Monday, May 22, 2017

How not to be a D*ck at Self-Storage Auctions - An Everyday Etiquette Guide

 Finding content for social media and blogs is hard. Well actually, it is easy for a day or two, and then you run out of ideas, and it becomes tough. What is even harder about creating content is you have to come up with something that “resonates” with people. Do you all know the definition of “resonate?” It means “to meet with someone’s agreement.” Is this serious? I have a hard time agreeing with people I know and genuinely enjoy having in my life. How am I supposed to know how to agree with strangers? Further, how many people do I need to have in agreement with my thoughts to resonate successfully? Given theses struggles, I will look pretty much anywhere to find content.

I enjoy reading more than almost anything so, I will read anything that might inspire me to create content. One of my favorite places to find inspiring content is on the discount table at Barnes & Noble. You know this table. It is close to the register and holds books like a trivia almanac or the complete guide to origami. I found a little gem amongst the discounts last week. It was titled: How not to be a D*ck: An Everyday Guide to Etiquette.

Given that D*ck was in the title of the book, I was hopeful it was going to be funny.  I don’t know if it was supposed to be funny, but I found it to be very straightforward and practical, so not funny at all. It contained tips like “put yourself in the other person’s shoes” and “before speaking, think.” After I got over my initial disappointment, I realized there might be some inspiration to gain from this book anyway. I could use some of the tips provided in this book and apply them to storage auctions. Thus I give you…

How Not to Be a D*ck at Storage Auctions: An Everyday Etiquette Guide 



Buying at Live Storage Auctions

1.    Don’t bid if you don’t have the money on you at the time you are bidding. Live auctions need to wrap up quickly so everyone can move on to the next sale. If we have to wait for you to go to the ATM, we are going to become very disgruntled. First, we are going to see if there are still enough people on site to re-sell the unit to someone else and then we are probably going to ask you not to return to our sales anymore.

2.    Be aware that you might be in small, cramped spaces inside the storage facility and use deodorant accordingly. In the personal hygiene section of the book, the first sentence was “make sure to shower and brush your teeth every day.” That – do that!

3.    Treat others with respect. For most auction buyers, going to auctions every day is their job. You are essentially in your workplace. Please treat your co-workers with respect so we do not have to call the police on you.

4.    Follow the facility rules. This tip actually applies to participants in live auctions as well as online auctions. If the location asks you not to smoke, don’t be that guy who has to be asked to put out your cigarette. If you think you will just leave a few things behind in the facility dumpster and nobody will notice, you are WRONG! Storage facilities have cameras everywhere and you are an outsider. You don’t have a contract with them to be on their property. They are watching you. They will probably keep your cleaning deposit and they can because it was stated on that registration form you did not read before signing.

5.    Treat the restroom at the storage facility with the same respect you treat your bathroom at home. I am just going to come right out and say this. Please do not pee or poop anywhere other than the toilet and it is also certainly helpful if you can make sure no feces make it onto the walls of the restroom. Also, don’t take meetings in the bathroom. There are likely other people waiting to use the bathroom.

Buying at Online Storage Auctions

1.    I cannot stress this enough…DO NOT bid on a unit if you do not intend to pick it up upon winning. Why, oh why do we spend our days dealing with this? This is the most frustrating part of online auctions and I know for sure we are not letting anything slide. We are taking a super aggressive approach to bidders who do this. I understand that things will happen. It is entirely possible a person will have a family emergency that prevents them from picking up a unit they won, but we find it hard to believe it happens all the time to many different people. We also understand you might have won more units than you anticipated and you overextended your funds. Don't do that, just don't. 

2.    Double check the location of the unit you are bidding on prior to placing your bid. It happens. It really does. We get frantic phone calls from someone who bid on a unit on the other side of the country and need to rescind their bid. The problem is, we do have a way for that to happen. The only thing they can do is hope they get outbid. So, take a few seconds to double check the listing!

