please help: might I have lost everything I own?
September 16, 2013 5:57 PM   Subscribe

I dropped off all my possessions (pretty much everything I own) in boxes at a local storage facility in the UK (in awful circumstances - details below) and failed to get a receipt, only a verbal agreement that they would do my paperwork by email, and deliver my boxes in a month's time. I then had to leave the country. Four weeks later, I've yet to receive any invoice or confirmation. I've called and emailed several times and have been told in a genial but rather brusque way that they will get in touch, but so far no email. I'm heading back to the UK soon and want to get my boxes delivered this weekend. Still no invoice or receipt. I am FREAKING OUT that they are being so flaky. I am having panicky visions of them losing or selling all my things, and me showing up in the UK with basically the clothes on my back and nothing else. Have I made a terrible mistake? Is there anything I can do? Apologies in advance for long freaking-out-ness below the jump.

I wasn't planning to use a storage facility at all. I was in the midst of moving from one flat to another one I'd just bought, and had hired a man with a van to handle my boxes. But literally mid-drive, sitting in the removal van on my way up to Chesterton, I was told that I couldn't complete on the flat that day, so I couldn't move in after all. I panicked (this was the cherry on a gigantic cake of housing fuck-ups over the previous six weeks, which I won't bore you with, but left me emotionally shattered and more vulnerable/stupid than usual). So I googled and called the first storage facility in the area which came up (KSR storage), and instructed the removal van guy to drive me there and drop all my things off.

The warehouse was a very small establishment outside Fulbourn. When we arrived I literally broke down in tears sobbing. A very sympathetic worker helped my removal guy unload my boxes. He told me that they couldn't do the paperwork today because their manager wasn't in, but that they would call after the weekend. I left my name and my address and my phone number, and he found one of their drivers to give me a lift to the train station. He was extremely kind and understanding.

They didn't call on Monday, so I rang them, and reached not the worker I had spoken with, but the manager, who said to email him my name and address and they would take it from there. I then had to leave the country, and now it's four weeks later. I have had no receipt or written confirmation that they even have my boxes (they have not sent me an email at all - we have only corresponded about four times on the phone). Because I only decided to use the facility at the last minute, my boxes were not exactly securely packed - some were half open etc., and I don't know exactly how many I have (very roughly, about 30), and they're certainly not insured. I don't have anything particularly valuable to anyone else - a lot of books, maybe speakers, no furniture - but they're unreplaceable for me.

What should I do? I can barely sleep for worrying about this. I am going back to the UK this Friday. I wanted the boxes delivered this weekend. Each time I have called them in the last week I have reached the manager who has told me he will send the email, and that the 21st or 22nd should be OK for delivery, but he has not confirmed anything in writing or even set the time or date. Last night I called again and the manager said, and I quote, "Oh, have I not sent you the email yet? I'll get that sent this evening." Today: nothing. Why are they being so flaky? Will I have to go to their warehouse and confront them? What could possibly be going on? I know I'm so stupid for not getting a receipt at the time, for being so stupid and trusting. Will legal action be required?? Please, please help - any experience at all you've had with this sort of circumstance will be so useful. Many thanks in advance.
posted by starcrust to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
While you're on the phone with them, say "OK, I'm by my computer, send it now."
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:30 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

While I am sure I'd be in a very bad state over this too, I'd like to suggest that it is possible that nothing shady is going on, and that these people are simply irresponsibly casual in running their business. That is your best-case scenario.

What about the worst case scenario? That would be, they deny ever having had your things, or knowing who you are, something like that - they sold your goods and are just going to bluff it out. Then, you would go to police and lawyers.

But it doesn't sound like you left anything valuable (in cash money, not valuable to you) there, so theft for resale seems kind of unlikely.

