Moving is a stressful experience. While most places you deal with during a big move will try to help make the process easier, there are people out there who will try to take advantage of you when you’re feeling frazzled. It might be tempting to go for that cheap ad on Craigslist, but if you’re not careful, you could end up getting scammed. (Just imagine, you think you’re hiring a moving company, and instead you get one guy with a sketchy van. Not exactly ideal.) Here are a few things you should watch out for when you’re hiring a moving company.
What are some warning signs that a moving company is running a scam?
See a deal that sounds unbelievable? It probably is. The advertised price usually isn’t clarified by any small print or context and doesn’t actually say what the price is referring to. That’s what the scam is—as soon as a contingency is encountered (and there is always a contingency: stairs, loading route over 50 feet, etc.) the price will go up. Because there is no paperwork, there is no binding agreement. That’s how you’ll end up with half your stuff being held hostage on the truck on moving day.
What are the hallmarks of a reputable moving company?
For starters, they should have a presence on various consumer review websites, such as Homestars, Angie's List, or Google+. A solid company will understand how important it is to build credibility and will make an effort to ensure they are getting positive reviews. Also, be wary of a score that seems a little too perfect, because it might mean they aren’t authentic reviews. As long as the feedback seems positive and reasonable, you’ll be safe.
They should also provide you with a Move Coordinator or Office Manager—someone whose job it is to ensure your move results in a positive experience. This isn't the same as just making sure a move goes smoothly. Sometimes issues are unavoidable: maybe the keys aren't available for the new home, or the furniture won't fit. A coordinator is accountable for moving you from A to B; they’re updated through the process when things aren't going to plan and take care of any issues that might occur after the move. Both small and large moving companies often miss this step, so if you find a company that offers it, you know you’re in good hands.
What can consumers do to prevent being taken advantage of?
In short, you should plan ahead. When you book early, you have more choices available. It means you can take your time to find the moving company you have the best relationship with. If you have the time, it’s always smart to arrange an onsite visit so you can determine if a company lives up to its promises. (Did they show up for their estimate on time? Did they call if they were running late?) Remember, movers are responsible for safely and efficiently moving everything you own. It’s not a decision you should rush.
Is it commonplace for movers to require a deposit? How much?
It’s common for moving companies to ask for a small deposit, and the amount will vary. The only time you need to be wary is when they ask for full payment upfront, or a really large deposit amount.
What recourse do consumers have if they've been taken advantage of?
Get the name of an office manager or owner before the move as a point of contact in case something goes wrong. You should also make sure that a contract gets signed, as this provides minimum value protection for the customer and an opportunity to declare the value of items. If something goes wrong and the company refuses to take responsibility, the Better Business Bureau provides consumer protection and will attempt to gain accountability from the moving business. If the moving company is not BBB accredited, social media is often the last resort.
When you know what to look for, it’s easy to spot potential scammers and avoid them. As long as you take the time to plan ahead, your moving day will be quick and painless.