St. Louis, Mo., June 3, 2011 – If moving to a new home is on your agenda for this summer, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has tips that will help you find a reliable mover and avoid scams that can turn your move into a nightmare.
More than 37 million Americans – about 13 percent of the population – switch homes every year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. May marks the start of the busiest time of year for moving and was designated National Moving Month.
Although many moves go smoothly, the BBB last year took 8,900 complaints about movers, a 5 percent increase over the previous year. Common complaints concerned dishonest, careless or unlicensed movers. Consumers were upset about lost or damaged goods or final prices that exceeded estimates. In a few cases, movers held customers’ belongings hostage, asking for thousands of dollars before they would unload the van at its final destination.
One particularly egregious case involved a consumer who hired a moving company through a classified advertising website. The company quoted a price of $80 an hour, which seemed reasonable. But when the mover arrived at the new apartment, the price jumped to $800, about twice the quoted price. The mover, who was unlicensed, demanded cash and threatened to put the furniture in storage if the consumer didn’t pay.
“Checking a mover’s credentials is vital if you want a safe, trouble-free move,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Consumers can check a mover’s complaint record with the BBB online at bbb.org or by calling the BBB.”
An interstate household mover should be licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (www.protectyourmove.gov).
Movers who operate within a single state are regulated by that state’s government. In Missouri, check with the Transportation Department. In Illinois, complaints can be filed with the attorney general’s office.
Some “red flags” to look out for when hiring a mover include:
- The mover doesn’t offer or agree to an on-site inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the phone or by email. The estimates often sound—and are—too good to be true.
- The mover demands cash or a large deposit before the move.
- The mover doesn’t provide you with a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” a booklet movers are required to supply to customers planning interstate moves.
- The company’s website has no address and no information about its registration or insurance.
- The mover claims all items are covered by its insurance.
- When you call, the telephone is answered with a generic “movers” or “moving company” rather than the company’s name.
- Offices or warehouses are in poor condition or don’t exist.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned or marked fleet truck.
The BBB advises consumers to check a company out carefully. The BBB has more than 17,000 Business Reviews on movers located across North America at www.bbb.org. More tips:
- Get at least three written in-home estimates. No legitimate mover will give you a firm price online or over the phone. Remember that the lowest estimate may be an unrealistic low-ball offer that can cost you in the end.
- Know your rights. Check your rights out at www.protectyourmove.gov or with your state attorney general’s office.
- Make sure the mover has insurance. The insurance should cover your goods while in transit. However, you may want to consider getting full value protection (insurance), which may add to the cost upfront but could save you headaches after the move. Be sure you understand what the insurance covers, whether items will be repaired, replaced or if you will be offered a cash settlement that you can use to repair or replace the item on your own.
- Check the mover’s complaint history. BBB Business Reviews include a company’s complaint history with the BBB and are available at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-645-3300, email@example.com