Moving? Be sure to do your homework
More than 43 million Americans will move this year, according to www.ourtownamerica.com, meaning 20 percent of us will be hauling our stuff to another location in the upcoming months.However, according to the site, 50 percent of all those moves will take place from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In just three months, more than 20 million people will relocate across town, across states or even across the country.
With more and more people moving this time of year, it is critical for those who are packing up to know how to protect themselves and their homes from being taken advantage of.Those who plan to use a moving company should be forewarned: While there are many reputable and safe companies in business today that are capable of the job, there are those that are not.The real problem with moving companies, according to the site, began three decades ago. In 1980, the Household Goods Transportation Act was passed. This act gave movers the right to provide customers with “binding estimates.” Prior to this act, there were few national moving companies and little to no competition in the market. Now, companies would compete on the basis of price instead of customer service, making competition much fiercer.Moving companies, therefore, had to lower their prices more and more to stay competitive, yet that cut the margin of profit for these companies. And so, onslaughts of moving scams became more prevalent.Estimates were re-written after a family’s goods were packed.Delivery was withheld if families did not pay large, additional fees.Goods were broken or missing if rates were too low.While many of these scams have decreased with the advent of self-moving trucks and trailers, Web sites like http://www.moverworldwide.com/ still give people who need to use moving companies insight on how to make their moving experience efficient and satisfying. Here are some of their tips:n Check references very carefully. Be especially careful with Internet-based movers. There are obviously reputable firms online, but there are an unusual number of horror stories from customers who hired movers online.n Get referrals from local real estate firms.n Get several estimates -- in writing -- from the companies you've chosen. Do everything you can to check out the moving company in advance.n Do a search online to make sure the company isn't already a known scammer; go to the address of the company and check out their yard and their trucks.n Once a reputable company is found, get the full legal company name, length of time in business, full legal company address and all phone numbers.n Get their Department of Transportation and any other state or federal license numbers.n Most importantly, ask them for references -- and call them.n Find out if the company is insured.n Call the FMCSA's consumer complaints hotline at 1-888-368-7238 to inquire about the company's history.n Make to be given a copy of a booklet called "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move." Moving companies are legally obligated to give it.Adding to the list, Joe Boyle, president of Dun Mar Moving Systems, which has a branch in Suffolk, said that consumers need to be aware of moving companies found on Internet sites.“We’ve gotten some black eyes because of what’s going on in the Internet…I think the consumer really needs to be aware of some of the Internet sites that are available for moving,” he said. “In a lot of cases they are truly scams…they’ll let the consumer think they are the mover, ask for a deposit and then you’ll never hear from them again. I think if a consumer is going to use the Internet, they need to be very much aware.”Boyle said that consumers should have in-house estimates that are “relatively precise” and to get two to three estimates before signing a contract with a company.“Moving is a very stressful time,” Boyle said. “The consumer wants to deal with a company that’s providing a service level that’s not just ‘I am going to put in the truck, take it the destination and good luck'… There’s been a lot of dirt thrown at our industry and it’s because of the very few who have discredited our business.”Perhaps because of those scam artists, many sites remind movers that they do not have to rely on moving companies to do their dirty work and risk being scammed at all. In fact, many sites and companies, such as www.upack.com, have packing guidelines and tips on how to pack everything from digital equipment to furniture.“We know this is not always practical either, but it's something to seriously consider. Rent a truck, round up your friends to help pack and load your household goods, and drive away yourself,” the Scam Busters site read.But if all the hard work and heavy lifting is not the road movers want to go, they can try the site’s number one recommendation: Start all over.“Sell everything and start again. This may sound extreme, but dozens of people who've had their household goods held up by a moving company wish now that they had done this.”