Businesses destroy documents, worry
By PAUL SWIDER
Published January 24, 2007
Alan Ball has been in the paper shredding business for a dozen years, but he's never seen anything like this before.
"This little old lady comes to the door and says, 'Can you shred this box of papers?' " said Ball, owner of A1 Document Security, which works mostly for corporations and offices. "I couldn't say no. Now we get two or three a day. And we're not the easiest place to find."
Ball's typical clients are banks, medical offices, government agencies, companies with lots of paper containing private information that can't fall into the wrong hands. But he's discovering there are lots of other people, including average consumers, who have more printed matter than a store-bought shredder can handle.
"I never thought about it," Ball said. "Nobody's ever thought about it. But I can't really ignore it. It's been thrust upon us."
Ball's typical walk-up customer has about 100 pounds of receipts, tax returns, files and documents. Sometimes they're cleaning house or emptying the home of a deceased relative. Some are small businesses that have more paper than they need but not enough to justify a regular service.
"This is just what you have to do," said Jack Warren, a Valrico building contractor who brought some papers to Ball recently. Warren gets rid of his old client records, but also those of his wife, who does clerical work from home for a lawyer. "By law it's got to be destroyed every year."
It takes Ball's machine a few seconds to digest these small orders, but it would take the customer hours to do it on their own. Still Ball had to redesign his business for the traffic because the paper he collects from his larger clients must be kept separate and secure. He remodeled an office for his walk-up customers and installed a closed-circuit camera so they can remotely watch their paper go into the shredder.
Security is what keeps other shredding companies from the same practice. They do work for residential customers but they must retrieve the paper themselves, no walk-ups.
"We're in a secure building. We don't even publish our address," said Ted Herman, plant manager for Confidential On-site Paper Shredding in St. Petersburg's Dome district.
Herman said he has seen an increase in residential customers as people become more concerned about identity theft. He said he's picked up quantities as small as a shoebox for some clients. Pricing is flexible, he said.
John Schmeider of Secure On-Site Shredding in Palm Harbor said his business is shifting toward residential pickups.
"The market's always been there, but more so in the last year or so," he said. "It's all the headlines."
Schmeider said he can't accept walk-ups because his shredders are in his trucks. His $50 minimum charge doesn't put people off, he said, but they sometimes pair with neighbors because he can take up to 300 pounds at that price.
Because people bring their paper to Ball, he can charge $20 for the first 200 pounds, a dime a pound thereafter. It's not a moneymaker, Ball said, just a service. It's an accidental business because his phone book ad says pickup or drop-off.
"It was a mistake, but it's worked out in our favor," Ball said.
Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.
[Last modified January 23, 2007, 22:33:14]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]