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OtherIamA Storage Angel of Death. I cut locks and inventory belongings for a large Moving and Storage Company. AMA!

Dec 26th 2016 by No_Warhawkz • 65 Questions • 1353 Points

Edit: Thanks for all the questions everyone. The store is closing in 18 minutes, and you better believe I'm not staying here a second longer than I have to. Stay safe out there Internets!

I recently became the General Manager for a location in West Columbia South Carolina. One of the biggest in the state, not that that's saying much, but we see a lot of customers here.

Though I still perform the same duties here at this store, my previous job involved going to every location around my area and cutting the locks off of storage units which where in "lein" status, and prep them to be sold at auction. Now I only perform this for my own store, not all of them.

I'm also writing a book documenting some of my favorite/most insane customers called "Why You Need Books For?" so keep a look out!

Anyway, it's a slow day here at the store, so fire away!

Proof:

http://imgur.com/39kSIuJ
http://imgur.com/848FQ86

Edit: Found the picture of the bucket of poo! Enjoy?
http://imgur.com/KyyrzsJ

Q:

I used to watch storage wars until I realized how dumb & fake it was. But have you ever found any cool old firearms in lockers? I remember one time seeing that if the auctioneer saw the gun when the unit was opened that the weapon would be taken until the buyer of the unit did the proper paperwork. Is this true.

A:

We find a lot of weapons (the South). A lot of bullets and other types. There is some sort of law which give the person who bought the unit full ownership of every item they purchased. Including guns, motorcycles and cars. For the life of me I can't think of what it's called, and it's a bit of extra paperwork, but we don't hold anything.


Q:

Do you ever have anyone default on their payments long enough that their unit goes to auction, only to have them come back and bid on their own possessions?

A:

Hasn't happened yet, though its been threatened to me. Don't quote me, but I think there may be some sort of statute about it?


Q:

Hasn't happened yet, though its been threatened to me. Don't quote me, but I think there may be some sort of statute about it?

~ /u/No_Warhawkz

A:

I said DON'T quote me!


Q:

I said DON'T quote me!

~ /u/No_Warhawkz

A:

You sunnuva....


Q:

How would that even be a threat? People are weird.

A:

Yeah... like I don't PERSONALLY care. It's like when people threaten to "never come back". That's not so much a threat as it is a blessing.


Q:

I also work storage. The person who "owns" the unit is not allowed to bid, but they could technically send friends or family to bid. That doesn't mean they'll win it back though and they don't get to retain ownership of the unit. You buy it you got to get the hell out.

A:

Yup. You got 48 hours to clear out a auctioned unit. Then we will lock it back up and throw everything away.


Q:

How long have you been waiting to call yourself an angel of death?

A:

Since I was 14 playing Halo 2 online.


Q:

Shout out to you, I live in West Columbia.

My question: do you ever snoop around in units?

A:

Only if something requires snooping. For instance, a unit which has a bunch of blue liquid pouring out of the bottom.


Q:

Weird. As someone who had lived in WCOLA for quite some time, there are a lot of weirdos here and I bet you have some interesting stories.

Thanks for repping the Midlands!

A:

West Columbia is a weird place. Midlands FTW!


Q:

Well??

What was the blue liquid?

A:

Some kind of concentrated soap used to clean something heavy duty. It smelled horrible.


Q:

Was...Was there a body?

A:

Not that I could see


Q:

Was there ever a lock you couldn't open?

A:

Never. We have PLENTY of tools to help me get into any lock I've come across.


Q:

I rented a unit one time, hadn't started moving things in yet, and came back a week later to find my lock had been cut off. It was a lock with a magnetic key that I'd had for many years. Since I was there with a load of stuff to put in and no lock anymore, I had to buy one of theirs. I always wondered why they did that--to make sure it was a lock they could open whenever they wanted, or to get the six bucks for the new lock.

A:

I can't exactly say for that store, but for our store, we require a disc. lock on our units. However, we would never cut a customer lock unless it was for an auction. We would overlock their unit, and call them to tell them we needed them to purchase a disc lock. You don't have to get an specific brand of disc lock for us.


Q:

Thanks. Nothing had been said upfront about type of lock. What's a disc lock and why is it a requirement?

A:

This is a disc lock. We require them because they are near impossible to cut with bolt cutters. The body of the lock protects the shackle, by covering most of it. They are much safer, and harder to open than traditional padlocks.


Q:

That's comendable. I would have expected the opposite that the company would want to be able to get in easier so would want shittier locks. Does the company gaurantee the security of the contents?

A:

We offer insurance on our units, starting at 7.95 per month. That does cover theft though, which is rare but not unheard of.


