‘You sold my stuff!’ Valley woman’s storage unit mistakenly sold after paperwork mix-up
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Christmas tree looks different this year at Jacqueline Ransberger’s home. “I get very emotional still just talking about it because there’s just so much in there that I wasn’t ready to let go,” she said. This year, Ransberger rented a small storage unit at Public Storage. She filled it with all kinds of things including holiday decorations and her wedding dress that she had preserved.
“My veil was in there, too,” she said. So was her kids’ artwork; those precious handprints that moms and dads tuck away for the times they’re feeling a bit nostalgic. But now, it’s all gone. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “How do you get some of those memories back?”
Months after filling the unit and locking it up, Ransberger returned to retrieve some of her decorations. But her key wouldn’t work. It turns out, there was a paperwork mix-up, and though Ransberger says she was assigned unit 1167, Public Storage was crediting her on-time payments to unit 1168. It appeared as though 1167 was delinquent and it was auctioned off.
“[The manager] is like, ‘I’m sorry, we sold it,’” Ransberger recalled. “I lost it. I was hyperventilating. I was in tears. I was like, ‘You sold my stuff?’” The auctioneer told her anything that wasn’t sold was donated or tossed. “It’s one number. Literally one number that was off; 1167 and 1168. That was it,” she added. In the fine print of Ransberger’s contract with Public Storage, there is a clause that specifically says “no valuables” should be stored in the storage space including heirlooms or works of art.
Ransberger says one of the managers at the company offered her $5,000 to settle. Then the offer changed. “The district manager calls me the next week saying that I need receipts, and if I can not give them receipts, more than likely they’re not going to be able to give me the $5,000 that they had already offered me,” she said. On Your Side reached out repeatedly to Public Storage over the past several weeks. The company has not responded to any calls or emails.
Susan Rotkis, an attorney who specializes in consumer issues, says Ransberger’s experience is not unique. Rotkis is not involved in this issue, but says some companies come up with long lists of requirements before settling consumer complaints. “Consumers have the same experience. They’re given the runaround,” Rotkis said. “The effect is that you wear the consumers down and by attrition, they might just give up.”
Rotkis noted there are ways to come up with the value of lost items, even without receipts. “If something is of personal value, I would suggest potentially going through and making an inventory and creating an affidavit,” she said. “It’s a sworn statement by the consumer saying this is the value of my loss. For Ransberger, the back and forth with the company has been hard, but losing those priceless treasures is what hurts the most. “How do I tell my kids their stuff is gone? Their ornaments,” she said with tears in her eyes.
The family’s Christmas tree is different this year. It’s still beautiful, but it can never be the same.
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