How did S$16,000 worth of luxury bags and clothes become mouldy inside a storage facility?
In a Facebook post that’s gone viral, one woman shared her unfortunate experience with a storage facility in Singapore.
After YT Ong sold her flat last year, she moved in to her parents’ place while she searched for a new home. In the interim, she stored most of her and her two kids’ possessions at Lock + Store’s Ang Mo Kio facility. She paid about S$4,000 in fees to rent the 86.3 sq ft storage unit for one year.
When the day finally arrived for YT, who’s in her late 30s, to retrieve everything from the storage unit to move to her new place, she discovered that many of the items were badly damaged and had turned terribly mouldy and rusty.
Speaking to 8Days.sg, she recounted: “I had the shock of my life when I saw everything was infested in mould. It looked like I had dunked the items in water and let them rot.”
Many of her designer bags, wallets and accessories had turned mouldy. There were dust bags so damaged by mould that they’ve disintegrated and torn. A new stainless steel table had become rusty. Even her daughter’s pre-school graduation photo and other sentimental items were severely damaged. Clothes that were vacuum-packed also turned mouldy, while floor mats and bed linens felt damp.
“The one that caused the most heartache is my daughter’s kindergarten certificate. When I saw that the photo was damaged, I tried wiping the stain off and it made it even worse. I’ve contacted (the school) and they don’t keep any duplicates so that’s the only copy,” she explained.
SO WHAT CAUSED THE DAMAGE?
Ong claimed that the damage appears to be caused by water seepage, seemingly from the rear of the unit as the damage largely happened to the 50 cardboard boxes placed at the back, while some furniture at the front of the unit were okay.
Ong, who had taken to Facebook to share her experience as well, detailed in her post: “There were obvious signs of water seepage on the wall and condensation on my items. The boxes were so wet that they tore as the movers tried to load them into the lorry. I broke down when I saw the damaged contents.”
She explained that she had inspected the unit prior to signing the contract and nothing seemed wrong. She had also gone to the unit several times throughout the year, with the most recent trip just two weeks before she moved everything out. But because the damage occurred at the back of the unit where it was inaccessible, “there was definitely no way for me to see that there was all this damage to the boxes (at the back of the unit)”.
“To me it looked like there was a water leak, something gradual that happened over the course of one year,” said Ong. She said that the unit adjacent to hers is occupied by a chocolatier and claims that “they turn on the air-con really cold”.
“No one can (confirm) if it’s an aircon leak. But from what I see, condensation from that aircon (might have caused the water damage) ’cos my unit is not airconditioned.”
However, Lock + Store’s head of marketing and customer experience, Leona Lo, revealed: “The incident was not caused by water leakage but ‘change in temperature or humidity conditions’ as confirmed by our insurers. Non air-conditioned units do not have temperature or humidity control.”
However, Lock + Store’s explanation has only raised more questions for Ong.
“Is Singapore’s weather so drastic that it will cause condensation in a non air-conditioned unit? My question is, is it a normal occurrence?" she asked.
"Should tenants of L+S be expecting condensation on their items during storage? If it is a general case of temperature change and humidity in Singapore, then am I the only unit that is affected with water droplets and dampness found on my items? Shouldn't the other tenants be affected as well if Singapore had such a drastic temperature change? Is the temperature change man made or due to natural circumstances? Are there any other units affected so badly by such a change in temperature as claimed?”
Lock + Store has acknowledged that they “looked into the incident as soon as we received (the customer’s) feedback. Our country manager reached out to her and provided regular updates on our investigation”.
“We are sorry for the frustration the tenant experienced,” said Lo.
It’s been two months since Ong moved her items out of storage, and she’s still seeking recourse for her damaged items. She said that so far the company has offered S$2,000 in compensation. It’s far from the S$16,000 (ie. the estimated value of all the damaged items) that Ong has requested for.
“The reason for the offer above is because the contract that I signed upon renting the storage facility is iron clad, protects the company from all liabilities,” Ong said.
According to her, Lock + Store also recommended to restore three items, worth about S$500 in restoration fees. The three items include two sentimental items – a cloth bag made by her mother-in-law and a comic book that YT’s best friend had gifted her – and a Prada bag worth about S$2,400 (“It’s one of the most expensive bags that I kept in storage”).
“They recommended that these three items can be restored. I told them to go ahead if they have confidence in restoring these items. I have nothing to lose at this point in time,” she said.
However, the final compensation amount, and the outcome of the restoration of the three items, are still pending.
The other bags and wallets that have been severely damaged by mould have been left in the storage unit for Lock + Store’s investigations, Ong told 8Days. “Even if I brought them back, I don’t know what to do with them,” she opined.
The rest of the items that belong to her and her two children have been moved into their new place. However, upon unpacking items such as clothing and other linens at home, Ong discovered that most of them were damp and mouldy as well. She has since spent S$252 on professionally cleaning the clothes to get rid of the mould.
The incident has gone viral since Ong’s Facebook post, and since then, Lock + Store has also highlighted on its blog and Facebook page which items should and should not be stored in their storage facilities.
Said Lo: “During the customer onboarding process, we inform our customers not to store any valuable items such as but not restricted to luxury handbags. Under the Terms and Conditions of our Licence Agreement, we inform customers that goods are stored at the sole risk and responsibility of the storer who is responsible for any theft, damage to, and deterioration of the goods due to, but not restricted to, leakage or overflow of water, mildew, heat, etc.”
The company also “strongly (recommends customers) to purchase additional insurance coverage for their items should they deem the basic insured sum under the basic protection plan to be inadequate.”
While the final compensation outcome with Lock + Store is still pending, Ong has said that she is considering filing a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal.
This story was originally published in 8Days.