MOVING MY LIFE
My Personal Moving Story
Moving companies know that relocating is probably one of the most unsettling and emotionally turbulent times in our lives. They depend upon it. Reasons for moving are often motivated by major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, a birth or a death, like in my case. When I decided to move to New York, my mother had just died two months before. I was not only dealing with my grief, but my mother’s personal affairs, too and emptying the house she had lived in for forty years. Moving involves more than just packing prized possessions and transporting them to a new location, although both are major parts.
When I moved from Los Angeles to New York, I was in a fragile state of mind and emotionally spent. I would have preferred that someone else to take care of the details of my move. Maybe I thought I would use a moving company this time, although I knew it would be expensive.
After the fact, I learned that finding an honest mover was probably easier 25 years ago or even 15 years ago, before the moving industry was deregulated in 1995.
The Moving Van & Storage Truck
Under the best of circumstances, a move requires careful planning in order to make the relocation smooth. Closing one part of our life and opening the door to a new life takes energy and organization.
Even before starting to pack and relocating, I knew it was time to find a mover. My vision was to have a mover who makes sure my belongings arrive in one piece. Later, I learned to find a mover who delivers all my belonging and doesn’t try to milk me of thousands of dollars more than the original quote is not easy.
According to the 2007 American Community Survey data part of the Census Bureau, shows that once the average person reaches the age of 18, they are likely to move at least another 9.1 times in their remaining lifetime compared to just 2.7 more moves once a person reaches 45 years old. Americans move an average of 11.7 times in their lifetime. (July 10, 2018)
The bad news is, since a person general only moves a few times after the age of 45 years old, but maybe several thousand miles and do not get a chance to gain the education and experience necessary to choose an honest mover and learn the art of moving and packing.
Even though I moved more than most, using a mover was a new experience for me, even though I had mastered other aspects of moving. By the time I was ten-years-old I’d already moved at least a dozen times across the United States and back again and lived in a dozen cities. By adulthood, I became a connoisseur in the art of moving. To me, moving is just as much a science as an art. Since people do not move enough times to master the art and become knowledgeable in the science, I feel it is imperative that a person needs one comprehensive resource to find all the necessary information in a step-by-step format. You will find that Moving Your Life Using a Moving and Storage Company will provide everything you need to move across town or across the United States.
Packing your antique Chinese vase so it does not arrive a thousand pieces is a science and ensuring that your electrical appliances arrive at all can be accomplished when hiring the right mover. After my personal horrific experience moving and hearing hundreds of other horror stories, I know education is the answer. My quest for knowledge and truth as a person and an investigative reporter propelled me to learn everything I could about moving so that no one else will ever experience a horror story. My book is a guide to a positive moving experience from start to finish comprised of my years of moving experience and that of all the people I interviewed along with many hours of research in the field.
Education is a must and will help you avoid the scam artists in the moving industry and the horror stories you hear about from your friends, read in magazines and newspapers, and see on television. You will learn how these scams work, how to avoid them and have a positive moving experience. You’ll learn how to protect yourself and your family from having your belongings ransomed because you refuse to pay several thousand dollars more at the time of delivery. You will learn how to recognize and protect yourself from the professional crooks at work and instead hire honest movers. They do exist even though you might have to sift through several crooks before you find honest movers.
Before hiring my movers, I’d heard the horror stories, but thought, this can’t happen to me. However, I didn’t know enough to recognize them. Part of me felt over-exposed and undereducated. The other part felt like I needed the movers, but how will I recognize the good ones. I felt that I was in the Sahara Desert near death from lack of water and then saw a water hole with a sign, “Drink at your own risk.”
Up until then, whenever my sons and I moved, I’d rent a truck and cram everything we owned into it. One time moving from northern California to Los Angeles my 2 sons would join me later with friends taking the train. I rented a 48-foot truck and towed our car. A neighbor and her one-year-old son wanted to visit family in Los Angeles near where my sons and I planned to move, were my travel companions.
