Seems like it’s the time of year for people to be moving, and almost every one of them has a horror story to tell. I was reminded of a post about moving that I had read some time ago on Joey deVilla’s blog, the comments on which resulted in him getting some nasty phone calls from the thugs at Quick Boys Moving, when my sister Betty had a slight moving catastrophe last week.
Betty moved 6 doors down the same street in her Toronto neighbourhood, from a 2-storey house to a flat on the 2nd and 3rd floor of another house. She called around for movers who would do a moving job without a truck, which was apparently something that they’re just not programmed to accept, since it really just needed 2 or 3 guys and a couple of dollys to cart the stuff down the sidewalk. Finally, she found Desi Movers, and had two (two!) discussions on the phone with the owner telling him that a) no truck was needed, and b) there’s one flight of stairs at the start, and two at the finish. No problem, he said, quoted her a price, said that there was no minimum number of hours, and said that they’d be there at 8:30 sharp last Monday.
The only thing that arrived at her place at 8:30 sharp on Monday was me with her coffee, and we waited until almost 9:30 for the movers to show up: 2 of them, with one dolly. The movers whipped out a contract for her to sign that a) had a four-hour minimum, although she estimated that three would do it, and b) it was an extra $15 per man per set of stairs. She called the owner, who first had to be convinced that they were not going to use the truck since it was parked practically in front of the new place anyway, and then told her that the guys didn’t want to do the move because she was apparently depriving them of their stairs bonus. Now, she should have had a written contract before starting, and he really should have come out to see the place before giving an estimate, but this is the type of moving-day extortion that is so common that I wasn’t completely surprised when it happened.
She prepaid them for 3 hours, with the agreement that she’d pay more if they went over that time, then we proceeded to have the 3 slowest hours of moving that I have ever seen. Two pre-schoolers with a rickety wagon could have gone faster at some points during the morning. When the couch wouldn’t fit up the stairs at the new place and the landlord (who lives downstairs) was taking the door and part of the door frame off to accommodate it, they mostly just stood around instead of moving the remaining boxes out of the old place and down the sidewalk to the new place. One particularly heavy box was just left at the old place, and a heavy one at the new place was left on the porch until they were prompted several times to carry it up the stairs. At one point, they just stopped going upstairs in the old place, leaving 12-15 boxes up there, then at 12:30 they got in the truck, told Betty that they had another job to be at, and drove off. To say that she was furious would be a serious understatement.
This is not an isolated incident, by any means. When I moved back to Toronto from southern California in 2002, my furniture arrived in a big truck (as you would expect) from Alex Moving and Storage, a North American Van Lines agent in Orange County. The movers, who I think were just tired and cranky from driving all night, decided that they couldn’t park the truck in front of the apartment building (it was common for moving trucks to park there, although technically not legal), and they couldn’t get the truck into the back laneway in spite of all the other trucks of that size that I’d seen get into exactly that same spot. So they drove away with all my furniture, and their local affiliate, Blue Bird Moving, called me to extort an additional $US827.63 from me to offload my furniture to a smaller truck and bring it back the next day — which is more than it cost to have movers move the same load of stuff from that apartment to another one about a year later. That’s after I already paid Alex Moving $US4,500 to get the stuff here in the first place. To top it off, they damaged some leather furniture — furniture that had been shrink-wrapped to guard against just such damage before leaving California and somehow was mysteriously unwrapped somewhere along the way. The insurance adjuster who visited from NAVL said that I would certainly be eligible for compensation since the damage would take a few hundred dollars to repair, but his final report (ever faithful to the company, I suppose) deemed that it was all less than the $100 deductible. One such episode would be bad enough, but to be screwed by the NAVL agent in Orange County, the agent in Toronto, and their insurance company, all on one move, was a bit much.
Then this morning, I saw this post on Feministe about her particular moving hell, and realize that incompetent/unscrupulous moving companies are just part of life everywhere.