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A Bad Move

Posted 04-16-2021 at 10:12 PM by Igor Blevin
Updated 04-17-2021 at 05:37 AM by Igor Blevin

Moving day is done. It was a bad move and a lot went wrong that I was hoping to avoid when I went with a national mover with a good reputation.

So, what went wrong?

The local movers I had were slow, poor at communicating, poorly lead, not decisive, and missed loading items. That is all before they tried to cheat me out of $3,000.

2 days before the scheduled move, International Van Lines told me they were slipping the move by 1 day and that they would not be moving me, but would be using a local "partner". This is exactly what I did not want, because I could not check the reputation of the locals for quality.

I am not blaming IVL. They can’t keep up with the mass exodus from California and have to rely on locals for the overflow. I just drew the short straw getting stuck with local movers of unknown reputation. You hope the parent company has good partners, but how do I know that?

To their credit, the movers were extremely hard workers, wrapped all the furniture securely, and packed every extra item I asked them to, whether planned or because I had not got around to it yet.

Basically, the day came down to a race. I had to lock my front door and hand the keys over to my landlord by 3:59 PM. The few remaining items had to be packed. All furniture had to be padded and wrapped. Everything had to be moved and secured onto the 26-foot box truck. Payment had to be made, and I had to sweep through the apartment to insure it was empty and clean, right down to the fridge.

What could go wrong?

First off, they were slow. They took 6 hours to load everything on the truck, only ending at 3 pm. Since I was 98% packed, all they really had to do was load. Contrast this with my previous move – a Mayflower crew loaded my entire 3-bedroom house and 2-car garage worth of storage in about 4 hours.

The movers had no initiative. By that, I just mean that I have had movers before who would see items not ready to go and would ask me if they should pack them or was I taking them. With this mover, I really had to specifically point out items. This is somewhat minor, but just shows inexperience, poor training, or a lack of professionalism.

Communication was poor. Only the Foreman spoke English. I could not make any requests of the crew, who could not understand what I as saying. This slowed things down. It was not just that. The Foreman just wasn't engaging, keeping me informed, or asking me what I needed done. I was the one who had to keep the lines of communication open. I have had much more pro-active movers.

They missed loading some things on the truck. At around 2:30, the Foreman said he was done and approached me over final payment. He never conducted a final walk-through to ensure all of my items were loaded on the truck. The 3 laundry hampers and kitchen trash can he missed loading would have to have been thrown away, as I could not take such bulky items in my car. This is minor, but I still should not have to throw away items just because he missed loading them on the truck.

Much worse, he missed loading a 300-lb safe sitting in the middle of the bedroom. I could not have thrown this away or moved it myself. I had a hard deadline of 4 pm to turn my keys in to the landlord, and I have no clue how I would have closed out my apartment leaving a 300-lb safe behind. I imagine my landlord would have charged me a good deal to dispose of it, then I would have to buy a new safe at my new location.

The point is, this is a fundamental task for a professional crew. How hard is it to do a final check that everything is loaded. And who knows? Maybe he intended to do that after I paid him, but I think that is very unprofessional. To approach me and say you are done, you should be done.

So finally, the Foreman gave me the bill for the move. I feel like he tried to cheat me out of $3,000. If his overcharge was not intentional, then it was really gross negligence on his part. What he tried to do to me was just flat out wrong.

International Van Lines quoted me some $7,800 for the move, based on 1100 cubic feet volume. They bill strictly by total volume, regardless of weight. The basis for the quote was an inventory list of small, large, medium, and extra large boxes, as well as listing all furniture items, and any extras.

This is a binding estimate and can't be changed unless the number or nature of items is different from the inventory list.

Boxes are standard size, so all I needed was an accurate count. Furniture is not standard size, so I included the dimensions of L x W x H for all of my furniture. My bedroom furniture particularly is heavy and over-sized. Had I just listed a chest and a dresser, it could be deceptive as to how big and heavy my items are. By listing dimensions, I hoped to be accurate and get a firm quote that would reflect the real items to be moved.

The original quote was made around a month before the move, and was inaccurate as moving day approached. I gave International Van Lines a very accurate, updated count of boxes just days before moving, for which they gave me the updated $7,800 quote.

I know my inventory list was very accurate. On moving day itself, I added more boxes that were not accounted for on the inventory, but it could not be more than 10 additional boxes. It wasn't much.

The Foreman was claiming that I owed $10,600 for the move, based on 1500 cubic feet, rather than $7,800 as quoted by IVL. I was shocked at the huge difference in price and volume, given my very accurate inventory list. I knew I owed some additional money for the 10 or so boxes I added on moving day, but even 10 large boxes would only amount to 45 cubic feet additional. The foreman was saying I used 400 additional cubic feet, 1500 total rather than the 1100 from my inventory list.

The reason I felt like I was being cheated is because an honest mistake should have been sorted out promptly. The Foreman kept changing his story.

Initially, the Foreman said my goods took up 1500 cubic feet of room on his truck. That is irrelevant. My binding estimate from IVL was based on the volume as packed, not as loaded. It is up to the mover to load the truck efficiently. If movers could bill by actual volume on the truck, it would be an incentive for very sloppy loading that fills the maximum volume. The final volume has to be based on the items themselves, not on how they are loaded on the truck.

After proving that to him, he then changed his story to say that my furniture was larger and more bulky than he expected. He should have known the exact size of all my furniture, as I had accurately listed the dimensions on the IVL inventory list.

