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All The Best Ways To Keep In Touch With Your Old Friends; Some May Surprise You

in Advice, Long-Distance moving by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

In the age of social media, being able to keep in touch with old friends is easier than ever, but is it the best way?

Four_girls_friends_001

A few days ago, I was chatting with a friend (I’ll call her Amy) who’s a relatively new transplant to the area. Amy mentioned that she began friending most of her old friends and neighbors from 2,000 miles away. Surprisingly, she said, it depressed her because their posts only seemed to indicate how little her absence has changed their lives, while she feels like she is starting all over again.

I told Amy that people only tend to post happy moments on Facebook, so no matter how much they were missing her, it may not be evident on their Facebook profiles. So I began asking myself, what is a better way to keep in touch with old friends you may have left behind?

Social Media

Facebook is actually tailor made to keep in touch with old friends, but if you want to even try to mimic the feeling of being with your friends, it’s better to create a group rather than just follow their feeds. In the group, you can exchange memories and private jokes. You can get personal in a way that you never could on a public profile. Other social media platforms may allow you to have a group discussion, but I still prefer Facebook groups, for no other reason than that they are easier to follow.

Texting

Creating a text thread is less personal than a phone call, but it’s far easier to gather groups of friends. Drop them texts in real time as interesting things happen in your life.

Skype, Facetime, etc.

Once again, thank technology for letting you see your friends, instead of just hearing their voices or reading their digital messages.

Letters

If you can’t remember the last time you wrote or received a letter, you’re not alone, but it’s a great way to spend time collecting your thoughts and it’s a great way to tell a friend that not only are you thinking about them, you’re willing to spend the time proving it.

Journaling

This one wasn’t my idea:

If you’re anything like me, you were obsessed with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in your middle school years. You know how the traveling journal works. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s about four best friends who find a pair of jeans that fit all of them. To keep in touch, they wrote in a journal about their adventures while wearing the pants, then mailed the journal and the pants to each other. This is perhaps the most creative way to keep in touch long distance. Since it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find one pair of pants that fits you and your friends, though, sticking to the traveling journal will work. Set an amount of time for each person in the group to keep the journal. When your time is up, mail it to the next person. You can write entries about your life in the journal, doodle, and write comments on other people’s entries!

Source: MissMillMag

Go On Vacation

A group vacation beats normal day-to-day interactions any day.

Visit

Of course.

How are you keeping in touch with your old friends?

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.

Hilarious Moving Fails No Decent Mover Would Ever Make (VIDEO)

in Local moving, Long-Distance moving, Preparing for a move, Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

For most customers, moving nightmares might consist of being overcharged, having some items broken and *gasp* even having their furniture held hostage. Those are nightmares, but sometimes, the worst moves start with the best intentions.

The internet, the world’s repository for everything embarrassing, has compiled several hilarious (for those not experiencing them) moving fails. Most are do-it-yourselfers, trying to save a few bucks, but some are actual moving companies, and trust me, we’re embarrassed for all of them.

Of course, I’d be negligent in posting this hilarious video without offering a few words of advice. Number one, please never, ever try hoisting a piece of furniture out of (or into) a window without help from professionals who have the right equipment.

Even experienced movers are reluctant to hoist a piece of furniture through a window, without someone specifically trained in the science. Most movers can hoist furniture up one or maybe two floors, but it takes special ropes and equipment and it takes being very, very careful.

You’ll find very few in the moving industry who are against the idea of people moving themselves. Sometimes, it’s the least expensive and most practical way to get from point A to point B. Sometimes, though, people get in over their heads. If an item can’t make it through a door, rather than forcing it, take the door and frame off, with the proper tools, of course.

As for the people in this video who appeared to be pros, shame on them. Remember, a logo and a t-shirt doesn’t necessarily mean professionalism. Always be sure to check social media (Yelp, Facebook, Google) and review sites like Angie’s List before hiring a mover. You should also check licensing information.

Remember, if you’re moving yourself and you find yourself in a jam, there’s no shame in taking for help. You don’t want to be caught as one of these moving fails.

