BBB: Investigate moving companies thoroughly before signing any contracts
From the Better Business Bureau
Following a few simple rules when looking for a mover will go a long way toward protecting you from becoming a victim of bad service or scams this summer, advises the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA).
May is National Moving Month, and the beginning of the busiest time of the year for changing residences. More than 37 million Americans, about 13 percent of the U.S. population, move every year, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
Annually, the BBB receives serious complaints from consumers who have fallen prey to careless, dishonest and sometimes unlicensed moving companies.
The BBB serving Chicago and northern Illinois received more than 850 complaints against movers and storage companies in 2009. Complaints were primarily about damaged or lost goods and final prices in excess of original estimates. In an all-too-common situation, a moving company may refuse to deliver a customer’s belongings, holding them hostage until additional payment is made.
Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the BBB serving Chicago and northern Illinois, said: “Checking a mover’s credentials is critical and easy. Last year alone, consumers relied on the BBB more than 93,000 times for finding a trustworthy mover or storage company. When making the final choice, go with a BBB Accredited Business, or, at the very least, choose a business that has a good rating with the BBB.”
AMSA President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr added: “Virtually anyone with a truck and a Web site can claim to be a mover. They can’t all be trusted to adhere to standards for honesty and ethical conduct. When it comes to such an important decision, you can save a lot of heartache by doing just a little homework to find companies that put customer service and integrity first. For interstate moves, that means an AMSA certified ProMover.”
What may happen when a consumer decides to hire a moving service? Here are two examples from Chicago-area consumers:
Dina Porro, from Naperville, Ill., said: “They had my things in storage for a little over a year. They said it was a climate-controlled, state-of-the-art facility. When they brought my stuff to my new place, it smelled terrible and was covered with black mold. Everything was ruined, except a couple of things like a lawnmower. I told the movers to take the stuff right out of my house, and they assured me that the company would take care of everything the next day, which was Monday. I called the next day, and the manager told me that the damage did not happen at their facility, and it was not their fault. My insurance company is going after them. The insurance company gave me a check for $17,000 to cover the damage.”
Eva Montgomery, from Chicago, said: “All but one piece of my furniture was damaged. They were just banging everything around while they moved it. I had paid an additional $75 to have them wrap a television and put it in a box, and they did not wrap it. They threw a blanket over it and did not do anything to protect the base. They got dye on my couch. They cover the damage based on the weight of the damaged items. I spent time looking up the weight of the damaged things, and figured they owed me $817 and they paid me $200.”
The BBB and AMSA offer the following checklist for finding a trustworthy moving company:
• Research the company thoroughly. In Illinois, movers must be licensed by the ICC or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify at www.icc.illinois.gov or www.protectyourmove.gov. Also, check the company’s rating with the BBB that maintains reports about more than 800 movers in northern Illinois.
• Get at least three in-home estimates. No legitimate mover will offer to give you a firm estimate online or over the phone. Also, keep in mind that the lowest-cost estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer that can cost you more in the end.
• Make sure all agreements are in writing. Have a clear understanding of how you will be charged, such as an hourly rate or by the job. Always ask about any potential additional charges that may appear after the move is complete.
• Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer with both the state you currently reside in and the state you are moving to. Also, enlist the help of the BBB or local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or decides to hold your belongings hostage.
More tips and information about how to choose a mover and plan your move are available at AMSA’s consumer Web site, www.moving.org; and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s site, www.protectyourmove.gov.
To research a mover or find your nearest Better Business Bureau, visit www.bbb.org.
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