Q:

How do you go about cutting open a lock like that?

A:

Drill, and some patience.


Q:

I'm going to use this lock. Let's see you get into my unit.

A:

Though it might blow through both my batteries and several blades, and 45 minutes, my angle grinder would probably take care of it :3


Q:

Aaaand, now we know the secret.

A:

If I have to rely on the angle grinder, I'm doing it the hard way, or I missed the sweet spot for the lock. On a good day, I can get a lock off in under 15 seconds. (on a good day)


Q:

Do you have any restrictions on how the customer secures the lockup? I'm thinking about things that block entry I guess "don't booby-trap the lockup" goes with out saying.

A:

Hah! The only thing we require is a special type of lock called a Discus Lock. Outside of that there isn't really anything. But some people are piss poor at storing things, so when I open them to take inventory, a bunch of stuff will avalanche out of the unit.


Q:

Sort of related to this, are there types/brands locks that are 'better', more resistant? Any that are really easy to cut that should be avoid?

A:

All disc locks I've come across are near impossible to cut off unless you know this one simple trick which makes locksmiths hate you. Our store's brand is a solid lock, but I also like these Word Locks which are nice because they don't have a simple pin mechanic to them. Makes it difficult to drill off.


Q:

And the simple trick is...?

A:

A trade secret.


Q:

Plastic explosives

A:

That would be considerably more exciting.


Q:

What does a typical day look like?

Have you ever had issues with military people being out of the country, thinking everything was fine for their payment, and everything not being fine with it?

A:

A typical day for me back then was:
1) Get all the folders from a location which had the paperwork done for the units I had to cut.
2) Cut the units. I've done 45 at one location before.
3) Inventory all the cut units.
4) Go to the next store.
5) Repeat 1-4 14 times.
6) Give the paperwork to corporate.

Active military is auction exempt. As long as we know they are military, we will hold on to their belongs indefinitely.


Q:

Do you appraise the items or hire an outside consultant?

Do you know why storage units are being built with a fever pitch in the northern part of SC, near Charlotte?

A:

We don't appraise individual items. We just start the unit at a price, and people will pay whatever they want to pay. Normally, items in the units aren't exciting. It's stuff like, a couch, an old washing machine, and some clothes.
Storage is interesting because after the initial cost of the building, there is little overhead. It just sits in place and makes money. All of our locations average about 90 percent full at all times, and even when we build 2,500 more units, it will still fill up to about 90%. I don't exactly understand it.


Q:

I don't exactly understand it.

There are too many humans and they have too much stuff.

A:

That's probably true. Storage pops up like rabbit in spring. Not just my company either, little independent storage places too. It's crazy.


Q:

Too bad you aren't the Angel of Cash or your probably find a way to open your own storage facility. Sounds like you'd know what you were getting into.

A:

Knowing about it is exactly why I would never open one.


Q:

Aside from the crazies, what reasons are you thinking of? You made it sound pretty awesome a couple posts up where you said how you build a place and then it sits there and just prints money.

A:

It's mainly the crazies. I'm not a confrontational person, and this job requires a lot of confrontation. At least 5 times a month, I'm getting told by customers their insert family member died and that's why they want their late fees waived. When I say no, suddenly I'm a terrible person and am threatened with law suits and news crews and the lot.


Q:

I can testify that this man doesn't lie. Source: friend worked in a storage facility and I stopped by to visit one day. THREE people were in the lobby and parking lot in hysterics, two were on the phone, the other wasn't. When I asked what the hell was going she just shrugged and said "They want their stuff but they haven't paid up and I'm not buying their 'lostmykidcarhousejob' stories." She ended up quitting not long after and said that the constant barrage of hard luck stories and sketch got to her.

A:

We also get a lot of people who claim there was a water/mold/rodent problem.
Me: Come on by so we can open your unit and I'll take some pictures.
Them: I threw everything away.
Me: Did you take pictures?
Them: No.
So... do you have proof?
Them: No.
Me: K.


Q:

This will sound like an awful tangent but I swear there's a connection.

There's a video, I think on his actual show "Louie," of Louis C.K. absolutely crushing this woman who would just not. Shut. Up during one of his performances. He gets just savage and she doesn't take the hint. Finally he drops this vicious insult and she sits there, open-mouthed for a second before saying "I could sue you."

I feel like threatening law suits is a generational thing, or perhaps a class thing on some level. It's the threat that you think will mean something, will scare someone, but usually common sense pretty quickly shows that you have zero legal ground whatsoever and would be laughed out of any lawyer's office for even suggesting it.

A:

Yeah. Also, I work for a 4 billion dollar company. They wouldn't be suing my store, they're suing my company. A multi national company. That usually doesn't go well.


