Home News Careless advertising campaign caused social media outrage, wasn’t what it seemed

Careless advertising campaign caused social media outrage, wasn’t what it seemed

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An auction of unclaimed servicemembers’ household goods started a social media firestorm recently, but there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

According to Stars & Stripes, Gene Daniels Auctions of Chesapeake, Va., had planned a May 6 auction of 105 containers, containing more than 78,000 pounds of unclaimed shipments from overseas military moves — the auction has been postponed.

The truth is, the auction was coordinated with the military’s blessing and included items that had been abandoned for a decade or more, according to the company and Navy officials.

What lead to the confusion is the sloppy verbiage used by the company when attempting to market the auction. Another annoyance for commenters on social media were images depicting shipments appearing to be from current, on-going PCS moves.

Navy officials and Bay Area Movers, the company responsible for moving the shipments, tell Stars & Stripes crates with recent date stamps pictured in the advertisement weren’t part of the auction, and that no one had claimed the items up for auction or paid for their storage in several years.

“There were approximately 50 different lots of storage ranging from the 1990s to mid-2000s,” Bay Area Movers owner Jean McRae told Stars & Stripes. “The government was no longer covering storage on these shipments and had stopped many years ago.”

The government confirmed the auction was sanctioned by the Navy, according to Stars & Stripes.

“The vast majority of the items in question have been in storage for between 10 and 25 years at the facility,” Tom Kreidel, a spokesman at the Navy’s Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk in Virginia said in an email statement to Stars & Stripes. “The Navy worked with the storage facility to conduct a review of all 47 customers through the Service Member Civil Relief Act website. Of these only one customer is still active duty.”

Stars & Stripes reports servicemembers are responsible for the cost of temporary storage of household goods when storage exceeds 90 days, according to Navy guidelines.

“Unfortunately, some of our service members fail to make payment arrangements,” Kreidel said. “In this particular case, the warehouse waited years and years without receiving payment before finally making the decision to take actions to auction the shipments.”

McRae said the complaints targeting her company from social media have been very hurtful.

“We try to do the best job we can and for someone to call up and say angry things to you, it’s uncalled for,” she told Stars & Stripes. “I just wish people would check out the facts before they start rumors through social media.”

Some people may say it’s hard to ‘check the facts’ when poor advertising is what started the whole mess in the first place — poor advertising stemming from the storage facility, auction house, or a combination thereof.

“They followed the correct procedures, however they made bad decisions in the way that they advertised their auction by using photographs that did not depict the actual items to be auctioned,” said Fred Rice, a Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) spokesman in a military.com interview.

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