Nine months in a box

Amid the whirlwind of final exams, term papers, group projects and presentations that clutter the semester’s final weeks, students often wait until the last minute before addressing another dilemma: what to do with all the junk that has accumulated over the past nine months.

The summer storage market has boomed in recent years. College Boxes came to GW in 2001, while Campus Ship & Store started this semester. Mailboxes, Etc. – now called The UPS Store but under the same management – has been located at 2000 Penn since 1988.

In recent weeks, flyers and promotions for these companies and others have appeared all over campus. But are there any differences between storage companies? They all offer some of the same conveniences, such as insurance options, free boxes and scheduled pickup and drop-off times. But some students choose other options, including Door-to-Door Storage and local moving companies, and others bypass storage companies, opting to leave their belongings with friends or family.

Packing it up

College Boxes allows students to register online or at a tent in front of the Marvin Center. Boxes weighing less than 70 pounds cost $39, and founder and CEO Arnaud Karsenti said most students rent five or six.

Karsenti started College Boxes in 1999 during his junior year at Duke University, when he had to design a company for a class. Five years later, College Boxes services 7,000 students in 30 schools, including 500 at GW.

“The size of our company has been a result of the good services we provide. We provide door-to-door service, which is the alternative students prefer,” Karsenti said, speaking from College Boxes headquarters in Miami.

Two years after using College Boxes to move out of Thurston Hall, Ayinde Bennett became a manager of the company’s GW operation.

A junior from Chicago, Ill., Bennett recommended that students sign up “early enough so you can stop worrying about it. Think about it now so you don’t have to later.”

Another College Boxes manager, junior Greg Shtraks from New Jersey, said that last year College Boxes distributed more than 600 boxes.

“We try to encourage students to sign up as fast as possible,” Shtraks said.

College Boxes is only on campus during April and May, but The UPS Store is open year-round. It charges $150 to store three boxes for the summer, which covers pickup and drop-off, and $36 for every medium-sized box afterward.

“If I were a student, I would feel more comfortable with us. We have been on campus since 1988, and we are here 12 months a year,” said Harry Smith, who has managed the store for 17 years.

“When working with us, you don’t have to deal with computers,” he added. “We give you personalized service.”

Campus Ship & Store owner Larry Byron said the Boston-based company is different from the others because “we store in our own facilities, we’re a little more hands-on, we’ve got a lot of different-sized boxes, and people can take as many boxes as they want up front.”

Ship & Store offers an unlimited number of free boxes to customers who register in advance. Byron added that students receive “really heavy-duty boxes to cut down on damage. We give them a little better box and absorb that cost.”

Storage costs $34 per medium-sized box weighing less than 70 pounds, and $1 for every pound thereafter.

“I think that it’s hard to know how many boxes you’ll need ahead of time,” Byron said. “We have staff on campus. Insomeone’s last minute they can walk to our truck, get boxes, and that’s that.”

Door-to-Door Storage, based in Seattle, drops off in front of your building a crate that can hold a bedroom’s worth of furniture and boxes.

Interim President Lee Andrews said the company usually handles storage for longer periods than the summer and does not focus on student business. Door-to-Door charges by the day, but Andrews said that some of its features are worth the extra cost.

“Our customers have the luxury of filling the crate at their own pace,” Andrews said. “Our crates are designed to keep the contents inside safe from weather and break-ins.”

Last summer, sophomore Ashley Rubinstein, from New Smyrna Beach, Fla., used Door-to-Door with seven other Merriweather Hall residents on the Mount Vernon campus.

With the girls moving into different dorms, Rubinstein said the service worked well for them.

“We just had them drop (the crate) off in a central location on campus in the fall, and everyone came to get their stuff,” she said.

“I think (eight people) paid, like, $80 each for the entire summer,” Rubinstein said.

The non-commercial route

Cheaper may not always be better, though. Many students leave their belongings with friends who are staying for the summer. And sometimes that can backfire.

Last summer, senior Amy Silver left two big boxes – “basically everything I have that wasn’t my clothes or my computer” – in a friend’s apartment.

“Since I only am allowed to have two bags to fly back home, it was convenient to have someone who could help me out instead of shipping boxes back and forth from Minneapolis,” Silver said.

She did not expect to find mold on one of her boxes upon returning to GW in August.

The friends with whom she left the boxes went home for the last month of summer but accidentally left hot water running. By the time they got back, humidity had caused mold to grow everywhere.

“It was just on the outside of my box,” Silver said. “I threw away some things that were moldy, but I was lucky. Their stuff got the worst of it.”

Sonya Garg, a senior from New Delhi, India, also considers herself lucky. An international student, Garg could not bring her stuff home but found storage companies too expensive for the amount of stuff she had, so she left everything with her uncle in Virginia.

“Not everyone has family nearby, and even leaving it there is a pain,” Garg said. “GW should have some sort of storage option on campus, some space that’s not being used during the summer for international students to use.”

Rubinstein recommends even another option: “The best deal I’ve found is actually staying here over the summer so you … don’t have to store your stuff.”

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