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San Francisco Second Best City For Women In Business

in Bay Area News by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

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Everyone knows that, thanks in large part to the high-tech industries, the Bay Area has a bustling economy. As it turns out, that might be especially true for women. In an analysis from NerdWallet, San Francisco has been rated #2 city for entrepreneurial women.

The study, which measured:

  1. Business-friendliness: We looked at the number of businesses per 100 residents to assess a city’s entrepreneurial climate.
  2. Presence of female entrepreneurs: We took a look at the percentage of businesses that are owned by women to measure how friendly each location is to female entrepreneurs.
  3. Earnings of female workers: To assess the earning potential women have in each city, we used the median earnings for full-time female workers.
  4. Education level: Studies have shown that education correlates with entrepreneurship. To measure the presence of educated workers, we looked at the percentage of residents 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  5. Economic state: In order to assess whether a city has an economy suitable for entrepreneurial success, we examined unemployment rate.

Washington, D.C. was ranked #1 because of the sheer number of women entrepreneurs. San Francisco has the highest median income for full-time women and the most women-run businesses. Seattle is #3 for being one of the most educated cities. Minneapolis for its low unemployment rate and high number of women-run buildings. #5 is Portland, Ore., for its education rate and number of businesses.

The top ten is rounded out with Atlanta, Denver, Austin, San Jose and Boston.

Just one more reason that we see more people moving into the Bay Area than we see moving out.

Study from: NerdWallet

How To Ensure You’re Hiring An Honest Mover

in Long-Distance moving by Wendy Gittleson 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.

You Want San Francisco’s Hottest Neighborhoods? Follow The Bus

in Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image of Google bus protest from Flickr

Image of Google bus protest from Flickr

If you are looking for a place to live in the city of San Francisco, you likely fall into one of two camps – you are either looking for the hottest, best location or you are looking for something that resembles affordability. If you are among the first, you might want to throw away your outdated guide to San Francisco and head to the nearest Google bus stop.

Chris Walker, who grew up in Union City, but lives in Mumbai, India, where he works in international development, mapped the places where the Google shuttle stops to economic development. He found that the areas around the Google bus stops were the most prosperous.

“San Francisco has always been a really expensive place to live, but I wanted to see if these neighborhoods had become even more gentrified and affluent with the arrival of all these tech workers who commute to the South Bay,” said Walker. “Broadly, I think the data does show that.”

As Walker sees it, technology companies stationed their bus stops in fun, hip neighborhoods where their young workers were increasingly moving. Those new residents, with plenty of disposable income, prompted more new restaurants, cafes and bars to open – drawing more tech workers, raising housing prices and luring more new businesses.

Source: SF Gate

The shuttles don’t only belong to Google. Apple, Yahoo and Facebook all hire private shuttles to pick up their San Francisco employees and take them to their Silicon Valley and Peninsula offices. The hub is the Mission and the shuttles service the Castro, South of Market, North Beach and more.

 

Not all is happy in Google shuttle areas, though. The average tech shuttle rider is young, male and earning six figures. Not only are the shuttles changing the looks of the neighborhood, but long time residents are being pushed out, due to rising rents and rising property taxes. This is causing a lot of tension, but even for those who are staying, many feel they are losing the neighborhood feel and cultural diversity.

The tech sector did not create the problem of inequality in San Francisco. The city has long been among the most expensive to live in America. But by gravitating towards certain neighborhoods, tech sector workers amplify and accelerate the gentrification process that was already happening there. They feed into the clusters of affluence in much of the northeast corner of the city, which has led to a recent uptick in evictions and several protests over affordability.

Source: Datawovn.com

Click here if you are interested in seeing the neighborhoods where the shuttles stop and their concentration of cafes and restaurants.

Property values and gentrification aren’t the only issues the Google busses are facing. Residents are complaining about traffic congestion. The city is holding open houses on February 10th and 22nd to determine if the neighbors should have a say in where the busses stop.

How To Deal With A Bad Move

in Local moving, Long-Distance moving, Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson 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.

 

 

 

How To Get A (Mostly) Accurate Estimate Online Or On The Phone

in Local moving, Long-Distance moving, Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

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Getting an accurate moving estimate can be tricky. Most of the time, it’s recommended that you get an in-person estimate, which should be a free service offered by any moving company. However, there are times when that might not be possible. Maybe you can’t arrange a time to meet with an estimator or maybe your move is small enough it can be handled over the phone, and with the right preparation on your part, it is possible to get a fairly accurate assessment of your moving costs. The key, of course, is to pick a reputable mover and give them an accurate assessment of your move.

