Relocation Consternation

February 01, 2012

Late spring through summer is the busiest time of year for relocations.  Moving is a fact of life.  It also ranks as one of life’s most stressful events.   Adding to the stress level, the cause for the move is generally in and of itself a life change that already has you on edge.  New job?  Getting married?  Starting a family?  Retiring?  You name it, all of the change can leave you peaking out on the anxiety scale.  However, with some basic advance planning and due diligence you can experience a smooth move.  Not doing your homework can send your worldly possessions and your emotions on a wild and unpredictable ride.  Last year the moving and storage industry was ranked as the fourth most-inquired-about type of business at the Better Business Bureau (BBB).  This high level of activity is for good reason.

There are plenty of good and honorable companies that can help you with a move.  However, there are also more than a handful that have earned their “unsatisfactory” rating with the BBB.  Some of the consumer complaint allegations are down right scary.  What if the mover never shows, but they asked for and got a large up-front deposit?  What will you do if the mover is short handed, uncaring, ill-equipped or reckless?  What if the mover loads their truck and then refuses to unload the items until you pay cash for a price that is higher than what was quoted?  What if the mover sells your goods? The possibilities are endless and the damage to your well-being can go way beyond scratched furniture or broken glass.

So, how do you go about eliminating the risk of dealing with a rogue mover?  The short and long answers are the same:  Know your rights and your responsibilities.  At the federal level (state-to-state moves) regulatory responsibility rests with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  At the state level (local moves), the Attorney General’s office or your local consumer affairs department will have information about licensing and other requirements.  In many cases, problematic movers will get slapped with a government action.  Actions are effective in seeking after-the-fact redress, however, they are of little consequence when you are in need of pre-purchase help.

To minimize the potential for misadventure, the BBB offers the following tips:

Check the mover’s reliability report with the BBB  Do they have a satisfactory rating?  Are they accountable to BBB membership standards?

  1. Obtain a number of written bids based on onsite inspections.  Phone and internet estimates are not always reliable. Ask if the estimate is binding and be certain to inquire about the various trade names used by the mover.  Oftentimes, a single company advertises under various names in the phone book.  Therefore, you may unknowingly be shopping the same company.
  2. Ask the mover if they have a customer check list to help coordinate and organize all of the details.  Also, find out if they are the actual mover or a broker who is hiring the mover for you.  If they are only the broker, issues of liability should be defined.
  3. Inquire about any and all miscellaneous charges for stairs, long driveways, hallways, elevators, etc. and do not make your decision based on price alone.  Reliability and customer service are equally as important.
  4. Check for the terms of liability, make certain they are explained in advance, ensure you understand the Bill of Lading and confirm how payments are to be made.  Verify your insurance for coverage in case of damages and strongly consider the “excess valuation insurance” offered by the mover that is over and above the normal coverage