Moving is never easy. In fact, it can be a real hassle, especially on a fixed budget. I’ve done it at least a dozen times since I graduated college, moving all across the country. And while I consider myself a savvy consumer, I have made a few big mistakes along the way.
Some of the worst moving stories I’ve heard, however, happened while I was working as a TV news reporter.
I remember interviewing a family who moved to the Seattle area from the Midwest and literally had their personal belongings held hostage by the moving company. The family was verbally quoted one price and then charged more mid-trip. Unable to pay, the movers held on the family’s belongings and starting charging them daily for storage costs.
Eventually law enforcement got involved, but that wasn’t until six months after the family had already moved. They were living in an empty apartment and sleeping on their clothes. They chose to go with movers who quoted them a low a price, and they never got anything in writing—and they learned a tough lesson from that experience.
Sadly, rogue movers are everywhere, giving the industry as a whole a black eye. In March, Better Business Bureau teamed up with the Oregon Department of Transportation in an undercover sting operation where law enforcement busted several illegal movers.
Then for National Moving Month in May, BBB worked with the Washington State Utilities & Transportation Commission to issue a news release with safe moving tips.
Within 24 hours of sending out that release, BBB and UTC appeared on local TV news programs 26 times, reaching an estimated 250,000 households. Each time, consumers were urged to check bbb.org first to find movers they can trust.
Before a customer even packs a box, BBB and UTC offer the following tips for hiring a moving company:
- Contact the UTC to confirm the company has a valid permit and inquire about any consumer complaints. Call 888-333-9882 or visit utc.wa.gov/movingtips.
- Check with BBB to find out the company’s rating and determine if there are any complaints filed against them. Start at bbb.org/search.
- Be sure to receive a free written estimate—moving companies are required to provide one.
- Get estimates from at least three different companies and do not make a decision based on price alone.
- Finally, do not sign any incomplete documents. Make sure all forms are as complete as possible.
The bottom line: moving can be hassle-free if you take the time to research businesses and get everything writing. Remember that estimates are only educated guesses, but final prices can vary depending on the actual services performed. From what I’ve seen, most problems arise from disagreements about estimates, liabilities or damages.
If you have an issue with a moving company that you just can’t resolve on your own, file a complaint with BBB and the appropriate government agency.
- Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission accepts complaints on moves within Washington.
- Oregon Department of Transportation accepts complaints on moves within Oregon.
- Alaska Department of Law accepts complaints on moves within Alaska.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration accepts complaints on moves across the United States.
Heaven forbid you ever have an experience like the Seattle family I interviewed—but if you do, call law enforcement immediately.