About five years ago, I was asked to inspect a moving damage claim on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The movers’ truck had flipped over on an exit ramp and rolled down a hill. When I arrived at the customer’s home to inspect the damage, I found the worst mess I’ve ever seen on a moving claim. I found the metal sleeper sofa frame twisted and unusable, and wooden furniture crushed and broken. The most heart-breaking loss for the customer was the loss of her porcelain collection. She had packed her Hummels, Lladros and Limoges into one box, and when opened, there was nothing left but crushed and broken glass. The box was simply labeled fragile; there was no list of what was in the box. She could not remember, specifically, all the items in the box. She had no proof of ownership: no receipts, no photographs. Her claim was denied, on several counts.
The above story has lots of implications, but for now I want to use it to illustrate just one point: before you move, you have to know what you have. The moving company will charge you according to the weight of your shipment, the value of your shipment, the distance shipped, and what extra services you require. You will pay for insurance based on the value of your shipment. If you don’t know what your household goods are worth and what they weigh, how will you know if you are being charged correctly?
Moving companies want your business. Are you likely to give your business to the mover with the highest price (all other things being equal)? Of course not. The salesman knows this, so he will quote you a competitive price. In the moving business, competitive price usually means fictional price. One of the most common complaints against moving companies is that the moving company will quote you a price prior to pickup, and double or triple the price upon delivery. Here’s what actually happens in most of these cases: 1. The salesman underestimates the weight (due to lack of training, laziness,or greed)and prices his estimate accordingly; 2. The customer hasn’t a clue if the salesman’s weight guess is right or not and does not challenge the weight; 3. The customer isn’t sure what their stuff is worth, so they take an uninformed guess; 4. The shipment is officially weighed, and the customer is not present at the weighing and does not request a copy of the weight ticket; 5. At delivery, the customer is presented with a bill based on the actual weight of the shipment and the published tariff of the mover (which is how the mover is supposed to charge) and the bill is much higher than the estimate; 6. The customer claims they are being cheated; 7. There is damage to the furniture, and the valuation is not sufficient to pay for the repairs.
What actually happened here? There are two possibilities: 1. The customer was not paying attention. The salesman was wrong, and the customer didn’t know it. The customer did not know the weight or value of the shipment (this is simple to guess, if you know how). They did not know their rights in regard to confirming or challenging the charges. 2. The customer was not paying attention. The movers knew this, and they were crooks and had every intention of scamming the customer. Either way, the customer was not paying attention.
Before you call for estimates, you have to have a way to determine if you are being told the truth and being treated fairly. This is not the movers responsibility, it is yours. The first step in preserving your rights is to know what you have, what it’s worth, and how much it weighs. On my website (http://www.waynejordanauctions.com) I make available a chart that will give you the weights and cubic footage of common household items. I also have an estate/tag sale pricing guide, which will give you approximate values for your furniture, appliances, and decor.
When you move, you can pay attention, or you can pay a higher price. But, either way you will pay.
Originally posted 2009-11-04 16:45:00.