Grab a pen and paper or a tablet

Before you call the mover, inventory everything in your home. You know how sometimes you can’t find your keys when they were right in front of you? The human memory can play tricks on you. When you look at a space every single day, you tend to overlook and forget things. Everyone does it. That’s why you need to tour your own home, as if you were a stranger, and write everything down. If things are under or over-sized, take measurements. Don’t leave anything out.

Are there stairs? Do you have narrow doorways? Do you remember any challenges moving items into your home? Are there particular hours that the movers need to be there? Are there parking restrictions? Can a large moving van pull right up to your front door? No? How far away does it need to park? If possible, answer the same questions for your moving destination.

Estimate the number of boxes. If you are average, you will probably have about 20 boxes. If you have a lot of books and you are moving more than about 200 miles away, let the mover know. Books are heavy and long-distance moves are charged by weight. On average, each shelf of books equals one box. Each drawer of clothing equals one box. Each two linear feet of closet space equals one box. Each set of dishes equals one box. Fine china and extremely delicate items need more space, so double the box count for them.

Even with a sight-unseen estimate, you are still entering into a contract. The contract will be broken if any of the terms are different. Don’t try to fool the mover by saying your move is smaller than it is. That is the number one reason people complain about their moves – the mover thought it was smaller and the price had to rise. Often, the mover is at fault. It’s the moving estimator’s responsibility to ask you all the right questions, but quite often, items are forgotten or overlooked and it tends to make for unhappy customers.

Avoid movers who don’t ask a lot of questions. It’s to everyone’s benefit for them to get details, like the size of your dining room table and the number of chairs being moved. They should ask about your electronics and whether you have the original packing material. They should ask how many people live there, how many bedrooms, etc. Once you get off the phone with a good moving estimator, you should feel as if you each know each other well and you should feel very comfortable with them. Don’t rush the process. It won’t take that long, but if it’s rushed, you can almost guarantee that something will be left off. Plan about 30 minutes. It will probably be less, but you should make that time.

 

Decorating Trends For 2014

in Decorating by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
From Lushome.com

Middle Eastern Inspired Interior with soft colors, from Lushome.com

It’s still only January, but spring is right around the corner. Soon, Mother Nature will freshen up, lighten up and brighten up. Why not do the same with your indoor surroundings? Here are a few ideas to give your home some up to date touches.

Walls are getting lighter. Look for “blushes” of color, like pink, blue or even white. Contrast them with dark, masculine tones, especially in furniture and wall coverings.

One big color, according to Brian Patrick Flynn of Flynnside Out Productions, is my perennial favorite (I use it as a neutral), red-violet. Another trendy color is navy blue.

Instyle Indulgence Interiors disagrees on the wall colors. They predict dark and glamorous. “Move over white walls, in 2014 we’ll be seeing rooms with a lot more drama and glamour. Dark, moody walls in black will be the perfect backdrop to the metallic accessories that we’re all loving right now.”

Elle Decor calls “radiant orchid” the color of 2014. It’s a light, almost mauvey purple. All of their color picks are subdued – perhaps not quite a blush, but not the strong colors seen in recent years past.

For kitchens, white is coming back, even in appliances. For many years now, stainless steel and granite was the go-to look for modern kitchens. Whirlpool has introduced its “white ice” look, which is a stainless accented white. This is good news for people who spend too much time chasing after fingerprints on stainless steel, but it might be slow to catch on. White countertops and cabinets are also big for 2014.

Metallic accessories (other than appliances) are one of the things almost everyone agrees about this year, but the difference between now and in the past, is that mixing metals, is the way to add interest. Try combining flat and shiny metals as well as different tones.

2014, like 2013, will be the year of do-it-yourselfers. Beat up vintage furniture can get a brand new and completely unique face with some work from you. I’m also seeing a lot of paint, whether it be on furniture or even on kitchen cabinets.

Another unique DIY idea is to upholster wood furniture, for a softer look and one that will cover all flaws.