Q:

I was given to understand that the vast majority of units had one extremely cool and rare item that is worth a lot of money.

A:

Unfortunately not. It's usually a bunch of trash. Sometimes the units don't even sell, and we have to throw everything away.


Q:

I have so many questions! This has always been intriguing to me. What's the craziest/scariest/most odd items you've found when opening a unit? Craziest customer story?

A:

Weirdest item? We've found some crazy stuff. From buckets of poo, to my personal favorite: A rubber chicken with huuuuge boobs. I wrote on the official, legal paper "Sexy Rubber Chicken" as part of their inventory.
Crazy customers? The one which stands out, was a lady who came to get into her storage unit at 6:59 pm (a minute before we closed) and unpacked her 10x15 unit into the isle. She then slept there overnight, and asked us to make coffee for her in the morning. We don't have a coffee maker, so I said so. She rummaged around in her unit, found a coffee maker and an old bag of coffee, found a power outlet, and made coffee on the concrete. Good times.


Q:

Jesus what a nightmare of a woman. Hands down more interesting than any episode of Storage Wars.

A:

She spent about 45 hours in total unpacking her unit and then getting flustered about something. My boss happened to roll by and they had a little yelling match for a few minutes. People are weird. She ended up getting auctioned though.


Q:

She ended up getting auctioned though.

How much did you get for her?

A:

About 150 ish.


Q:

Have you ever found someone living out of their unit?

A:

All the time. Especially at out down town location. People will pay 54.95 a month to live in a climate controlled unit with 24 hour access. We often find beds and other items which suggest someone is living in it.


Q:

I assume this is prohibited by the terms of their contract, isn't it?

A:

I haven't read the entire agreement front to back, but it might be. My eyes are good, but not good enough to read 8 pages of .6 font.


Q:

So do you let them carry on with it?

A:

No. If we find evidence of someone living in the unit we will evict them.
Edit, read that wrong.
We haven't found anyone going that route (that I know of) but if we did I assume they would ask them to step out.
Edit again: I had an aneurysm and thought this was about something else. You absolutely cannot live in your unit. It's illegal, and against your storage contract.


Q:

This is weird. My friend's dad owns a storage company, they say it is impossible for anyone to pull this off. Everyone gets a code. They type the code at the gate in order to get in, and they type the code in order to get out. Any open codes that don't have an exit put in show up on the computer screen. When they close up for the night they drag the people out who haven't left yet. Impossible to live in their storage units.

A:

That's true if you don't have 24 hour access. If you do, however, then you can come and go as you please. We drive around our units every night to make sure everything seems in order, but some locations have 600+ rooms and it's impossible to catch everything.


Q:

Might be a stupid question but is it illegal / against your ToS to live there?

A:

Yes. Yes it is.


Q:

You just said above you never read the entire agreement and that it only "might be"

A:

I probably got confused. It's illegal to live in your unit. I have no idea what the law/contract says about bidding on your own unit.


Q:

How are situations like that handled? Any restrictions on how long someone can hang out in a 24 hour access storage unit?

A:

There isn't really a precedent, because most people don't want to be there very long. Once we noticed her there most of the day, I told her to get it cleaned up ASAP. Eventually she called in a friend for help and they sorted it out.
Edit: Word


Q:

Do you guys charge extra to customers who use more energy than usual, for the ones that have units with outlets & power?

A:

None of out units have power directly at them. Some people are lucky and get an outlet if they are on the side of the building though. It honestly doesn't really cost the store much extra, because they won't use the power all the time. Usually just for a lite a couple of hours at night if they swing by.


Q:

...Bucket of poop?

A:

Yyyup. I found it in mid-July so you can imagine the smell. I'm certain I have pictures of it somewhere...


Q:

SHOW ME THE MONEY

A:

I don't think we sold that one.


Q:

What's the sexiest thing you've found?

A:

Lots of lingerie. Toys, that kind of stuff. Weirdly, I've found lots of raunchy paintings. I dunno what the deal is there.


Q:

Not the chicken?

A:

I mean... if you're into that.


Q:

Have you ever participated in an auction for a unit, if so, what did you get?

A:

I have not. I'm actually not allowed to!


Q:

Oh? Like they have to be an outside auction company to avoid conflict of interest or something?

Pls 'splain!

Edit: Damn autocorrect

A:

We hire an auctioneer, and our company sends a representative who makes sure everything is going according to law and procedure and stuff. Company employees are allowed to bid, but I am not. I guess they don't want me to fudge with it so I can get good stuff for almost nothing.


Q:

Have you ever had the authorities asking for the contents of any of the units?

