Help make your move smooth

March 25, 2012|By EDWARD JOHNSON | Better Business Bureau

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 a life change that already has you on edge.

Do you have a new job? Are you getting married? Are you starting a family? Retiring?

You name it, all of the change can leave you peaking on the anxiety scale.

However, with some basic planning and due diligence, you can experience a smooth move. 

Not doing your homework can send your worldly possessions and emotions on a wild and unpredictable ride. 

Historically, the moving and storage industry has ranked as one of the most inquired- and complained-about industries at the Better Business Bureau, or BBB.

There are plenty of honorable companies that can help you with a move. However, there are also more than a handful that have earned a failing grade with the BBB. 

What if the mover never shows, but 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 the 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 for problems are endless and the damage to your well-being can go way beyond scratched furniture or broken glass.

A recent case in point is a consumer who moved from the West Coast to the East Coast. It took nearly three months to receive his goods, despite the promise it would arrive in one. 

His “binding quote” also went from $1,284 to $4,099, and he had to pay an additional $1,851 in cash before the movers would unload his items. He did not have the money, so the truck drove off. 

The consumer’s biggest regret? Not checking in advance to see that the mover had an “F” rating with the BBB.

How do you eliminate the risk of dealing with a rogue mover? Know your rights and 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 — in Pennsylvania, the Public Utilities Commission has information about licensing and other requirements.

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

• Check the mover’s reliability report with the BBB at Does it have a good rating? Is it accountable to BBB accreditation standards?

• 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 inquire about the various trade names used by the mover. 

• Ask the mover if it has a customer checklist to help coordinate and organize all of the details. Also, find out if it is the actual mover or a broker who is hiring the mover for you. If it is only the broker, issues of liability should be defined.

• Inquire about 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.

• 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 above the normal coverage. The normal coverage might be as little as $0.60 per pound, which might not cover the replacement cost if your 200-pound dresser falls down a flight of stairs.

Edward Johnson is president and chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau serving eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania.

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