Do you ever feel trapped by a company because of their ineffectual and unsympathetic ways? Reader Josh had that feeling because he and his friend Omar were literally trapped inside Public Storage for an hour-and-a-half when the facility locked its gates 10 minutes early. Omar called Public Storage’s 800 number, and after waiting on hold for 20 minutes, he was told to call a different number which also placed him on hold. Meanwhile, Josh decided to call the local police department who told them they had no way to open the gate. While searching the facility for a place to escape, they discovered the trailer where the manager lives. She was none too happy to help Josh and Omar and told them that their release would result in an extra charge on Omar’s bill. Josh’s letter, inside…
It’s 8:30, and my good friend Omar is moving out of his apartment this week. His car is full of junk, and before we go out to dinner he asks if we can stop by his Public Storage locker to drop this stuff off.
“Of course,” I said, “That seems harmless enough.”
These things only happen to me, I swear.
We arrived at Public Storage around 8:40, and Omar enters in the code to open the automated gate. On the way in we pass by several signs stating that the complex closes at 9:00, and we make a point of hurrying so that we can leave before that.
Our transaction with the locker is completed swiftly enough, but upon trying to exit Public Storage we discover that the gate code we used to enter the complex isn’t letting us leave. We’re trapped.
My emotional state during this episode was not very different than the stages of grief. At first we could hardly believe that the gate was locked, and merely assumed that we entered the gate code incorrectly. After numerous failed attempts to re-enter the code it became clear that we were stuck. I was angry.
Several obscenities later Omar attempts to contact Public Storage directly. Of course, by ‘directly’ I mean ‘He was put on hold for the better part of 20 minutes’ (how many people could the Public Storage help line be talking to at this hour?!) When he was finally able to speak to a live human being they told him he had called the wrong number to handle this sort of situation. They transferred to a second number, and another lengthy hold while I tried calling the police*.
In my hometown emergency services and pizza delivery men have the magical power to open any automated gate in the city. I’m not sure if this is because they know a special code or what, but in 23 years I have never seen a paramedic or Pizza Hut man locked out of an apartment or storage complex. If for some reason the gate is broken, the police officers in my city take great pleasure in calling up the biggest tow truck they have, and ripping the gate from its’ post.
This was not the case in Brea, California, where Public Storage seems to have some sort of control over the local township. Here is my conversation with the Brea Police.
“Brea Police Department.”
“Yes, my friend and I are trapped in a Public Storage complex. We think the gate is broken.”
“Oh, that’s no good.”
“…this is the police department, right?”
“Okay. Is there some way you could send someone down here to let us out.”
“Where did you say you were again?”
“OH. Hold on.”
“No. We have no way of opening the gate.”
“No way whatsoever.”
“What if our cars were on fire?”
At this point I seriously considered setting our cars on fire.
“No. There’s nothing we could do.”
“So you’d let this place burn down?”
“There’s nothing we could do. You should try to park your cars and hop over a fence.”
After a solid 30 minutes trying to escape the Public Storage complex Omar and I start to accept the possibility that we may be trapped there until morning. My house is fifty miles away, and the only competent person I know within driving distance is at my side. I decide to wander the complex aimlessly, hoping to find a second exit that we may have missed. Fire code be damned, there is one way in and out of this god forsaken storage complex, and that’s it.
Several more minutes of searching pass before we discover a small trailer connected to Public Storage, but separated by a tiny wooden fence. Given that we’re in an industrial park I become highly suspicious, and peer over the fence to discover a small family living living there!
We shout and scream, trying to get their attention. No response. In desperation I grab a pen from my pocket and throw it at their window. Bingo! A middle-age woman opens their back door and starts to yell at us for trespassing. I try to explain to her that we are locked in, but she immediately takes a rude tone with us. She is the alleged manager of the complex (why neither of the 1-800 numbers we called told us there was someone on-property, I don’t know,) and bitterly tells us to park our cars and come back for them in the morning.
Multiple times we try to explain to her that we were locked into the complex prematurely. She suggests otherwise, but we know we’re right. How do we know? Because Omar didn’t try calling the 1-800 numbers until 9:01 (according to his phone’s time stamp) a full 10-15 minutes after we discovered that the gate wasn’t working! After a brief verbal struggled she decided to let us out, but said that she was going to put an extra charge on Omar’s PS account because of the whole ordeal. This was around 10:20, well over an hour after we were locked in.
Yes, I realize the best job you could get was night watchman at a Public Storage complex, but you should at least make a point of setting your watch correctly. If for some reason we didn’t notice the mobile home we might still be there.
* Of course I called the non-emregency lines. Some good that did me!
We always thought the Public Storage buildings were supposed to represent a lighthouse, not a prison guard tower. In case Omar receives a bill for this event, make sure you document who you spoke to and what time you called. It could be invaluable information if it becomes necessary to dispute the charges.