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)