3.    Please do not take what you want from the unit and leave the rest. This applies to both live and online auctions, but for some reason, people do it more with online auctions. I guess they feel they have some degree of anonymity and they will get away with it. That is not the case. We know who you are and will take appropriate action if the unit is not cleaned out completely.

4.    Read the rules of the auction prior to bidding. We get many emails from people wanting to know why their credit card was charged. The answer to that is because we collect a 10% buyer’s premium on the credit card. A quick glance over the FAQs on our website will let the buyers know all the major rules and procedures prior to bidding.

5.    Please do not assume that every issue you have while using our website is a problem with our site. We know we could have an issue. We also know there is a good chance we do not have a technological problem. I can tell this for sure; we will answer our phones (or email) and do our best to help you and resolve any issues. What we do not need is vulgar and rude emails. These are offensive, especially when the issue ends up being user error after all. As the good book that inspired this article says “communicate politely and make requests nicely” and possibly my favorite takeaway from the book “assumptions are conclusions based on what we don’t know.”


As you might have noticed, this article is mostly targeted at auction buyers. Never fear, I am already working on the content for an installment for storage facility managers and operators. After conducting both live and online auctions for almost eight years now, I have many tips for all parties involved. Heck, I might even throw in some tips for auctioneers.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Special Features Offered by StorageStuff.Bid

Part of this online auction business is going to trade shows and expos to try to gain new business. With so many options for online auction companies out there, the question we hear most is "how are you different from all the other guys?" Honestly, I can't say with certainty what the "other guys" do or don't do, but I can tell you what I think makes our platform special. Since I am actually hoping people will read and digest the information, I created an inforgraphic to help me convey the information. I am super excited because I love making infographics and I love StorageStuff.Bid I hope you enjoy and learn something about us!

StorageStuff.Bid Online Storage Auctions are Special
About the Author - Cheli Rosa - Director of Marketing, Auctioneer, Mom, Pinterest Addict and Amateur Scrapbooker.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

How In the World Did You End Up Doing That?

Self-storage might be the world's best-kept secret employment industry. I am not sure why; plenty of people use storage facilities and surely they realize said facilities have employees. However, it never fails, when I tell someone what I do, they look at me like a cute little puppy with its head crooked to the side and say "how in the world did you end up doing that?"




In that same vein, I often find that people's stories of how they got into the self-storage industry are often interesting and sometimes a little unconventional. I enjoy hearing people's stories and I hope you enjoy my sharing them with you here on my blog! 






How In The World Did You End Up Doing That? - #1

Lainie Miller, Vice President of Operations, Sentry Self Storage Management


"In 1994 I was working as a full-time Customer Service Representative for a small private company in Albuquerque, New Mexico while attending college part-time.  One fateful day a co-worker approached me and asked if I might be interested in a weekend job.  He knew I was taking college classes and had limited available time, so I was confused as to why he thought I might be interested in taking on another job.  He then insisted it would be a perfect fit for my situation because there would be a lot of free time and it would be acceptable for me to study while on the job.  Getting paid while doing my homework?  This definitely peaked my interest! 

The job turned out to be filling in for a self-storage management team on their days off at a small, locally owned property.  The job consisted of answering an occasional phone call, taking a few payments and maybe completing paperwork for a new unit rental.  If anything beyond those basic tasks came up while I was working, I was instructed to call the manager to come downstairs from her apartment to handle the situation.  My co-worker was right on target in recommending me for this simple job, and I was grateful to be earning some extra cash while getting my homework done.  Approximately three months down the road my easy weekend cash came to a complete halt when Storage USA purchased the property.  Things changed quickly from the slow "mom & pop shop" to a fast-paced, professionally run self-storage property.  I decided to hang in there until they found a replacement, however, it did not take me long to realize that a self-storage career with Storage USA was ideally suited for me.  I resigned my other job and have not looked back since.  Twenty plus years, many relocations, and many position changes later, I have found myself working for Sentry Self Storage Management in Florida, and still loving the industry!"


