Storage Company Disappears With Everything You Own

Kyle wrote in looking for advice after a storage company disappeared with everything they owned:

Short story: We had 8160 pounds of personal items in storage with Wright Way Moving & Storage of Kent, Washington (not a self-storage place, a pallet-style warehouse storage place). They stopped sending bills. We called to find out why. Their number is disconnected, and their building appears abandoned. We have 1) filed a police report 2) informed our insurance company, and 3) contacted the military to find out if they can help us.

Long story: My husband finished his Marine Corps enlistment September 28, 2007. We own a home in South Carolina, near his last duty station, and as of that date it was under contract for a closing date of October 24. The packers came on September 13, and the movers came to pick it all up on September 14. The mover arrived in Seattle on September 16 or 17, and turned our belongings over to Wright Way Moving and Storage, as we were not there to take delivery. Our intention was to arrive in Seattle, spend some time getting settled, getting jobs, etc, then find an apartment and take delivery of our items. We had savings to tide us over, and the military pays for storage up to 3 months, after which point you can opt to take over the storage costs, but the military is still responsible for delivering the items.

Cue the mortgage crisis. Our buyers backed out, due to the husband’s inability to prove his employment history. The house sits on the market still – we’ve recently buckled and signed a contract with a property manager to attempt renting it instead. Because the house hasn’t sold, we can’t afford to get a place in Seattle, so thank God we can live with my mother rent-free. And let me tell you, nothing tests your patience more than living in a single bedroom with your husband and 19-month-old son. His crib is in storage, so he sleeps on a foam bed on the floor. We thought it was a temporary solution – a few months tops.

In December our 3 months of free storage were coming to a close – we received a letter from the military giving us all the contact information for Wright Way, and I called and spoke with Ann, being sure to give her all of my current contact information – where we’re living in Seattle, phone numbers, etc and asking for an invoice for the partial month of December. I was concerned that they might claim they couldn’t contact us and sell our things, so I made sure to reach out. They sent me two invoices – the partial December and full January bills, both showing my current and correct contact information, so I know they have it on file. I paid those invoices in full, and have the canceled check to prove it.

Around mid-March, I realize we haven’t received any further invoices from them – even if they bill after-the-fact, I should have received February’s invoice in March. Life happened, and we didn’t end up calling to check up on it until last week. A couple of calls last week went unanswered – no voicemail, no answer. So today, my husband tried again and got a “number disconnected” recording. Very concerned at this point, he drove out to the storage facility to find the building basically abandoned. He came home and did some googling and was able to find that they canceled their business license in late March.

So, seeing all of my worldly possessions flash before my eyes, the first call was to our insurance company – we were smart enough to get Renter’s Insurance, but only for $10,000 – I figured that would cover anything that got damaged, I never imagined it would all disappear. USAA instructed us to open a police report, so my husband did so – they will be driving by this evening to see if there is a Property Manager to contact or a way to get in the building to confirm the items are truly gone. I have also contacted our military contact – the people who gave this company everything we own.

So this letter is for two reasons. 1) To warn others with items in storage to get LOTS of Renter’s Insurance – its cheap, and worth it. 2) To make sure we have done everything we can at this point. Any suggestions are appreciated.

We felt that Kyle was doing everything that could be done, so we said “good luck” and asked to be updated. The situation, though scary, seemed to be in good hands. We’re pleased to announce a happy ending:

I’d love to say that all’s well that ends well, but I definitely feel burned by the whole situation.

We had opened a police report with the local department, who seemed compassionate about our situation and said he’d go by the building Monday (4/14) night to investigate the status of the buildings and items inside – he failed to mention that his next day at work was Friday. Four days is an eternity when all you can think about is the handmade toybox your father made for his very first grandchild.

We learned that the Trade Commission would have jurisdiction over licensing and fines for such a facility, if we had our things there for less than 90 days, over that, its considered permanent storage and out of their hands. And let’s face it, the company no longer existed, so a fine isn’t going to do us much good.

The military contact in the office that had originally placed our items in storage knew that the company was undergoing bankruptcy in February. She coordinated the move of all military-controlled storage items at that time, but our shipment wasn’t flagged because we were past that 90 day limit and the military was no longer paying for the storage, so they essentially didn’t know our things were still there. However Karlene ended up saving the day for us. She tracked down the cell phone number of the man that owned Wright Way – when she called him at first he tried to pretend he wasn’t Jack Wright, but she was able to get him to admit it, and he stated he’d given any outstanding items to “SDS Incorporated”. She asked for the number and he said he’d get it “in a few days”. She pressed for a number by 1:00 that day (this was probably around 10am on Tuesday). By 3:00, she had confirmed that our household goods were safe and sound with SDS, and had two contact numbers for us.