Look for florals, similar to what your grandmother might have had (and that’s not a bad thing), especially in the spring. In fact, traditional, elegant looks are all the rage right now. Imagine Nob Hill or New York’s Upper East Side, circa almost any time.

If traditional isn’t your thing, go funky, even kitchy. According to the Wall Street Journal, macramé is coming back. Can hanging spider plants be too far behind? Bohemian is also hot, but with more subdued colors. Look for middle eastern inspired patterns.

Whatever your tastes, you will find trends that you can work with. Of course, if you don’t want to go all out and make major changes, a few modern accessories and throw pillows can change the entire look of a room.

Where Are People Moving? 2013 Addition

in Long-Distance moving by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Map from United Van Lines

Map from United Van Lines

More than perhaps any other industry, trends in moving paint pictures of the nation as a whole. It can tell us which areas are economically vibrant and which ones are suffering. Every year, United Van Lines puts out a list of where people are moving to and from. How does their list compare to Ninja Movers’?

United lists Oregon as the number one destination, (meaning more people are moving to Oregon than away from it) and while the vast majority of our customers are staying right here in the Bay Area, Oregon is our top out of state destination, followed by Washington state.

Where else are people moving to? South Carolina is number two, followed by North Carolina, Washington DC, South Dakota, Nevada, Texas and Colorado, which is a newby to the list.

“Business incentives, industrial growth and relatively lower costs of living are attracting jobs and people to the Southeastern and Western states such as South Dakota, Colorado and Texas,” said Michael Stoll, economist, professor and chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’re also seeing continued migration to the Pacific Northwest as young professionals and retirees are drawn to amenities including public transit, green space and the local arts and entertainment scene.”

Things aren’t looking so positive for New Jersey, the state with the highest percentage of people leaving. Number two is Illinois, followed by New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, Utah, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Mexico.

Some states broke about even. Those include Nebraska, Tennessee, Iowa, Alabama, Louisiana and Indiana. For the first time since 1997, Michigan didn’t see an exodus. Perhaps that bodes well for Detroit.

11 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

in Advice, Holidays by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

bright-new-year-2014

The New Year, it seems, is a time when everyone takes inventory of their lives and vows to make a fresh start. It rarely works. In fact, the diet and fitness industries make the majority of their money by signing people up who don’t have the follow-through to keep with it, but keep paying for the hope. Don’t be discouraged, though. The mistake most people make is making changes that are too big. Their lives simply don’t have room to add an hour plus at the gym or for cooking separate meals. But all is not hopeless. You can make real and significant changes in your life without making overly dramatic changes.

1. Hug More Often – Consciously spend just an extra 30 seconds a day hugging each member of your family, including your pets. That alone will help lower blood pressure, ease anxiety and even help your memory. Interestingly, hugging strangers actually causes more stress.

2. Workout During Commercials – Little bouts of exercise really add up. If you watch two hours of TV a day, you will be subjected to about 30 minutes of commercials. Instead of sitting on the sofa fast forwarding through the commercials, use them as an opportunity. Run or walk in place, do jumping jacks, do pushups or do some weight exercises. Just get moving. If you’re anything like me, you’ll continue the activity long after the commercials end.

3. Read at Least 10 Pages of a Book Before Bed – Reading is becoming a lost art. We spend much of our free time in front of computer screens instead of in front of a good old fashioned book (books on tablets are okay). Vow to read a chapter a night and if that’s too much (my current book has chapters that are over 100 pages), read 10 pages a night. Your brain will thank you and you’ll be more interesting at parties.

4. Spend 15 Minutes a Day Cleaning Something You Don’t Normally Clean – Take off the handles on your stove, clean behind your refrigerator, vacuum the insides of your sofa, clean a couple of windows. You will be healthier and a lot less stressed.

5. Call One Friend a Week – I have friends that cover more than half the country. I rarely talk to them, but I really enjoy when I do. This year, I vow to talk to one of them once a week.

6. Inventory Your Friends – Sometimes, we have people in our lives who add nothing. In fact, they often leave us feeling worse about ourselves than before we talked to them. If you have friends that aren’t making a positive contribution to your life, dump them. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. Just say something like, “I really don’t think we bring out the best in each other. Perhaps, it’s best if we focus our energies on our other friendships.” I had to do that. My friend didn’t take it well (although she agreed that we didn’t bring out the best in each other), but I stood firm and I feel much happier for it.