It was the first time I drove such a big truck with this many gears and pulling my car with too many gears. When had just started out, Lorraine said, “I’m nervous. This is scary for me.” I told her that I was scared, too and if she wanted to come with me on this trip she’d have to pretend everything was okay or I would have to turn around and take her back, now. From that point on she never said another negative thing. Every time I had to stop for a pee break or my traveling companions needed something, I got nervous all over again when I saw that I was driving the big truck pulling a car. Basically, I tried not to look.
We crawled over the Grapevine, a treacherous stretch of road outside of the Mohave Desert as I struggled to find second gear so I could edge to the right to join the other slow trucks. I imagined we all looked like a herd of lethargic elephants headed for the water hole. Eventually we made it and then I quickly learned to drive through the streets of Los Angeles to Palms where the kids and I would live and tried to get people to help me empty the truck.
My move from Los Angeles to New York, alone in winter, 3,500 miles away seemed daunting. I hadn’t driven in winter for 30 years, not since my youngest son and I were caught in a blizzard in northern California on a one lane road with blind curves and shear drops. John, only six at the time, hung his head out the window in the frigid air of the black night at my request to tell me if we were too close to the edge. I struggled to stay not succumbing to a hypnotic trance as the snow crashed against the windshield, over and over and over again.
I figured if I got through that horrendous experience, I could handle anything. That was before I hired a mover without the knowledge I needed.
“Is this Coast to Coast Moving Company?” I said to the woman I found on the Internet. I changed their name to protect the innocent, me. I learned to never hire movers through the Internet or on the phone, for that matter.
“Well, actually, it isn’t, but can I help you—what is it you want?” The syrupy voice on the other end of the phone line cooed. I explained it was my first time using a moving company and that I wanted to relocate to New York. She treated me like an old friend. We move people from Los Angeles to New York all the time,” she said in an upbeat professional way. “And we don’t contract out to other companies, either. Your furniture starts out in our truck and it ends up in our truck.” My boxes of antique glassware and furniture, photo albums, prized book collection and dozens of unfinished writing projects would be safe. (Always get everything they say in writing because it will haunt you later).
“Do you suppose I can get some references from a few customers?” I said. “Absolutely, and do call the Better Business Bureau, too. Their link is on our web site.”
The Better Business Bureau is not necessarily a reliable source, I found out.
“Just for my records, what’s your address?” I ask the woman, whose effervescence bubbled through my telephone.
“Well…umm,” she stammered, “I’d rather not give out our address.”
“You can’t give me your address?”
“No. We’ve had people harassing us on the phone and we’re worried they’ll come to our office.” (That should have been a danger signal to me).
The company’s references on their website were glowing and why not? Would anyone give out references that were less than perfect?
The Better Business Bureau report was good too. Well almost, only one negative. The representative assured me the problem was resolved and all parties were happy.
“I thought you didn’t have any negative reports with BBB?” I gently nudged. “And, you said you had a direct link to BBB on your web site—I must have missed it.”
“Oh, it’s not working now,” she cooed. “That lady wanted everything for free. She was picky, picky, picky. You know the type? Can you imagine someone wanting everything for free—trying to take advantage? But we resolved the problem and refunded her money.” (Listen to inconsistencies and bad-mouthing former clients).
Ms. Sugar Voice’s quote was lower than the other informal ones I got over the Internet and on the telephone. My mind was almost made up to use this company even though
they never came out in person to give me a quote. But, I didn’t insist on it. I should have.
Friends told me movers often double and triple their initial quotes. When the goods are delivered more money is demanded, sometimes several thousand dollars more than the original quote. If people refused to pay, the movers held their possessions hostage until they paid the ransom. Although I was sure Ms. Sugar Voice would not do that to me, just in case, I decided to pay the entire bill at the time of pickup. (A good move on my part, but I didn’t get off unscathed).
A few weeks later, on a cold November afternoon, I’m waiting for the movers at the storage company my belongings are stored. Four hours later than expected—a big truck pulls up with large red letters displayed on the sides, BUDGET RENTALS. Three kids jump out, one speaks English with a strong accent and the other two speak in a language unknown to me.
