Donny Lai, 54, a former university professor from Hong Kong, said their return to New Zealand was delayed because they couldn’t get MIQ places and he was unaware of a problem in an automated payment system at the storage company Workstore.
After being overdue by $480, which was fees for three months, the items from the family’s storage were sold on Trade Me for $320.
Lai first moved to Auckland in 2015 with his wife Sara and son Justin, but the family moved back to Hong Kong three years later because he could not find skilled employment here.
“We put everything away because we fully intended to return to New Zealand when we left,” Lai said.
“But our comeback was delayed as we had to wait months to enter the MIQ draw and only got our places after trying six times.”
Lai said the family were extremely happy when they finally managed to set foot in New Zealand just before Christmas last year, but the joy turned to tears when they went to put their things away.
“I was just shocked, I didn’t know how to react. My wife and son cried because they lost everything, from my wife’s awards, professional certificates to my son’s toys and things he had since he was a baby,” Lai said.
Lai said many of the “lifetime treasures” were “priceless” and could never be replaced.
“We have used the Workstore for more than three years since May 2018 and the storage amount was $160, which we used our credit card autopay to make payments for months,” Lai said.
“The credit card expired so we opted for an online transfer but there was a problem. No one was at the Workstore due to the lockdown so we weren’t told we had missed three months of payment.”
He said the feeling that the company was breaking into their warehouse to sell the items without the family’s consent was like “a thief breaking into my house and taking my items.”
“Even worse, the manager said she sold the items without any trace, so we don’t know what went missing,” Lai said.
Lai said they rushed to the Workstore after finishing the MIQ on January 10 and the store manager told them they had only kept four small boxes of items containing family and wedding photos. .
“To add insult to injury, the manager asked us to pay an outstanding bill of $110 to get these four boxes,” he said.
Among the items Lai claimed the company sold were trophies, awards, a Sony LED TV, camping gear, wedding gifts including crystals and boxes of Lego, and toys that her son had since he was a baby.
“It’s totally ridiculous, who would be so stupid to pay $160 a month for three years if those items were really only valued at $320,” he said.
Lai said he tried to make a police report, but the police told him it was not a criminal case and advised them to go to the Citizens Advice Bureau instead.
Shop manager Magdalena Claassen said the company had procedures to follow regarding rented and unpaid units.
“We followed these procedures in our dealings with this client,” she said.
Claasen said Workstore was seeking legal advice.