I'm an ex-interstate moving consumer advocate AMA about moving scams, choosing moving companies, and how to deal with disputes
My short bio: Hi r/IAMA! This is my first IAMA so I apologize if I am not doing it right. I used to work in the interstate moving industry (state to state moving), specifically in consumer advocacy. There I helped people from choosing moving companies, to resolving disputes with movers, to filing claims, and much more. What I learned from working there is that most people don't really understand what are the proper steps and rules for moving. This makes sense as its usually just a once or twice in a life thing. The problem lies though in the combination of people not knowing much about moving combined with the lack of material to educate people on moving. Working in consumer advocacy, I heard daily people's heartbreaking stories about losing their family heirlooms or being scammed by companies trying to take more money from them when they could barely pay their monthly bills. I thought I could try to help out by solving the later, and I am creating a website to help educate people. I posted the link below which is more like a visual guide (like screenshots and stuff), but I thought I could also help out by just answering if I can any questions people may have about interstate moves. www.themovingbuddy.com
My Proof: http://imgur.com/jvwkqfB
Congrats on owning a transport company and trying to do the right thing man! The company I worked at was actually very large so they created this consumer advocacy department to kinda give back and help clean up the industry. I think the best way is just making sure that people are educated more before they move. I think one of the big things is people just don't know that much about moving because it's close to a once in a life time thing, and even if they did want to find out there is not much information, especially easy to understand and access information (especially for the older generation). It's hard to fix the first part, getting people more interested in an in frequent event, but working on the second part, providing easy to access information is what I am trying to do. Hopefully when people have to move in the future they can google easily how to move and learn the steps so they can find reputable companies like your own!
What's a moving scam? Never occurred to me
Good question! The biggest one would be when a mover comes to your house, loads the goods into his truck, then tells you, you have more than the estimate and its going to cost more. You can then protest, but many of them will say it will cost the same price to offload as the entire move. The big part of the scam here is that they are supposed to have you sign the estimate PRIOR to loading so they can't just change it up all the sudden, but many people don't know this.
Damn. I don't know why you would ever get a mover if you were capable and don't have fuck you money.
That's true! Many of the people I helped out were either with a moving company because they had a stipend to move or the much sadder case, of having disability. It was really depressing when I worked with people on disability who were being taken advantage of.
How do you choose a good moving company?
Good question! There are two ways to do it. First, is to try to go with an AMSA mover. AMSA is the American Moving and Storage Association, so movers there will tend to be more reputable and have to adhere to additional standards. This DOES NOT mean that they are necessarily good, but it just reduces the chance of them being bad. Second, is the hard work. Background checking the company, you will want to go to the FMCSA site. There you want to see if they first have all they have all the basics (moving authority, insurance), then you want to check their complaints to see what type of problems they have. Delays are normal, but huge red flags hostage situations. A few could just be random people but if there are a lot and the company hasnt been around in a while thats a bad sign.
This is related to an international move but since the movers in question are in the US, I am hoping that you can offer some advice.
Background: We moved from Virginia to Germany on an expat assignment in 2010 and 75% of our household goods were put into storage which the company paid for. In April 2015, I returned to the US and added more items to the storage and was given a receipt itemizing what was added. In August 2015 I left the company and we moved to England and I took over paying the storage fees. In June 2016 we had the goods moved from storage to England. The movers I contracted picked up our items from storage and delivered them to England. By an amazing "coincidence", the items I added in 2015 were not on their waybill. I contacted the warehouse where they were stored and they said that all of our stuff was removed and the driver signed the inventory stating he received everything (but we all know how that goes). The shippers said that they packed everything that was given to them. Personally, I think my stuff is still in the warehouse but I don't how who to contact or what to do to launch an investigation. Both insurance companies say it's not their problem.
What do you suggest?
