This is the third article in our series on how to avoid long distance moving scams. As we’ve stated in our earlier articles part one and part two, the advice we’re giving is based on real scenarios of people who have endured problems with shady business practices in the moving industry.
Moving in Canada should be safe, and predictable. But multiple news reports are showing that is often not the case. Even if you don’t move with a long establish company like Ferguson Moving and Storage, you should at least be aware of what’s out there and what to look for in a reputable, honest moving company such as Ferguson Moving and Storage.
Below we’ll continue mentioning what to look out for when hiring a long distance moving company.
Don’t use a long distance moving company that outsources it services
The other thing to watch out for is what the president of the Canadian Association of Movers says in this CBC article: moving companies that outsource their services.
In the story linked to above, the family whose belongings were in storage couldn’t get their boxes because one of the companies involved in the long distance move claimed they had not been paid! This is really an issue between two companies and should not be offloaded to a customer.
However, as a consumer, you should never be working with a moving company that does not hire and train their own staff, with full insurance, injury coverage and compensation. The person you talk to on the phone, or the person who does your moving quote, should be connected to the actual movers who show up on moving day.
Don’t pay a cash deposit, and don’t sign a moving contract without clear dates and times stated
Some moving companies just don’t show up. It happens, believe it or not. And what are you supposed to do when you have to be out of your home in a day, with no other moving company available last minute to help you move?
As the article we linked to above states, avoid paying a cash deposit. And if you do pay an up-front deposit, make sure you have a binding contract that ensures the moving company will show up. Being late is one thing (traffic and delays happen to the best of us). Not showing up is another. As a consumer, you should be protected and compensated for such instances.
Your contract should also state that your belongings will not be left in storage, and there should be clear dates for delivery as well, putting onus on the moving company to make the delivery. If you have to go and get your things out of a locker, that means extra cost for you, unless you own a huge truck, which we’re guessing you don’t.
Make sure your moving company has a real address and physical location
The CBC video linked to above shows a reporter trying to find a moving company that is accused of overcharging their customers based on false weight tickets. But when trying to go to the locations listed in their marketing material and documentation, all they could find were Shopper’s Drug Marts or another business office.
This is already a sign that something is not right. If a moving company can’t keep a single address, or at least keep its addresses up to date in a reasonable timeline, that may be a sign that other things are being neglected, such as ensuring weight scales are giving accurate data.
While that may sound like conjecture, remember that real moving companies have to hire employees (which are not just movers on location), and those employees need a place to work. They also have trucks they need to park and service. Sometimes, they also need storage lockers or warehouses to store belongings for long distance moves. So this is not the kind of business that can typically be run with a mere post office box service. If you can’t walk into a moving company’s office or warehouse, that can raise questions about outsourcing, as noted in our previous article on this topic.
You can do something about a moving scam
If you do encounter a problem with your moving company, there are steps you can take. To start, we wrote about how to start the conversation with them in this article:
In our first article, we explained that movingscams – even if they are based on legal-sounding contracts with legitimate moving companies – are all too common in thelong–distancemoving industry.
As this CBC Marketplace video explains, by interviewing a professional mover, starting a moving company is too easy nowadays. All you need is a friendly representative at the other end of the phone line, and a nice website. Heck, some Canadian movers don’t even own warehouses, addresses or their own trucks: all of that can be outsourced, or lied about.
Some want the moving industry regulated. But so far, that is limited.
In this series, we wanted to explain how to avoid the longdistancemoving problems that you don’t expect, or that are harder to spot. For example, a nice person comes to your home to give you a quote. Or a friend recommends a moving company. How do you predict moving company scams in situations like this?
There are tell-tale signs, and it helps to know what they are. We covered some of them in our previous article on this topic. Below we continue to cover more.
Ask about fees in detail before you sign a moving contract, or don’t let the movers load your belongings in their truck
In this story on the CBC website, a mother was told her moving costs would be 4 times what she thought they would be. As she explains in the story, the initial contact with the moving company was pleasant.
But come moving day, she was told that there would be extra fees for things like going up stairs. She was also going to be charged for wrapping TVs, and for weighing her stuff. Sound fishy? That’s because it is. All of these details should have – and could have – been covered in an initial estimate or quote, and then put in writing before moving day.
The other big lesson to learn here is also to get an in-home moving quote (it’s unclear if this happened in the story mentioned above). The person who gives you amoving estimate needs to come to your home to see your belongings. Describing the needs of your move is not likely your specialty, if you’re not a professional mover. So a moving company should be doing that for you.
Reading the story linked to above, you can see there was a lot of “she said this, she said that” – but it seems nothing was in writing except a “bill of lading.” And that document didn’t discuss all the details of what was to be moved beforehand, or what the final moving costs would be.
This comes back to the weight issue discussed in our previous article on this topic. A moving quote can be binding and set at a flat rate. You just need to find amoving company willing to give you this predictable pricing model.
But, even more fishy is that the bill of lading in this story did seem to outline what the estimates would be, as well as inclusions like ‘packing fees.’ And, get this – the addresses the moving company publicized were not accurate.
So remember – a nice website and a friendly phone call do not protect you as a consumer in the moving industry. You have to take more steps to be vigilant about the company you pick to handle yourlongdistance move.
