Cory and his girlfriend moved from New York to North Carolina this summer. They hired Quality Van Lines out of Clifton, NJ to handle the move, but soon regretted the choice: they overcharged him, failed to deliver on promises, and damaged not only his belongings but his car. Cory wants to know what his options are now—and we want readers to know how to avoid hiring companies like Quality Van Lines in the future.
Here’s an overview of Cory’s experience with Quality Van Lines:
- The company raised the fee by 50% on the day of the move;
- Cory was charged for special packing supplies that weren’t provided;
- two of the movers were guys hired that morning off the street;
- the agent who worked with the couple to set up the move stopped returning calls, then went on vacation;
- the van was late to Chapel Hill by 5 days;
- the van’s driver smashed into Cory’s car and damaged it;
- the items arrived badly packed and damaged.
Cory has asked Quality Van Lines to reimburse him all extra fees that weren’t originally quoted, in light of the terrible service and broken promises, but the company refuses. Now he’s wondering whether to try small claims court, but adds “I doubt that would help, since most all of the promises that were broken were merely verbal.”
We think one thing Cory should do is post his story online, especially since he’s already written a 1400-word account of what happened. [Update: we've posted Cory's full story below] The best way to warn others about a bad company is to publicize the experience. Along these same lines, Tim Walker of MovingScams.com lists a half dozen organizations and websites to contact (including his) to get the word out.
MovingScam.com also has some must-read advice on how to find a reputable moving company. First on their list: skip the online search and look for local companies the old fashioned way (i.e., via phonebook and recommendations), because “while there are some reputable moving companies that have web sites, nearly all of the victims that contact us found their moving company on the Internet.”
Your next step is to pick up your phone book, or call your local real estate agents and find at least three moving companies that have offices in your area. Try to find moving companies that have been in business at least ten years, and do not hire a moving broker. Current consumer protection laws related to the movement of household goods only apply to Motor Carriers and not to Household Goods Brokers.
Set up appointments for them to come to your house and do an in-home estimate in the order of your least favorite to your most favorite company. If they won’t come to your house to do an in-home estimate, hang up and find another company.
Here’s Cory’s full story, for those of you who are curious.
This summer, we decided to move from the Albany, NY area to Chapel Hill, NC with Quality Van Lines from Clifton, NJ. Below is a sort of timeline of our move, and the issues we had while dealing with Quality. I will do my best to keep it succinct.
Before the move
We first received a quote from Quality on approximately June 23, 2008. My girlfriend Ali worked with Alan, who asked her for a list of all of the items we planned on moving. She gave him that list, and he came up with a quote for around 530 cubic feet. Later, on July 28, he provided us with a revised quote for 526 cubic feet ($1628), based on some items that we had decided not to bring with us. Based on this price, and the estimate Alan gave of a 4 day wait between pick-up and drop-off, we decided to book our move with Quality.
The movers showed up at the planned time on July 31, and went into our apartment to look at our things. Almost immediately, the foreman told us that there was no chance that our things would only take up 530 cubic feet, and that he could not understand where that estimate came from. We asked if the fact that we had more boxes than we had anticipated could account for such a difference, and he said no. He said that the un-boxed furniture alone (which had all been cataloged in the quote) would take up much more room than we were quoted.
As the movers started bringing our things down to the truck, the foreman took us aside and apologized for two of his helpers (who were not speaking any English). He told us that they did not actually work for the company, and that he had recruited them “off the street” earlier that morning. In addition, we noticed that the promised mattress bags, furniture blankets, and TV crates were not being used. None of our wood furniture received blankets, and the mattresses were simply wrapped in lightweight plastic. The flatscreen TVs were wrapped inside boxes that had to be modified on the spot in order to hold their contents; there was no protective packing material or special-fitting box used on either TV (we had been charged $70 for ‘TV Crates’).
Once the things were all in the truck, we were told that the total came to 800 cubic feet, which was 52% more space (and money) than we had been quoted. We paid a large chunk of the balance, as well as a $200 tip, and were told our things would be handled as carefully and as quickly as possible.
