Self explanatory, really. Helpful, humorous, hard headed tips to help you choose wisely. Outro track: edit of "Ouch!" from Artie Q's album "One Step Away From Falling Apart" to be found here


Robin Thomas Quinn © 2005


Local Moving: Tips On Choosing/Not Choosing A Mover

Choosing a moving company can be a minefield. Here are some rules of thumb when making your decision:

1. If you don’t have a mover in mind, try and get a referral from a friend. And ask for exactly the same people on the crew. A company may have a good reputation, but remember: A move is only as good as the men working the job. Padding of crews (Good Guys mixed with those less capable) goes on when there is a downpour of work. Where’s the benefit in having a great moving company field a team of C type Whackos because they’ve run out of Good Guys?

2. Get a selection of written estimates/quotes from companies. This may help you get the feel of their customer service. The lowest priced estimate may not be the best quality move, though. If you can, pick a moving company where the estimator is going to be on the crew of a select core group on the day. This is a good sign. Usually he is the owner—a relatively small operation—and won’t BS you to get the job. He'll be on hand to deliver what he promised in his bid, and also wants the repeat/referral business of satisfied customers. This type of company will be cheery, personable and experienced. Don’t call me if you find one that isn’t. There may be exceptions ... though I haven’t come across any.
3. Beware the mover who wears a weight belt. He’s wearing an invisible sign that says I don’t pay enough attention to my own well being to lift correctly ... so I’ll probably care even less about your furniture. If you get the chance, suggest he starts a good nutritional dietASAP; most likely, he’s on a selection of burgers, fries and sodas.
4. Be concerned if the guys are body builder types. They have little stamina for the long haul and are often busy with protein snacks and shakes. They are vain and like to admire shaved body parts. A lot, in fact. In which case they may not be attending to your possessions whilst flexing.
5. Never use a company that only has an electronic lift gate on the truck, and not a ramp. These guys are not serious about the moving business. It is a fact that a truck without a ramp will take longer to load and unload than a truck that has one. No ramp = More money. You choose. Plus, accidents are more likely to happen—stepping off a lift gate as opposed to coming down a ramp.
6. Anyone would be horrified at the image of a decrepit and beat up van that arrives on Moving Day. However, don’t panic, necessarily. Though the look bodes ill, it could be a rough and ready kind of operation. The issue that you should address in your choice of mover, is "experience." The smaller set ups don’t always have the capital for a clean, shiny truck. All you need to know is, does he know what he’s doing?
7. When discussing the crew: If a company uses the term “good workers”—put down the phone and head for the hills! Ignorant, yet hard working people with the best intentions are the cause of many a moving mishap. You need to hear the term good "movers.”

8. Don’t pick a company on the strength of a name alone. Names can be misleading. Some claim to be on time ... so what? What if they are prompt but just so happen to destroy everything in the house? Where’s the upside in that? Some titles lead you to believe they take extra care of your stuff: We Pad Everything. (Especially The Bill! <—This, they don’t tell you.) Watch out for those advertising in the Yellow Pages who insist on prefacing their name with a triple, quadruple or quintuple “A.” Example: AAAA A Very Good Moving Co. They’re doing this to be listed first. They know there’s a small percentage of customers who will call the first name they come across. Make sure you’re not among this group.

9. Don’t fall for a moving company based on a truck parked on a bridge over the freeway, "cheaply" advertising their company. A tacky move. It’s the same tactic as the misleading name game: to get their profile in the public’s consciousness.

10. Beware of hidden charges. Some companies will not inform you of Double Drive Time (DDT) or Station to Station Fees (over the phone, or obscurely and confusingly referenced in an estimate). It is not mentioned for fear of scaring off the customer ... but will direct the driver to slip it in (hopefully) unnoticed—possibly with other sundry charges—on the bill at the end of the job. The Public Utilities Commission/PUC (a governing body that regulates the rates and services of Movers, among other services) allows companies to make a DDT charge as a way of recouping some gas money if they have to drive a long way to and from your home.
Regardless of whether you receive an estimate, it is a good idea to be clear on "price" at the start of a move, not the end. This way you can straighten out any questions—monetary or otherwise— before they arise. The last thing you’ll feel like doing is haggling over the bill at the close of an exhausting day. (I was on a job where the police were called in at the end because of a payment dispute. Regardless of how fair they determined the cost of the move to be, they came down in favor of the movers; we had completed our side of the bargain and delivered all furniture.)

11. Damages: Somewhat redundant to the point of choosing a mover, but pertinent as to whether you care to refer the company, or even re-hire when you move again. Even a Great Mover can slip up—he’s human, after all. The cost of a move comes with very basic insurance coverage (60 cents per pound per article) and is most effective when an item is heavy and cheap-ish. If it is irreplaceable and light, extra insurance should be purchased from the mover. Better still, a good homeowner’s policy. When there's an accident, the company will try and repair the piece first. If it is damaged beyond repair, depending on the insurance you have chosen or his good nature and reputation, he’ll spring for the cash, or know where he can get a good deal on a new or “pre-owned” item.

During the move there are many factors that deflect attention, and damages may only be noticed after the movers have gone. You, as the customer, have to decide where you want to go with this. If you want action on behalf of the mover, inform them immediately, otherwise the responsibility of damage becomes difficult to prove as time elapses. Once you’ve contacted them, don’t harass, but do keep on the ball. Sometimes a company will not jump on it right away because of the drop- off rate in customer complaints. That is: decent folk who deem it not worth their while to keep calling, with little response. When the “time and hassle” quotient on the customer’s part does not equal the end result, the matter may soon be dropped, thus the company is ahead of the game. If you want to pursue your claim and the company hasn’t returned your many phone calls, inform the PUC. Or there’s the small claims court scenario. I have to say, this is a last resort, and most of the incidents that I’ve been aware off (that ended up in court) were because the customer had defaulted on payment. Unfortunately, there are members of the public who hear the word “insurance” and go hog wild ... trying to get the mover to spring for all kinds of nonsense. As I have said, customers are another ball game and deserve their own book.
12. If you are at your wits end trying to find a mover—ask a real estate agent or at storage facilities. Sometimes they refer moving companies. I knew a Realtor that actively promoted a good company to good clients. The mover always did a good job because of the referral factor and gave the agent a little “thank you” from time to time.
14. If you have been counting, you'll know that we are now at Tip fourteen, for there is no thirteen—that's bad luck, and we don’t want that on moving day. Do we?