7. Digitize One Thing a Day – Recently, my Ninjas delivered a beautiful media center that I bought at a little antique shop in Pacifica. Despite the fact that it’s pretty sizable, several boxes of CDs and DVDs still remain in storage. I can store my electronic media to iTunes (or the equivalent). Video media can be played back on most BluRay players, Apple TV, Roku and TiVo. If I digitize just one a day, I’ll have 365 fewer movies and CDs I’ll have to worry about storing. They aren’t built to last forever. This will keep you from having to replace them years down the road. If you’re not comfortable with iTunes or a cloud storage option, store them on an external hard drive. Scan interesting magazine articles. Sell books that you have no future interest in reading. You’ll be happy come your next moving day.

8. Deal with 10 Pieces of Clutter a Day – Either find them homes or get rid of them.

9. Replace Sugary Treats With Dark Chocolate – It’s nearly impossible to overeat dark chocolate and, unlike most candy, it actually has health benefits.

10. Buy a Slow-Cooker – Make a big batch of something tasty and healthy. The leftovers will keep you going for at least a couple of days and it will keep you from eating fast food.

11. Smile and Say Hello to One Stranger a Day – Who knows, you might actually make a friend or two.

 

Our Five Favorite Holiday Songs

in Holidays by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

 

 

 

christmas

 

The holidays, of course, are a time for family, but sometimes, the family can get a bit restless. Perhaps that’s why Christmas is the time of year that comes with the deepest soundtrack – one that’s sure to soothe even the most anxious for Santa souls. Here are a few of our Ninja favorites. Enjoy.

5. Bing Crosby and David Bowie cross generations with this beautifully sung a capella rendition of the “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.”

4. It would be a true Christmas miracle if the Bay Area saw snow this year, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying Ole Blue Eyes from crooning his version of “Let It Snow.”

3. Bob Dylan isn’t always the über serious folkster. In this version of “It Must be Santa,” Dylan lets loose and gives us something truly infectious. Try not tapping your toes.

2. Not everyone is with family this Christmas. Some people are home alone, or worse, have been left home alone. If you have Christmas angst (and who doesn’t), vent it with this punk rock version of an anti-Christmas song. From Kate Nash, “I Hate You This Christmas.”

1. No modern list is complete without this modern classic from Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas.”

To be fair, there are a lot more than five favorites, but we had limited space. Please, feel free to  share yours in the comments.

How To Move Your Car Across Country

in Long-Distance moving, Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you’re moving cross-country, one of the toughest decisions you can make is when to drive and when to fly. Even if you do choose to drive, there is often a second or even a third vehicle to worry about. With some proper planning and armed with a little information, moving your car(s) can be convenient and might even save you some money.

Some moving companies own car transporters, but most do not. However, your moving consultant will be happy to arrange for your car’s transportation through a highly reputable company.

Before moving your car, you want to ask yourself how valuable the car is to you. If it’s a family car, standard auto moving, which is on top of an open car transport trailer, is safe and appropriate. However, even the most careful car transport company can encounter road hazards and little scrapes and dings from debris. If the car is extremely valuable or a collector’s item, it could be beneficial to have your car moved inside a truck, keeping it out of the way of environmental harm. You can plan on enclosed shipping nearly doubling the cost.

There are several factors that go into the pricing of moving your car. To cut down on cost, you want to make it as convenient for the car mover as possible.

Know your car – The pricing of car transportation is based in part on weight and size. Know the make, model and year of your car. Notify the carrier of any modifications that could change the weight of the car. The car will be weighed. If you are moving across country, look to spend from about $750 to over $2,000.

Does the car run? – If your car doesn’t run, it will take a lot of expensive effort just to load it and unload it onto and off the truck. The car carrier will be able to handle the job, but it will cost extra.

Bring it to them – If possible, take the car to the car transport company’s lot, especially if you are outside a major metropolitan area. The further out of the way a company goes, the more it’s going to cost.

Take pictures – The car carrier will make a thorough inventory of the condition of your car, but taking your own 360 degree pictures will help if any issues should arise.

Prices fluctuate quickly – Much of the cost of moving a car, like moving anything else, is the cost of the fuel required to complete the move. Higher fuel prices will mean higher moving prices, and they can change from today to tomorrow.

Ninja Movers will be able to assist you with all your auto transport needs.

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