Why Does It Take So Long For You To Deliver My Goods To Another State?

in Long-Distance moving, Moving Costs by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Perhaps the biggest complaint movers get (other than about dishonest scam artists ripping people off) is that it can take weeks and sometimes more than a month for goods to be delivered across country.

It makes sense. You could drive across country in a matter of days. Moving trucks aren’t exploring the sights. They aren’t stopping at cool restaurants and they don’t have time to admire the world’s largest ball of yarn.

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So why does it take so long for your goods to be delivered? Well, it’s a bit complicated.

I’m sure you’ve driven behind a semi-truck on the highway, only to be frustrated at having to go so slow. While most can go a lot faster (and many do), it’s unsafe and driving too fast can cause rollovers and worse. Isn’t it better that your furniture arrive safely than not at all?

Drivers are restricted by the numbers of hours they can drive. It’s a confusing formula (drivers can drive 11 hours in a 14 hour period following 10 hours of being off duty), but let’s just say they are legally only allowed to drive about 11 hours a day.

Semi-trucks are more susceptible to weather. While most are equipped with chains in case of icy roads, under many circumstances, it’s simply dangerous for a semi-truck to be on the road. A large snowstorm could delay them by hours or days.

Road conditions and speed are just a tiny portion of it, though. The main reason your truck may take days or weeks is that your shipment will likely not be the only one on it. A semi-truck will hold the equivalent of about three two-bedroom homes. More if the homes are smaller and less if they are bigger. Let’s say you are moving to Florida. There might also be a shipment that’s being dropped off in Arizona and another in Texas. They might pick up a load or two in the Carolinas.

There is a way to ensure that your shipment will get there sooner, and it’s to pay more — often a lot more. Most movers will offer you the option of an exclusive shipment, but that means regardless of the size of your shipment, you will have to pay as if it takes up the entire truck.

Featured image via Wikimedia.

The Top 15 Places To Live In The United States

in Long-Distance moving by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

As Americans, we are lucky. As every third grader knows, our nation includes every landscape, every culture and so, so many choices.

Most moves are pretty much pre-determined. People move to specific places for jobs or for family, but what happens when you don’t know where to go? With rapidly rising Bay Area real estate prices, people are either being driven out of their homes or they are deciding to cash in and move where the cost of living is cheaper.

Every year, Livability.com rates cities as the best (and worst) places to live. They ranked cities that were between 20,000 and 350,000, so no tiny towns and no huge cities. The cities were ranked based on amenities, demographics, economy, education, health care, housing, social issues, transportation and infrastructure.

Here are the cities:

Fargo_Theatre_-_FargoFargo, North Dakota. They have a low unemployment rate and a cheap cost of living. The median home price is just $157,900.

US-KS-OverlandPark-2005-11-21T214307Overland Park, Kansas. They have a low crime rate and a great economy.

SONY DSC

Ft. Collins, Colorado. If you love the outdoors, legal pot and a casual culture, Ft. Collins could be the place for you.

Central_Park_San_Mateo_CASan Mateo, California. Okay, this one is right in our backyard. In fact, it literally is our backyard, but as you know, the economy is strong, there’s a lot to do and there are tons of jobs. There is a reason the cost of living is so high. People love it.

Walnut_Creek_view_from_Acalanes_Open_SpaceWalnut Creek, California. Clean, great schools, great outdoor activities. Again, in our backyard.

Sioux_Falls-waterfallSioux Falls, South Dakota. Lots to do and cheap housing.

Old_Capitol_Iowa_City_2013Iowa City, Iowa. It’s a college town with great primary schools and a surprising cultural life.

Ann_Arbor_E_Liberty_StAnn Arbor, Michigan. Another college town that’s very culturally rich.

Bismark,_ND_CapitolBismarck, North Dakota. Cheap housing, great healthcare, lots of outdoor activities. The winters can be tough, though.

1280px-Fraternal_Hall_Building,_140_University_Ave.,_Palo_Alto,_CA_5-27-2012_2-56-35_PMPalo Alto, California. We know.

BouldercoloradoBoulder, Colorado. A great college town, but best for liberals. Boulderites enjoy the outdoors like no one else. There’s skiing, rock climbing, miles and miles of serious hiking, and don’t forget, you can relax with a microbrew and, if you so desire, a legal joint.

