Movers Turns Musicians' New Zealand Adventure Into Fiasco

Ah, New Zealand, the land of kiwis and hobbits. Daniel and his girlfriend went there to set up a studio and get paid to do recording sessions. They’re musicians. They hired Morton Van Lines to ship their equipment from LA to NZ, but after over seven months of struggle, they got it, or their money back.Turns out the equipment was shipped to the wrong country and then returned to the USA. Maybe if Morton Van Lines ever returned a phone call or an email it could have been straightened out. But nay. Here’s Daniel’s story…

Hello Consumerist,

I have been trying to deal with Morton Van-lines (www.mortonvanlines.com) for almost 7 months. My girlfriend and I are working studio musicians based in L.A. and were offered a chance to set up a studio in New Zealand and do some recording sessions for up to a year plus.

Because of the comparatively small market of musical instruments in the country, we realized we had to bring along most of our instruments, along with our clothing and personal belongings. We had done our research and chose the company based on our budget and the service included in the delivery.

Our equipment was picked up from my house in Los Angeles in late August and we were quoted with a 6-8 week turnaround. We left the U.S. in early September and arrived at our studio in time to prepare the room for our gear. After the 15th week passed, we wanted to know what was going on. We then had an extremely difficult time in getting any word on our shipment. Burning through countless phone cards, and infinite email messages that were never returned, we started to really fear the worst. When we did actually get in touch with somebody at the office, we were
consistently let down with numerous false promises.

We never got the tracking number that was promised, nor any insight on what the hell was going on with our stuff. This hide and seek went on for FOUR MORE months, bringing it to a total of 6 months.

Now, keep in mind, we have a business to run, and work that needs to be completed. Dealing with customer (dis)service has been a nightmare for us and has put an INCREDIBLE amount of stress on our relationship. After the 4th month, we had finally gotten word of what was going on… it was shipped to the WRONG COUNTRY and was returned to the
U.S.!!!! Imagine the soul-crushing blow to learn that if they shipped it THAT day, it would take another 6-8 weeks!!

By this time it is mid-Dec. and we were now faced with a complete strategic disaster. We had to cancel all studio bookings, and face that fact that no matter how beautiful the country is, we could not enjoy it one bit. I came back to the States on Dec. 28 (even though I wanted to stay in NZ for new years so bad) to deal with this problem more locally. But then, the fun REALLY began…

For the entire month of January, I tried to reach the operations manager by calling the office everyday. I spoke with the two shifting secretaries and left dozens of messages with them and on the operation mangers machine. For the entire month of January, I DID NOT get one call back! Not even one call back. After a particularly fiery email, she finally called me and then used every cookie-cutter excuse you can imagine. Between a string of random emails, we had gotten 6 different guaranteed, written projected arrival dates, spanning over 2 months, that were NEVER followed through. At present (Feb. 11, 2008) the current written guarantee for delivery was today, the 11th, which was
let down once again. I am STILL trying to get our stuff back after 6 months being God knows where.

At this point, I am extremely concerned whether all of our things will be in there and in what condition they will return in. After being in transit for 6 months, who knows what state they’ll be in. Not to mention I have been living out the small carry-on bag of clothing that I packed to bring with me to NZ (as most of our clothing was in the container).

Morton Van Lines (or Moron Van Lines, as I like to refer to them) have pledged to a 100% refund and compensation for their inability to provide the service we hired them for. However, no amount of money can ever compensate for the hell we went through, and are STILL going through in order to get our things back. Between missed dates, stressed relationships, called off sessions, plane tickets bought, and time lost, money can only refund so much.

I wish I could conclude this story with a happy ending, but this ongoing saga of mismanagement will go on for a long time, even after we get our things back.

What a horrible experience. What a horrible company. Their website is dead now, and judging by this posting on Rip Off Report, so is the company. Looks like Daniel’s stuff might be sitting in a storage locker somewhere, while the storage company waits to get paid by an insolvent moving company.

It’s important to do your research and hire a reputable moving company, especially if you’re shipping internationally. Movingscam.com has tips for international moves, and a roster of companies they recommend.

