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What To Do When A Move Goes Very, Very Wrong

in Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Moving, even with the best most experienced mover, isn’t an exact science. Sometimes miscommunications happen and sometimes, accidents happen.

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Clearly, the best movers won’t have as many miscommunications and accidents as the *well* less respected movers, but the true test of a moving company is how they treat you after they collect your money, not before.

The beginning of the move should set up the entire experience. The crew leader should present you with some paperwork. Essentially, it’s a contract that allows them to move you. It might contain the estimate you’ve already received (always get an estimate beforehand, preferably in person, especially if you have a large home). It’s called an Order for Service.

If any of the movers are rude or disrespectful, call the company immediately. If the mover’s attitude doesn’t make a quick turnaround, ask that he be replaced. It’s possible that they might have to change that mover out with one on another job, so if it takes an hour or two, that’s okay. Just ask that that mover work outside instead of in front of you.

Odds are, you won’t find damages or misplaced items before a mover leaves your home. When you do find them, document them. Before turning to Yelp and other review sites, call the company. Most movers want their customers to be happy. While the odds are you don’t have full replacement value insurance through the mover (this is available through private companies and it’s highly recommended — discuss it with your consultant), good movers will try to help in any way they can. As when talking to anyone, though, remaining calm will typically get you the furthest.

If you feel you were overcharged, contact the operations manager. He or she will be able to go through each and every charge. You should have an exact start and finish time on local moves. On long distance moves, you should have a copy of the weight or the cubic footage of your shipment. Typically, extra charges come from unexpected packing. Compare the amount of packing that the movers did to the amount of packing they were contracted to do. Did you pack everything, including pictures on the walls, lamps and electronics? Your moving consultant should have spoken to you about each of those items, but the bottom line is, if an item isn’t furniture (and in rare cases if it is), it needs to be in a box to ensure that it’s well protected. Even your mattresses and box springs will need to be protected during a move. If you did all of that, then by all means, find out where the discrepancies are.

If your goods are delivered late, it’s usually due to circumstances not under the movers’ control. Usually. Ask for an explanation, and again, remain calm. Movers make money by freeing up their truck space as quickly as possible, so there’s no reason for a decent mover to keep your goods longer than they absolutely need to, unless…

If you’ve done all of this and discussed any problems with the company, all to no avail, it may be time to file a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission, or the Federal Department of Transportation.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Is The Moving Industry Really The Most Crooked In The Country?

in Articles by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

For the last couple of decades, the moving industry has suffered from a bad case of public relations blues, some of it earned, some of it not. Between horror stories shown on network TV, websites like Movingscam.com and this Newsweek article from last month, it’s no wonder truck rental companies are so popular. Is this reputation deserved, though? The facts say no.

Image via Wikimedia.

Image via Wikimedia.

The American Moving and Storage Association is the trade association for the moving industry, so yes, they are biased, but at the same time, it’s in their best interests to ensure that the companies represented by them are top notch. They responded to the blistering Newsweek article. Here’s some of the response:

“In response to the Dec. 9 article, “Why the Moving Industry Is Filled with Fraudsters and Scam Artists,” millions of Americans move every year and the vast majority of professional moves end with satisfied customers. While there are criminals in every industry, their actions should not be used to unfairly smear the nearly 200,000 Americans—ranging from small family-run businesses to national van lines—who work for the professional moving and storage industry.

This story bears no relation to the wildly inaccurate headline attached to it. Only a couple of victims and a couple of fraudsters or scam artists are referenced, with none of the moves taking place in the past four years. This is hardly evidence of an industry “filled with” this problem.

Let’s look at the facts. According to data from the National Consumer Complaint Database, there were 3,030 complaints nationwide about household goods moves in 2015, while there were 364 complaints about “hostage loads.” These are a tiny fraction of the 800,000 interstate moves estimated to occur annually by the U.S. Census.

This in no way disputes the fact that yes, there are scam moving companies and they make us all look bad, but most are unlicensed and most are companies that are only around for a year or two. It’s true, anyone can buy a truck and call themselves a mover, but real movers have to go through steps, like licensing, that helps ensure that they will obey the laws.

Of course, every moving company has unhappy customers. Trucks break down, delays happen, sometimes things get broken and occasionally, left on the truck, but most moving companies have honest intentions.

That being said, it’s always good to do your homework. Take a look at the sites above and make sure the companies you’re looking at are properly licensed and they have decent reputations. Yelp is also a big help. Protect yourself, but don’t feel that hiring movers is too risky. There are bad apples in every industry, but overall, the moving industry is pretty safe.

Are Moving Brokers Always Crooks? How Do You Find A Good One?

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

You might have heard a lot about moving brokers, and most were probably cautionary tales. Moving brokers, or companies who coordinate moves through a network of several movers, have long had a reputation, often deserved, of being the industry’s biggest crooks. That’s only a little fair.

Sites like movingscam.com generally advise consumers to run from brokers like they have ebola. They aren’t usually wrong. That being said, moving with a broker is not always the worst idea.

First, let me clear one thing up, moving brokers are not generally licensed movers, but the law abiding ones do register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Laws are getting more strict around brokers, but you still want to protect yourself as you would when dealing with the mover themselves.

Think of a moving broker as being like any of the travel sites on the internet. Movers will often notify a broker if there is empty space on a truck going across country. For that reason, a broker can sometimes find you a good deal and they can save you a lot of legwork.

First, check out a broker on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration‘s website. Look for a company that has been in business for at least three years and is in good standing.

Next, insist that the broker come visit your home and give you a binding estimate. That means that the people who actually perform your move cannot change the price, as long as you do everything you said, such as pack. You will be charged for any extra work. Make sure the estimate you do receive includes absolutely everything, so you aren’t hit with surprises.

