This is one of a series of stories we are sharing to show what's inside CubeSmart. You not only get a peek inside our customer's storage unit, but also a peek inside what is important to him. Thank you to Michael, a customer of our CubeSmart store in Philadelphia, for sharing his story with us.
As an accounts general manager for an educational textbook company, Michael Dupree is used to traveling, meeting with clients and making presentations. This past couple of years, however, looked a little different, as Dupree made one of the biggest sales he has closed since being in educational book sales, with the Philadelphia School District—no small feat, considering that the financially strapped School District hadn't upgraded its books in anywhere from seven to twelve years.
The sheer volume of the sale was eye-opening for Michael.
"We started with one unit here and I picked this one because of the location and the good hours. Then I told a co-worker and he laughed and said, ‘You're going to need a little more space than that,'" Michael says.
At the peak of the "adoption" or the cycle of implementing the books, he maintained nine units, filled from floor to ceiling with some 24 pallets being delivered to the 501 Callowhill Street self-storage facility in Philadelphia. The contract covered K-12th grade math books and 94 percent of the K-5th grade books for the entire school district.
"I would get to the facility as soon as it opened and spend all day loading up a truck to do school presentations, then come back to put the books away and then prepare for the next day. These days I come once or twice a week, mainly if a school is missing something and I need to grab it for them."
Visiting the schools and seeing the books in action is the payoff for all the work he's done, Michael says. The impact is obvious when the students and teachers tell him how much they enjoy the books.
"I get to watch the students learning and I can imagine that they will someday become better citizens because they're informed," he says.
Michael feels strongly about the value of his work because he knows firsthand that new books can inspire students to succeed. As a child, he attended a newly desegregated Yonkers elementary school where he and his sister and two other children were the only black students.
"When more black kids started to come over to our school the first thing they said was ‘wow, you have new books.' It made a big difference to them. I was lucky that I never knew anything else, but I later saw it in high school when we had older books. Now that I'm in this business I have a better understanding of what goes into these decisions and the budget issues school districts face."
Philadelphia students have benefited because of a cigarette tax that generated enough money to pay for the books. Not only do the new books lift student morale, but they also contain important updated information.
"Pedagogies change. Facts change. For reading, it doesn't always matter but they needed math books that reflected the Common Core. And the way we understand things like the solar system has changed—the old books might have pictures of the nine planets, and of course, now we only have eight. But the main thing is that when you lift up a book by its binding that you don't start losing pages."
Originally, Michael studied to be an electrical engineer. When he lost his job in 1998, he and his wife moved to Florida. There, he told a recruiter he wanted a position where he could wear a suit and tie. The recruiter mentioned two jobs. The first, which was for a defense contractor building infrared cameras, seemed promising. Michael eagerly went through two rounds of the interview process. The third interview, with the company's CEO, however, never materialized because the man was too busy to schedule it. In the meantime, Michael went back to the recruiter and interviewed for the other opportunity, which was for an educational book distributor. When he met the people and heard more about the company he started to see it was the right choice.
After nearly twenty years in the business across a few companies and a few sales regions, Michael is happy to be back living in New Jersey close to his family and making the kind of sales that get him recognized at national conferences, which he says "felt tremendous."
"I got into this business by happenstance, but it's turned out to be a really good fit for me. When I'm selling something, I have to know that the product is helping people. The money that comes from it is the blessing at the end."
We’d love to hear how self storage has positively impacted your life. Share your #HumansofSelfStorage story in the comments.
Transcript of Inside the Textbooks of Michael Dupree video:
"Back when I was a kid, Yonkers Public Schools desegregated, basically bringing kids from the other side of town, to my privileged school. And I think back to those days where they came from a spot that had old books and we had new books. And here they are coming into our school and excited about seeing a new book where, you know, we took it for granted.
I think it's something that definitely could have motivated me to go into a career selling textbooks, but realistically it was probably just dumb luck.
In the city of Philadelphia, students didn't have new textbooks anywhere from seven to twelve years. In April of 2016, they decided that they needed new student textbooks. Prior to the actual sale in Philadelphia, we shipped in 44,000 books to do presentations to 14 different locations around the city.
As a textbook sales rep, you're normally storing books at home, whether it's a closet or a shelf, or in your garage, but for an opportunity like this, it was much larger, and we knew we were gonna have to go to scale quickly. So I went out and got one storage unit, and I told my colleagues, "yeah I got a storage unit" and they said, "oh you're going to need a lot more than that".
The cigarette tax in Philadelphia benefited the students because moneys from that cigarette tax went towards the purchase of these new textbooks.
I was going to CubeSmart on a daily basis. We were getting shipments of textbooks, trucks coming in, dropping off pallets of books. We had to then manage those books to get them out to the schools during our white glove delivery service.
Having new books is important to kids, it gives you a better sense of the reason you're in school to actually learn, as opposed to just taking up time. Seeing the smiles on student's faces and hearing them say thank you to me makes my long hours totally worth it…
"Thank you Mr. Dupree"… "You guys are welcome"…
A year later, math and reading test scores rose, and I'd like to think that's a direct benefit of the textbooks we put in their hands. The ripple effect that I see is students being happy, teachers being able to teach with a new curriculum, administrators being happy over their test scores rising.
I love that my job has a positive impact on all these things."