When my husband spoke with SDS, he confirmed everything was intact, and that he actually had been an employee of Wright Way. When everything began to go south for the company, he decided to take control of the items in storage, moved them all to a new warehouse, and is still putting the business together to handle what he’s jumped into. We certainly owe him a debt of gratitude and wish we could continue to be his customer, but after this experience we’ve made arrangements for a self-storage place very close by where I can go visit my things. And as soon as the police report is closed, we’re upping our Renter’s Insurance. It was only 24 hours from start to finish, but it is not a 24 hours I would ever want to relive.

The moral of the story: Renter’s Insurance (and don’t move until your house is actually and truly sold).

We’re so happy that everything turned out well and wholeheartedly concur with the moral. Get renter’s insurance!

(Photo:Joy of the Mundane)

Comments

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  1. heavylee-again says:

    The moral of the story: don’t own any belongings.

  2. Imafish says:

    “When everything began to go south for the company, he decided to take control of the items in storage…”

    Seems to me that he was a rat jumping from a sinking ship grabbing as much jetsam as he could.

    If he would have contacted you, it would have been cool. He certainly had the means because he worked at the previous place and had access to such information.

    But it’s pretty obvious to me the was waiting until it was safe for him to take what he wanted.

  3. formatc says:

    Renter’s insurance might decrease your car insurance premium as well. In my case, the renter’s insurance is cheaper than the surcharge on my car insurance. Renter’s insurance works in its place, and has many other added benefits.

    Glad the OP was able to find their things. That an employee of the defunct company would go to the trouble of preserving everyone’s belongings is quite impressive.

  4. formatc says:

    @Imafish: He’s only had control of the goods for about a month; they don’t indicate how large this facility was, but I would expect that putting together the business would take priority. I assume he had the records, since he was able to identify their belongings, and after a few months he would have time to start contacting people. Of course, I also have misplaced faith in humanity.

  5. oakie says:

    they should have moved their items into self-storage as soon as they arrived in Seattle… take responsibility for yourself and your stuff; don’t entrust it and the responsibility unto someone else. i’m a retired vet… never, ever would i leave my stuff in storage like they did.

    even if the company didn’t go out of business, leaving your stuff warehoused subjects it to theft and damage that you may or may not be able to recoup… putting in a little effort and moving it into self-storage further protects you and your belongings, if you cannot move it directly into a domicile.

  6. Imafish says:

    “Get renter’s insurance!”

    Future Consumerist headline: Insurer refuses to pay under rental insurance policy for items stolen from storage facility

  7. Imafish says:

    “I assume… after a few months he would have time to start contacting people”

    I hope you’re right but know you’re wrong.

  8. oakie says:

    also, something seems fraudulent…

    when retiring or being discharged from the military, they will pay to move your household goods to your home of record upon discharge.

    their home of record was their owned home in south carolina.

    sounds like they defrauded the government into moving their household goods across the country, and stored it, for free.

    the USA/USN TMO will only move your stuff to your next duty station for a PCS move, or to your home of record if separating.

  9. tmlfan81 says:

    Yes, belongings suck. It’s just a bunch of baggage you bring with you into new relationships.

    I’m very glad that this all worked out.

  10. Munsoned says:

    One word: conversion. Another few words: is it possible to LoJack an armoire?

  11. neost says:

    @oakie

    Nothing there to indicate SC was home of record, just that they owned a home near his last duty station prior to ETS.

    Kent, WA could easily be HoR.

  12. RandomHookup says:

    @oakie: You are assuming that his owned home is his “home of record”. I owned a home when I left the military, but that wasn’t my home of record. The military was willing to move me to my hometown or to any place closer than that or pay the equivalent of moving me home if I moved further away.

    During my time in the military, I could have changed my home of record to another place where I was actually stationed (often done when someone lives in a state that doesn’t tax military pay or that has no income tax).

  13. ivanthemute says:

    @oakie: Who says they didn’t go to MPF and re-declare their home of record before he seped? Hell, when I enlisted I declared my home of record to be in Pennsylvania for tax reasons (that, and I have family there.) Before I separated I re-declared it to my hometown and TMO shipped my stuff correctly.

  14. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    @Imafish:

    Ah, but they have insurance with USAA, one of the best insurers in the nation. I highly recommend it.

