With the storage business gaining so much popularity in recent years, it only makes sense that other businesses would find a way to jump into the industry. One of the things you've probably come across while searching for a storage unit is a storage aggregator site.
These sites collect data on storage facilities, and many people visit these aggregate sites to find information about storage facilities in their area. What you might not necessarily realize is that some of these aggregators are essentially stealing customers from the storage facilities and then reselling the customers back to them, In some cases, these practices are predatory and even illegal.
Aggregator sites get started through partnerships with storage facilities. Essentially, the aggregator will collect reservations from potential customers and sell those reservations back to the storage facility itself for a “finder fee.” This is very similar to the way a hotel or airline reservation site would work, and it acts as direct competition against the storage facility. Rather than allowing customers to find the facility directly, traffic is driven toward the aggregator site. This sets up severe competition between varying storage facilities and drives profits down as different companies struggle to offer prices competitive enough to attract business.
Some of these aggregator sites take things a step further by actually pirating information from the storage companies. They will create fake business listings in a storage facility's name and list them online in the Yellow Pages or other business directories. Instead of listing the storage facility's phone number and website, they list their own. This way, customers will contact them believing that they're making reservations with the storage facility itself; instead, they're dealing with an aggregator. This practice is illegal, it has obvious negative implications toward the facility's actual brand, and it can be used to essentially use one company as a public face or identity while selling services to a competitor.
One of the largest storage aggregators using this tactic is SpareFoot.com. Notice the photo above of a Uncle Bob's Self Storage listing on Citysearch.com. Everything looks legitimate; however, if you call the phone number listed, you will reach a SpareFoot employee. What is going on here is not only unethical but illegal. A quick search on Google revealed 160,000 results with the phone number (866) 666-5178. A majority of these results are misappropriated online business listings for storage facilities across the country.
Other industries, including hotels and airlines, are also attempting to draw away from using these aggregators and focus on building their own client base. It's a difficult task for mature companies, but storage facilities can be a bit more nimble in their approach thanks to their size and relative newness as an industry.
As a customer, you can do your part to end piracy and reduce the ability of an aggregator to steal the identity and business of a storage facility. Always try to deal with the facility itself rather than a third-party site for transactions where money will exchange hands, and keep an eye out for listings that may have incorrect information.
If you own or manage a storage facility, you can use a service like Yext.com to search for incorrect business listings. If incorrect information is detected, you can update your storage facility's information to reflect the correct address, phone number and other contact information. Once you update the information on Yext, the site will then locate and correct listings on more than 35 other sites across the web including Yahoo, Yelp, SuperPages, Citysearch and WhitePages. This will help ensure that information online is up-to-date and accurate, and it will prevent customers from unwittingly using an unethical aggregation service when they mean to deal with the company itself.
So, what do you think of storage aggregators and what they are doing to the storage industry? Please leave your interesting and creative responses in the comments section below.