Second question: the shipping company billed me for packing items for shipping but the items were not repacked (they were in the boxes for the now defunct moving company that packed them in 2010) and the movers on the UK end said the items were not packed per international shipping guidelines. Do I have any recourse to get my money back for them not "packing for international shipping" as the invoice stated?
Hi there! I'm sorry to here that and try to help you out as much as I can. I will give you the advice I would give someone if this was an interstate move.
1) What type of paperwork did you receive when it was put into storage? For a normal move, one of the items is the household goods inventory list, which basically has written down all the items that were moved. When you added the items was the receipt given do you by the storage company or by the moving company? Was also the stuff you had added of value? Hopefully this is not your situation, but there are times when things of value mysteriously disappear, and more likely than not they are stolen. I would recommend reaching out to the FMCSA or MoveRescue to see if they can help you at all, but there is a chance that this might be out of their range. It may be possible for MoveRescue to contact the storage/moving company on your behalf.
2) You can try to file a claim against the company. Depending on the paperwork you have, you can also do this for step 1 as well. In the claim you can state the issues you have an try to seek compensation. A heads up on this though, whether your claim is accepted or not, high depends on the scruples of the company and I would combine filing a claim with sending a complaint to the FMCSA as it would give you more weight in this matter. If you are looking for information on how to a file a claim, I made a little section here. http://themovingbuddy.com/after-your-move/filing-a-claim/
Thanks for taking the time to answer.
When the items were added, I was given a household goods inventory list with inventory numbers by the storage company. The stuff was mostly books and used camping gear.
I'll check out the link.
No problem! I hope that it helps out a little bit.
My mom paid 6,000 to have a semi maybe 2/3rd full to go from Indiana to rural Massachussetts. It always seemed like she got ripped off but she didn't want any help getting a moving company and had to do it her way. For a lot of heavy furniture, does that seem like an okay price?
Depending on the company, I have seen legitimate moves go cross country from $3000 to up to $15,000 (be wary if its only $1000 move). The biggest things indicators of a fair move would be
1) Was there in in-home survey prior to the move being conducted or was it just over the phone/email? For large move, and for reputable moving companies, they will typically come into your house to check your goods first, then give you a quote. If they are not reputable and want to raise prices on you, they will just have you tell them what the stuff you have is over the internet/phone, and when to come to your place they will tell you , there is much more and it will cost more. If they are really bad, they will do this after they load the goods.
2) Was this was a full service move? Like the post below indicated, a full service move, packaging and unpackaging goods, can cost a lot more money than just a regular move as it requires much more time and effort.
3) Do you have weigh tickets? Unless you agreed to otherwise, a moving company should provide weigh tickets when requested that indicate how much your goods weigh and thus there would be a direct correlation between the weigh of the goods and the price you have to pay.
Thanks for doing this AMA! Your website is enlightening & informative. ‘Appreciate the link.
Before looking over the info you’ve shared on the site, my impression was that most who had bad experiences either (1) failed to investigate their mover’s policies & procedures and/or (2) navigated the transaction based on their presumptions of what’s “fair” rather than reading/ clarifying the stipulations of their contract.
Even then, it can be a hard lesson to learn that verbal statements of policy aren’t contractual, and laws/regulations aren’t explained in contracts.
The information you provide makes it plain there are various hidden dimensions and contingencies of the moving transaction that aren’t revealed without special knowledge. Is much of what you cover in the text of your site revealed in the FMCSA booklet mentioned under “Extra Tips”?
Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it (it's my first time trying to make a website so it's a bit rough on the edges).
And yes, you are very keen to notice that! In these types of operations it can be almost like slight of hand. Much of these things come down to being technical differences where experts can take advantage of novices.
In regards to the site, the booklet is an excellent resource and a good amount can be found in it! The only drawback is it is a little text heavy and easy to tire the less ambitious. My hope was to make it a little bit more accessible to people, by adding pictures to kind of walk you through it. If you are curious about really learning the ins and outs of what you can do the best thing would be to look at the statute that covers this ECFR 375.503. This will help you learn basically everything. https://ecfr.io/Title-49/cfr375_main
What's your worst horror story in terms of a moving scam?