  15. JJHuggnstuff says:

    My story isn’t exactly the same, but this hit very close to home for me. My parents moved from Virginia to Florida a few years ago and used Graebel for the storage and moving of all their possessions. The storage part went fine, but when the items were shipped, that’s when things went very wrong. The semi that contained essentially our entire house was stolen at a truck stop somewhere in North Carolina. It’s never been determined whether the driver was in on it or just incredibly inept (he left the cargo unattended at the truck stop). Eventually, the truck was found abandoned in South Carolina, but all that was left were a few overturned cardboard boxes. My parents had renter’s insurance (USAA), but you cannot put a price on certain things. And no amount of money can cover the pain of seeing your parents lose everything in old age that they’ve worked for their entire lives. The whole episode taught me to be very careful with how many possessions I acquire, and to definitely get enough insurance to cover any worst case scenario.

  16. mac-phisto says:

    @OP:

    We own a home in South Carolina, near his last duty station…The house sits on the market still – we’ve recently buckled and signed a contract with a property manager to attempt renting it instead.

    if your property manager courting the duty station for off-base housing? i have an acquaintance that speculates in housing near bases/military facilities & provides housing exclusively to military personnel. that’s virtually guaranteed government income every month – no need to worry about uncle sam bouncing a rent check.

  17. Beerad says:

    FWIW, it’s probably a good idea to move or store goods with a reputable company that has a track record of being around — sounds like Wright Way may have been recommended by the military, so might not have mattered in that case.

    I’ve had good experiences moving with Flatrate.

  18. evilinkblot says:

    @oakie:

    Uh, they did take control of their things, did you miss the part where Kyle started paying the bill on her own for storage?

  19. evilinkblot says:

    @oakie:

    the USA/USN TMO will only move your stuff to your next duty station for a PCS move, or to your home of record if separating.

    —Um no……when I got out of the Marine Corps, I had TMO move all my stuff to my new place in Georgia. My home of record had never been Ga before and it was no issue whatsoever. There’s nothing here to indicate any sort of fraud.

  20. Peeved Guy says:

    @ivanthemute: Did you just out yourself as a Air Force puke (as am I)? I don’t think other branches use the acronym MPF (military personnel flight).

    But all of the ex-military types are correct (except for oakie, of course). Your HOR can be changed at any time to whatever you want, not just where you happen to be living at that your time of separation.

  21. SuperJdynamite says:

    @Imafish: “If he would have contacted you, it would have been cool. He certainly had the means because he worked at the previous place and had access to such information.”

    Federal privacy laws would probably prohibit that. There are rules about the transfer of customer lists from one company to another. It’s not like any random employee can just grab the customer list and go start a new company.

    “But it’s pretty obvious to me the was waiting until it was safe for him to take what he wanted.”

    Libel much?

  22. RandomHookup says:

    @Peeved Guy: One correction…you just can’t pick an HOR at random (Hawaii, dude). You have to show some connection and it usually has to be the place you established when you entered the service or the place you are stationed. I would have changed mine to a state that didn’t have state income tax, but I was never stationed in one. There may be some other exceptions, but you just can’t pull one of of thin air.

  23. BigElectricCat says:

    @oakie:

    What evilinkblot said. I also moved to GA upon separation, and neither my wife nor I had ever lived in GA before. We moved there to go to grad school, not to defraud the government into moving our gear a few more miles down the road.

    @RandomHookup:

    “There may be some other exceptions, but you just can’t pull one of of thin air.”

    We had no connections other than intending to go to grad school in our new location. We did change our taxes at the Finance detachment so that we’d get in-state residency quicker, but other than the taxes and our intent to go to grad school, we had no ‘connection’ to GA at all.

  24. Lambasted says:

    I can feel this person’s pain. My moving company stored my belongings for about six months. I paid my monthly fee and seemingly had no problems…until moving day.

    Moving company showed up and started moving my belongings in. About 1/2 hour into the move, the supervisor tells me “Sorry to have to tell you this but your sofa, loveseat and TV were stolen from our warehouse.” Say what?! I couldn’t believe they were just now telling me this. The supervisor assured me that the owner of the company would be in touch to discuss the situation. I calmed down a little bit. That is until the movers left and I discovered that my stereo was missing too. I lost it at that point. I called the company and left a venomous message.

    In the end, thanks to the Full Replacement insurance policy I added onto my storage contract, I had very little hassle in getting my stuff replaced. Basically, I went shopping and sent them the bill. (I hated my old livingroom set and joyfully went shopping for a new one on their dime.)

