by W. Paul Lenz, Los Angeles, CA
While there assuredly are decent people working at their Fountain Street facility in Los Angeles, certainly others particularly former Management have enriched themselves from the proceeds of sold possessions, stolen from their very own customers. And shamefully, present day decision-making personnel failed to assume responsibilities and to make good when confronted with the aspect of in-house thievery and/or to compensate victimized customers for their loss.
On or about the 25th of September, 2000, I received a phone call from Carilyn W., former Primary Manager of StorageUSA, and I was informed that my friends rental fees are 4 months past due. She also told me that she learned of my friend's death from bills unpaid and returned by the US Postal Service. The reason that she called me now was that my name was also listed on the original rental agreement as a co-owner and if I were to pay for the past dues, so she goes on, some $ 300.- in cash for 4 months, that then I could take control of my friend's and/or our joint possessions. I readily agreed to pay, but I argued why she waited 4 months to contact me and we agreed an a lesser "past due rental fee" of only $ 200.-. On September the 30th, I and two other friends and a pick-up truck reported to StorageUSA and Carilyn W., I paid the past due fees in cash and to take, what now has become "mine alone", out of storage. It needs to be said that I had accompanied my friend when he/we entered into an rental agreement with StorageUSA more than 2 years ago to store some real "treasures", exceeding aggregated in value, more than
Since the "past due fees" paid for by myself were non-refundable, the Manager urged me beforehand to take a look through the cracks in the door of the assigned storage place to be assured that the hoped for "belongings" were indeed still there before the lock on the door would be "broken" by an employee of hers. And so I did and I found the place indeed occupied with stored "bits and pieces" hidden under a large rug or carpet. At this point I voiced my concern to the Manager that perhaps I would not be able to take all the possession on that single day, a Saturday afternoon and she offered instead for me to pick-up the rest on the next day, a Sunday, if I purchased a new door lock to hold safe overnight, what I could not remove then - and we agreed. When my two friends and I, and an employee of StorageUSA went upstairs, instead of using his giant "lock cutter" that he had brought along, he opened the lock much to our surprise with his bare hands, because the lock (witnessed by my friends and I) was already cut and open.
After entering the storage bin on the 4th floor and after a couple minutes of joint and frantic searching among the many boxes stored, we disappointedly stopped for the true "treasures" that we were looking for, were not present. However, we did choose to take a few items, like a leather briefcase with personal letters and other important looking papers and pictures inside, a vacuum cleaner and 2 used TV sets, some other audio equipment and close to a hundred of musical CD's and then disappointedly left. It was, however, not until we got home and examined the briefcase, that we realized those were not my friend's belongings, but rather those of another person. We were thrown off believing them to be my friend's, because of the vacuum cleaner (my friend owned a similar one, with a search light on top) and a pair of yellow rubber pants, part of a suit similar my friend had purchased more in recent times for a sailing journey through the Panama Canal.
The same afternoon, after discovering the error I called the Manager of StorageUSA, explaining as best as I could the mix-up and offered to return those items but I was told to "hang on" to them for a few days, because she was short on space (for storage, I presume) and she promised instead to look for and find my friends real storage bin. In subsequent follow-up phone calls to her, I was again told to continue to "hang-on" and NO, she hadn't found my friend's (or now legally my belongings) yet. About 2 months later, I was finally able (allowed) to return those formerly removed items and in exchange, I got a signed receipt.
The relationship with StorageUSA's Manager and myself had quickly deteriorated and several requests of mine, per phone and also per certified mail for a duplicate copy of my "past due fees paid" (which I had misplaced) and a copy of our/my friend's original storage rental agreement were ignored and when at a personally visit I requested the same again, I was told by StorageUSA's representatives that I would not get one. The Primary Manager, Carolyn W., with whom I had dealings is no longer with the company and for the last 6 months I was dealing with the District Manager (Los Angeles) of StorageUSA in an amicable and professional manner, having been promised by same, that they either would find my friend's belongings or being compensated for my loss. At one point I was offered a sum of money in full restitution (which I rejected as not sufficient or fair) and after further consultation with the District Manager's immediate superior, the prior offer was abruptly withdrawn and I was told, that there is nothing that StorageUSA could do, or would want to do for me to be compensated for the apparent company theft and my loss.
In total disbelieve of the apparent disregard for what is right or wrong and with my mouth wide open, I was also told to get a good lawyer, someone knowledgeable with the intricacies of the still 'vastly unregulated' Rental Storage industry and to go to court and sue.
And with a sad smile on my face and another deep and heavy sigh I said: " I would!"
to be continued