What Your Moving Company Won’t Tell You Until You Sign The Paperwork.

Last week, Smart Money ran an article discussing the 10 things that moving companies won’t voluntarily tell you that I found pretty interesting, as I have hired major moving companies 3 times in the last 10 years. And while I did get my stuff each time, the amount of money I was charged did change each time when the movers arrived, the timeline of when I would get my stuff was different than promised, and I always had a few scratches and dents on my belongings. So after reading their article on movers, I decided to go through each of their 10 things that they think movers don’t tell you – and give you my opinion on each after hiring them so many times!

1. “We’ll hijack your stuff.”

They say: Spyro Malaspinas says that Nation Van Lines, which he hired to move his belongings from Austin, Tex., to Chicago in January 2003, hiked his bill from an estimate of $1,050 to nearly $4,300. The movers, according to Malaspinas, said his goods measured 500 cubic feet more than anticipated. When Malaspinas threatened to call the police, the drivers made off with his possessions.

I say: Yep, seen it – even with an estimator coming out to my house and giving me a binding estimate. Once they got to my house, they said my weight was way over what they were told it would be and they wanted an extra $750 before they would release my belongings. Well, I needed my stuff and since legal fees would have cost more than that, I relented and paid them to get my stuff back.

2. “We’re popular, especially with the FBI .”

They say: The feds indicted a total of 16 moving companies and 74 operators, owners, and employees on various charges following a two-year investigation called Operation Stow Biz.

I say: Good luck finding a moving company that doesn’t have multiple black marks on their record. I couldn’t find an honest one in the bunch, or at least one I felt comfortable with. Even asking my friends who have moved didn’t provide any references. I guess I should start my own moving company…

3. “Don’t mess with us; we’re virtually untouchable.”

They say: There are federal laws to contend with that, historically speaking, have tended to protect moving companies more than consumers. It used to be, for example, that while dissatisfied customers could sue their moving company for goods lost in a move, they stood very little chance of recovering even their basic monetary value, let alone winning any punitive damages on top of that amount.

I say: As I mentioned, good luck trusting anyone or even getting your way. The BBB is littered with complaints about virtually all movers, and no one is going to spend thousands of dollars taking these guys to court. It’s a win-win for them most of the time.

4. “Someone will deliver your stuff””it just might not be us.”

They say: In the hectic summer months, a mover might get so busy that it asks another company to help out with a job. That’s fine, but the consumer should be notified in advance of the deal.

I say: No experience with this one, but it would be nice if the company told you that even though they picked up your stuff, they won’t be the ones bringing it to you.

5. “How much experience do our movers have? At least a day or two.”

They say: Even if one company does handle your entire move, don’t assume that the movers who show up are actual employees of that company

I say: You got that right. One time, our moving company hired 3 random guys that looked like they were about to abscond with our stuff. They were day laborers from the local Home Depot parking lot! Not exactly what you had in mind as you paid thousands of dollars to have your stuff moved safely.

6. “Our pricing policies are wacko.”

They say: For instance, it may be tempting to bypass getting an in-house and written estimate from a mover, opting instead to save a few minutes with a telephone or online estimate. But if you take the shortcut, be prepared to get burned.

I say: Even without taking a shortcut, you can get burned. I had written, on-site estimates that were different by over $1,500. It’s almost as if these guys make it up as they go.

7. “Extra fees and charges? You can count on it.”

They say: There are many ways for movers to squeeze extra dollars from customers. Besides charges for accessorial services, movers have been known to levy exorbitant fees for such things as packing supplies.

I say: Watch out for the fees, they add up quickly. Anything you can do yourself, get started doing it. Buy your own supplies, do your own packing. And read every single line of your bill.

8. “We’ve never met a schedule we didn’t ignore.”

They say: In January 2002, Tyrone Kelley was set to move from Stoughton, Mass., to Las Vegas, but the movers didn’t arrive until 6 p.m., seven hours late. Says Kelley, “It’s a common tactic to arrive after business hours so that it’s too late for you to find another moving company.”

I say: While I didn’t have any issues with them showing up to get my stuff on time, I did have issues with them arriving at my destination on time. Excuse after excuse, delay after delay – I felt as though with some of these guys that it was the first time they had ever driven a moving truck across the country. They (and their dispatcher) had all sorts of excuses for the delays, and even had new ones every morning. It was pretty bad.

9. “Surprise! Our insurance isn’t worth much.”

They say: A mover’s liability coverage, known as “valuation,” doesn’t work like a typical insurance policy. For interstate moves, standard valuation limits the carrier’s liability to no more than 60 cents per pound, and it’s often less for in-state moves. So if your 50-pound plasma screen TV gets smashed, you’ll collect just $30.

I say: Buy the extra insurance if it is offered, or ask your homeowners insurance company if they can cover some too. I bought insurance from an outside company and it only cost me about $150 to cover the total estimated replacement cost. Well worth it in this case.

10. “We change addresses as often as our customers do.”

They say:The FMCSA lacks the muscle to rein in rogue movers. The agency fined 117 carriers in 2007 at an average amount of $13,000 per carrier””chump change for an industry that brings in $10 billion annually. And companies that do get censured often remain defiant.

I say: If I was constantly getting complaints, I might consider moving often too!

My best advice for dealing with movers? Ask around. All my friends gave me advice on who they used, which helped me to at least get rid of the worst ones from our list. Websites, review sites, the BBB – they don’t really give you much information to help you make a decision. All movers have many complaints lodged against them, so it’s very hard to go on that information alone.

Have you had any experience with moving companies? Good? Bad? Ugly? Let us know!

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Comments (4)

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  1. No Debt Plan says:

    As with any contractor or service, getting referrals/references from past customers is critical.

    It does sound like I need to start a company! Good grief.

  2. MLR says:

    Jeez, they sound almost as bad as wreckers (tow trucks).

    We should let them battle it out for industry most likely to shaft you without any remorse.

  3. marci says:

    Have managed to move over 2 dozen times, even FL to OR, without one – thank goodness!

    My best advice – borrow a cow trailer, hose it out, and go for it! I’ve done that several times!

  4. Frank Fitton says:

    Ugh, that’s just frightening. Welcome to reality though.