RELATED: Morton Van Lines Disappeared and Has Held my Household Goods for 4 Months in Oregon Ashland Oregon [Rip-off Report] (Photo: frischmilch)

Comments

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  1. seawolf2000 says:

    what’s the status on this now? Looks like the last update was in February?

  2. taking_this_easy says:

    i think all moving/shipping companies are rip offs…

    but what can we do?… at least if a big name (eg comcast) screws up, we can eecb someone…

  3. MyLud says:

    I’d like to know how the customer did their evaluations. I’m not blaming them, I’d just like to know what tools they used that we’re so very, very wrong about this company.

    It’s so disheartening to hear these stories…

    • taking_this_easy says:

      @MyLud: i searched the web looking for a moving company… one moving company seemed to have average/good reviews on a few sites, so i got them

      my experience was bad…. i guess they paid employees to review or something….

      therefore, only trust by personal experience from friends&family…

  4. dohtem says:

    Good gracious! Sorry you had to deal with that.

    Googling “morton van lines” just results in complaint after complaint.

    Besides waiting for them to make good on their promise, what else can he do to light a fire under their ass?

  5. MyPetFly says:

    I’ve only used a “moving company” for a cross-country move once, and I’ll never do it again.

    1. What we thought was a moving company turned out to be an agent for moving companies.

    2. What was described as a deposit was actually their fee for hooking us up with a moving company.

    3. The initial weight estimate was way off, and we ended up having to pay about $2,000 more than what was estimated to get our stuff back.

    4. We were promised that our items would be on the same truck the whole distance from Ohio to California. In fact, they were transferred between trucks a few times.

    5. The delivery was late by a few weeks.

    6. Tracking for our shipment was pretty much non-existent.

    7. Contacting the agent was difficult, as was getting a straight answer.

    For any future moves that require these kinds of services, I would suggest using a commercial freight company if at all possible, and I’d possibly ship as much as possible using carriers such as FedEx (barf), UPS (gag), DHL (did someone fart?), or the USPS (kill me now).

    The best option of all? Don’t move.

  6. barco says:

    Moving scams are fairly common.. you basically HAVE to cash up and go with a “name brand” carrier.

    Doubtful that it was shipped to the “wrong country”.. they were probably just holding the stuff hostage–typical of moving scams.

  7. Jevia says:

    Sounds like its time to contact an attorney and consider filing a lawsuit for theft/conversion of your belongings along with associated damages.

  8. hairyseaword says:

    Has anyone had any luck with those PODS things? Seems like this would be a good way to avoid these shady moving companies.

    They basically just drop off a huge shipping container in your driveway (probably wouldn’t work for apartment folks!), you pack it at your leisure, and they come pick it up, load it on a truck and deliver it to your new place.

    • amuro98 says:

      @hairyseaword: Has anyone had any luck with those PODS things? Seems like this would be a good way to avoid these shady moving companies.

      Yeah, we used the PODS when my in-laws moved. It was great. The service is completely ala carte. Each drop off and pickup was like $35, rental for a PODS was another $50/mo or so. Storage was another $150/mo or something like that – we didn’t need them to store it as we left the PODS on the driveway. You provide your own padlock.

      So, basically, we paid $170 to move 2 PODS’ worth of stuff over the course of a month, with door-to-door delivery.

      The PODS themselves are constructed out of plywood and particle board, which is then drapped with a weatherproof jacket bearing the company’s name/logo. The jacket has a zipper so you can access the wooden doors on the back. Sturdy enough, though I don’t think I’d leave a PODS outside during winter or the rainy season.

      My brother is doing a large remodel at his place, and is using a PODS as temporary storage sheds. $50/mo. is a lot cheaper than getting a storage unit for $300/mo. and having to rent a truck to move the stuff to and from it.

  9. Jevia says:

    Adding, even if you can’t recover money from the company (although they may have insurance), you should at least be able to learn what storage facility has your stuff, before the storage facility sells it.

  10. timmus says:

    They should have gotten an attorney many, many months ago and sued for lost business earnings, right? This seems like a pretty open and shut case… the only question is whether there are assets to go after. Classic example of why one needs to get a lawyer right away when problems develop.

