If you’ve ever visited or lived in another country, you might have been surprised how common it is for consumers to bargain for almost everything. While your grandparents and great-grandparents might remember a time when they could walk into a grocery store and haggle with the vendor over an item’s price, in today’s America prices are firmly set on all but a few things, like cars and real estate. Few people are aware of the fact that there’s another industry still open to bargaining: self-storage.
That’s right: you shouldn’t even consider renting a storage unit unless you’ve tried to bargain with the facility manager for a better deal. While not all storage facilities are open to the concept, it’s always worth a try—and here are a few tips to help you seal the deal.
Your greatest weapon in a bargain battle is knowledge of the industry—you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. So get online and do your research: figure out everything you can about the price of similar facilities in the area. If a rival facility offers a lower price, then you have a strong bargaining chip. Look at the types of amenities on offer as well: if a competitor offers climate-controlled storage or an elevator up to their second floor units (and the facility you’re bargaining with doesn’t) then it is definitely something to bring up to the manager.
Also, don’t forget to thoroughly research your target facility itself. Because storage facilities advertise throughout a wide variety of media outlets—newspapers, radio commercials, and online are a few examples—and because some of those media environments are more competitive than others, it’s not unusual for facilities to offer lower rates there than they would if you simply walked in their door. The best prices are usually found online: because consumers can easily look up competitor’s prices, storage facilities feel increased pressure to offer the lowest price possible. You might decide to book storage online, but if you’d rather do it through the facility itself, just bring up their online prices when negotiating with the manager.
Use Your Connections
Many companies and organizations rent storage units—if yours or your spouse’s does, head to the facility where they keep their things and let them know how you’re connected. A storage facility’s primary goal is to fill as much of its space as possible, and so big clients are, as with any business, the most important clients. They’ll likely want to do everything they can to keep your relationship strong, and might just through in a special deal.
Another way of using your connections to score a deal is by getting together with friends. If you and two or three other friends approach the facility together, each with the intention of booking a unit, the facility might just be willing to grant you a group deal.
Spread the word
Perhaps you couldn’t find friends who required storage at the same time you did, but then a month or two later discovered that you did have a friend searching for a storage unit. If you refer that friend to the facility where you’re renting, you might get a discount. Many facilities will give current customers discounts on their monthly rent for referring new customers.
Lock-in for the Long Term Deal
As you might have already noticed, many storage facilities offer special short-term deals (first month half price, book two months and get the third month free) in order to lure customers away from the competition. Because of this, facilities make their real money by getting customers to stay as long as possible. If you plan on renting a unit for a longer term—say, four months or more—let the facility owner know, as they’ll likely do all that they can to win your business. Suggest going with a long-term contract rather than a monthly rental fee. For example, if the monthly rate is $100 and you’re planning on staying for four months, ask the facility manager if you can pay $300 up front for all four months. That way the facility is guaranteed to make a good chunk of money (most storage facilities prefer to play it safe in this way) and you’ll save a whole month’s rent. Of course, you can get even more ambitious than that.
The Little Things
See if you can get the facility manager to throw in a few freebies—free locks or free moving truck pick-ups are common accoutrements that managers might be nudged into granting you. Find out if their competitors offer such services, then use that knowledge in your negotiations.
Finally, remember not to pursue haggling with facility managers too aggressively. Not all storage managers are open to the idea, and even those that are won’t respond well to bullying. Remember, you’re not competing with the facility manager; the real competition is between this facility and its competitors. Haggling is nothing but a customer’s use of market knowledge to get the most fair and reasonable price on a business’s service.
Brian Shreckengast is a writer at SelfStorageDeals.com, the price-focused search engine for finding cheap storage units in your neighborhood. For more advice on storing, moving, or living cheaply, please visit the Self Storage Deals blog.