Issue 382: 5 / 9 / 2011

Avoiding Dishonest Moving Companies

Reprinted from a Special to The Commercial Appeal
By Randy Hutchinson
President of the Better Business Bureau

Here are two customer complaints that illustrate typical problems with dishonest moving companies:

“I was supposed to be charged $95. After the furniture was loaded and en route to Memphis from Senatobia, the driver called me and said I had to pay $130 because some furniture was oversized. They said my furniture would not be unloaded if I didn’t pay the extra fee.” This actual customer complaint is an example of what the BBB calls the “hostage goods” scam.

“They damaged $1,000 worth of household appliances and furniture. They damaged my neighbor’s yard.” The mover involved in this complaint promised to make things right, but never did.

Most movers are reputable and work with the customer and the BBB to resolve problems that arise. But some are crooks, some are incompetent, and the worst are both; and they generate a high number of unanswered and unresolved complaints. The BBB has assigned a D or F rating to ten local movers.

We offer the following advice for selecting a reputable mover:

  • Start planning your move at least six to eight weeks before your targeted moving date.
  • Check out any mover’s record with the BBB. Find out how long it’s been in business, how it’s responded to complaints, and its grade.
  • Obtain several estimates. Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Keep in mind that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best.
  • Always get the estimate in writing. Carefully read and understand the contract before signing. Make sure the contract specifies the dates and times of your move. Don’t sign any contract with sections left blank.
  • Pay as little as possible upfront and never the full amount. Pay with a credit card if you can so you’ll have some recourse if the mover doesn’t fulfill its obligations. Be wary of a mover who demands payment in full and in cash before they’ll start loading.
  • Make sure you understand how much insurance the mover has and what it covers. Ask them to provide you with the insurance company’s name and policy number. You may need to purchase extra insurance to protect your possessions.
  • Be sure to ask your mover if they will be handling your goods for the entire move or whether they’re contracting it out to someone else.
  • Make an inventory of the goods to be moved. Have a responsible person present at both ends of the move to observe the loading and unloading.
  • If damage or loss occurs, have the driver make a special note on the inventory and/or delivery receipt. Then promptly notify the company in writing, keeping a copy for your own files.
  • You may want to pack some of your belongings yourself to save on packing charges. Understand, however, that the mover may not accept liability for damage to items you packed.

The customers I cited above dealt with two different movers. One was cheated, the other mistreated. One had a relatively small number of possessions moved, the other a house full. The only common element in their tales of woe was that they didn’t check with the BBB before engaging the mover.

In just a few minutes and at no cost, each would have found that their mover already had an F rating and was obviously not accredited by the BBB. We could have provided them with a list of BBB accredited movers who would have made their move a far more pleasant experience.