    • crashfrog says:

      @timmus: Really? “As soon as problems develop”? What do you spend on legal fees every year?

      Your lawyer must really appreciate the billable hours that start every time you find out your Netflix is gonna be a day late.

  11. ddhj says:

    WTF. this blows.

  12. DYasmin says:

    Hello Consumerists!

    I was pleased to see that this story got to the front page, but unhappy about reading of another victim of Moron Van Lines.

    Believe it or not, we actually got 97% of our stuff back, but no refund. In fact we even got a box or two of SOMEONE ELSES stuff. I think a box of books and a box of camping stuff.

    As far as planning and researching, It was mostly my girlfriend and our New Zealand friend.

    It was a B*TCH and a half trying to get our stuff. That is another story, but they ended up hiring a guy off craigslist to drive our stuff from Long Beach (of all places?) to my storage place in Playa Del Rey. All of the boxes were smushed to hell. Let’s just say it was a loong night. (not so)Funny thing, they even scammed the driver!

    They vanished, and we never got our money. We talked to our attorney, but we learned that there really is no address we could send it to. They exist only as a P.O. Box.
    We’d literally have to wait for someone to pick up the mail to even serve them. Problem is, we are in CA and this is OR police matter.

    Hopefully this new info about their storage place and new address, as well as the police dept will help us. I’ll keep you updated.

    THANK YOU FELLOW CONSUMERISTS!

    Sincerely,
    Daniel Y.

  13. sketchy says:

    I moved cross country last year and opted not to pay a mover more than my meager possessions were worth to move them. I will do the same thing again next move – sell everything and buy new, used, or take free stuff at wherever I land next.

    I understand the need for specialized equipment in this situation, and the geographic isolation poses a problem, but I would have either shipped the absolutely essential and non-replaceable stuff to myself via FedEx or whatever other carrier could do it and bought, borrowed, or otherwise acquired the rest at my destination. The extra money I might pay is worth it to avoid the OPs current nightmare.

  14. duffm4n says:

    Sue them, and sue them now! You should really be suing them for at least $100,000. Start counting unreturned calls, office visits, emails and whatever else you can do that might hold up in court.

  15. The only “professional” services I have ever EVER used was ABF. You pack it, and they ship it. I’m not sure if they do international, but I can honestly say they have come through for me on 2 moves for 3000+ miles (Once from the West Coast East, and then the reverse a few years later).

  16. erratapage says:

    Just do your research and you’ll be fine. If this is your first move, you might want to use a relocation specialist to help coordinate the project.

  17. TMurphy says:

    I agree with the legal route. I remember a while ago there was a story where a company went under and the customer was lead to the new owner of the place, who luckily was honest enough to hang onto the customers belongings, so your stuff might still be out there.

    Seeing all these horror stories, contacting a lawyer before moving might have to become the standard…

  18. bizzz says:

    there’s absolutely no reason to use a moving company, especially for overseas moves, or business moves.

    If it’s cross country, or even within the same city, LTL shippers will pick up your stuff and deliver to your door. Just grab some pallets and shrink wrap. If it’s overseas, most of the shipping companies have international contracts as well or partnerships with overseas shippers.

    I worked my way through college at an LTL shipper and we saw personal effects shipped through us all the time, some packed better than others. But there was so much freight moving through, no one was interested in combing through your valuables, or holding it ransom for extra money. I’m sure it was probably shipped cheaper than a moving company as well.

    Moving companies are the devil. Stay away.

  19. disasterevolved says:

    oh man, this sounds horrrible. I’m glad you got most of your stuff back- I hope the missing 3% doesn’t include, say, a ’59 Les Paul or ProTools HD system or something.

  20. Rhayader says:

    Unfortunately this story sounds very familiar. I recently moved from upstate NY to NC, and used a company from New Jersey called Quality Van Lines.

    It was a complete nightmare, full of broken promises, sketchy business practices, and a complete lack of communication. We are still working on getting some of our money back, but who knows how that will work.

    Next time we are going the “ditch it, ship it, or throw it in the car” route.