Haha great question! In general the worst moving situations are hostage ones. In these cases, the carrier will basically hostage your goods and refuse to deliver unless you pay more money. For me personally the most interesting situations are when going to Arizona. In Arizona (it's the only state), the weights and measure department that moving fraud extremely seriously (it's run by a great guy named JJ). I had a situation where there was rogue mover who refused to deliver the goods unless paid more. I helped coach the customer to say that he would pay so that the moving company would bring the goods to the customer. What the moving company didn't know was that once it showed up, the Arizona weights and measure department sprung on them with the cops and finding several violations with the moving company and escorted them to reweigh the goods (finding that the initial price was even too much). In terms of just straight up worst, there have been hostage situations where people refuse to deliver goods, and just dump them in storage units and we have to try to find them (sometimes its difficult/impossible especially if the company just mysteriously goes out of business).
what is the weirdest story that you have heard?
Haha the weirdest stories actually come from the customers side! While there are many bad moving companies, there are also bad customers as well. I had this one situation where there was a woman who hired a moving company, and she actually did have more weight than what she wrote down (I checked her paperwork). She agreed to pay the moving company more, but when the time for delivery was approaching she flat refused to pay more and demanded her goods. I felt a little sorry for her as she kept on telling me she was on disability, however, it was a bit unfair to the moving company how she was trying to make them move her stuff without paying and how she kept on drumming up the victim card. Another weird but more funny story, was just this guy I helped who was moving from Miami who had 6 marble statues. The statues were much heavier than the mover thought so he just left them on the lawn. I had to mediate the dispute hearing the mover complain about how the statues are freaking heavy but it was in his contract to move them.
Moving is utter chaos...We had 6 or 8 24-foot U-haul trucks. We did DIY because we were broke.
Wow haha that's impressive! Moving it yourself is way better if you have the man power. Only you care about your stuff as much as you do.
We did 50 miles, tops, no cross country moves like this. We broke about 1 or 2 percent of our stuff and lost another 1 or 2 percent. How many tons do you reckon 7 24 foot U hauls full of household stuff weighs?
Damn that is impressive! A full u-haul can take up to 3 tons, so it could be up to 21 tons which is an insane amount. Even if not full, it would have probably cost you a lot of money. Breaking and losing only 1-2% of so many goods is great, especially from not professional movers! Good job on the move!
Total breakage+loss was probably around 3 or 4 percent total, and it took us two months of packing and then 9 days, 12 hours a day, to move it all. We secured every "layer" of furniture and junk with ropes, every five feet or so, and threw out a LOT of stuff after every move: we had a trash pile five or six feet high and 20 feet long after one move. We worked like animals, for sure. We weren't hoarders; most people don't realize how much JUNK they accumulate. I've seen my friends' houses: till they move, they don't know that they have a GODly amount of junk there.
Thanks for the compliment. I thought pros would do better than us: after all, they did this all the time and weren't amateurs like us.
Haha thats great! Great pros will not break any of your stuff, but there are so many bad movers out there.
And people do have so much stuff! I recently moved across countryand sold most of my things, but still had soooo many boxes left (just for a small apartment!). I ended up donating a lot of it to charity but I had to make so many trips to drop it off. Congrats on the move though, you and your team deserve it!
Do you know that many of the references and success about the moving companies and their services are written up by related parties and are a sham? You may want to add that to your website.
Do anything about another detail: some moving companies ask their consumers to sing off additional paperwork that acts as an obstacle to dispute the charge with the credit card company? Is this a legit revocation of the right to dispute the credit card charge or a psychological trick.
