Soldier Returns From Iraq; Storage Company Sold All His Stuff

From the AP:

    After serving a year in Iraq , Army Reserve Spc. Patrick Rogalin came home and found that everything he had put in a storage locker – essentially everything he owned – had been sold.

Whoops.

UPDATE: Here’s the Direct Number for Public Storage Corporate, if you want to, you know, talk to them about your stuff. Make sure it is still there. Whatever. (856) 778 8790

    Rogalin, 20, said he put his belongings into a Public Storage unit near St. Louis before shipping out and set up automatic payments with the company. But while he was in Iraq, he said, someone accessed his checking account and cleaned it out.

    After learning of the problem from his bank, Rogalin opened a different account and resumed making payments to Public Storage.

    “When I got back I called Public Storage to find out the status of my account and they told me the contents of my storage container had been auctioned off in June because the bill hadn’t been paid,” he said.

The storage company has offered Rogalin $2,500 bucks. He has 7 days to accept the offer or “get nothing.” He estimates his belongings were worth about $8,000. —MEGHANN MARCO

GI Returns From Iraq to Find Belongings Sold
[AOL] (Thanks,John!)

Comments

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  1. Ran Kailie says:

    … wow thats got to be top of the list for most horrible things I’ve heard in awhile from a company. He should talk to a lawyer or see the JAG office on base and get some legal advice before accepting that payment.

  2. bourgeoisie says:

    Definitely get legal advice, if he’s as legit as he says he is, then the company doesn’t have a leg to stand on with an offer that low.

  3. cindel says:

    Who was supposed to pay the bill?

    That really sucks!

  4. He says he doesn’t have the money to fight this in court but there’s got to be lawyers who would do this pro bono.

    Who was supposed to pay the bill?

    He was paying it himself but someone wiped out his checking account. He closed it and opened a new one to make payments with but apparently one or more payments to Public Storage hadn’t gone through by then and they sold his stuff without contacting him about his account.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Thoughts:

    - They should have contacted him before the aution took place.
    - Is there a record of payments taken out of his NEW bank account for Public Storage usage?
    - If so, and if he payed to have the storage space after his stuff was sold off, he should have a refund for that ammount as well as compensation for the items.
    - He should request proof of the ammount of money his items sold for (probably more than what was offered).

  6. Negative says:

    If it’s really $8000 worth of stuff he should seriously consider getting a lawyer or talking to a JAG. Just the threat of bad publicity and going to court should get those guys to jack up the refund.

  7. Pelagius says:

    Follow up article here.

    “[P]eople from across the country are flooding the News-Leader with offers of help.

    Their comments arrived in more than 50 e-mails and phone calls, all wanting to do something to help the 20-year-old Army Reserve specialist.

    One man offered to send Rogalin $1,000 anonymously.

    Lawyers are lining up to represent him for free.

    A local woman wants to pay for his textbooks while he’s at Missouri State University.

    Those offers have been forwarded to Rogalin, who doesn’t yet know how he’ll handle them.”

    Looks like they are in definite breach of the law:
    “[Storage company PR goon] Ramler said he was well aware of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law President Bush signed in 2003 that protects the rights of people in the military.

    It limits the ability of businesses like Public Storage to auction a military person’s belongings while he or she is on active duty.”

  8. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    “It limits the ability of businesses like Public Storage to auction a military person’s belongings while he or she is on active duty.”

    What is the limitation? Time? Money> I’m not famliar with the act.

  9. LTS! says:

    If he has records of payment then I would do nothing more than demand full compensation for the materials that were sold. It’s lawyer time. But if you can’t afford one know this..

    If you accept ANY offer they make your claim is null. The decision would be up to you as to whether you can get yourself in a legal position, etc.

  10. Kornkob says:

    I wonder if he bothered to inform them that he was in service and to give them a good address to send notifcations to.

    Being called to serve does not absolve the soldier of his responsibility to notify people he is doing business with of his status and contact information.

    I say this and a fomer member of the US Army myself: I’ve heard of many instances where a serviceman screwed himself over by just plain not taking care of his business and then he ran around crying ‘foul’ when things turnedout badly for him. This has made me skeptical of this kind of thing.

