Moving Pains

For 10 months I have been meaning to write about our move from Houston to Chapel Hill, which was filled with both [surprising] highs and [expected] lows.

As always seems to be the case, we A. were moving during the hottest, most miserable part of the year, and B. found ourselves with way too much stuff. We couldn’t do much about A but we spent months addressing B by pruning our inventory of clothes, furniture, and various things we hadn’t used in years. We took car load after car load of donations to Good Will but, when it came time to start packing, we were astounded by how much stuff we still had.

When I lived in Switzerland I became very enamored of my asset-light lifestyle. Having few things with me made it very easy to move from one place to another (especially including back to the US!) and I rarely devoted any brain cycles to my stuff or anything related to it. It was freeing!

Back in the US I have clearly done a worse job of acquiring things but at least this move was a good impetus to reduce the collection substantially.

We decided to hire professionals for the move. It would cost more than doing it ourselves but we thought it would be worth it.

Our move started off on the wrong foot, however, when the company we had hired showed up with a truck that was too small. As a consequence, they had to wait some hours for a bigger truck to show up and then completely unload the smaller one, reloading the items onto the new truck.

They also told us it would cost more since we had more stuff than they had estimated. There is a lesson learned here: only hire movers who actually come out to your house to inventory your items, not ones who give you a low ball estimate over the phone with every intention of upping the price on you, knowing that you have to move out on a deadline.

For weeks leading up to the move we had been watching Season 4 of Arrested Development with some good friends. We would get together in the evening, power our way through a few episodes, and feast on frozen, chocolate-dipped bananas that were absolutely divine. We were just a couple of episodes away from finishing the season so we had intended to head over to their house for one last hurrah once the movers were done.

Unfortunately the movers took longer and longer and finally we had to notify our friends that there was no realistic way that we would be done overseeing the movers until way past everyone’s bedtime. Between the wrenches in the gears with the movers and not getting to say our goodbyes as planned, we were bummed. Imagine our surprise, then, when those friends showed up at our door unannounced, delivering frozen bananas, champagne, and good cheer! Talk about turning our frowns upside down!

Eventually the movers finished (Not quite; they actually had to come back in the morning for a few more things that they hadn’t loaded.) and we spent the night at a friend’s house before hitting the road ourselves. We broke up the trip by stopping to spend a couple of days in my childhood home of Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville has changed a great deal but there was still plenty of nostalgia to be had.

The drama with the movers wasn’t over, though, as they called to increase the price on us again. Now that they had many of our worldly possession on their truck, they were holding them hostage and were clearly in a powerful negotiating position. It was straight up extortion. We felt betrayed by the movers and angry at ourselves for naively getting ourselves into such a situation.

Fortunately, it turns out that we are not the first victims of such a scam. Mover scams are apparently so common that there is an entire office (The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) within the Department of Transportation devoted to protecting consumers from such fraudulent behavior on interstate moves.

We did a little research, talked with a representative of the FMCSA just to confirm that we were in the right, and then talked tough on our next call with the movers. The person on the other end of the line changed his tune pretty quickly when Katie started dropping terms like “federal fraud charges” and, wouldn’t you know it, they agreed to deliver our goods on time for the price agreed to in their binding quote.

At the end of the day our goods arrived, largely unscathed, and we paid the agreed upon price. However, for every one of us who fights back, I wonder how many families give in to the demands – very many, I would guess. Ugh, I feel dirty just having dealt with them.

The irony of the situation is that we actually have a good friend who runs an interstate moving company. We completely forgot about that when we went out shopping for quotes and, in hindsight, would obviously have preferred to deal with a trusted (and trustworthy) business owner.

With 10 months of distance from the move, it no longer seems as painful. At the time, however, it was pretty stressful – and moves are already stressful enough without piling more on top! Let our experience be valuable for you, though: if you are considering a major move, feel free to reach out to me to learn more from our move and I would be glad to put you in touch with my friend who owns the good moving company!

Published by Bryan Guido Hassin

These are the musings of a global cleantech entrepreneur. This blog began as a way to document my experience during the IMD MBA in Switzerland and now is the place where I publish eclectic thoughts on business, politics, fitness, entertainment, travel, wine, sports, and . . . whatever else is top of mind.

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