1) Great suggestion! That is a great thing to add, that I knew about but didn't think to address. There are MANY companies that have fake reviews, that I assume are written by themselves or affiliates. Similar to fake reviews on most sites, it is easy to spot them, as they are usually 5 stars, have little written down, and if you can view the user account, that is the only review they give. If a company has a five start overall total review that is normally pretty extraordinary, especially in moving so that should actually be seen as a bit of a warning sign for someone to do a bit more digging. Thanks for the suggestion!
2) And yes! The most common one is that a moving company will force you to have all disputes or claims will have to go through a website. This is questionable as to whether it is enforceable or not, as you always are allowed to file a claim against a company, however, signing a document becomes a matter of contract law and then it may vary. From what I have seen, when moving companies do this, the biggest issue is that they will often refuse to talk to the consumer and just force interaction through the third party. The third party is typically biased towards the moving company as well (you can see this by if you go to a site and it seems like it is heavily catered toward moving companies as they are the real customers for them). If this happens to you I would suggest two things, first, contact MoveRescue. They are a great organization if you are patient with the representatives they can do a world of help for you in terms of negotiating with the company, and taking further steps for you. Second, is to get in contact with the FMCSA (part of the Department of Transportation). MoveRescue will tell you this too, but the FMCSA has the most weight in dealing with companies as they have the ability to enforce large monetary penalties and shut down companies that are acting less than honest.
What would be the most efficient/cost effective way to store things for later delivery?
I'm going to have to move cross country and downsize to a much smaller apartment. I'll be living there for 2 or 3 years, then moving somewhere else where I'd have room for my things. So most of my things will go into storage near where I am currently.
Would it make sense to palletize my things? My thinking is that then I would not be limited to using home moving companies.
Or would one of the Pod companies be best?
Hey there! I am not that well versed in storage but I can try to give you some general advice.
1) General storage is not that expensive. Depending on how much stuff you have, if you are to store your goods in a storage locker it should not cost you that much from month to month. If you choose a company that stores and moves, just be wary about how much they are charging you for storage.
2) If you choose a storage/moving like some Pod companies, you are stuck with the moving company for better or for worse. If the company is a good company than there is nothing to worry about, but if there are issues with the company in 2-3 years, that can be a bit of a headache to have to deal with. If you have a separate storage and moving company it gives you a little more wiggle room.
3) If you choose to go general storage and get a moving company later, the truck that eventually does the moving may not be able to fit into the storage area. If this is the case you may get extra fees such as distance fees (for having to carry over a distance) or they may even charge shuttle fees if they have to get a smaller truck to pick up your goods and load them onto a large truck.
Overall I think the best thing for you to do would be to check how much the local storage costs and contact a moving company to ask them how much it would cost to move your goods from a storage unit. Have the companies you are interested in come to your place to survey your goods to get an accurate estimate, then compare the storage and moving costs with a storage/moving company who should also come to your place to take an estimate.
This is coincidence! I'm moving to NYC for my first job after graduation. I currently live in PA at the parents house.
What would you recommend for inexperienced, first-time noob movers moving to big cities? Having a moving truck/moving company would probably be necessary for me as I will have larger pieces of furniture that will not fit in a regular sized car. I just know it's going to be a headache having a moving truck driven into NYC.
Ah it's good I caught you in time haha!
Moving into NYC can be a little tricky as there are many extra fees that can stack up. The most common fees for NYC are stairs and shuttle fees. If the large moving truck can't get to where you are moving to, they will charge you extra for them to get a small shuttle truck (often like a uhaul size), where they will have to offload your goods from the large truck to the small truck then bring it to your new place. Similarly if they have to carry things up, they will charge you per flight of stairs. These types of fees are fairly common for NYC, so make sure you ask the company how much it would cost for shuttle fees/stairs and give them your location.
For general advice, there are more tips on the website but I can give you the most general ones. The first and most basic advice I can give you is do a lot of research on the company you choose. If you are getting a moving stipend from the company or can afford it, go AMSA/ large moving company. These companies cost more but your chances of them being a rogue mover (hostage situations) drop to 0 and they are pretty upfront with their charges.