About the Author - Cheli Rosa - Director of Marketing, Auctioneer, Mom, Pinterest Addict and Amateur Scrapbooker.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Self Storage in 2017 - Are You Ready to Embrace Technology?




We are now four days into 2017 (three if you consider it is still pretty early in this day) and most people are finally back at work after long holiday vacations. If you are a smart, driven professional who wants to succeed, you are probably asking yourself “what do I need to make 2017 even better than 2016”?

I spent about an hour this morning checking out various blogs in the self-storage industry. There was one major theme to most of the articles I read – TECHNOLOGY. How is the self-storage industry going to embrace technology this year? Technology is in every part of a self-storage business, including marketing, accounting, rentals and reservations, and even auctions!

What I am shocked to see and hear when I am talking to people in the industry is that so many owners and operators have yet to embrace the role of technology in their business. Why? The answers vary. Some operators are highly occupied and don’t think they need to make any changes. This high occupancy leads operators to believe that they are successfully competing with the REITs, so why invest in further efforts. We have even seen a decline in attendance at several trade shows and expos because people feel they are already succeeding and don’t need to look for new ideas or learn more.

The only problem with this way of thinking is --- it will only work until it stops working. Eventually, the market will cycle back around, and occupancy rates will begin to drop. The huge boom in development of self-storage facilities is going to create more supply than demand. Will the operators who ignore the need for technological advancements be caught with their proverbial pants down?

It is a lot of work to develop a successful digital marketing campaign. You don’t get to the first page of a Google in a day. Creating meaningful, engaging content is time consuming. Some people work for a very long time to draw attention to their blog. (Ex. Me!) If you are one of those operators that “doesn’t believe in SEO or search engine optimization,” I fear you are going to be in for a shock.

Numbers don’t lie. Millennials are the largest sector of American consumers. If you are going to get their business, you are going to have to make some changes and those changes all involve technology. Millennials love content. They want to hear your story. They want to read about you and create a picture in their mind of your business and then they want to talk to other people about you. They can and will do all of this at lightning speed, thanks to the internet.


Are you blogging? Are you posting on social media? Are you joining industry related groups and online forums? Are you getting your story out there? Are you a part of your digital community? If not, you need to start making changes TODAY!!!! You have competitors that have been preparing for these changes for quite a while now. Millennials are not going to choose your facility because they drove by or because you have new signage. They are going to look for storage on the internet. The only question remaining is WILL YOU BE FOUND?

Anybody who is planning to attend the Inside Self Storage World Expo April 10-13 in Las Vegas, please come to my education session “Marketing to Materials” to learn more about Millennials and marketing to them.

January 4, 2017

About the Author - Cheli Rosa - Director of Marketing, Auctioneer, Mom, Pinterest Addict and Amateur Scrapbooker.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pennsylvania Now Requires Online Self Storage Lien Sales to Be Licensed by the State


It is now law that any Pennsylvania (PA) self storage operator who chooses to hold lien sales online, must use a licensed auction company. Most of the companies providing an “online portal” for self storage lien sales do not carry auctioneer licenses or auction company licenses. Citing the eBay model of business, they claim online auctions are not “auctions”; they are simply a web portal or a social sharing site where people can list things for sale. The state of Pennsylvania just answered that argument. On July 20, 2016, PA Governor, Tom Wolf, signed into law PA House Bill 325 regarding the licensing of auctioneers and the definition of an auction. In the law, the definition of an auction has been modified to include any online auctions. The natural response of the “online web portals” would likely be “we don’t conduct auctions, we are a simply a web portal.” Pennsylvania law makers must have anticipated this response because they took the definition of an auction a few steps further. They define “auction” or “sale at auction” as the following.