This was the first time I met anyone from the company. Actually, I had no formal quote or document other than an email I insisted upon. Later, too late, I learned about a document called, “Probable Cost of Service.” Although movers are not required to furnish these estimates, it is a good idea to ask for one from all movers you interview. It’s a tool you can use to pick a mover that will protect you later if necessary. In fact, I found there are several key documents you should know about.
“You’re four hours late,” I blurt out,” trying to be civil. And why do you have a rental truck?”
“Too many people moving today—ran out of trucks,” the foreman says. He looks at my two crates stuffed with boxes and furniture. His eyes roll backwards in his head. “Oh my God…I’m tired—let’s get this done fast,” as he glances at the two kids, probably not much older than him. He has a clip board with a pile of blank white lined paper. Abruptly he leads me to the back end of the rental truck and points to a flimsy yellow rope inside that marks off the furniture and boxes already in the truck. “This is where the cubic feet mark starts for your furniture.”
I choose the cubic feet-rated moving charge, not realizing that hourly-rated and weight-rated moving charges for long distance moves are more the norm and accurate. “We’ll tape up all your boxes.” Angel says. “And put the red stickers on everything and write down the number on this paper,” pointing to the clipboard. The stickers, tiny flimsy red things which seemed to me could blow off in the first breeze, were the only mark of identification on my possessions. How would anyone know they’re mine if they fall off?
A friend insisted that I write my name, address and phone number on each box. Did I listen? No. I trusted the system. Now I worry.
After looking at his haphazard method of measuring and aware I agreed to pay by the cubic feet, not by weight, I quickly review in my head that my two wooden crates cannot be more than 450 cubic feet combined, even if they were professionally packed, which they weren’t. Angel, the foreman, assured me that the extra boxes I brought in a borrowed pick-up truck were no more than a few cubic feet and wouldn’t even make any difference, although I didn’t get that in writing. Later he offered me a deal on packing several pictures. I did not get either in writing.
It’s now 8:30 P.M., dark and a lot colder than it was six and a half hours ago. Public Storage closed hours before and just the three kids and I are in the parking lot. My belongings are almost loaded, although I can’t really tell since the parking lot is black. No moon tonight.
Angel walks over to me. “We’re just about done,” he says in a friendly voice. “Let’s get out of the cold into your truck.” I nod and climb into the driver’s side and he hops into the passenger side.
I know the bomb is about to fall. I begin to rehearse my lines, silently, “The two storage crates combined only hold 450 cubic feet…” Before my jugulars are slit simultaneously, we have a little foreplay in the darkened cab, talk about life and other warm and fuzzy things. I play along thinking it’ll delay the inevitable and give me a chance to change the outcome.
We treat each other like were old friends. I ask him things like, how long he’s been in the United States, what are his plans for the future, his age? He told me he moved to the United States 1-1/2 years ago from Israel and he’s 25-years-old, has big plans to own a moving company in the United States. He said he’s getting good training and experience from this company. I could definitely see that was true. He asked about my plans, wanted to know more about my writing and where I’m moving. I try to extend the conversation as long as possible because I knew the script would soon turn ugly. I tried to see the total on the stack of papers on his lap as he continued to sweeten me up for the kill. But, I couldn’t make it out, too dark.
We continue to talk for a few more minutes. Now he goes on about himself, his dreams and his life. I silently rehearse my script, “My two wooden crates cannot hold more than 450 cubic feet combined, even if they were professionally packed, which they weren’t…” Abruptly, the foreplay is over and we move into the main event.
“According to my calculations,” he said, his face expressionless. “The total is $3,500.”
“That can’t be right. My original quote was $1795 and with the two boxes of pictures at
“Lady, you have 600 cubic feet worth of stuff altogether. Also, I had to add another $150 for the tape we used to wrap your boxes and the extra 70 cubic feet for the items you brought on the pick up truck, $150 more for the pictures—”
“Impossible,” I say. “The two storage units combined only hold 450 cubic feet if they were stuffed full with no airspace—which they aren’t and you said the few extra boxes I brought wouldn’t even count.”
“Look lady, I’m just going by the measurement marks in the truck—and I told you 70 cubic feet on the stuff you brought in the pick-up truck and altogether 600 cubic feet. We’re standing outside now.
