ConsumerWatch: Ex-Public Storage Employee Talks About Insurance

SAN JOSE (CBS 5) — A CBS 5 ConsumerWatch investigation revealed the insurance that Public Storage employees encourage you to buy when you rent a locker may not provide the coverage you expect. Now we’re learning more about that from an insider.

“Insurance is required,” is what CBS 5 heard from a Public Storage employee during the undercover investigation. It’s a statement that sounds all too familiar to former Public Storage manager Cody Fawcett.

Fawcett said selling insurance was all part of the sales pitch he was taught during training. But Fawcett said he soon found out, “Insurance is not required. There’s nowhere in the system that would prevent us from renting you a unit if you don’t have insurance.”

According to Fawcett, employees continue to push the insurance because they have a quota to meet. “Every ten rentals we had to get at least eight people to sign up for insurance, otherwise we would get reprimanded, with the constant threat of firing if we didn’t meet our numbers,” Fawcett said.

A Public Storage spokesperson told CBS 5 there are no quotas and no one has been terminated for not selling insurance. They say insurance, whether or not it’s from Public Storage, is required.

The company website said that too. But CBS 5 found no mention of the requirement in the rental agreement that customers sign. And lawyers tell us if it’s not in the agreement, it’s not required.

So what exactly is Public Storage trying to sell you? It’s an insurance program provided through Willis Insurance Services, and our investigation revealed many complaints about it.

“I thought it was ridiculous,” Ana Leon said. Despite a police report and the recovery of some of her stolen items in a neighboring locker, Willis denied her claim. There have been 22 burglaries at her San Jose facility in the past two years. “They said sorry, there is no evidence of forceful entry,” Leon said.

After her story aired, CBS 5 ConsumerWatch received dozens of comments and emails from viewers with similar tales, like Diana Arce. When Arce lost her home to foreclosure, she stored all her possessions at the Oyster Point Public Storage in South San Francisco.

When her storage locker was broken into, Arce lost everything else. “I was shocked, I was upset,” she said. Even more shocking is what the police told her after.

“He said that he had responded to other break-ins at the same storage place, and that there was a hole in the fence and that the burglars were coming through that fence,” Arce said.

Police told CBS 5 there have been nine break-ins here in just the past year. Just like in Ana Leon’s case, Arce sent in her lock, only to have her claim denied and the insurance company refused to send it back.

“They told me that I didn’t have proof of forcible entry,” Arce said. “I think their insurance is a complete scam. It would be different if I didn’t pay for insurance. But I paid for insurance.”

Fawcett said he is not surprised. He said denied claims were commonplace when he worked at Public Storage. “I think I had a total of three people that had gone through and had it successful,” he said. Fawcett’s advice: “I wouldn’t buy it. It doesn’t cover anything anyway.”

So what can you do to protect yourself? Often, your homeowners or renters policy will cover storage. But be sure to check. And protect yourself, you should definitely do an inventory list and take pictures of everything.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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