Almost daily we receive promotions for new Web sites that offer to trim our costs by using the auction model to let vendors competitively bid to fulfill our needs. SpareFoot.com is one of them. This site began as a place where those who had space, such as a homeowner with an empty bedroom, could offer it as storage for a monthly fee, and those who needed storage could choose among all those in their area that had listed space. Sounds like a good, Craigslist type of operation, right? Person to person?
But the site quickly morphed into a clearinghouse for large storage rental facilities, and now when you go onto the site to look for space you'll likely be offered the choice of units in several storage farms. And I'm skeptical that the auction feature is going to save you money. Why?
Two reasons. One is that you are not its customer; you are its product. Its business is delivering its product (you) to its customer (storage companies). Sure, you might log on once, buy storage through the site once, but the storage companies come back again and again. The money they spiff the site is part of their marketing cost, just like their newspaper ads and a listing in the Yellow Pages.
Two, you don't write the site a check, the storage facilities do. SpareFoot.com need only do enough to convince you that shopping through it gives you a price advantage, and those who are attracted to such sites are those who dislike comparison shopping.
I did a little comparison shopping, and found that the price I received via SpareFoot.com for a local 5' x 15' locker was the same price I was offered when I called the same storage company directly.
I don't believe that this site offers any worse prices than you would receive directly (although some "auction" sites do), but the thing to always remember is that a company, a person, a site always works for the entity that pays it. Storage companies pay SpareFoot.com.
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