            A method for the sale or lease of property, or any interest in property by means of
            verbal exchange, regular mail, telecommunications, the internet, an electronic
            transmission or a physical gesture…in the form of bids, in an effort to advance     
            the amount of the bids to obtain the highest or most favorable offer. 

            This includes: live auctions, online auctions, real time auctions, and any similar
            such events as may be devised with the development of technology.

If your sale is on the internet and involves bidding, it is considered an auction in the State of Pennsylvania and must be licensed by the PA Auctioneer Association. It is true that individual owners or their agents can still conduct their own auctions without the use of a licensed auctioneer. However, if you utilize an auctioneer and auction company that engages in the aforementioned activities, they must carry auction licenses. The company providing you with the technology to hold your sales is not an agent of you. Do you employee them? Do your various insurance policies cover them? Are you actually overseeing any of the actual sales? They are not afforded the same protections you are.

The online web portals or website marketplaces might try to claim since storage auctions do not require a license, they are not required to have one either. This is not true. If you use an auctioneer to come to your facility and conduct auctions, they absolutely must be licensed in accordance with the law. The law in PA now states that any company using technology to promote bids through electronic means is in fact engaging in auctioneering and must be licensed in accordance with the law.

While it might be easy for an online web portal or website marketplace to hire an auctioneer, that will not suffice to satisfy the requirement. The law also now requires the company to have an auction company license. This will require registering as a business with the PA Secretary of State, obtaining insurance bonds only issued to auction companies, obtaining a trust bank account for auctioneers, and then finally obtaining the auction company license from the PA Auctioneer Association.

What does this have to do with you? Why do you care? It is very likely the State of PA is planning to pursue action against companies who do not comply. The language of the law is very direct and the wording is strong. Not complying could result in termination of operations and even punitive damages. That means your sale you have worked so hard to get into place would disappear from the internet and you will not have fulfilled your legal obligations as a storage operator. That would open you to liability on a wide scale.

Pennsylvania is not the only state to do this. The State of Georgia also amended its auctioneer licensing law in 2014 to include online auctions. The State of Illinois also requires that any Internet Auction Listing Service be licensed by the Secretary of State. They have defined the law in such a way that pretty much anybody facilitating the sale of goods online must comply with the requirement. If a company meets any of the following requirements, they must obtain an IALS license. Number three is the requirement directly relating to self storage sales because the property being sold is in fact in the State of Illinois.

(1) the person, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or other entity providing the Internet auction listing service is located in the State of Illinois; 

(2) the prospective seller or seller, prospective lessor or lessor, or prospective purchaser or purchaser is located in the State of Illinois and is required to agree to terms with the person, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or other entity providing the Internet auction listing service, no matter where that person, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or other entity is located; or 

(3) the personal property or services offered for sale or lease are located or will be provided in the State of Illinois.


These changes are not surprising. State laws are going to continue to evolve with technology. The reason auctioneer associations exist is because there is a need to regulate the professionals in the industry and hold them accountable for how they handle your business dealings. There is no reason to think this would not be extended to online practices. It is imperative for storage operators to know about these changes and ask the right questions about the people they are doing business with. The laws in Georgia and Illinois are already in effect. The law in PA becomes effective on September 20, 2016. Is your auction provider in compliance? 



About the Author - Cheli Rosa - Director of Marketing, Auctioneer, Company Administrator, Social Media Manager, Mom, Kite Flyer, Pinterest Addict and Amateur Scrapbooker.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Rise of Class Action Lawsuits in Self Storage

A class action lawsuit is not the same as a lawsuit where one person sues another person. A class action lawsuit involves a group of several people suing one person. This “class” of people all have a similar issue for which they wish to bring suit. This type of lawsuit has become increasingly popular in the self storage industry. As of now, they are primarily being targeted at the REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) like Public Storage, Extra Space Storage, and Uncle Bob’s Storage. It is hard to say if and when these types of lawsuits might begin to target smaller operators.