A:

Rarely. I've only personally experienced it once, when they were investigating some drug related activities. They show up with a warrant, and we cut it open. There's a looot of paperwork on our part for that kind of stuff.


Q:

Is Storage Hunters a real thing, or is the drama all set up?

A:

It's all set up. All the people who show up to the auction are given time to inspect the unit and decide what they will pay for it before the auction starts.


Q:

What's the highest value locker you've ever seen sold?

P.S.Why would anyone default on payments and still have possessions that are worth decent value?

A:

I've seen one go for about 6,000 which had a Eagle Talon inside. Though once we saw a unit get sold for less than a hundred, and a little sewing table had a roll of cash with 5,000 in 100's.
And that's a good question. Honestly what it boils down to, (this is just speculation on my part) is that for some people aren't really sure what they're getting into. They get a month behind, then two, then three, then by that time they can't afford to pay 450 dollars to get anything out.
Edit: Sorry, I meat the car called an Eagle Talon


Q:

How would your company know if you took something from the unit?

Also I saw that you answered another question saying that you've seen units with items that you really wanted, but are prohibited from bidding on. Why can't you ask a family member or a friend to bid on it for you?

A:

They wouldn't. They just have to trust me. If they didn't, there are cameras literally everywhere to keep me honest.
I could if I wanted to. But it's a lot of hassle to ask someone to go through, and I've never wanted anything bad enough to ask someone to go out of their way like that.


Q:

that bucket of poo was tempting though, wasn't it?

A:

Oh man. It was... enticing.


Q:

I work at a storage facility in the same company as you in a different MCO. A few years ago they found a dead grandma in a storage unit about 7 miles north of here. She had been in there embalmed and everything for a good 10+ years I believe. Close enough that it could have easily happened at this facility.

A:

Yikes. We found a coffin once. Luckily for us it was empty. But it did give one of a guys a mild heart attack. What MCO are you at?


Q:

753

A:

South East represent. \m/


Q:

Ever find anything you had to then report to the authorities?

A:

Only once personally. We recovered a stolen truck, and took the items from the truck and put it into a unit. I called the police when we found a box filled with meth. We didn't auction that unit.


Q:

So all that meth just went to waste?

A:

I mean.... yeah kinda.


Q:

Hi there, I have a few questions for you:

1) You mentioned your company didn't advertise the business. How do you let people know when there's going to be an auction?

2) How often are auctions held?

3) Any bidding tips for auction noobs?

A:

1) The only time our company advertises, is when we auction units. And we only do so because the state requires us to.
2) Our auctions are held every second Tuesday of every month.
3) I would say, if you want to get into doing it regularly, you should just go to a couple auctions, and watch and see what happens. You can get some serious deals, but if you're looking to make money off it, its going to take some work. Generally the more packed the unit is, the better stuff will be inside. Generally. Sometimes a unit will have a few valuable things in it, and that's it. But normally not.


Q:

ran a mini storage for eight years. my favorite question... well what size units do you have.. me:10x10 and 10x25.. customer exactly how big is the 10x10? oh I wanted to kill people after I heard that about two million times.

A:

Haha. Yeah we have a "display unit" outside the store, or we point to the 1'x1' tiles on the floor is they are being particularly shitty about it.


Q:

What kind of protections or procedures do you have in place if you get a bedbug infestation?

A:

Hot summers? Honestly, if it ever happened we'd all be screwed. Those little bastards are a pain in the ass to get rid of. The best we can do is our normal preventative procedures like spraying for bugs periodically.


Q:

Have you ever wanted to or actually bought a unit that you wanted the stuff out of?

A:

I have often wanted to. I'm not allowed to buy units though.


Q:

Has your job ever required police involvement?

A:

Once in a great while. But yes, sometimes. I have given my info to my local police more times than I can count.


Q:

1.) So you've said Storage Wars and whatever other similar shows are dramatized. Have they ever approached you/your business to conduct a segment? How would that work?

2.) Are you able to ever purchase a unit yourself if you wanted? Have you ever seen anything that caught your eye?

3.) From your other answers it seems like storage is an easily and highly profitable business. What are some operational costs?

A:

I am not able to buy the units I cut, and there have been a few things I've really wanted.


Q:

Have you ever had a customer try to pay you in other "ways" instead of money so they did not lose their unit?

A:

If you mean, they have threatened my well being, and the well being of my store, then yes.


Q:

What's the origin of the term "blue bark" move?

A:

I have no idea. We've just always called those types of moves "blue bark". After some light googling, I still have no idea where the term comes from!


Q:

When's the next auction date? I live here.

A:

The whole of our Columbia locations auction every second Tuesday of every month. I think it's Jan 10th? Our location starts at 2:30 pm.