Believe it or not, your gut can be pretty reliable. If you feel like the person you are speaking to isn’t reliable or honest or they simply aren’t listening, move on. There are plenty of other moving companies and moving brokers.

10 Signs Of A Really Bad Mover

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

If you’ve ever watched Dateline or read a forum on the moving industry, you learn that there are a lot of bad movers out there. As a consumer, obviously, that’s bad news, but it does give good movers a real opportunity to set themselves from the pack. How does one go about figuring out which one is a bad mover?

Today, we’ll talk about the bad. If you open your eyes, there are plenty of red flags that movers will wave in your face. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what to look for. Here are 10 signs that you should run, run far, from a mover:

10. Their truck is a junker – Sure, there are honest ‘man with a van’ types, but as a general rule, a company that can’t even take good care of its trucks is probably not going to take care of your belongings.

9. Their movers don’t wear uniforms – A uniform, or even just a uniform t-shirt, is inexpensive for a moving company to purchase. People demand uniforms, and they should. For movers, their t-shirt is their company ID. Not only that, uniformity in clothing often indicates a more professional and uniform way of doing business.

8. They refuse to give you a “binding” or “not to exceed” quote – We hear every day, “they put it in writing.” Writing means nothing. Only a binding or not to exceed estimate hold any legal water, and that’s only if every piece of furniture and every bit of packing is inventoried. That means that someone needs to see your place, even if it’s a virtual tour and don’t leave a square inch out. Trust me, you will be charged more if you leave things out. If a mover refuses to do that, though, they are going to scam you.

7. They charge for tape – One of the biggest ripoffs is one of the least significant sounding: tape. Movers use a lot of tape. They tape boxes and even if you do all of your own packing, they use a lot of tape to wrap your furniture in blankets. Rolls of tape can cost $10.00 and up and you have no control over how much a mover uses.

6. They promise you something too good to be true – No mover can move you from California to Florida in two days. It can’t be done. If a mover makes this promise, they are lying.

5. Their price is much lower than others – The moving industry is like every other industry; you get what you pay for. Picking the lowest priced mover will give you either the worst mover or a lying mover. Both are bad choices. The profit margin on moving is very low. There shouldn’t be more than about a 10 percent discrepancy between movers, unless there is a very good explanation, like that there will happen to be a truck in Florida that will be coming back to California and will be empty otherwise. Then, you might get a good deal.

4. They specifically badmouth their competition – There a difference between educating a customer on how to choose a mover and the things to look out for than specifically badmouthing one company. A moving company shouldn’t say anything more than “check their reviews,” or something along those lines. Badmouthing is bad form and it indicates an aggressive mover, which is something you don’t want.

3. Your sales person doesn’t give you his or her cell phone number – If you allow someone to visit your home, the least they can do is give you their phone number. Planning a move is not a 9-5 job. Your move sales person should be available for you, in case of questions.

2. The sales person doesn’t listen – Bad moving companies tend to treat all moves as the same. They aren’t. Your move is unique and a good company will find out your individual needs.

1. They’ve been in business less than two years – Many bad movers come to this country, get a moving license and then lose it a year or so later because of violations. Sure, there are some great startup moving companies and if you do your homework, you can get a great move, but as a general rule, not passing a test of time is a warning sign.

Featured image via Flickr.

What Is A Moving Broker And Should You Use One?

in Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

In 1980, the moving industry was deregulated. Before that, there were a handful of household names that dominated the moving industry. After deregulation, consumers had a lot more choices, but they also faced a lot of fly-by-night companies with no federal oversight.

Soon after deregulation came another specialty – moving brokers. While, in theory, moving brokers can be a way to separate the wheat from the chaff  – the good guys from the scammers, the reality is that many, if not most brokers have made it more difficult for customers to find good moving companies.

If you go online and fill out a form that offers three moving quotes, you are contacting a broker. They might tell you that they have pre-screened each moving company that they work with, and they might have, but the amount of screening can vary tremendously. Some might check for valid licensing. Very few go beyond that.

Most brokers work with hundreds of smaller moving companies across the country. They collect customer “leads” and distribute them to around three or so of their customers. The moving companies pay them for this service. You will then be contacted from the three moving companies and there is where you’ll be able to differentiate between good brokers and bad.

With a good broker, you’ll always know the names of the moving companies they are sending you. Even if you are moving out of state, your mover should be local and you should ask them if they are performing the move. Many times, a broker will send you a local mover to do an estimate, but send you an out of state company to perform the move.

Hiring a broker doesn’t eliminate the burden of doing your homework. You want to thoroughly research each and every moving company. Far too often, fly-by-night companies get all their business through brokers. Brokers are typically not responsible for anything that happens during or after the move. Check the mover’s licensing yourself. Check their reputation on Yelp and check with the Better Business Bureau. Ask each mover if they will be handling or at least taking responsibility for the move and get that in a written contract. Many legitimate movers subcontract some services, but they always take full responsibility. Here are more tips on choosing a mover.

In general, going through a moving broker is a risky approach. Most do not provide onsite estimates. Most give just general information to each moving company and the companies bid based on very limited data. For example, they might only know that you have two bedrooms and two baths, but they don’t know that you have stairs leading to your home or that you have a lot of belongings.

A binding or guaranteed price is very rare through a broker and even if they do provide it, there are so many caveats that it will almost always be broken. The ONLY way to get a truly guaranteed price with a mover is to have the mover do a complete, onsite inventory.

In the end, a moving broker might seem like a convenient way to choose a mover, but it really doesn’t save you any work. It’s just as easy to log on to Yelp.com and pick highly rated movers and do your homework from there.

 

 

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