The second tip would be make sure when you move to get an in home survey of your stuff. If they don't do this, I would not choose the moving company. Get several surveys if you like, but be careful with low ballers. For most companies they should all be in the same ball park.
Last, make sure you read the paperwork before you sign it, and ALSO make sure that you are signing prior to loading. One thing to keep in mind is the type coverage that a moving company gives you, which is full valuation v. 60c on the pound. Full valuation is the company will pay you for whatever is lost or damaged at the full cost. It costs more but will cover most everything. The other one is free coverage but it is 60c on the pound. That means that if they break/"lose" your 60 inch tv that weighs 15 pounds, you get $9. If you happen to choose 60c on the pound coverage, one backup that may help you if your plan covers it is homeowners insurance.
I work in corporate real estate project management and specialize in (among other facets of the industry) relocation management, but exclusively on the O&I (office & industrial) side of the business. I'm fortunate to have very good business partners in the markets in which I work and am typically reluctant to steer my clients toward organizations that aren't affiliated with a major van line (Atlas, United, etc.) because I feel a certain degree of protection against scams and frauds that XYZ Moving Co. might not afford them.
Do you have any experience on the O&I side? If so, have you encountered any shady business? Do you think my sense of security with affiliated companies is fair or false? (As a moving industry nerd, this is a GREAT AMA!)
Thank you! And great question! Haha full disclosure about myself, as my badge indicates I used to work for UniGroup several years ago, which you may not have heard of. UniGroup, however, is the parent company of United Vanlines and Mayflower which your probably have heard of. Due to the size of UniGroup (basically the largest moving group in the US), it created MoveRescue, an organization dedicated to consumer advocacy, as sort of a way to clean up the industry and look good through pro bono work. There is where I learned all the things about the industry.
Moving onto your questions. On the O & I side, I do not have that much experience with that. What you have said though is typically correct. A large amount of the clients to the major companies (Atlas, United, Mayflower, North American, Allied) are going to be relocating company workers. Their rates are typically much higher than the average moving company, however, it comes with a great deal more professionalism. Larger companies like these are not playing the short term game, and focus more on having a sustainable model, which usually includes more customer service.
An example of this is that moving companies are not obligated to deliver you goods at the delivery date they put on the sheet. They actually are given a grace period called "reasonable time," however this is very vague, and it can be up to 20-25 business days from the agreed upon DELIVERY DATE until the FMCSA will take any action. That's over a month between when you thought your goods would get there. With large companies though they really try hard to hit that date of delivery, and are typically are on time or closer, which probably results from their fleet size (United has 7500, Allied 3700, etc.).
Another thing I found was that with smaller companies, they were often in and out of losing their moving authority (license to move federally). This would cause delays in the move and sometimes they would just shut down their company and start a new one. With larger companies their brand has value so they could not afford to shut down and start over.
All this being said, that does not mean using a small company is a poor choice. If you are able to find a good small company then you will likely save in costs. As one post mentioned, he tried really hard to be a good moving company, and if you find guy like that you are golden. The problem is not everyone is like that. And then the question just becomes how much risk you are willing to take. Going with the large moving companies is like the old adage "No one gets fired for hiring IBM." At the very least, if you do not go with the larger companies, I would suggest going through AMSA (the moving association). With AMSA and the large moving companies, it is important to remember that all these decisions don't mean that you will have a perfect move (there can always be crazy truck drivers who are anomalies) but it will increase the chances of you having a perfect move by reducing risk.
Hopefully that helps!
I've heard that for Joe Average Consumer, for big interstate moves that Mayflower and Bekins are the best. Is this true?
The truth is, they are and they aren't. On one side, you will likely get better service and your goods will remain in tact. There is an extremely small chance of getting scammed or they are trying to to take advantage of you. There is just little benefit for them to do that.
