Sound familiar? All of the above are true stories. Then again, so is the one about the movers who showed up early in a raging snowstorm, then fixed a broken bed and played with the customer's toddler. Handing over your belongings to total strangers requires a bit of research and a lot of trust. So for those who find themselves up to their eyes in boxes and packing tape, here are some ground rules for finding help.
Get Reliable Recommendations
The best people to ask? Those who either recently moved or have their ear to the street. Put your social media to use and ask for personal recommendations, friends will be able to give you a direct line to movers they've used and trusted. Local real estate agents are also great resources for mover information. They can not only tell you who to call, but who NOT to call. Try to get at least three names to look into as you'll want to compare estimates.
Get to Know the Moving Company
Don't trust the Internet (or the phone). According to Lawrence Laby, New York-based Director of Operations for A-1 First Class - Viking Moving & Storage, Inc., a reputable moving company should send a representative out to your home to give you an overview of the process, as well as an accurate estimate. You can use the information they give you to do further research by looking them up on sites such as MovingScam.com, the Better Business Bureau and Safersys. (For a list of what to look for click here.)
Ask the Right Questions
For larger interstate moves, make sure movers are charging you by weight, not cubic feet. Cubic feet will mean you're charged by the amount of space taken up in the truck, a charge that can be dependent on how the movers pack the space. With a weight charge, you're paying for what your belongings weigh, resulting in a more accurate measurement. For local moves, try to secure a binding estimate or not-to-exceed quote, otherwise you can be charged up to 110 percent of the original estimate. You may also want to pay with a credit card, which will make it easier to dispute charges if the need arises. And though many movers prefer cash, Peretz says that if a mover will accept only cash for a local move, that's a red flag.
Other Issues to Address
- Have the movers explain their process for damaged or lost goods. They should have a claims form at the very least.
- Be sure that they have their own employees and aren't hiring day laborers for the job. (Peretz had one client come to him after the mover they hired showed up with his wife and child as the moving team.)
- Make sure the movers know about any unusual situations, such as elevator usage, stairs, or tricky obstacles at either location.
- Show your mover everything you need moved prior to moving day, including anything under beds, in closets, outside, or in an attic or basement. Some states (like California) have major restrictions when it comes to items such as houseplants being transported across state lines.
- Discuss high-value or unusual items. Many movers have policies about moving items such as jewelry, firearms and propane tanks and some may have to bring in specialty movers to ensure the safety of high-end art or intricate furniture.
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