Aerial-SantaBarbaraCA10-28-08Santa Barbara, California. The only city in the southern part of our state. What’s not to love about Santa Barbara? Beautiful people, beautiful beaches and beautiful architecture.

The_Red_Gym_from_the_TerraceMadison, Wisconsin. The capital of Wisconsin is an oasis for liberals in a conservative state. As a college town, Madison is cultured and educated.

1280px-Bellevue,_WA_-_Downtown_Park_02Bellevue, Washington. Best known for outdoor activities, although the cost of living is high.

Roch_nightRochester, Minnesota. Rochester was ranked the best city for 2015. it’s a city on the rise. It’s home to the Mayo Clinic and the general quality of life is very high. Again, though, the weather.

Featured image via Wikipedia.

10 Reasons To Move To Portland

in Long-Distance moving, Posts by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Tired of the high cost of living or of the traffic, but love the West Coast vibe and mild seasons? If you’re anything like me, the answer to that question is a resounding, yes!

Now, I have no plans on leaving the area. Ninja Movers just moved us into a new, overpriced house and we’re kind of stuck loving it, at least for the time being, and to be fair, we really do love it.

Perhaps it’s a side-effect of spending more than two decades in and around the moving industry, but even though the Bay Area is our beloved home, we’re always on the lookout and Portland is at or near the top of every list.

We aren’t the only ones. Oregon, for the third year in a row, is the go-to destination for more and more people who are fleeing their current homes. Why is Oregon so appealing?

1.

Cost of living

While a median home price of $335,000 might not sound that appealing to middle America, for those of us in the Bay Area, it’s nearly pocket change. In San Francisco, the median price is more than three times that.

2.

Climate

We love our mild winters and our almost cold summers in the Bay Area, and in Portland, it’s similar. Its temperatures are mild and while they might get a lot of rain in the winter, they, like us, get very little in the summer.

3.

Portland is cool

Whether you’re a 20-something hipster or a not 20-something former hipster (or hippie), there is something to offer everyone in Portland. Oh, and did I mention they love their beer? You can drink almost everywhere, including the zoo. There is a thriving art scene and frankly, a thriving scene of people doing whatever the heck they want.

4.

Food

Portland might not be the hub of fine dining, and really, who cares? Portland, like the Bay Area, is casual. The city is filled with food trucks, which are far more democratic anyway.

5.

Bikes

In the Bay Area, we pride ourselves in being green, but we are sorely lacking in safe places to bike. In Portland, bikes are put before cars. The environment loves it.

6.

Food, part two

Yes, we’re also near the ocean, but the Bay Area has nothing on Portland for seafood.

7.

Traffic

San Francisco has one of the longest commute times in the country. In Portland, you’ll average about an hour a week less on the road.

8.

People are nice

This can’t be quantified, but Portland is known for having very polite residents.

9.

It’s a great place to raise a family

Portland consistently ranks among the best places to raise children. It’s safe, with lots to do and great air quality.

10.

No sales tax

Need we say more?

Featured image via Flickr.

What To Pack To Tide You Over Till The Movers Arrive

in Long-Distance moving, Preparing for a move by Ninja Movers Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

One of the most difficult parts of moving cross country is coordinating the timing. Unless you have a large home, it’s likely that your goods will share space with other shipments.

Don’t worry; movers take thorough inventories both loading and unloading, so things don’t get mixed up. What that does mean, though, is that because the moving truck has to make numerous stops and because semi trucks go slower than cars anyway, there will likely be a lag time between when you arrive at your new home and when the movers do. Yes, that will be an inconvenience, but one that will soon be forgotten and if you do it right, you can create some memories.

What you should pack will obviously depend on the amount of room you have in your car. If you are flying, you’ll obviously pack even less. If you are staying in a hotel room (generally recommended), you won’t need as many items as you would if you stay in your new home. Here are some packing ideas. Be sure to customize them to your situation.

1. Clothing – This one is obvious. Unless you have access to laundry, add a few days worth of clothing to the mover’s time estimate. It may not be the mover’s fault, but things do happen that delay shipments.