  11. Mike_ says:

    There is the possibility that the storage company was unaware of this guy’s occupation or current whereabouts. It might be that from their point of view, he was like any other customer who stopped paying and could not be contacted, or otherwise seemed to abandon their property. Only the worst kind of scumbag would knowingly auction off the belongings of a soldier at war.

    I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe it was an innocent mistake, but this “$2,500 or nothing” bullshit does not look good. You screwed up. Now open your checkbook and make it right.

  12. konstantConsumer says:

    gosh, kornkob, why do you hate america?

  13. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I would think this guy notified the storage location that he was in the military, as it seems that is the purpose of him storing his items there. If he had the storage prior to serving, then it would be possible he didn’t mention it.

  14. vanilla-fro says:

    I used public storage once, and never will again.
    They changed the lock on me twice when payment was two days late because I was doing hurricane work in their area. One of the times was right after a hurricane that left the area without power for several days which made driving anywhere damn near impossible and dangerous. 2 days late and my stuff is locked up, the employees at the one i went to harldy knew english (they weren’t from another country either) and seemed to be pissed to be there. I wish I got 8 bucks an hour to sit in an airconditioned room and answer the phone sometimes and talk to people sometimes.
    They also had the proper contact info for me and nothing was ever sent to me about the additional lock on my unit.

    The second they found out (if they didn’t know) that this guy was military and was on active duty…the money offer should have been a lot higher. if it wasn’t for the military past and present, these places may not even exist. if i recall they need two months of none payment to sell your stuff. so if his last few payments were taken, they owe him the payments since they sold his belongings at least. then if he can document what payments were made and he didn’t miss the payments or they were simply late, they should pay him for his stuff.

  15. bluegus32 says:

    No, the guy should not get a lawyer. It is far too expensive. And finding a pro bono lawyer is near impossible. They only exist to help homeless people and whatnot. However, this is a perfect case for small claims court. In California, the jurisdictional limit for small claims is $7,500 which is very close to the $8,000 he’s out. Other jurisdictions may limit small claims to $5,000. He should check the laws in his state for this. In any event, even recovering $5,000 is something.

    This is just not a case for lawyers to get involved in.

  16. mendel says:

    “No, the guy should not get a lawyer. It is far too expensive. And finding a pro bono lawyer is near impossible.”

    Other than the lineup of them mentioned in the followup article half a dozen comments above yours, you mean?

  17. The story that I want to see here, is the FBI offering to investigate who “cleaned out his account.” Stealing from a soldier? That’s one step shy of punching nuns…how awful.

    I hope this soldier gets his money/stuff back. As long as he doesn’t try to set up a Paypal account for receiving donations, he should be fine!

  18. fishfucerk says:

    I wish I got 8 bucks an hour to sit in an airconditioned room and answer the phone sometimes and talk to people sometimes.

    really? dude. I bet you they’re hiring.

  19. RandomHookup says:

    Actually, crayon, stealing from soliders is the great American way.

    There are all the payday lenders, pawnshops, strip joints, used car lots and 125%-annual-interest-on-a-ghetto-blaster electronics shops that line the streets outside most of the larger military bases. The kind of places that offer you a filled out allotment form that you can take to your CO to make everything “easier.”

    I’ve heard all the stories in my 6+ years on active duty…several of which involve an attractive tranny and a pair of handcuffs.

  20. Panhandler says:

    @RandomHookup: My God, man, you just described the strip outside MacDill’s main gate with unerring precision. Well done.

  21. “The story that I want to see here, is the FBI offering to investigate who “cleaned out his account.” Stealing from a soldier? That’s one step shy of punching nuns…how awful.”

    Not to sound like I ‘hate america’ as konstant has put it (I laughed out loud at that one)but the person who cleaned the bank account very well could have been a person of the female persuasion. Of the many times we went out to sea, every time we came back at least 4 or 5 people had their bank accounts cleaned out. And this is out of a total ot 120 or so people.

    I really wouldnt be surprised if this had something to do with a girl that he had met or knew personally. I am not trying to demonize women or anything, just my experience only includes women because the crew consisted solely of men.

