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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  • Cody Fawcett

    here it is. at the point PS says there is no quotas, they are lying through there spokes-holes teeth. at 07043 in novato we were informed we would have 80%+ ore we could find new jobs, and that same threat was made to every property manager in the district. my wife towards the end of her time there refused to even mention the product because it was an obvious fraud and a scam. she was terminated. seems awfully coincidental.

    PS can go fly a kite in a lightning storm.

  • Lynne Price

    I’m glad to see this story published. I lost a lot of my possessions in a PS facility, because I wasn’t savvy enough to ask enough questions when I had a break-in, They sent me a check for $$. I couldn’t argue because I cashed the check. Understandable. But I just didn’t know how to fight PS. I gave up – and lost most of my belongings. My loss seemed to be an inside job; no one would have known anything of my belongings, but when the bill was paid at the wrong facility – and the amount of $$ paid for insurance was viewed at the wrong facility – the locker at the RIGHT facility was virtually cleaned out . Their contract covered them. Not me. I never argued it because I didn’t know HOW to argue it. Years later, seeing the news report brings back bad memories. I wish I had known how to fight them. I would have never settled.

  • Becky Hogue

    I am glad to see that the insurance scam at PS is out there in the open now. I have a unit in SF at the 10th street location and there was a water pipe breakage and my unit got lots of water in it and so I called Willits and filled out all the paper work and was told yes there was water damage but no they did not pay for anything that was ruined. They made me a small offer but I had to sign there paper work and get it notarized, which would have costed more than they were offering. I canceled the insurance.

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  • Ex Public Storage Manager

    I assume they got their info on the “no quotas” and “no-one has ever been terminated” from head office. Who they should be asking is the Regional President about it. He is the one pushing his regional and District managers to sell not only the insurance but also the locks. Property Managers are also forced to sell the public storage locks with each rental or face similar threats and reprimands in the form of written warnings. All of these facilities fall under the control of the one Regional President in the North Bay area is that a coincidence or what? is he lining his pockets with bonuses from these sales…you can bet your life on it.

    P.S. Well done Cody for outing them.

    • Cody Fawcett

      Well said Ex Public Storage Manager
      there is entirely way to much corruption in the company. they should have an undercover journalist get a job with PS so they can actually record the wrong doings.

      all this makes me wish i would have recorded a few of our district meetings to put this all out in the open.


  • Danny Miller

    I work for Esurance. Typically, homeowners and renters insurance policies cover items in a storage unit, but coverage and coverage amounts vary by company and individual policy. Consumers should check directly with their insurance carrier or agent to see whether their existing homeowners or renters insurance policy includes coverage for property kept off premises.

  • Jane Storage

    You have no idea how many PS employees out there appreciate CBS 5 for shedding light on this issue.
    I’m not located in California, I’m in the Southeast region.
    Is it illegal to advise or insinuate to our customers that Willis Insurance is required?

  • Kathy DeWitt

    Managers were pushed to sell insurance and locks. Most people brought their own locks because PS locks were more expensive and not as good as ones you could get at the hardware store. Managers were reprimanded if they did not meet “sales goals”. Managers were also responsible for delinquent accounts even though managers had no skip-tracing methods or “tools” at their disposal for customers who skipped out. The fear of termination was always hanging over managers’ heads.

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  • amy

    Wow. I am so glad to work for a small family owned facility.

    I would love to see the CBS national news do a special on this.

    So many families are downsizing where there whole life is in a 10×10 space.

    It is a shame to see someone who is a perfectly decent person victimized

    when they are already in a delicate state, such as divorce or foreclosure.

    As many times this is the case, the people taking advantage of these people deserve to be caught and brought before the public nationwide.

    Thanks sincerely for the good reporting work, it is nice to see that real

    journalism is still alive.

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  • Jane Storage

    Thanks KBL for the attachment.

  • ex loyal manager that wasnt fired

    You people are Morons. All public storage customers are required to have insurance on there goods in storage. One option is the Willis storage insurance program. It sounds like all these ex managers are angry and bitter since they no longer have jobs with the company. There are no quotas. People can bring there own lock and decline the insurance. The #1 priority is the rental.

  • kad

    Don’t know where you worked, “ex” but our site had “sales goals” for locks and insurance. Not meeting goals resulted in reprimands.. Being next to a national hardware chain meant lock sales were really slow. Insurance WAS pushed.
    I am not a moron and I wasn’t fired. I am not bitter or angry – just telling it like it is.

  • Former PS Manager

    Well “kad” i also am a former employee of Public Storage and i also left on good terms. I worked in the Bay Area and we were NEVER told that we must sell locks and insurance or we wouldnt have jobs. Our Regional Manager as well as District Manager told us the #1 priority is Rentals. We would rather have a rental then a lock sale or insurance sale.

  • Cody Fawcett

    wow this must be two completely different companies we are talking about!
    i am not bitter and i sure as hell was not fired, i worked there for 3.5 years while completing my degrees. once i got my B.S. i left. and when i did i was “cautioned” that i should rethink my options because i didn’t want my wife to be put out on the street. i still quit even providing the courtesy 2 week notice.

    not being paid barely minimum wage and being refused overtime/sick days/vacation, having my time card altered, and my mileage reimbursement refused on a constant basis makes me angry.

    yes there were QUOATS or sales goals or benchmarks or whatever else you want to call them. every single month we were told what we must achieve or we could start looking for new jobs and a new place to live.

  • kad

    Thank you Cody for your confirmation. I know I did not imagine these things.

  • ex loyal manager that wasnt fired

    Well your district manager must of been doing shady things then. Who was your DM

  • Cody Fawcett

    i had two Mark Edmonds and Bob Lenhares and for a short while Van Jones

    • kad

      Bingo. The infamous V.J.

  • ex manager

    What district did or do u work in kad

    • kad

      Did. Northern CA, and that’s as specific as I’ll get.

  • ex sf manager

    Kad obviously your from the district in Oakley to Martinez since v.j. is infamous…and I bet your still working for the company cause he never fired anybody

  • kad

    In fact, he did fire people, but I wasn’t one of them. No, I do not work for the Co. and haven’t for about 6 years.

  • Cody Fawcett

    why not get specific? you dont work there they cant do anything to you.

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