2. Toiletries – Again, this is obvious. If you are short on space, you can purchase soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, etc. at your destination. I recommend bringing at least daytime makeup, however and a moisturizer. If you are moving to a dryer climate, bring lotion and lip balm.

3. Toys – There’s nothing worse than bored kids. Family games are a great way to pass the time, as is family reading time. Find the library in your new town. You probably won’t have a TV, but you will likely have smartphones and tablets, if the kids have them, are highly recommended. As far as actual toys, allow your kids their very favorite (if it’s small enough) but more than that can be too much.

4. Electronics – Smaller is better. Bring whatever you need for work and phones and tablets.

5. Pets – Bring your animals’ bowls and a couple of small toys for them. Don’t forget their leashes and collars. It’s also a good idea to travel with their veterinary records. I recommend crates for each of your pets along with their favorite beds.

6. Jewelry – Take all valuable jewelry with you, without exception.

7. Paperwork – Ditto on irreplaceable or difficult to replace paperwork. Bring everyone’s medical records, birth certificates, passports, car titles, etc.

8. Cleaning supplies – I don’t recommend moving your cleaning supplies unless you have a lot of room. They are generally too easy to replace. If you are staying in your new house, however, you might want to bring a vacuum.

9. Folding lawn furniture and inflatable beds – Again, for if you are staying in your new house.

10. Sleeping bags.

If you fear running out of room, the post office can be a great way to get some things to you faster.

 

 

How To Move A Car

in Long-Distance moving by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Car_transporter_001You’ve made arrangements for packing and moving. You’re all set to go, except for one not so little detail – your car needs to somehow arrive at your destination and there’s no one to drive it.

Some movers will move your car, and I will get to that in a bit, but most movers work closely with an auto shipping service.

An auto shipping service works one of two ways. If your car runs and it’s not extremely high-value, you might choose an open carrier, which is the least expensive option. Open carriers are like you see on every major highway. New cars are typically shipped on an open carrier. Like moving companies, auto shipping companies charge based on a formula of weight and distance. Typically, you might pay around $800 up to $2,000. If you are flexible on delivery times, you might be able to negotiate a slightly lower rate.

If your car is high-value, you can ship it in a closed container. This is quite costly, but it will protect your car from potential road damage. Some moving companies offer closed container options.

If your car does not run, it will be considerably more costly, since it will need to be loaded and unloaded onto the shipping trailer.

Before you ship your car:

  • Wash, vacuum it and do a thorough inspection. Take lots of pictures, including any damage your car already has. You’ll need this on the other end.
  • Remove anything personal.
  • Fold in the mirrors, if they fold and lower the antenna if possible. Put the top up if it’s a convertible.
  • Leave just a bit of gas in the tank to lessen the weight. You will need enough to load and unload it, though.
  • Disable the car alarm.

 

If you aren’t worried about putting additional miles on your car and you’re okay with the idea of someone else driving it, there are individuals and services that will drive your car for you, often for a considerable savings, although you will have to pay for gas.

You can find drivers on Craigslist or Autodriveaway prequalifies drivers, but you may pay a little more than with Craigslist. However, they are fully insured against damage or theft.

How To Help Your Spouse Through The Move

in Advice, Long-Distance moving by Ninja Movers Leave a comment
Image from Flickr

Image from Flickr

I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to a show called, “House Hunters.” In particular, I’m hooked on the international version. If you’ve never seen it, the premise is pretty straightforward. A realtor shows buyers three homes and they are (allegedly) supposed to choose one of the three. While my focus is supposed to be on the presence or absence of double vanities and granite countertops, charm or modernity, their conflict often comes from spousal differences in opinion. Some of the worst have been in episodes where one spouse is clearly ambivalent about the move altogether. This may or may not be fake, but moving tension is a very real phenomenon. How does an otherwise happy couple adjust when one member would rather just stay put?

Moving is stressful even if everyone in the family is onboard. Whether it be about a job transfer or to be closer to one side of the family, big moves are often quite one-sided. But, with a little understanding and support, the move can be less stressful for even the people who want to stay put.

1. Ask your spouse what they need in a home – Before selecting a home, sit down with your spouse and ask what his or her priorities are. You already got a big concession. Give the next one or two to your spouse.

