How Technology Could Streamline The Auction Process

November 15, 2012 4
How Technology Could Streamline The Auction Process

Storage auctions have become well-known thanks to Storage Wars and Auction Hunters. Of course, in the real-life industry, we know the crazy finds shown on TV are often sensationalized and scarce compared to what happens at actual auctions. Rarely do viewers realize, for example, that the storage units for sale belong to tenants who have stopped paying rent. Viewers don’t get to see the storage facilities’ multiple attempts to contact and hunt down these delinquent tenants.

When I asked Robert Madsen of U-Lock Mini Storage how the storage auction process could be better streamlined for storage facilities, he cited the exclusion of modern technology in laws that dictate auction practices as the biggest frustration and hindrance: “Some states have very archaic and ancient processes that are tough on the operators,” he said. Posting in the newspaper to alert the tenant and community of the sale, for example, sounds old-fashioned now that most people get their news online.

Currently, storage auction laws vary by state in the US. Although Robert’s perspective is from that of western Canada, the reality is that few states have updated their laws to reflect changing technology. South Dakota, for example, strictly requires the storage facility to notify a delinquent tenant in person or by “regular first-class mail postage” to the last known address of the occupant.

There are other states, however, that have amended their laws to allow storage facilities to announce the sale on their website. Florida modified the stipulations to include email— specifically, if the owner does not receive a response from the tenant’s last known email address, they must send notice of the sale by first-class mail to the last known mailing address before going forward.

This discrepancy between technology and practice has not gone unnoticed, however. At the Ohio-SSA conference in Columbus last month, we heard the national SSA is lobbying to repeal the newspaper auction notice requirement. It’s expensive and time-consuming for storage facilities to advertise upcoming auctions in local newspapers, and ultimately creates a monopoly for the newspapers. Because this practice only benefits the newspapers’ special interest – keep in mind that print is dying – it would be much more efficient to take advantage of technology and use alternatives such as online auction listings and social media.

The SSA also wants to get rid of the certified mail default notice requirement. Because recipients have to sign for US certified mail notices, they’re returned to sender 60% of the time. The same applies in Canada.

“All of our mail is coming back,” Robert explained. “If we could modernize and use registered email, for example, it could be very effective.”

Indeed, this might also increase response levels from delinquent clients who don’t think to check the newspaper or who don’t have access to their physical post-box anymore. Currently, only Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michegan, Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas have amended their laws to include email as an acceptable form of “last known address.”

What do you think? Shouldn’t current laws for storage auctions reflect technological advances and make it easier for storage facility operators? Sound off the comments below!

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  • melissinha

    In the customer service world you respond to customers in the manner in which they contacted you. So this means responding via a telephone when returning voicemails and emailing someone back when they email you. This would mean that it would make sense to send email notices to people who secured the unit online.

  • Lucky13X

    For me, I do think using social media or customer’s email(s) would be effective ways to tracking down or informing deliquent clients.

  • Manager

    I believe with today’s new technology and the way in which the people use it we should be able to notify the tenant’s via email. Possibly having a registered email address would work as we are still sending them notifications via certified mail here in Utah, most of which come back not claimed. I also believe posting it on our web site should be enough public notice. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve bought a newspaper and I’m sure the tenants that cannot afford to pay for their storage unit are not out there spending their money on newspapers but they all have access to internet one way or another. I had one delinquent tenant tell me that he always checks our web site to make sure his unit isn’t going up for auction. (Just Saying:)

    • Rachel Greenfield

      Excellent points. Thanks for your comment!