Self Storage is a magnet for class action. Operators use the same lease for every tenant. They use the same lien enforcement procedures with each tenant. They use the same auction procedures with each tenant. They use the same tenant protection plan or insurance coverage for each tenant. Self storage operators use the same procedures hundreds of times over. That means if they have done something wrong, they have done it hundreds of times over. That constitutes a big group for a class action lawsuit.


Unfortunately, there are groups that are looking for targets for class action lawsuits. It is also unfortunate that there are people in the world looking to join themselves in a class action lawsuit. There are attorneys who know they can cash in by getting a group together for a lawsuit. They are on the internet soliciting for plaintiffs. One example is the website www.bigclassaction.com. I did a quick Google search for “self storage lien sales class action lawsuits” and found this web page.

<img src="DIRECT IMAGE URL" alt="StorageStuff.Bid Online Auctions" />

Let’s break down that first paragraph on this page.

  • “Self-storage companies unlawfully seize the contents of their storage lockers and auction them off…” There is nothing unlawful about what self-storage operators do. In fact, they are prescribed by law to follow an exact procedure. Sure, there are mistakes made in the process, but the action of selling storage units at auction is not inherently illegal.
  • “Often at a huge profit to those companies” Self storage operators do not get to sell delinquent units for fun. They have a lien on the property in the unit to recover a debt owed to them. If the unit were to sell for more than what is owed to them, those excess proceeds are returned to the tenant. It is also important to note that it is very rare that a unit sells for even the amount owed, much less over that amount. There is absolutely no profit to a self storage operator for auctions.
  • “Without the content owner’s knowledge.” Self storage operators engage in exhaustive measures to get their tenants to come and pay. They send late notices, pre-lien letters, and lien letters via verifiable mail. They run legal ads in the newspaper. Operators often offer a settlement to tenants just to get them to vacate the property. Self storage operators do not want to auction off storage units. Doing so is the legal remedy that has been put in place for them to vacate units to re-rent.

It is also unfortunate that there are people in the world looking to join themselves in a class action lawsuit.

Those of us in the self storage industry know that the ideas presented here are not accurate, but that doesn’t really matter. This is the perception of the industry that has been created. The “big bad” self storage operator likes to take advantage of people who choose to store with them. Unfortunately, judges and other legal personnel are not immune to these ideas and this often affects self storage operators negatively. 

The most important thing an operator can do to protect themselves is to have a well written rental agreement. Leading industry attorneys write a general lease that is often distributed through the state self storage association. While they try really hard to include anything you might need to protect you, it is impossible for them to write a one size fits all lease. Operators offer different services and have different policies. If you spend the money on an attorney one time, please make it for them to review your lease agreement.



About the Author - Cheli Rosa - Director of Marketing, Auctioneer, Company Administrator, Social Media Manager, Mom, Kite Flyer, Pinterest Addict and Amateur Scrapbooker.






Thursday, July 21, 2016

Selling Vehicles at a Self Storage Auction in Florida




Selling Vehicles at a Self Storage Lien Sale #1 - Florida

Many state self storage associations have successfully changed their self storage statutes to allow stored vehicles to be towed of the property in the event of default. Florida is not one of those states. Operators in Florida must follow through with a lien sale.

If you are a Florida owner or operator that rents vehicle spaces or has drive-up units that could be used to store a vehicle absolutely MUST have provisions in their rental agreement specifically addressing vehicle storage. If your rental agreement does not, please have it reviewed and updated by an attorney specializing in self storage.

Once you are ready to start renting to people storing vehicles, please ensure they own the vehicle they are storing. If they offer to return later to bring the proof of ownership, do not rent the unit until later. You have a much greater chance of running into stumbling blocks come auction time if the vehicle does not belong to the tenant. You will also need to contact any additional owners in the event of a lien sale and they might very well show up to reclaim their vehicle and you will have to give it to them.