    Always get Full Replacement insurance, not Value Reimbursement. A depreciated value reimbursement won’t be enough to cover present day replacement costs. The Full Replacement premium cost more but well worth it in the long run. If nothing else, it gives you a peace of mind while your belongings are in someone else’s care.

  25. Lambasted says:

    I can feel this person’s pain. My moving company stored my belongings for about six months. I paid my monthly fee and seemingly had no problems…until moving day.

    About 1/2 hour into the move, the supervisor tells me “Sorry to have to tell you this but your sofa, loveseat and TV were stolen from our warehouse.” Say what?! I couldn’t believe they were just now telling me this. The supervisor assured me that the owner of the company would be in touch to discuss the situation. I calmed down a little bit. That is until the movers left and I discovered that my stereo was missing too. I lost it at that point. I called the company and left a venomous message.

    In the end, thanks to the Full Replacement insurance policy I added onto my storage contract, I had very little hassle in getting my stuff replaced. Basically, I went shopping and sent them the bill. (I hated my old livingroom set and joyfully went shopping for a new one on their dime.)

    Always get Full Replacement insurance, not Value Reimbursement. A depreciated value reimbursement won’t be enough to cover present day replacement costs. The Full Replacement premium cost more but well worth it in the long run. If nothing else, it gives you a peace of mind while your belongings are in someone else’s care.

  26. Lambasted says:

    Opps, sorry for the double post. I thought the first one didn’t go through.

  27. RandomHookup says:

    @BigElectricCat: Are you sure you changed your HOR? The military is more than willing to ship your stuff to wherever you are going to when you leave, they just pay the freight based on HOR. I’ll admit I’ve been off active duty for a long time, but I was a personnel officer, so I had to deal with this stuff all the time.

    We may even be using the wrong terms here. See this article for more info –

    [usmilitary.about.com]

  28. dotyoureyes says:

    The other moral of the story: Get USAA if you’re eligible. Best insurance company in the world.

  29. Peeved Guy says:

    @RandomHookup: Ah. Right you are. It’s been a while since I separated, so my recollection is a bit fuzzy, but as I was reading your post, I remember having the same thought (Hawaii).

  30. rjhiggins says:

    @oakie: You can’t be serious.

  31. Sherryness says:

    This is quite a coincidence. I read this this morning and the name “Wright Way Moving and Storage” stuck in my head for some reason. Then this afternoon I got the estimate for my move to Seattle, and guess who the company was they were going to deliver to? Wright Way Moving and Storage! That was a lucky catch. I wonder what would have happened had they gotten to Seattle and no one was there!

  32. BigElectricCat says:

    @RandomHookup:

    You may be right. I’ve been out since shortly after Desert Storm, so I’m working with 15-year-old memories here.

    We *might* have been charged for the excess distance the freight had to travel, based on my original HOR, but I honestly can’t remember. I do remember that we changed our taxes so that we’d get in-state residency quicker (and that part really did work).

    Peeved Guy: Were you stationed at Hickam? Or did you just want to move to HI after separation? I was stationed in HI, and I did know a couple of people who simply declined to have their goods shipped back to the mainland and just stayed on in Hawaii as civilians.

    I don’t know what ever became of them, but living out there is pricey, even if you do have a good-paying job.

  33. silentnight913 says:

    @oakie: Are you sure about that? I thought that the military would also send you back to the place you enlisted from. Your place of residence changes many times, but your home of record should always be the place you lived when you MEPed in, unless you take action to change it to the place you are stationed when you separate, they should send you back to your hometown.

  34. geoelectric says:

    I’ll have to go check my terms, but I’m pretty sure my standard Renter’s Insurance only has a percentage of the coverage (I seem to recall 10%) for things in storage elsewhere.

    What you may actually need is insurance particularly written for your stored goods. Of course, most of the storage places broker this too, but I’d be careful of who the underwriter is.

  35. crzdmniac says:

    I still find it strange that the military had my stuff stored for me for 8 months and I didn’t have to pay any of the monthly bills, I just had to file for two extensions and the picked up the tab… Maybe I’m just lucky.

  36. sketchy says:

    Holy cow, love things much?

  37. theblackdog says:

    @JJHuggnstuff: Oh god, Graebel suuuuuuuuuucks for moving! My parents were forced to use them (govt paid move) and they screwed things up from day one. We get to the new town and we have to get into a rental house first, so we arrange for part of our things to come out of storage, including a detailed list of what to bring. They bring up all the wrong items, so we’re lacking what we needed for a few months. After they bought their house, we get the rest of our items, and there’s some things missing and other stuff damaged, and it was a major fight to get them to pay for it.

    Never again if I can help it…