2. Make it as easy on your spouse as possible – It’s bad enough that your spouse is less than enthusiastic about the move, but you’re making them do all the work? Hire a mover or a move coordinator. Let the mover pack if you can afford it. If not, arrange for some help. Hire a cleaning person to clean both the old and new home.

3. Take your spouse on a romantic date in the new area – Find a nice restaurant. Take an evening stroll through the town. Walk by your new home. Help your spouse fall in love with the new community.

4. Help your spouse find people with common interests – Remember, you have a built in social network – your coworkers. Your spouse won’t have that. Help her or him meet new people. Meetup.com is a great way to start. Look into various groups with common interests.

5. Don’t leave your spouse with all the work of finding service professionals. Help find daycare, pet care, hair salons, gyms, etc. Yelp is a great resource. So is word of mouth.

6. Be patient – It’s possible that your spouse won’t be very happy the first few months after a move. Try to be understanding and ask what you can do to help.

How To Ensure You’re Hiring An Honest Mover

in Long-Distance moving by Ninja Movers 1 Comment
Image by Flickr

Image by Flickr

Our heads would have to be buried in the sand if we don’t acknowledge that the moving industry has a bad reputation. Some bad companies really have spoiled the entire bunch with tactics such as holding goods hostage and refusing to make good when they make mistakes. Fortunately for those of us to take laws and customer service very seriously, the federal government is cracking down on the bad guys.

Toward the end of last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the Department of Transportation, shut down five movers. All five were located in the southeast (Florida, South Carolina and Maryland) and all five were licensed.

They were:

  • Allegiant Van Lines, Inc., USDOT No. 1712687, based in Davie, Fla.;
  • Northern Van Lines, Inc., USDOT No. 1147457, based in Cooper City, Fla.;
  • Northeastern Vanlines, Inc., USDOT No. 1212003, based in Pembroke Pines, Fla.;
  • United West Moving and Storage, Inc., USDOT No. 1827150, based in Anderson, S.C.; and
  • Direct Movers, Inc., USDOT No. 1666092, based in Pikesville, Md.

FMCSA’s Moving Fraud Task Force began investigating Allegiant Van Lines, Inc. in response to consumer complaints that the company illegally held customers’ possessions hostage. The company failed to respond to federal orders charging it with improperly holding hostage goods. The company has been suspended from operating for at least one year. In addition, it has been issued fines of over $88,000 for safety and commercial violations.

During the course of the investigation into Allegiant, FMCSA discovered the company’s owner also operated Northern Van Lines, Inc. and Northeastern Vanlines, Inc. of Florida, and United West Moving and Storage, Inc. of South Carolina. Combined, more than 100 complaints have been filed against the three related companies in the National Consumer Complaint Database. They now face fines of over $31,000 total and have also been suspended from operating for at least one year.

Maryland-based Direct Movers, Inc. was also shut down, and their DOT No. inactivated, for failing to comply with an FMCSA demand for records involving a shipment being held hostage.

Source: FMCSA.dot.gov

It’s not a coincidence that so many of these companies are based out of Florida. In the last three decades, it has been somewhat of a hub for disreputable moving companies, although all states have their share of bad apples.

Can Florida companies affect us here in California?

In a word, yes. When you request moving estimates through one of the sites online that promises you three or more quotes, there’s a good chance that at least two of them will be from another state. Sometimes, they’ll have someone to look at your home, but it’s often a person with no real relationship to the company and virtually nothing to lose from giving you a dishonest estimate.

How can you tell the difference?

When you are planning a move, even if you are moving out of state, your first point of contact is always a local mover. Always ask for a “binding” or “not to exceed” onsite estimate. Sure, it takes a bit of your time (about an hour) to get an onsite estimate, but it’s worth it. It is impossible for a phone estimate to be fully guaranteed. Ask for licensing information and even if you are moving out of state, ask for the mover’s state licensing information and check with your state licensing division. Check them out on Yelp and with the BBB.

Hopefully, the federal government will continue to crack down on bad movers. Believe me when I say that Ninja Movers will be cheering when these movers are taken out of the equation, but until then, be careful. Know your rights and don’t take anyone’s word for anything.