    This may have been a lesson for him to learn. However, what this storage company did to this soldier is freaking ridiculous. I’d take some of that training he received in boot camp and shove it up their corporate asses. I’m sure they were just out to make a buck. I bet if we wait a few weeks, others will step forward with similar experiences. The storage company knew what they were doing the whole time. Thats why the president had to sign such a law. The law is fairly new, meaning that enforcement has been low. Therefore, companies that have been doing this for a while will continue to screw their customers.

  22. bluegus32 says:

    Mendel: “Other than the lineup of them mentioned in the followup article half a dozen comments above yours, you mean?”

    He he. Oops. Excuse me. I’m a little tired.

  23. c-side says:

    With all due respect, RandomHookup, the people manning those cheap trick shops you describe outside the bases are not outright thieves, but simply buskers in the common arcade of temptation. Man, doesn’t anyone take responsibility for their actions anymore?!

  24. latemodel says:

    The storage company may not legally owe him more than actual value for his items which could be far less than the 8k he mentioned, if 8k was the replacement value. I hope he takes them to court and gets 10k. for his trouble.

  25. RandomHookup says:

    Holden Caufield:

    The law is fairly new, meaning that enforcement has been low.

    Actually the law dates back to 1940 under the name “Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act”. Bush just signed the latest iteration of it.

    Anyone that deals with the military a lot knows all about it.

    And, yes, never leave your new “girlfriend” with all your account info while you’re deployed…and definitely not a power of attorney.

    Jody’s got your girl and gone…

  26. Jesse in Japan says:

    Just go to the local media and shame the people. The media will emphasize how one of our brave fighting men basically got screwed by Public Storage. It’s much cheaper and easier than going to court. Use the court of public opinion.

  27. snowferret says:

    Wouldn’t they have a legal obligation to warn him first? Kind of how a phone company has to tell you they are going to cut of your service before they do? This guy should get a lawyer. Oh and this company should know better than to mess with a guy who kills terrorists for a living! lol.

  28. bluegus: “No, the guy should not get a lawyer. It is far too expensive. And finding a pro bono lawyer is near impossible. They only exist to help homeless people and whatnot.”

    In addition to those mentioned above, there are a lot of small-town lawyers like me whose bread and butter is EXACTLY this kind of work. We’re not making six-figure salaries, so I suppose we’re not as interesting or sexy as big-firm lawyers, but I can think of a good half-dozen lawyers local to me who would take this on very inexpensively, particularly since it’s (on the face of it, without knowing the particulars of his payment schedule) a pretty slam-dunk case.

    Most of us do this kind of work because we actually like helping people with problems. It’s pretty standard to charge 20% or 30% of recovery at the “big firms,” but on this sort of case I’d charge 10% or 15%, and I always discount for soldiers. (And cops, firefighters, public school teachers, and ministers.)

  29. Rusdude says:

    This is a terrible thing to do, especially since they got rid of his personal things (photos, etc.) that couldn’t have had any resale value.

    Nonetheless, this guy already accepted a settlement offer, so this is very much a moot point. The article hints that he accepted at least $4,000.

  30. bluegus32 says:

    Eyebrows McGee: Hats off to you, sir. Truly. I wish there were more of you out there. Maybe I’ve been ruined by years of practice in a relatively large community. My experience has revealed very few people like you who are actually willing to help.

    Out of curiosity — at 10% or 15% of a case like this, you’re looking at less than $1,000 in recovery. I’m presuming that you’re banking on winning this through attorney intimidation, no? I mean, if you had to file a lawsuit, it wouldn’t be all that cost-effective.

  31. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    I am in St. Louis and on the five o’clock news tonight, they said that he’d accepted a settlement of 4000.

  32. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    He should have insisted on “$8000 and the right to kick the owners of Public Storage in their respective groins.”

    What Public Storage did was just plain wrong. They didn’t bother to try to contact Mr. Rogalin whatsoever or make any attempt to do anything but sell off his stuff (and hey, I bet they made quite a profit if the bill was $150 and they sold all his worldly possessions for $1000).

    If you have bills in arrears, the least a company could do is tell you about it before shutting down your account, selling your stuff, or contacting a collection agency.