Longform

We -Store-It, U-Lose-It?

Page 3 of 5


You probably are pretty sure by now that you don't want to find yourself in Kendra Cuyler's shoes. You probably don't want to wear Marc Seymour's either.

When you go to work, it's to a dank metal warehouse with a dingy concrete office surrounded by rutted dirt and chain link and mangy wandering dogs. You have to go through the bureaucratic nightmare of maintaining the appropriate licenses and insurance required of your business to do the city work that your business is here to do.

You are called to the homes of desperate and little-left-to-lose people, you take their stuff away under official supervision, loading and unloading a dozen piss-stained mattresses and dead lawn mowers for every antique dresser, and most of this crap no owner will ever bother to get out of hock, which means you don't get paid, and most of this crap is so useless that the only way to unload it at auction, and thereby try to generate some profit for your business, is to combine it in huge lots so that somebody who wants the miter saw has got to take the busted PlayStation and 14 cracked purses with it.

When you're not out on site somewhere, you're back at this dump on the ass end of a dead-end street backed up to I-10 by abandoned warehouses, confronted regularly by people who want their stuff back -- people who may or may not be relied upon to deal with you either quietly, rationally or submissively -- and alternately overseeing public auctions at which you sell those items that have not been redeemed to small creepy crowds of people looking for something to turn a profit on eBay.

This kind of work environment, it is supposed, might eventually breed a certain scabrousness of character in those exposed to it.

I called to talk to Marc Seymour about Kendra Cuyler. A receptionist asked what it was regarding. I told her.

She said: "Did you tell her you'd put her name in the paper if she'd shut up?"

Mr. Seymour politely declined, citing advice of legal counsel, to discuss the matter.

I observed him at work on three occasions. First, on Tuesday, January 30, the day that Kendra Cuyler asked me to witness the court-ordered retrieval of what was supposed to be all of her property ("all items stored," the order reads) from the warehouse. Seymour and his Security Storage co-director, Moshe Zanzuri, videotaped the proceedings, having filed for and received their own protective order against Cuyler, alleging a "constant, hourly pattern of harassment … demanding to be allowed to go through the trash … shoving tape recorders in faces…" and, interestingly, "asking for the same documentation, over and over."

Seymour's motion does not mention whether or not Cuyler was ever provided any of the documentation for which she so persistently asked.

As Seymour's men rolled out pallets stacked with cardboard boxes, Cuyler asked repeatedly after the whereabouts of her furniture and larger, more valuable items. Seymour did not speak a single word in response. He did allow Cuyler to open the boxes, to search for individual items, by which method Cuyler discovered several dozen boxes that weren't even hers, and none with the identifying markings that originally had been on them, suggesting to Cuyler that her stuff had been looted for valuables and repackaged.



Somebody called HPD, and two squad cars arrived. Security Storage being "private property," Cuyler was not allowed inside the warehouse -- even though she had filed a theft charge, despite having a court order flapping in her hand -- to ascertain if her furniture, which was never brought out, was still inside. Upon leaving, one of the cops told me to encourage Cuyler to leave the premises just as soon as the last box was loaded. "If she stays," the cop said, "he can call us back here for trespassing, and we'll have to arrest her."

The second time I saw Marc Seymour was the morning of Wednesday, March 21, about 8:30 a.m. I was looking to see what I could see of the auctions that were reputed to be held there at that time. There didn't appear to be anyone else present, and Seymour caught me wandering around out front. He wanted to know what I was there for. I said the auction. I asked if there was an auction at eight-thirty. He said eight-thirty and six. He said it several times, quickly, and handed me a printed card advertising the sale at 6 p.m., and hustled me back to my car. I still don't know if there was one auction or two.

The third time I saw Marc Seymour was at 6 p.m. that day, when there was a public auction, and where I actually saw very little of him striding about in the bustle, but did get to meet several of the eBayers, and wandered voyeuristically awhile myself, pulling shredded starter cords, pushing buttons on stereo equipment, admiring one exceptionally nice cabinet, and poking through boxes upon boxes of what can only be described as clothing, family portraits, family albums, school books, children's clothing, children's toys and other personal items.

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Brad Tyer