How To Deal With A Bad Move

in Local moving, Long-Distance moving, Moving Costs by Ninja Movers Leave a comment
Definitely a bad move. Image from Ripoff Report.

Definitely a bad move. Image from Ripoff Report.

It’s probably weird to see a moving company acknowledging the prospect of a bad move, but unfortunately, they happen. Despite the fact that we are the number one rated mover in Silicon Valley, we sometimes screw up. In fact one of the reasons we are rated so highly is that when we do screw up, we admit it and we take care of it.

Most moves get screwed up in one of four ways; either something is broken, delivery is late, movers are rude or the cost goes over the estimate. Of course, there are other ways, but those are the most common and the ones that even the best movers are sometimes guilty of.

If your move gets screwed up, the first thing you want to do is acknowledge it. I doubt there isn’t a business on the planet that hasn’t encountered a customer who seemed happy until they filed a report with the BBB or posted a negative review on Yelp. Heck, even I’ve done that. Sometimes it’s easier to express your feelings, unchallenged, in writing, than to confront someone, and sometimes movers are big and sound a little scary. Who can blame a person?

The truth is, though, that any good moving company wants the opportunity to make things right. They also want to correct potential bad habits before more customers are affected. The bottom line is, complain, but try to stay calm. Calm customers, of all businesses, tend to do better in negotiation than do irate customers.

If something is broken

Unfortunately, this might be the biggest sticking point between movers and customers. Most movers only cover your move by pound. In other words, your goods don’t even have a dollar value. There’s a good reason for that. A $5,000 dining room table is moved in much the same way as a $500 dining room table. Of course, good movers will take extra precautions with high value items, but the way the move is handled is not based on value. A college student moving from a dorm room deserves a quality move as much as their parents do. For that reason, most customers purchase extra moving insurance.

The best way to handle a damaged item is to contact the mover as soon as possible. They will want to know and they should offer you something, even if it is just $.60 per pound per item. Then, contact the insurance company. They will also contact the moving company.

Late delivery

This one is tough because sometimes there are things that are simply out of a mover’s control. The best advice is to be patient, but to acknowledge your specific inconveniences. If you are staying in a hotel room or if you are having to rent furniture, let the mover know. Depending on the circumstances, the mover might help defray or completely cover your out-of-pocket expenses. You can also ask for a small discount on your move.

Rude movers

First, remember that on moving day, emotions tend to run high. People are trying to deal with the movers, finish packing (if applicable) and often, deal with their kids. On top of that, complete strangers are occupying every corner of their homes. Who wouldn’t be cranky? Don’t put up with rude movers, but before you pick up the phone, ask yourself if you might be able to help rectify the situation on your own. Most movers have natural skills when it comes to relaxing tense situations, but sometimes, you catch someone on a bad day, or worse, you catch someone who should not be in any sort of customer service industry. Call the company immediately. Trust me, they will fix the problem, even if it means replacing the bad seed.

The cost went over the estimate

This is a tough one. An estimate, by definition, is just an estimate. The exception is if you receive a binding estimate. In which case, the cost should never go above unless you haven’t upheld your end of the bargain. The key is to make sure that all i’s are dotted and all t’s are crossed before the move begins. Know exactly what you are expected to do. If you are supposed to pack everything, make sure everything, including pictures on the wall and mattresses are packed. Most people find it easier for the mover to do odd shaped items like that.

If you have upheld your end of the bargain, complain. Find out exactly why it went over. Perhaps there were unanticipated problems at the delivery address, like stairs or perhaps the elevator wasn’t available. Understand that reputable movers want to honor their estimates, even if circumstances are a bit different. However, when the move ends up being much larger or more complicated than originally planned, they do need to cover their own costs. This is a time to negotiate.

Unfortunately, the world is filled with bad movers. That’s why the industry has such a bad reputation, but the last thing you want to do is assume that your mover is just like all the bad guys if you were careful in choosing them. If you chose your mover simply based on price, there’s a good chance that they don’t care if you are happy in the end. If you did your due diligence and checked Yelp and the BBB, you probably have a good one and they will bend over backwards to make you happy.

 

 

 

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