Friday, March 11, 2016

"Lights, Camera... Auction!"

 I'm about to share with you guys a true story. Not that the others I tell aren't true; I just usually try to add a funny or snarky element to them so you'll read past the first paragraph. I can't do that this time because I'm just too mad to even try.Plus, there's nothing humorous about the situation. 
Why am I so angry? Simple. An injustice was done. I'm sure this happens around the country and it needs to be addressed. People need to be made aware of what goes on behind the scenes at some of your favorite shows. 

One show, in particular, comes to mind. "Storage Wars" or whatever it's called. I'm sure a bunch of you have seen this. A group of individuals get together, a storage unit is briefly opened up and then these people bid on its contents. It's "great fun" listening to them address the camera about what they're hoping to find in there. 
"A treasure trove of rare coins maybe? Ancient artifacts and relics that'll fetch a handsome price in the bidders' antique stores and shit? What could possibly be hidden in these storage units that'll turn a profit?" 

Everyone thinks this as they sit back at home, popcorn in hand, on the edge of their seats in anticipation. Such excitement as you think "one man's trash is another man's treasure." Except no one ever considers that the contents of that storage unit are ALREADY someone's treasure. That's why they rented the space to begin with. 
Ever watch that show and wonder to yourself, "how'd this storage unit end up going to auction anyway? I mean, clearly this stuff was important enough to someone that they took the time and effort to move it all in there." Maybe their house burned down and they're waiting for a new one to be built. Maybe they took a job as a truck driver and don't have a house or see the need to rent an apartment. Maybe everything in this storage unit is their whole life. 

Well my regular readers already know who Molly is. So that'll save us some of the introduction. For you new readers, she's my dear friend. You new readers should go read "So Pretty It Hurts", that'll explain a few things. You see, she started driving a truck about 4 years ago and had nowhere else to put her belongings at the time. There's simply not enough room in a truck for all of your keepsakes. So a storage facility seemed the perfect solution. That's the whole point, right? To store your stuff. 
For nearly 3 1/2 years this has seemed an ideal solution. The storage facility, Meridian Self Storage (remember that name) in Meridian Mississippi, has Molly's phone number in case of emergency. They have Molly's address as backup. The address on file is for an immediate family member. If there's a problem they can contact her brother or her. 
Everything is set up and running smoothly. Meridian Self Storage has permission on file to automatically bill the bank. It's the perfect solution. The cost is ideal at $60 a month. Heck, I pay over $4,000 a year in property tax alone on MY storage facility. Of course, I also store my kids there and stuff so it's worth the cost to me but my house is essentially just a storage facility for me to keep my stuff at when I'm working. 

So, back in May of last year, Meridian Self Storage inexplicably quit billing the bank. No reason, no questions, no contact. They just stopped. After nearly 4 years. The money was always there. Payment wasn't declined; they just quit billing. 
Molly never thought to deliberately look for that billing. Who would? The first year, maybe, but after that it seems a "well oiled machine" so constant maintenance isn't required. Until just recently. Going over her bills, Molly notices there's significantly more in her account than there should be. Several hundreds of dollars. "Well, that doesn't match my calculations. Let me look at my account history", she thinks, since it's possible she had switched it at some point to a credit card or something. So she checks her bank account and credit card statements. Nope, no transactions for them. "Aha! Meridian Self Storage hasn't taken a payment in a while. I should call them and sort this out." 

"Too late", she's told, "we've already auctioned off your storage unit. It's gone. We tried calling. We sent certified letters. So we sold your stuff to the highest bidder."

No remorse. No apology. Also, no receipt showing ANY certified letters were ever sent and phone records indicate no calls were ever made. The response from Meridian Self Storage? "Well the girl was supposed to call you. I guess she forgot." Again, not even a hint of compassion, apology or regret. It's just business. 
After some prodding they finally gave the name of the people it was sold to. Contact was made and the response was "well, we bought 10 units from that facility that day. (Yes, on that day alone! Look up Meridian online and you'll see it's not exactly a metropolis) We try to see if there's anything in them so we can contact people. Whatever didn't sell we would've just discarded." I'm paraphrasing here but that's pretty close to the way it went. 

So Molly had her passport, DD 214, and other articles in there with her name on it. Brochures and cards for the trucking company for whom she drives, her brother's graduation picture from the police academy, including his name and his position with the LOCAL sheriff's office. But they couldn't find a way to contact anyone?! More like they simply didn't care. It wasn't their stuff, why would they care, right?

Family pictures going back generations in hand-made, engraved frames. Family artifacts going back generations. Baby memorabilia from and for her daughter. Memories, keepsakes, items far beyond value to Molly. Her books (what kind of monster takes your books?!). A flight jacket given to her by her father from his fighter pilot days. All gone, needlessly and irreplaceably. Seemingly without recourse. 

It's rare that I hear Molly cry. She's very good at guarding her emotions like that, keeping a tight rein on things like tears. To hear and see her break down the way she did when she told me what had happened...it broke my heart. Maybe it's my caveman side but I really wanted to be able to lay hands on these people (and not in the healing way) for hurting her like that. Here we were on opposite coasts and I wanted nothing more at that moment than to be able to hold her and tell everything would be alright. But it won't be. I can't fix this and it shouldn't have happened. 

Can you put a price on your past? Your memories, history and part of your heart and soul? Neither can I. But these people that run storage units can. "The highest bidder". That's what they value you as. 
I'm not a litigious person at all but even I feel a suit should be brought against them. Will it restore priceless and precious memories? No. It's not intended to. It's intended to be punitive. To somehow FORCE Meridian Self Storage to feel remorse. To teach them that these are PEOPLE'S LIVES. 

So I ask you, again, do you ever wonder how those units end up at auction? Do you ever wonder if the people whose whole lives are inside those walls even know that their past is being stolen from them? Why do we care more about money than we do people? This is someone I love and care about. To me her past, her life is far beyond any monetary value. And someone else carelessly, unremorsefully, cast it aside to the highest bidder who sorted through it, sold what they could and threw away the rest. Are you as outraged as I am? I hope so. Hopefully the judge will be as well. 

These people were being paid to safeguard her belongings against theft or damage. Then they betrayed that duty by doing the very things they were supposed to prevent. To make it worse, they LIED about it. They said they called. They didn't. They said they sent certified letters. There's no record of this with any postal delivery system. They took it upon themselves to terminate their own payment then just sat back and waited a couple of months and sold it off without a care in the world. Callously.