Moving, in and of itself, can be a wholly trying experience in the best of all circumstances. Saying goodbye to an old home, adjusting to a new one can ratchet up the stress for practically anyone. But when you employ a moving company that is less than professional–or worse, unscrupulous–it can make the whole experience nothing short of a nightmare.
Handing your most personal possessions over to complete strangers for their safe transfer to a new residence requires a measure of trust, too say the least. So before you take that plunge, you need to ask a few important questions of the moving company you select to ensure they have honorable practices and the pristine reputation necessary to warrant temporary custody of your family’s most important possessions.
How Long Have You Been In Business?: Longevity in business is a key factor in identifying a reputable, successful business. That’s not to say that a moving company that has been a year or less in operation isn’t honest or forthright in how they deal with clients. It’s just one of many indicators that the firm you’re dealing with is reputable enough to have established a reasonable reputation, continue to maintain a profitable customer base and stave off the competition. It’s tough to do that in this day and age when you have bad business practices.
May I Have Your U.S. DOT Number?: Many states require U.S. Department of Transportation registration for any commercial motor carrier working within their borders. The US DOT assigns a number to each certified moving company. If the company you’re hiring does not have one, think twice about working with them. They may not be verified to work in your area. They could be running their business “under the radar” of state regulators and that likely means fewer protections for you and your belongings. If they do have a DOT number, you can find any history of complaints at protectyourmove.gov as another layer of security.
Do You Perform Background Checks On All of Your Moving Crew?: There are a number of ways moving companies hire their crew members. Some employe them directly. Some hire temporary or casual laborers. Either is an acceptable way of doing business and reputable companies all over he country do both. You just want to ensure that the firm does comprehensive background checks on all employees they hire irrespective of their individual status (temporary or permanent). If a company only checks the background of its permanent employees yet temporary staff are part of your moving crew, you want to pause any handling of your belongings until you can be sure you have honest, reputable personnel conducting your move.
What Level of Liability Insurance Coverage Do You Have?: Every moving company must assume liability for the value of any and all items they transport. Levels of coverage vary from firm to firm, though. There are a couple of standard ways companies cover your property: Released Value provides minimal protection for property under a mover’s care. It comes at no additional charge and requires movers to cover 60 cents per pound, per item they transport. Full Value offers more comprehensive coverage but at a cost.
Check with your mover to see what is available.
May I Request a Free Written Estimate?: Moving companies will rarely provide an estimate over the phone. Rates are often what you will get from any phone inquiry. Any reputable moving company will offer a free written estimate upon request, so request it. But when you do, find out if it is a binding or non-binding estimate. There are pros and cons to both and you need to know exactly what you’re dealing with to ensure you are protected.
Non-binding estimates are just as the name implies. They are estimates based on factors discussed in advance, but they may change based on other factors that come into play before the end of your move. If you forgot a few items when you discussed described your home’s belongings, you can adjust the price when it all washes out in the end.
Binding estimates represent the final cost you will pay for the move and if you happen to forget the piano in the basement when describing your possessions, it may not be moved when they arrive.
So just know what kind of estimate your getting and act accordingly.
Can You Provide a Statement of My Rights and Responsibilities? If you are moving from state to state, moving firms are bound by law to give customers a statement of their rights and responsibilities. This pamphlet provides an overview of what you can expect from your mover and what they, in turn, can expect from you. Things like how charges are calculated and how disputes are settled are also laid out.
Can You Provide a Bill of Landing for My Move?: Reputable movers will always provide a Bill of Landing that serves as an agreement between you and the mover for their services and a receipt of your possessions. Other documents you should receive are the order for service, which lays out in detail all of the services the company will perform for you and the inventory list, which documents the items they are moving and what condition they are in at the outset. It’s important you have copies of each of these documents before the move begins. So if they’re not provided, remember to request them.
Exactly How Does Your Company Handle Disputes?: If yours is an interstate move, your mover is required to make available any information regarding their dispute settlement program. Through this program, customers may appeal to a neutral arbitrator who will hear and settle disputes that may arise. Remember to request claim forms from your mover, fill them out and return them as soon as possible.
Make sure you are there when the items are delivered. You want to address any concerns with your mover’s crew at the first sign of damage before signing off on any work done.
Do You Belong to Any Industry Associations?: If your movers have any industry affiliations, it’s often a good sign that they are committed to their business and not fly-by-night organizations. They’ve invested time and money in networking and developing lasting affiliations that will help build a solid reputation for them.
There are a few key affiliations you should look for: the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is well respected and offers the best cache value for a mover; The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) is another key affiliation to look for. It’s made up of more than 3,200 professional moving firms from across the country and is known for maintaining high standards for membership.
There really is no real way to ease the pain of a big move, any way you slice it, there are going to be hiccups and headaches. But if you ask the right questions first, you can avoid a world of hurt at the end of your move when you arrive at your destination and look to start afresh with all of your prized possessions in tact, ready to welcome into their new home.
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