SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — You store your stuff in a storage locker and then it gets stolen. As we’ve reported, even with insurance you might be out of luck. Former insiders reveal why they pressured people to buy insurance, and who got paid as a result.
READ MORE: Public Storage – KPIX 5 Investigations
“We require that all customers do have insurance.”
If you’ve ever rented a locker at Public Storage you’ve probably heard that line. For two former employees we spoke to it’s all too familiar.
“They forced all their employees to read the script,” said former manager Jim Casas.
Jim Casas and Don Tautfest spent a decade managing Public Storage properties and say they were constantly pressured to sell insurance.
“You needed to be up there at least 90% on the insurance, otherwise you are going to be retaliated against, and that included losing your job,” said Tautfest .
And in undercover visits to several Public Storage locations we found employees offered insurance without fail.
“For your convenience we offer the option of the Public storage orange door insurance program,” another employee told us.
While you are not required to buy the insurance sold here, employees are quick to make it look very appealing. We found they rarely let you know you can use your own insurance, unless you ask.
And when you do, they give you a Q and A sheet that makes their policy look much better.
But tenants we spoke with say the policy was worthless for them.
“I don’t think they investigated at all,” said John Kurnik. Despite a ransacked unit, photographic evidence and a police report citing burglary, his insurance claim was denied, because he didn’t have the lock that the crooks cut off.
Debra Ambers was also denied. Her missing lock was replaced with a new one that only Public Storage employees could open.
“I could not get in,” she said. But the presence of a different lock wasn’t enough to prove theft. And we found scores of similar complaints, on social media, and filed with the Better Business Bureau.
Public Storage declined our request for an interview but in a statement told us “insurance coverage for stored items is 100 percent voluntary…and there is no requirement…to show proof of insurance in order to rent a storage unit.”
Yet the company’s own website states: “Insurance for your stored items is required” and according to a training script we obtained, employees must tell all customers: “All of our customers are required to have some form of insurance.”
In repeated undercover visits we also heard the same line: “All of our customers are required to have insurance.”
The company also says, “There are no quotas or any other financial incentives for property managers offering the insurance product.”
And Casas and Tautfest agree with that. They say as property managers, they didn’t profit from pushing insurance, their regional managers did.
“Their bonuses were out of this world!” said Casas.
We obtained internal emails that seem to confirm their managers had incentive to push them to sell. A company Senior Vice President explained “… the real(lly) money is made in tenant insurance”.
And in 2011, executives clearly stated that bonus plans for regional managers include insurance penetration.
That’s right around the time Casas and Tautfest say the pressure to sell got to them. They say when they stopped pushing the product, their insurance sales dropped, and the company fired Tautfest, claiming he had stolen money from the till, a claim he denies. Casas quit soon after.
“I’m embarrassed that I personally had to force people to do something that they didn’t want,” said Casas.
Despite the evidence that seems to substantiate their claims, Public Storage says those former employees are simply not credible and have no knowledge of the facts underlying the claims they have made.