Security Shredding and Storage - a shredding industry publication

By P.J. Heller

Some 30 minutes before Arcadia University in Pennsylvania was set to open up its “One Stop Drop” community recycling event, cars were already lined up, each filled with boxes of paper destined for the free shredding service.

“If we tell them it starts at 11 a.m., people are there at 10:30 and waiting,” says Kasey Lynch, student supervisor with the Office of Community Service.

Similar scenes are playing out across the U.S. every weekend as community paper shredding events are offered, providing the public with a way to meet its pent-up demand for securely disposing of documents containing sensitive personal information that could, if in the wrong hands, be used for identity theft or other nefarious purposes.

“Most of the shredding events we do are from 9 to 12 on a Saturday morning and we’re usually ready to go by 8:30 a.m. and people are already there waiting,” says Don Adriaansen, a partner and co-owner of Titan Mobile Shredding in Doylestown, Pa. “We joke how it’s just like a garage sale with all the early birds that show up.”

“People are very excited [about being able to shred their documents],” adds Peter Klebanoff, owner and general manager of PROSHRED in Orange County, Calif. “They come from miles around.”

Over the two-day event held earlier this year by Arcadia University and the Office of Community Service, nearly nine tons of paper — everything from medical records to bank and tax documents — was shredded, according to Lynch, who served as student coordinator of the event the previous year. Document destruction was a key part of the activities, which also included collecting clothes, toys, canned goods, school supplies and other items for recycling or donation to various community organizations. The event was held on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 16-17, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

For NEXCUT Shredding, the event at the Glenside, Pa., campus was just the latest in a series of activities in which is has participated. Such events, whether sponsored by municipalities, schools or private businesses, are a win-win-win situation, allowing sponsors to offer a valuable service to new and potential clients, helping shredding companies attract future customers and create goodwill, and positioning both as stewards of the environment.

“I think it goes to the level of PR-plus for the company that actually offers it — and for us as well,” says Nathan Hesterman, manager of NEXCUT Shredding. “Most people do not think it’s affordable to have a mobile shredding service come to their house and shred their six boxes of 20-year-old tax files and all of a sudden they see free a shredding event. Then when they need service, we are at the top of the mind and they’ll call us as opposed to shopping around. We get referral business from people who bring their documents to the free shredding events.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the most successful free advertising. It’s not like a windfall of business comes from it. But it absolutely is good business,” he says.

NEXCUT specializes in providing mobile document destruction services in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The company, which has been in operation for about five years, is based in Kearny, N.J.

Shredding companies interviewed for this article approach community events in different ways and offer varying reasons for their involvement.

Some, such as NEXCUT and Titan, the latter of which has been offering document destruction services in southeastern Pennsylvania since 2005, charge a minimal fee for the community events. PROSHRED, launched in August 2009, provides its community shredding services for free while partnering with local businesses. It has nine community shredding events scheduled in 2011 in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Tustin in partnership with luxury real estate brokerage Surterre Properties in Orange County, which hosts the events.

“We want to give back to our community,” Klebanoff says in explaining why he offers the document destruction service at no charge. “We think it’s important to do that.”

Adriaansen says the majority of community events in which Titan Mobile Shredding participates are sponsored by banks and credit unions, which promote the activities for both current customers to help them prevent identity theft and as a marketing tool to attract new members.

“They’re looking to drive traffic into their business,” he explains.

The financial institutions publicize the events through such things as news releases, posters and mailers and Titan promotes the activities on its web site.

“We actually help drive traffic to our clients,” Adriaansen says. “We say to them, ‘This is an opportunity for you to showcase what you do. We just happen to be the company that does the shredding. It’s your opportunity to market your own business to those people that are there.’”

While the events tend to attract the public, Adriaansen says community shredding events don’t provide much publicity or substantial benefit for document destruction companies. One reason he cites is because of numerous similar events taking place. Titan does more than 25 events each year, usually every Saturday from mid-April to June and in September and October.

“In the metro area on any Saturday in the in spring, you could probably find a dozen events going on. Publicity-wise for a shredding company it really doesn’t do anything. We rarely get commercial business out of it,” he says.

Klebanoff agrees.

“It’s more for exposure,” he says of PROSHRED’s involvement. “We’re just servicing Orange County so we want to give back to the community and let everyone know we exist. Whether we get business directly from it or not, we’re doing a community service that I think is worthwhile and helps out local folks within Orange County and where we live.”

PROSHRED, which does a lot of residential shredding, promotes that service at the events. For people who don’t want to go to the expense of having a truck come to their house to shred documents, the company allows people to drop-off boxes of documents for destruction. That lower cost service attracts about a dozen or more individuals each week.

Hesterman says that while the weekend events may not generate much new business, any income from the activities is a bonus for the company, which normally would have its trucks sitting idle.

NEXCUT employees bring company brochures with them to the weekend events and talk up the services the firm offers.

“You never know who you’re going to run into at events like this,” Hesterman says.

He notes that some businesses that sponsor a weekend shredding event may have an ulterior motive.

“Most of the time it’s savvy business owners who have material that they need shredded by a service,” he says. “It’s a way to take advantage of a better rate as well as offering a service to friends, family and customers.”

Adriaansen says his emphasis is on attracting customers for his clients who sponsor the weekend shredding events.

“We work hard with our clients to turn it into a worthwhile event for all of us,” he says. “If a shredding company was to go out and do all the promotion that needs to be done at one of these events, it would definitely be a losing proposition. You don’t get enough paper back to even pay to be out there.”

However, Shred-it, a major document shredding and recycling company, reports it has served as many as 2,000 people at one community shredding event, with more than 70 tons of paper recycled. The company organizes events in cities where it has locations.

Shred-it explains on its web site why it is involved in community shredding events.

“Community Shred-it events increase the knowledge of identity theft, making our communities safer places to live. Generating goodwill with potential new clients and strengthening existing customer relationships also makes good business sense,” the company says.

Money paid by recyclers or paper mills for the shredded paper typically goes to the shredding companies to help offset their labor and equipment costs at the community events, according to Adriaansen, Klebanoff and Hesterman. Some document destruction companies will donate any net proceeds to local charities and community groups.

To ensure that everyone can have their documents shredded, limits are placed on the number of boxes or bags of papers an individual can bring for destruction —typically up to three or in some instances as many as 10 (Arcadia University doesn’t put a limit on how much can be brought for shredding). Items such as paper clips, staples and rubber bands do not have to be removed from the documents before they are shredded.

Klebanoff and Adriaansen say they shred an average of about 100 to 200 boxes of paper at each event.

“We tell people [sponsors of the event] that if they get 100 people to come out that they did a good job,” Adriaansen says. “Some people show up with a paper bag, others will push the limit and show up with four boxes. It all depends on how it’s promoted.”

One big attraction for people attending the events is to actually see via a video feed on the truck their documents actually being destroyed.

“People put their documents in a bin and they watch them being shredded,” says Lynch of the Community Service Office. “They don’t leave until it’s been shredded. We allow them to view it. It’s one of the big draws for it.”

“A lot of folks don’t know what to do with their documents and don’t see the option of shredding them themselves as an efficient one,” Klebanoff adds. “So a lot of folks are just . . . excited and appreciative of being able to come and not being charged a fee.”

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