Saturday, August 18, 2012

Crusader Rabbit strikes again...

Crusader Rabbit is the name of a silly little cartoon I watched on TV as a kid. As I understand it, it was the first animated series produced for television. It wasn't a very sophisticated cartoon; Jay Ward would go on to produce much better fare, namely Rocky and Bullwinkle. But for some odd reason, the word "Crusader" resonated with me as a child; I don't know why. Anyway, every time I have to file a consumer complaint or take on some commercial entity that takes my money without providing adequate service, my mind goes back to that cartoon and I think of myself as Crusader Rabbit. Looks like I have to don the costume once again.

Here we go: I moved the sum total of my net worth into the SmartStop Self Storage in Jersey City in January 2011 where it lived for 18 months to the tune of nearly $200/month. A week before I was ready to move out in July 2012, favorite daughter Hayley and I went to check on the stuff to make sure everything was packed up and ready for moving. As soon as I opened the unit, I noticed that several plastic bags had holes and tears in them.  Most of my things were in boxes or suitcases but I had put some stuff into large plastic bags, mostly linens like comforters, pillows, blankets and a pair of heavy boots for snowy weather.  Some tearing can happen when you're shoving things down into a plastic bag, but I was quite certain I hadn't left so many holes in so many bags. Imagine my horror and disgust when I opened a bag and found rat droppings inside. Ugh. Double ugh. Triple ugh. I quickly closed the bag and put all of the ripped bags inside of larger construction-weight plastic bags, and then we continued to pack up and secure everything else that was in the unit.

The SmartStop office was closed by the time we left, so I called the next day to report the rat infestation. I was advised to call the insurance company listed on the storage contract. I told the storage manager that I knew that they did not normally provide a dumpster for customers to dump their trash but I did not want to have to touch those bags again and I thought they might make an exception in this case. Not so much. They told me that I could not leave anything in the storage unit; I would have to take the rat-damaged bags with me. I called the insurance company to advise them of the situation. Three days later, I got a letter advising me that the policy did not cover rodent damage.


I then called the SmartStop corporate offices in Texas. A very nice lady gave me the phone number of the district manager. When I explained the situation to him, he said that he would call the Jersey City office and advise them that they should make arrangements for the damaged bags to be discarded.  That call was apparently never placed because the storage manager insisted that I take the rat-damaged bags with me.  I did not have any food stored in the unit. I paid nearly $200 for 18 months to secure my belongings, which did not include live rats. So -- if the storage company is not responsible for my damaged goods and the insurance company is not responsible for my damaged goods, who is?

I then wrote a letter to the corporate offices in Texas, including photos of the rat droppings all over the floor of the emptied storage unit. Three weeks later, the district manager called and left his number on my voicemail, but did not answer when I called back and did not respond to the voicemail I left.  Hmmm....

Next steps: Two weeks ago, I left reviews of SmartStop Storage on every website I could find that accepts reviews. Today, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in New Jersey.

Attention must be paid. As I understand it, the moving and storage industry normally receives a very high number of consumer complaints. Maybe I'll get restitution, maybe not. I'll keep you posted, blog readers.  In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Jersey City, I'd avoid SmartStop Self-Storage like the plague.

1 comment:

  1. Updated 8/26/12 - Filed a complaint with The Better Business Bureau of NJ and am awaiting the company's response.