Suppose you were a car dealer and you really cared about your customers well being. You know that even though state law requires proof of auto liability insurance to be made available to a police officer on demand (aka an insurance card), some of your customers can’t or won’t buy even the minimum required insurance. You suddenly think of a solution! You will sell auto insurance to your customers when they buy a car from you or get their current car serviced in your repair shop. And since you know your customers needs better than they do, you will automatically sell them auto insurance and add the cost to their invoice. If they object, you’ll tell them it’s state law that they have insurance, but if they provide proof they have coverage somewhere else, you’ll refund the cost of the insurance you sold them. But they’ll still be covered under your insurance until they prove they have other insurance and they will be charged for it.
Fortunately, the auto dealer mentioned above is a fictional character. Unfortunately, there is at least one company that will force you to buy their insurance unless you can prove you have insurance elsewhere.
StorageMart of Columbia, Missouri, recently purchased the Budget Storage group of self-storage facilities in Iowa and Kansas. The first thing StorageMart did was require the customers of the former Budget Storage company to complete and sign a new rental agreement. While the new agreement includes a requirement the contents of the storage unit be covered by insurance, this agreement doesn’t state anywhere that at the moment you sign and return the agreement, you are automatically signed up for the “Premium Lease Option”, a pseudo-insurance program for covering property in the unit from loss due to such things as “fire, water damage, and burglary”. I call it pseudo-insurance because the rental agreement also states StorageMart is not an insurance agency and they don’t insure personal property. All for an extra $9.95 a month.
But what if you already have an insurance policy that covers items in a storage unit? A standard homeowners or renters insurance policy includes coverage for personal property in storage units, so nearly everyone is going to have some kind of contents coverage unless they still live with their parents or in a college dorm.
Well, StorageMart cares about the people who rent from them. And since they know more about what a customer needs than the customer does, they automatically start the “Premium Lease Option” on day one. And they won’t stop coverage (and related charges) until the customer brings in the DEC page from their own policy and proves the contents of the storage unit will be covered. (A DEC page is the first page from an insurance policy or renewal notice that lists the type of coverage(s), coverage limits, and any deductables. DEC is short for declarations, BTW.)
So while most storage companies will take your word that you have insurance, StorageMart automatically assumes you’re an uninsured deadbeat and they need to protect the customers from themselves by forcing insurance on the customer.
There is a special term for the act of adding an unauthorized charge to someone’s bill without their permission: CRAMMING. And nowhere in the rental agreement does it allow StorageMart to just add a customer to the “Premium Lease Option” by default.
So if you have a storage space at Budget Storage, it’s now known as a StorageMart storage space. And next month, you may have a $9.95 surprise charge for something that you may already be paying your homeowners insurance company for.
CRAMMING … because they care about you.