Waiting for our things to arrive
Once the movers left with our things, we left the Albany area for the long drive down to Carrboro, NC. On Saturday, August 2, Ali gave Alan a call to check in with him and see how the delivery was progressing. She reminded him that he had estimated an August 4 delivery, and he replied that he had never told her that (a flat lie). She asked him what we could reasonably expect, and he basically dodged the question, saying that he would need until Monday to give us an update. So, we called Quality again on Monday and spoke with Alan; he told us that he needed to contact the warehouse, and he would call us back “in 10 minutes”. Approximately 90 minutes later, after not receiving any call back, we called again. Alan told us that he had no information for us, and could not tell us when we could expect delivery.
On Tuesday morning (August 5), I called Quality again and asked to speak with Alan’s supervisor, as he had been misleading and unhelpful. I ultimately ended up speaking with Moe, who told me that I could expect our things to arrive possibly later that day, but “guaranteed” by Wednesday. After waiting around in an empty apartment and receiving no deilvery or update on Tuesday night, I called again on Wednesday. At this point I was told that, unbeknownst to me, Moe would be out of the office for the rest of the week, and that the drivers would contact us.
That, of course, did not happen. We called the driver directly on Thursday, and he gave us a story about the truck needing repair, and being set back by a day. So, we spoke to Alan. After very rudely telling us that we basically had no reason to complain, he made some calls and told us that the truck was going to arrive in our area late Thursday night. We told him that, no matter how late it showed up, we wanted our things that night; more importantly, we told him that we expected the drivers to contact us directly if that expectation would change. After waiting up (again, in an empty apartment) until well after 1 am, it was clear that our things would not be arriving. We never received a phone call from anybody telling us the plan had changed.
On Friday morning I called the driver directly, and he gave another story about the courier losing the keys. I asked him specifically why he had not called to notify us when that happened, and he did not have an answer. He told us that he expected to arrive that day, but that it would be later in the night. Finally, after several calls trying to verify our correct address (which we had correctly given to several different people), the truck arrived around 8 pm on Friday night (8 days after pick-up, and 5 days after the originally estimated drop-off date).
When the moving van arrived, the driver and his assistant were trying to determine the best way to park the truck. Ali suggested that she and I both move our cars to a different lot to give them room, and they agreed. However, before I was able to start my car, the driver had decided to back into his planned spot without waiting for me. While maneuvering his truck, he backed directly into the rear end of my car, causing several thousand dollars worth of damage. After the police were called and a report was filed (and he damaged my car again trying to move the truck), the movers finally opened the truck.
When we looked into the truck, it looked as though everything had been haphazardly thrown into the truck, without any consideration of which items were fragile. As they began removing items, it was clear that this was the case; many of our items were visibly damaged in the gathering darkness, and many of the boxes marked “fragile” were badly beat up (as were their contents). We initiated the claim service, and they replied to us saying that the 60 cents per pound of insurance we had entitled us to a total of $288.
While waiting for the claim service to respond, Moe had personally told me several times that he was aware of problems extending beyond damaged property, and that he wanted to “make it right” with us. However, once we received word of the claim amount, I contacted him and he refused to offer more than $55 on top of the property claim. That is $55 (out of $2400) for the total lack of respect and professionalism, not to mention the broken promises and inconvenience of having a damaged car.
Please keep in mind that this is just a summary; there were several calls which I did not catalog here. We were consistently treated rudely and in an exceedingly unprofessional manner. The lack of communication and follow-through was truly astounding. We expect a more substantial refund in light of all these problems; we think it would be more than fair to pay, in full, the original amount quoted, meaning we would not be charged for the extra cubic footage in light of all of this aggravation. However, Moe has refused to even consider this.
Any suggestions for what we should do would be welcome. Should we pursue small claims court? I doubt that would help, since most all of the promises that were broken were merely verbal. What about reporting the two “off-the-street” workers to the department of labor or INS? Please, we want to be treated fairly, but short of that, we want to punish Quality Van Lines for this horrible experience.