The more you move, the more wise you get to some of the shenanigans from disreputable moving companies.
However, there always seems to be more of these scams popping up. Here are a few you probably haven’t heard of.
‘Your Moving Quote is Guaranteed – But It’s Wrong’
Most people rightly insist on getting a “binding estimate,” which is often referred to as a “guaranteed moving quote” or ”flat rate.”
That makes sense: you pay no more than the quoted amount, and you can actually pay less if the estimate was too high.
But it doesn’t work so well if the moving quote itself is inaccurate.
Here’s what happens. A moving estimator comes to your home for an in-home visual estimate, does an inventory of your stuff, and gives you a quote that is guaranteed to not be any higher than the estimate.
But that ‘guaranteed quote’ is only good for the inventory that the moving company uses to come up with your moving estimate. And if that inventory is wrong – ‘Ooops, I missed that bedroom!’ — the moving quote becomes void, and you’re stuck negotiating with the moving company for a new estimate (on Moving Day, no less).
The simplest way to protect yourself? It’s easy: scrutinize the inventory that the estimator uses to determine your moving estimate, and make sure nothing is left off.
Even if you pack yourself, it doesn’t mean you won’t be subject to some extra charges when it comes to packing — and we routinely hear from consumers whose original moving estimate double just from packing materials. Here’s what happens.
You didn’t pack everything in time, or you ran out of boxes. No biggie, just ask the moving company to do it. While you understand you’ll probably pay a premium for the boxes, there is probably one thing you haven’t thought of: packing tape.
An old trick is to use a TON of packing tape on freshly packed boxes, or boxes that the movers didn’t feel had enough tape.
So they wrap, and they wrap, and they wrap. Soon, that box has more wrapping than King Tut, and you find out later packing tape ain’t cheap, perhaps twice what you’d pay for it elsewhere.
And if you’re using professional packers, you might come across the half-filled box trick — only this isn’t nearly as much fun as when a magician pulls it off.
The mover puts just a few items in the bottom, and fills most of the rest of the box with packing paper. That small item is now in a big box — and big profits for the moving company. You might also find the movers trying to use more expensive boxes like dish-pack boxes (which have double-thick sides) for items that don’t need it.
To protect yourself: if you’re packing yourself, make sure everything has enough tape, and keep extra rolls around if you need to add more on Moving Day.
If you’re using professional packers, be around for the packing so you can supervise the work. And remember: on Moving Day, the movers will INSIST that everything is in a box — they won’t take stuff you’re thrown in a garbage bag.
‘Your Move Size: Whatever I Make It’
The moving estimator looks at your stuff to be moved on a long distance move, and says that what you need to have moved comes to a certain amount of ‘cubic feet.’ Huh?
First of all, who in the world even knows how big a cubic foot is? Second, why is the moving company using cubic feet instead of good old-fashioned weight?
Here’s why: when you have an estimate by weight, the moving company must go to a certified weighing station to see how much your stuff weighs — and that scale doesn’t lie (even if your own scale lies all the time when you’re trying to shed those extra pounds before your high school reunion).
With cubic feet, the moving company measures your final move by the space your goods take up in the truck. And all of a sudden, the moving company just becomes REALLY bad at loading a truck, and it has more empty spaces than Montana. Soon, your moving estimate is much higher because the estimated cubic foot load is much lower than the final load in the truck (that poorly packed truck).
How to Protect Yourself: Get a moving quote based on weight, and if you’re concerned that there might be issues when the moving company weighs your load, tag along with the movers to the scales — you have the right to do this and should feel entirely comfortable asking.
Here are some other moving scams to be aware of when choosing moving companies and planning your move:
* The low-ball bid. You get three bids, and company ABC comes in the lowest — nearly half the cost of everyone else! What a deal, right? Wrong. The company is most likely setting you up to lard on more charges later to get your quote to where it should be for them to make any money.
* Passing your move off to someone else. You speak on the phone with a moving company that gives you a quote, but on moving day someone else shows up. You were most likely dealing with a moving broker, which sold your business to someone else. Avoid moving brokers — you want to deal with the same company from the start of your move to the end. And choose a local moving company.
* Getting an estimate over the phone, or filling out an online inventory form. There’s no way for the moving company to get an accurate sense of what you need moved until they see it in person. Insist that the moving company comes to your home and gives you an in-home visual estimate.
Another way to avoid these scams is to take these other basic precautions:
* Check with your local Better Business Bureau for the complaint record of your moving company.
* See if the mover is a member of American Moving and Storage Association. In particular, ask if the mover is a ProMover, which is a new AMSA designation for moving companies that meet a strict review of their business practices, and agree to abide by a code of ethics in their business operations.
* Read reviews online, but beware their limitations.