This App Gives Bay Area Travelers an Easy Storage Solution
If you’re considering an experiential gap year from college or a break from work in the form of a sabbatical — or just a really long vacation — you’ve likely considered the various responsibilities you’ll leave behind. Figuring out logistical details like who will watch your stuff can lead to a major headache. Luckily, travelers based in the San Francisco Bay Area can use an app to make the storing process easier. Omni, which originally launched in 2015 — and was just updated in June — helps users photograph and catalog their belongings and store them in a warehouse, offering long-term storage with no contracts or minimum requirements. Those looking to stash their stuff for just a few days or a week can benefit from the service too.
Standard-sized items can be stored for $0.50, larger items like bikes for $3.00, and containers with items that you don’t want itemized for $7.50. Anything too large for a single person to carry — like a bed or desk — unfortunately can’t be stored. While there is no contract and users can request to check their stuff out of storage for free within set time frames, there is a fee to expedite check-out and there is a 20% service fee plus the cost of shipping materials and postage to send stuff to a destination outside Omni's service area.
Before moving from San Francisco to New York this summer, I tried out Omni to store my stuff; since I depend on public transportation, I knew that personally transporting my stuff wasn’t an option. When requesting a pick-up through the app, you must specify whether it is a large or small pick-up (a feature that was not available when I used it), which will determine how many concierges they send out. At 9:30am, the time slot I requested, two Omni Concierges were at my door.
It's important to note that you should have your belongings ready for them to grab and go; I simply had my stuff ready in large plastic containers. They'll then ask if you want your stuff stored on a per-item basis for $0.50 each or to stay in a container that you provide for $7.50. The latter option, which involves closed containers — like a box of files, a bin full of holiday decorations or a packed suitcase — is more cost-efficient if you have 16 or more items stored inside them. The concierge team asked for my signature to confirm the pick-up, and quickly whisked my stuff into a red Omni van that was parked outside. All in all, the entire in-person process took about five minutes.
Once the items reach Omni's San Francisco warehouse, each item is photographed, packaged and stored that same day, and the attention to detail that the service provides is refreshing. I once mistakenly had two glass chess pieces make their way into a pick-up and when I requested them back, they were neatly wrapped in bubble wrap and placed into a sealed plastic bag. When I requested the return of my coats, they were placed in garment bags at no additional cost. And if anything were to break or get lost, it's reassuring to know that each item is covered up to $2,000.
If you need something that you don't own, the app has that covered too. On June 29, it launched "Search" — a feature that lets you borrow items that are available within the Omni community. Within the app, you can submit a request to the item's owner to borrow it and once approved, it's available in your account to check out. If, for example, you broke your suitcase a week before your dream vacation, then you'd ostensibly be able to borrow someone else's luggage by using the app. You can also let others borrow your belongings, but note that Omni doesn't assume responsibility if someone loses or breaks your stuff.
While Omni has generally been very easy to use, there are a few annoyances. What Omni considers to be a large item (and therefore an extra $2.50) is subjective, so there have been a few scenarios where I noticed that my bill was higher than what I thought it should be. While the option to borrow and lend is an interesting idea as the sharing economy grows, I personally wouldn't use it since Omni doesn't mediate any potential issues that could arise. Currently, Omni is only available in the San Francisco Bay Area and a spokesperson told The Points Guy the company doesn't have any plans to expand its service area in the near future.
Of course, Omni isn’t the only company tackling on-demand storage space. Startups like MakeSpace and Livible have set their sights on markets in New York and Seattle. As lifestyles shift towards city living, services providing access and flexibility like Omni will become essential.
Would you try an on-demand storage service like Omni? Sound off in the comments, below.