On the other hand, they are very expensive. Big names like Mayflower, Bekins, and Allied will cost you more than any other moving company. If you do not have that much money to spend on moving, it may be difficult to go with them just because of their pricing.
The best thing to do for an average person, would be to find a smaller reliable company. The problem is it is hard to know who is reliable and who is not, and if you happen to make a wrong choice, things can become a nightmare (long delays, hostage situations, broken goods). That's why many people would recommend the large companies just because there is a lower chance of this occurring of bad stuff happening and practically no chance of the extremely bad things happening.
Makes sense. Ballpark, how much more does one of the top big companies cost vs an average small/mid sized company? I've heard enough horror stories that a big move might be something that I dont want to actually shop around on.
Haha same with me! Having worked in the industry, if I ever have to move I will hire a large moving company.
The cost of the move is really dependent on how much weight you are moving. If you have alot of weight it will cost more, if you don't it will cost less. With that in mind though, the people I saw who has the most problems were those with moves under $3000. Under $3000 is extremely cheap for most moves. For moving prices, it is really just the super large companies and everyone else. If you are going to go mid tier, it may be better to just bite the bullet and go for the larger moving company. I would say a typical cost for larger moving companies would range from $5,000-$10,000, depending on how much you are moving.
As I mentioned above though, what you really want to do is get in home surveys. It shouldn't cost you anything, and you can get multiple price quotes to kind of get a picture in your mind of what the price should be for the move.
So here's an odd question- would any of these companies let you ride with your stuff in the truck?
What would happen if you did it kinda like, stowaway style?
Hahah I don't think so. There would be huge liability issues if you got hurt so I don't think it would be worth it for them. If you were to stowaway on the other hand, well who can stop what they can't see? lol
Why are inter-state moves more dangerous than intra-state moves?
I'm planning to do an intra-state move later this year and I'd like to get a full-service mover (one that does all the loading and unloading themselves). Can you give me any tips on that?
Good question! Interstate moves are not necessarily more dangerous than intra-state moves per se, however, there is just a higher tendency that the movers are unscrupulous. I think this is because there are just more moving companies and the distances so long that many things can happen along the way. In addition, intrastate movers who are solely intrastae are typically more mom and pop style, so they will focus on customer service more, which will ensure a better move.
In regards to intrastate moves I am not as well versed in it (the rules and regulations vary from state to state, as opposed to federal), but I can try to give you some general tips.
1) The first thing you should do is try to get an in home estimate and get several if you can. Have the people come to your place and take a look at your goods so they can give you an accurate estimate for what it will cost. If someone is extremely low, that's usually a bad sign. People low ball are usually cutting some type of corners that you don't want.
2) If they are a large enough company or happen to do interstate moves, check to see there DOT# or MC#. It will give you a background on the type of insurance, authority, and complaints the company has received. Another place to check would be the BBB, to see what type of complaints have been filed.
3) Look to the state moving organization. Several states have them and moving companies in the organization will probably be more reputable than those outside of them.
What do you like to eat for lunch regularly ? Is your staff lunch area stocked with goodies ? ?
Haha the staff lunch was actually pretty good. The office was located in the midwest so prices were not bad and they also subsidized the meals. I usually had an omelet for breakfast and skipped lunch.
Hey man, I owned an auto transport company so I feel your pain. I was focused exclusively on bringing quality customer service and support to an industry ravaged by scams and cheating. I wanted to be the savior. I also had contacts and friends in the moving industry and they scammed people and when I found out we quit associating w them. One person I knew since I was 5 years old (he was always shite)
What ended up taking me out was the difficulty in building a system of gaining and retaining quality sales employees.
My question. I built an outsourcing team to manage and handle all back-end infrastructure. Do you think non-American employees can change the way the moving Industry is structured?
Edit: that's maybe not a great question. My question: how can the Industry innovate to make the consumer want the ability to learn more before they hire a company?
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