Use long–distancemoving companies that are insured and provide insurance for lost or stolen belongings
In this CBC article, we read about a couple who claim a moving company employee stole their jewelry while it was unattended. The moving company denies the claims, stating that an investigation did not bring up proof of the situation. But the couple found out that one employee on the job had a criminal record.
In the case above, the moving company advertised it does background checks on all its employees, which it ended up not following through on, in this case. So this is not something that is easy to spot or predict as a tell-tale sign that you’ve hired a shady moving company. Just know there are no guarantees. And no one can say with certainty that a person with a criminal record is going to commit crimes agains, or shouldn’t be hired at a job to start a new beginning.
However, there is a lesson to be learned with all this: never leave your valuables unattended! Jewelry in this case was left in a box in the bedroom. But something that valuable should be kept in a safe.
Also, make sure there is insurance for this sort of thing, if it happens. Arrange that insurance before moving day, and as you negotiate your longdistancemovingcontract. Ask your mover: what if something goes missing in my home, even if I didn’t ask you to move it for me? What then?
Since the jewelry was in a box that was not hired to be moved by the moving company, they claimed it was not their responsibility. So, you will also want to make sure that your other insurance policies cover belongings like this in such a situation. For example, make sure your homeowner’s insurance would cover you if you put things in a special box on moving day to prepare for the move.
You also want to ensure your moving company has insurance for in case belongings get damaged during the move. This happened, and was caught on camera, withthis moving company customer.
To conclude: long distancemovingscams are preventable
As we noted earlier, a lot of these issues can be prevented if you are aware of how to spot them. They do happen, and we’ve only mentioned a handful of articles on the CBC site that describe them.
If you are booking a mover through an online bidding program or through an app, like this one used in the U.S., remember you still need to meet the mover in person, and ensure they are a reputable company. This is especially so with a long distance move, because your belongings will be going farther, and there is more to consider. There is also less you can take with you, or move on your own.
Long Distance Moving Scams in Canada & How to Avoid Bad Movers
Recently (January 2017), the CBC reported a story of a long distance moving company that wouldn’t deliver a family’s belongings until they paid double the amount they originally thought it would be. Digging into the issue, you’ll find that stories like this abound in Canada. We found many similar stories on the CBC website.
We, like other ethical moving companies in Vancouver and Canada, believe that this should stop. Some cross-country moving company owners are calling for more regulation of the industry by government.
Until then, we will do our best to help educate the public on long distance moving scams to avoid. These are not hypothetical: these have happened to real Canadians using real, so-called ‘legitimate’ long distance movers in Canada. By ‘legitimate’ we don’t mean ethical: we mean they had a pretty website, sometimes had really nice staff do the in-home estimates, and had branded trucks with logos and everything. It’s not always obvious to spot the shady businesses in the moving industry.
We will say for sure, before we start, that there are always two sides to every story. Long distance moving companies in the articles we’ll mention below do try to make their defenses and claims. And we don’t know all the information to say whether or not one side is being dishonest with their story.
However, the point of this article series is not to determine who wins the argument: it is to help future long distance movers avoid these problems in the first place. And they are avoidable, if you take some precautionary measures.
Always pick a reputable moving company by doing your research outside their marketing material
We did mention above that it’s not easy to spot an unprofessional company, especially if they have a nice website and branded vehicles. However, you can be sure that if people are getting ripped off by a company more than once or twice, it is likely they are going to be talked about. If the same complaints are happening over and over again, then it’s not likely an issue of a misunderstanding between two parties, which can happen in any business.
We wrote about how to pick a reputable moving company on our blog before, and encourage you to have a read:
Don’t sign long distance moving contracts that charge by weight after the fact
One thing you’ll want to do, as described in the articles above, is to look for a long distance moving company that will give you a binding quote – not an estimate that could fluctuate based on a mover’s discernment on moving day. And certainly one not based on weight.
That is what happened in the article we mentioned above, and we encourage you to avoid it. CBC’s Marketplace re-weighed the goods of the moving company customer, and found they weighed almost 2,800 pounds less than what the long distance mover had said it weighed. Of course, the mover said the customer changed the number of goods to be moved, which explained the extra cost.
But the point is this: disagreements like this need to be avoided in the first place with better, more assured moving quotes. If there will be anything undetermined regarding price that has to wait until the final move, beware of problems you’re likely to have.
If you do want to use a moving company that charges by weight…
The excuse that “mistakes” and “errors” can occur with weight-based quotes is not a good one (yes, this has been claimed). It should be up to the moving company to ensure they are using calibrated, government-certified scales when weighing belongings.
Some may claim that you can be there when your belongings are being weighed. Check in advance to know if this will be an inconvenience to you. Or they say you can ask for it to be re-weighed. But remember: you have no way of knowing how well calibrated the scale is. So yes, the scale can be ‘lying’ – whether or not intentionally on the part of the mover. You are putting a lot of trust in the moving company with a weight-based quoting system.
And the consumer should know what that weight will be before agreeing to the move, and well in advance of moving day. This way, they can opt to use another company if they want to. Looking at your furniture, or mentioning you have enough to fit a 1-bedroom apartment in an online form is not a great way to guess how much it weighs. That could be anything!
There are more long distance moving scams to watch out for
We are going to cover more of these stories in a follow up article on this topic. Stay tuned for our further advice, using real situations that Canadians have endured with shady moving companies.