Reserve or Move In?
Okay, what are we talking about here? What is the difference between a Reservation and a Move in?
Basically it’s the money.
A reservation, booking, promise to pay, I’ll be back, is just that, a promise. Some Self Storage sites will take a deposit and there is evidence to show that the more deposit that you take, the better the Reservation sticks with the customer.
When we book a car online for our holiday we book a car type, small, medium, SUV, prestige or similar. Budget, Hertz or Avis do not allocate a car for your booking until the morning or a few hours before your arrival – the reason is that you may not turn up or you may ring in and change your reservation. If the car companies were to allocate a car to you as soon as you booked, they would need thousands more cars in the booking pool.
It’s the same for Self Storage. Experienced operators understand that customers circumstances change often a day before or the day after the Reservation date. Some potential customers that have a Reservation don’t even call to say that they don’t want the unit anymore, leaving the Self Storage operator with a Reservation that is not real.
SiteLink Web Edition deals with this conundrum by reserving a “Unit Type”, It’s not a lot different to that car company we were talking about earlier. Depending on how your unit types are entered into SiteLink these can be small medium or large spaces or they could even be by size.
The convenience of reserving a space in this method is twofold. Firstly when the customer is ready to move in you can allocate the next available unit that you wish rented in that unit type. If SiteLink was to reserve a specific unit number into the future obviously would have to take that unit out of the rental pool so that it was available for your reservation, given the regularity that reservations are modified, this method could cost you real business.
A reservation is very similar to a move in, with the exception that it still a promise. A move in is the real deal. A golden rule of Self Storage is ‘no money, no Move in”
If a Self Storage operator lives by this motto then few problems can exist with Move ins. It’s a little bit different for a business Move in where the business moving in may require an invoice to be paid by head office. It’s up to the operator if they are prepared to accept this type of Move in. Living by this procedure reduces admin errors and account changes.
Some operators attempt to move customers in for future dates without payment. This practice can cause problems, especially if the Move in date is more than 48 to 72 hours into the future. Once the Move in has been completed even without payment, that unit is removed from the rental pool. For the days up to the Move in date, no revenue is received for that space, it’s not vacant and in reality, because it is not paid for it is not rented either. Now you have a unit in limbo.
The right procedure for someone that wants to Move in on a future date is to take a paid reservation which could even be the full amount. Upon Move in, convert the Reservation to a Move in. SiteLink has this convenient feature.
Importantly, following this process ensures that a Reservation can be modified should they not Move in, a units revenue is tied to the Move in date and is reported accurately because the money paid applies from the first date of Move in and most importantly there are not modifications made to Move in dates and credits to be issued because of an advanced Move in without payment.
Another important aspect of understanding the relationship between Reservations and Move ins are your rights as an operator with respect to recovery and charging for storage under the standard Self Storage agreement.
It’s important to understand that if a Storer has not signed a storage agreement then you have no right to seek payment for the use of the space or sell any items if payment is not made, so it’s critical to get the agreement signed. There is no contract for storage without a signed storage agreement.
Part of the agreement for Self Storage is that fees for Self Storage spaces are to be kept paid in advance. For every customer that moves into Self Storage, ideally a Move in should only be processed if the payment has been made. It’s clear that there are contractual issues between the operator and the Storer once the agreement has been signed one of those terms is that storage fees are to be paid in advance.
So the right process to consider is:
• If a customer wants to Move in on a future date more than 48 hours into the future, process a Reservation and take a full deposit.
• If a customer wants to Move in today or tomorrow, process a Move in and take the payment.
If you process a Move in into the future without taking a payment, with the exception of permitted business use, credits may need to be issued and adjustments need to be made if the move in does not happen as planned. This can be avoided by following the above procedures, keeping reporting accurate.