If you need to have an auction with a vehicle in FL, the first thing you will need to do is a VIN search on the vehicle. This search needs to provide you with the names and addresses of any owners and/or lien holders. Several of the auctioneers and auction companies are able to do the VIN search for you or you will need to go directly to the FL DMV with form HSMV 90510 and a payment of $1.00 and have the search conducted directly.

After you obtain the VIN search, you can prepare your Notice of Sale letters. These "lien letters" need to be sent via CERTIFIED MAIL WITH RETURN RECEIPT. While the self storage statutes have changed the mailing requirements for lien letters, the DMV has not. You will need to send a letter to your tenant, any different known owners, AND any known lien holders. Per Florida statute, each of your letters needs to have a space to include a description of the property being sold. In this section, you need to include the year, make model, and VIN number of the vehicle. If the vehicle is in a unit with other items, you will need to list those items as well. A vehicle is not considered "household goods."

When you are ready to prepare your advertisement, you will need to include your tenant, any other known owners, and any lien holders. Basically, you will need to advertise each person you sent a letter to. You will also need to include the same description you put in your letter. This will be the year, make, model, and VIN of the vehicle.

Unfortunately, you have just completed the easy part and it only gets more difficult from here. You will need to familiarize yourself with the FL DMV TL-28. This is the set of rules the FL DMV has for obtaining a title for a vehicle bought at a self storage auction. It is very difficult to find this document in a regular Google search, so I have linked it here and will also place a link on my blog. The most important part of the TL-28 is the list of documents you will need to give to the auction buyer. You will need to provide the buyer with the following documents.


  • A copy of the Notice of Sale letter
  • A copy of the VIN search
  • If the vehicle was previously title in a different state, you will need to contact that state as well to find out if there are any lien holders of record. You will need to provide the auction buyer with that search, if applicable. 
  • Proof the notice was delivered via certified mail with return receipt
  • Any original green cards that were returned (yes, original)
  • Any returned, unopened letters (yes, the actual letter)
  • A copy of the advertisement, showing the dates it was posted
  • FL Form HSMV 82050. This is the Notice of Sale for required by the DMV. You will fill out sections 1 & 3. By signing this form, you are simply stating that the vehicle was in fact sold at auction at your facility. 

I always recommend having all of these documents ready to hand over to the buyer on the day of the auction. If you do not, they will likely call you several times to get everything they need. I also think it is a good idea to give the buyer a copy of the TL-28. In the event they have any issues at the DMV, they can produce the TL-28 to the agent they are working with. If they are able to easily resolve any issues at the DMV, they will not come back to you looking for a resolution.

There are times when the vehicle is old, dilapidated and has not been registered in many, many years. In this instance, it will be difficult to find vehicle information. Likely, the auction buyer would be buying it for scrap metal rather than a titled vehicle to drive. In this instance, you can sell the vehicle for “parts & salvage.” This is only an acceptable remedy when you have exhausted all efforts to obtain ownership records. If you choose to sell a vehicle for parts, in the description of goods in your letter and your ad, you will write the make and model, followed by “SOLD FOR PARTS AND SALVAGE.” This will alert any potential buyers that you will not be providing paperwork for them to obtain a title. If anyone should ask if you will have the paperwork for a title, the answer is “no.”
This remedy CANNOT be used simply to get around the complicated process described above. If you sell a working vehicle, that you can obtain title information on for parts and salvage, you have not had a commercially reasonable sale and you will have violated the FL lien laws for self storage. Essentially, you will have had a wrongful sale.

In the past, lobbyists for the Florida Self Storage Association have been working on getting the lien law amended to allow operators to tow vehicles in the event of default. This would be a much easier way to remove a default vehicle from the property. Hopefully, we will see this change in the legislation sooner rather than later.

About the Author - Cheli Rosa - Director of Marketing, Auctioneer, Company Administrator, Social Media Manager, Mom, Kite Flyer, Pinterest Addict and Amateur Scrapbooker.