“Right guys?” He looks at the two young men slinking near the rental truck. They shake their heads obediently up and down in agreement with expressionless faces.
No moon and the temperatures dropping even lower. Nine thirty now. I’m hungry, cold, tired and determined.
“I want to speak to Renee (Ms. Sugar Voice),” I say.
“Oh, you don’t want to speak to her. She’s just a secretary,” he screamed at me. “She knows nothing.”
“Call her.” I insist. Renee and Angel speak to each other on his cell phone for several
minutes in a foreign language.
“Here, she wants to talk to you,” as he pushes the cell phone in my face.
“So what’s the problem,” says Renee, her voice not sweet any more.
“It can’t be much more than 450 cubic feet,” I say, “Because the storage units are 450cubic feet…” and I just brought a few boxes more. We went back and forth until she passed me to Joe, the owner. He was charming—for a minute, assuring me that Angel had been working for him for over 10 years, very trust worthy.
“I guess he was 15 when he started because he’s only 25 now,” I say. “And he’s only been in the United States for 1-1/2 years.” Silence.
“Well, then,” Joe screams, “Have them take everything out of the truck. We don’t need your business.”
My mind flashed ahead to having to load all the boxes of books and furniture back into the storage crates, alone, in the cold, dark parking lot. And if I am able to load everything back, which is doubtful, I’ll have to leave the units standing in the parking lot all night with flimsy padlocks securing my life’s belongings and I think, how will I find another moving company on such short notice.
“No,” I cry. “We can work it out, I’m sure.”
“Give me Angel,” he says. “There are words between them in the foreign language and Angel hangs up. We battle for the next half hour. I am cold, hungry, disillusioned, but even more determined. I end up paying $280 over the original quote, a lot less than what he wanted to charge me.
Relieved, sickened and shaky, I watch my life’s possessions move away as their truck pulls out of the parking lot. It is out of my control now, at least until the middle of December when my belongings arrive in Saratoga Springs—or don’t. I have plenty on my mind until then.
On December 10th I received a call at my new apartment in Saratoga Springs, New York from a man with a heavy Russian accent telling me he will arrive in Saratoga Springs with my belongings the morning of December 13th. We arrange to meet at my new storage unit just outside of town.
Snow covers the ground that morning and the temperature is 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Two men in jeans and tee shirts jump out of the 18 wheeler and start unloading my boxes and furniture.
“Were you contracted?” I blurt out.
“Yes,” the thinner man says, as he continued to pull boxes out of the truck. Some of the boxes had fallen apart. Few were tapped, only the ones I taped, even though I’d emailed Ms. Sugar Voice that I wanted the boxes taped. She immediately emailed me back my boxes would be taped before leaving Los Angeles.
They finish unloading and I signed papers stating I’d received everything. Big mistake! Do not sign anything until you are assured that everything is accurate and that proper notations have been entered regarding any missing or damaged items. If your items are damaged or missing, you’re supposed to make a record of it on the inventory form. There are other papers I signed without questions.
In spring, the sun is out and the snow melted. I visit my storage unit and find two dozen boxes are missing, not counting the ones that spilled out. Tape recorders, radios, television and other electrical appliances are missing. I guess it’s true that moving companies steal and sell electrical items in order to add to their profits. My radio/CD/tape recorder is smashed and there are boxes of broken dishes, antique plates, cake platters and tea pots, wine glasses. My antique rosewood table and desk are chipped and gouged, the computer desk scratched and pieces missing, my ukulele dented, two strings broken and more but I can’t bear to think about them.
The good news, my VCR arrives safely, probably because they already had too many VCR’s in their stockpile. Thinking back, Angel did warn me about my damaged antique furniture.
He said, “Don’t bother ever sending antique furniture because by the time it gets to its destination, it’ll be broken and fall apart anyway.” He spoke the truth. He is an angel
After what I know now, I would have slept the night guarding my life’s possessions and figured out what to do in the morning. However, had I taken the time to learn about every aspect of moving and had a step-by-step plan to follow, I would not have been easy prey to the scam artists who are professional crooks at work—the motivation for writing Moving Your Life.