Having been caught in that lie, he then changed his story again to say I had many additional boxes not listed on the inventory. When I challenged him to tell me how many additional large, medium, and small boxes he loaded above and beyond my inventory list, he couldn't do so. He could not defend a number. He was just making stuff up to justify a wild, fraudulent overcharge.

This drivel went on for over an hour, by which time I was really beginning to panic because it was getting really close to 4 pm when I had to lock up the apartment and drop off the keys. I had no time to be arguing price with the mover and he was killing me by taking up the last of my available moving time, when I still had final duties to do in the apartment on my own before closing up. This was extremely stressful and I really became mad that he was wasting my valuable time like this.

Caught in all his lies or mistakes -- the loaded volume was irrelevant, my furniture dimensions were clearly known, and the number of additional boxes were relatively small -- the Foreman called his boss for guidance.

His solution? "Instead of calling it 400 extra cubic feet, I am only going to call lit 200 extra cubic feet, so only $1,500 more, not $3,000".

This is the point where I just blew up. All I wanted from him was documented proof showing either I had made an error in my counts or dimensions, or some quantified explanation for additional volume and cost.

Never in the process could he justify more than 1100 cubic feet, and now he was just pulling numbers out of his butt. It was as if he realized that if he couldn't cheat me out of $3,000, maybe I would cave in and let him cheat me out of $1,500.

I was perfectly willing to pay any overrun I was responsible for. I knew I had added boxes on moving day, from 8 to 12 additional boxes of various size. I might have added 40 cubic feet volume, but that is about it. Now he was just proposing random numbers he thought I might settle for. He just didn’t seem to understand that I was not going to pay any additional cost for added volume he could not document and I could not audit.

With 20 minutes to deadline, I was on the verge of panic that I would fail to turn my keys in on time because this unprofessional mover who was either trying to cheat me or was grossly incompetent, was wasting my most precious moment in time.

I was so stressed out, I just grabbed the last box of trash and stomped out of my apartment to toss it in the dumpster. In my fury at being cheated on the bill and in my panic at it almost being 4 pm, I just marched up to the dumpster and HEAVED a perfect 3-pointer into the bin. I then stomped back into my apartment for a final do-or-die confrontation with the intolerable Foreman.

Returning to my apartment, I saw a box on the floor with items I knew I had wanted to throw away in the trash. So then, what did I just heave into the dumpster bin?

No. It couldn’t be. No way. God would not do this to me.

It was a box on the kitchen counter I had mindlessly thrown away in my panicked, stressed out delirium. A very important box.

My "hot box".

This was the box that contained everything important that I wanted to keep with me to guard against the tiny chance the mover would lose it, along with any items I just wanted immediately available at my new destination.

My hot box included my paid-for car’s title or “pink slip”, my original birth certificate, check books for both my checking accounts, $2,500 in cash, my $6,000 hearing aids, my spare prescription glasses, and more.

Reflecting on what I had just thrown away in the scummy dumpster, my stomach dropped. My heart leaped to my throat. My head went light and I was on the verge of tears. Followed immediately by an irrational sense of calm. Total calm. The calm of the gallows. Your head is in the noose, you have had your last meal, the preacher has given his benediction, and there is nothing left to do but resign yourself to the moment of doom when the trapdoor gives way and you breath your last breath. Ad the floor had already given way.

And in that moment, a sudden unexpected breakthrough happened.

After calling his boss for a final time, his boss called me back to say the additional charge amounted to 70 cuft in additional boxes. “Fine,” I said, “I am happy to pay that.” I knew I added another 10 boxes or so.

Agreement. Finally! Thanks for wasting my last precious hour of time over nothing.

I paid the bill and kicked the movers out, locked up, and raced to the front office to drop off the keys, and then raced straight back to the dumpster to see what I could retrieve from the hot box 3-pointer I had landed just moments before, or if the eluding the police had already beaten me to it.

How often had I seen homeless men digging through that dumpster? Almost a nightly occurrence. Only I wasn’t going for leftover Cheetos and unopened malt liquor cans. After 2 years in this place, it was finally my turn for dumpster diving. 2 years and on the last day, it finally bit me.

To put the frosting on the cake for this moving day hell, all the while I as arguing with the Foreman, the police had sealed off the neighborhood and were searching for a fleeing crime suspect jumping fences and eluding police. When I went outside to heave my hot box in the dumpster, I could hear the PA on the police helicopter overhead broadcasting, "if you see a white man with a beard, call 9-1-1". LOL. Everybody has a beard today.

Leaving my apartment for the very last time, police cars were everywhere, closing streets, securing a perimeter, and searching for the fleeing perp.

So, it is Friday night and I am dead on my feet from lack of sleep and stress. I am drained.

As far as I can tell, I got everything important back from my hot box except for a spare car fob I need in case I lost my primary, and an expensive Spyderco knife that I had somehow left earlier unpacked, and wanted to keep it with me now on the trip. It remains to be seen if I suddenly need something that I no longer have. I have no clue what else I might have lost.

I can only express my gratitude to God and thank my luck.

There is no way I will be able to set off for Tennessee tomorrow morning, so I am staying in town for a recuperation day. The items in my trunk are a disorganized mess, so I will probably spend all day tomorrow getting it all in some semblance of organization for checking in and out of hotels and for using items on the road. The suitcase is good to go but I just dumped a bunch of last-minute stuff in the trunk and need to sort it all out, some of it maybe even in the round file.

I have survived the moving day from hell. A Nightmare move I never expected. You can plan all you want but some things are out of your control, like promised movers being replaced last minute with local yahoos that are not to the professional standard the parent company upholds. There is nothing more I could have done to avoid this situation.
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