have my own key so they can’t rob my stuff.

Such strange places. Such necessary places, but that hard-sell needs looking at.

1 comment:

hmolandlady said...

Hi. Storage companies are a licence to print money! We've been using one since downsizing and, having received another bill for £150, have insisted that we either bin the goods or offer them to the Salvation Army. We should have hired a garage..... Unfortunately, the unit is housing my mother in law's irreplacable grandfather clock which doesn't fit anywhere - tough dilemma!