Good luck - this sounds very stressful and upsetting. Try not to be too hard on yourself; you made a hasty decision, under pressure. We've all done similar things.
posted by thelonius at 6:38 PM on September 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have (recently!) been in a lot of complicated situations with flaky people. They literally just forget to do things. Just don't make to-do lists, don't do things right away, forget. There COULD be something shady going on, and I would do all possible to assuage your fears ASAP, but they could very well be such a small business that they're used to dealing sort of casually with people and aren't making "getting things in writing" a priority. (This isn't really ok, but maybe they have no idea how freaked out you are.)
posted by stoneandstar at 6:53 PM on September 16, 2013

Oh, and I've been in that state of very fragile poor decision making a couple times myself-- it's really ok, even if you were too exhausted for due diligence, the onus would still be on them not to steal all your things.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:58 PM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Do you have a friend in the vicinity that could act as your proxy to check on things for you?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:18 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am friends with a couple who run a storage business (in another country on the other side of the world from you). In general for them the issue seems to be flakiness on the part of their CUSTOMERS, who frequently stop paying their storage bills, fail to return calls and move away without leaving a forwarding address. I wonder if KSR are used to dealing with this kind of customer and have become a bit that way themselves? (Eg. no point giving people paperwork because they'll just lose it or throw it away).

In any case, the price you are paying them to store the stuff would pretty quickly dwarf what they might get for selling your second-hand gear. In addition to which, it is, you know, theft, and would probably get them closed down if they were charged. In your shoes I would probably be freaking out too, but I suspect the likelihood of actual malfeasance is pretty low.
posted by Cheese Monster at 7:45 PM on September 16, 2013

In the meantime, perhaps you can get a renter's insurance policy? I say this not to panic you, but to give you some other way to focus your energy (which I totally sympathize with!) and to give you a backup plan. They sound, honestly, totally flakey, but not criminal. That said, there is zero value -- and I mean NONE -- in panicking and consuming energy worrying about something that you cannot fix right now. So perhaps putting your energy into a Plan B will be helpful for you.
posted by Capri at 8:51 PM on September 16, 2013

Selling or otherwise losing your stuff would incite you to create a big stink for them, and probably doesn't make sense for a business that is planning on staying around. What they are doing is not very professional, but my guess is they employee that accepted your stuff was not supposed to do so without filling in the paperwork, and now it's as much of mess for them as it is for you.

First of all, how do they know it's you on the phone? The reason they give a receipt is that it frees them from having to think about this - you have the receipt, you get the stuff. What if they are duped into sending a confirmation via e-mail to somebody other than the real you, who come and claim the stuff and then real you shows up and causes trouble? The only way they can be reasonably sure is you going down there personally, and the employee that accepted your things verifies it's you.

They also have no record of when you dropped the stuff off, or written agreement from you on their rates and charging policies. Maybe they're not supposed to accept stuff without proper paperwork, and could get in trouble if authorities figured it out, and that's why they are cagey about putting anything in writing.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:56 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Will I have to go to their warehouse and confront them?

Can't you just plan to go to the warehouse and pick up your boxes? You are worrying yourself silly over not knowing what's happening with this, and it sounds like it will be a lot easier to deal with after you arrive. Plan to get your things later.

It wouldn't be very reassuring if there were willing to send your stuff off to some address anyone could have called them with. You'll probably be able to get it easily in person with ID -- you probably have some things in the boxes with your name on them.
posted by yohko at 10:02 PM on September 16, 2013

If you are returning to the UK, why even risk delivery? Go down there and see the boxes for yourself, account for everything being there and transport it back yourself. Hire a cab or something. Otherwise, if your stuff didn't turn up, you'd potentially be tracking down the storage people and the delivery people if their stories conflict. If you are there in person, it will be a lot harder for them to ignore you or put your request on a to-do list that will get ignored. I would bet these people are just irresponsible, not thieves, but in either case, going down there will ensure you get to the bottom of things and get your stuff back. You can even call them to say you will be there to get your stuff so hopefully it will be a smoother process. Just say you won't leave until you get your stuff and I imagine that should work.

I've never been in this exact situation, but I have dealt with flaky people who didn't return calls and didn't do things they said they would. Like when I was billed $300 incorrectly for a doctor's visit and the guy working at the doctor's billing office pick up his phone, didn't listen to voicemail and didn't do his job. I just called and called, called other departments, called his boss, called my insurance company (and told them all exactly what was going on and why I was worried) and hounded him until he fixed the billing error. It did take weeks and as far as I could tell, the guy in charge was just a lazy moron. I'd bet that's the case here.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:49 PM on September 16, 2013

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