WARNING: ALL MOVING COMPANIES ARE NOT EQUAL!
LET THE CUSTOMER BEWARE!
We called it “The Move From Hell.” Okay, we didn’t literally move “from Hell” but from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, more like Paradise than Hell. Yet, our move proved to be “hellish.” In May and June 2015 we made what we sincerely hope is the last major move of our lives from Vernon, British Columbia to downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two moving companies contributed to making our move less than ideal: Two Small Men With Big Hearts (TSM) in Kelowna, BC and AMS Transportation Ltd. Inc. headquartered in Dundalk, Ontario. The latter company was the most “hellish.”
In 2007, we had used TSM out of Winnipeg, Manitoba for a previous move from Winnipeg to British Columbia without a hitch. However, our circumstances were different. Eight years ago, they moved a number of already packed and stored boxes plus four small items of furniture: a cedar chest, a teak secretary desk, a captain’s chair and a teak three-drawer filing cabinet. These we had stored in Winnipeg for over two years while we were on a long-term adventure in Mexico, having sold the rest of our furniture and household goods before we took off for Mexico in 2004 in a 35-foot motorhome.
This year’s move in 2015, we had a houseful of furniture (bought when we moved back to Canada from Mexico in 2007), myriad boxes of books and all the household goods we had not downsized. We were moving from a house with two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, plus a den, a porch and garage to a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with the hopes of eventually moving into a two-bedroom apartment once it became available in the same seniors’ life lease apartment building. We also had to move out of our house several weeks earlier than we would have liked, would have to put our household goods into storage for about six weeks, would have to travel for about a month and then have our goods moved to an apartment which we had not yet had assigned to us, though we knew the apartment building to which we would be moving.
Ian has moved households “about a thousand” times (according to him) from Scotland to Canada and then all over Canada from east to west and back and forth. I have moved households from the US to Germany and back (with almost a year’s storage in Germany after we left) and from Wisconsin, USA to Winnipeg, Canada. This was to be Ian’s and my first “major” household move together.
I had asked a friend who had experienced a number of major moves throughout Canada over the years to recommend a moving company. After meeting with a pleasant estimator from that company, we were floored to receive an estimate of almost $13,000–way more than we had anticipated. At the time I didn’t appreciate the fact that the price included packing, storage locally for about a month, plus transportation and unloading, all by one company. That was when I decided to contact TSM, a company I knew would be less expensive and with whom we had had a good moving experience in the past.
NOW I know that I should have been much more cautious about checking out the entire process of packing, moving into storage and moving from storage halfway across the country, considering that two companies would be involved in the move, a situation I had not anticipated.
Here is a brief list of the problems we encountered:
- Our household goods were neither properly inventoried nor tagged. After the move was completed, TSM declared that they did not inventory items that went into storage but just labeled the boxes (usually) and delivered them to storage. They further declared that AMS always tagged and itemized the boxes and furniture when it picked them up from storage. In contrast, AMS declared that TSM should have itemized the items when they were packed. In other words, each moving company blamed the other for neglecting to tag and inventory the household goods.
- During the move-in on June 19th, when I noted that the movers were not leaving room to set up the bed, dining table, entertainment unit and living room couches/recliners, the driver of the AMS van declared that he had neither instructions nor tools to assemble any of the furniture that the TSM packers had unassembled. After numerous calls to both moving companies, the driver was finally instructed to see that the furniture was assembled (they only did the bed and the dining table) but I had to borrow tools from our apartment building’s maintenance man for them to use.
- The two local-hire personnel who were hired to unload the van and carry household items to the apartment were not always attentive and, at times, clumsy or careless. No matter what room was labeled on the boxes, about half of the time they unloaded the boxes into the wrong room.
- Not all the TSM-packed boxes were labeled, so it took some days after delivery to find essential belongings. Finding them in the wrong rooms only exacerbated the confusion. The worst problem was the four-day delay before the cable company could complete setup of our TV and component parts. All parts were in the living room except for the main TV cord which I eventually found in an unlabeled box under four other boxes in the bedroom.
- I itemized the extra money we had to pay to hire someone else to reassemble the entertainment unit and living room couches and recliners, plus replacement value for those items that were damaged or broken and the costs of long distance telephone calls to both moving companies on moving-in day. AMS refused to pay us compensation, citing a $300 deductible about which we had never been informed. TSM also denied knowing about this deductible. To their credit, TSM volunteered to pay the money we had claimed and declared they would no longer be doing business with AMS. (Donna, the estimator from TSM was very gracious and helpful to us.)
OUR RECOMMENDATIONS: In hindsight, we offer the following recommendations to anyone undertaking a major move that includes storage for a time before household goods are moved on to another address:
- If you can afford it, go with a major international moving company that can handle all of the tasks of moving such as packing, loading into storage, storing the goods, moving out of storage, transporting to, unloading and reassembling at the new address. That way you have one point of contact to deal with any questions or problems you might encounter during the move and will have all the information you need in writing.
- If you cannot afford moving with a major company, be sure that the company you do go with spells out completely that they will itemize and inventory all your household goods during packing.
- Be present when that moving company delivers your goods to storage and leaves the inventory at storage so that whoever picks up the goods for moving on to your destination checks that inventory as they load their van.
- Have contact information on the company who will be picking up the goods from storage. We were merely told that another company would be picking up the items from storage but never had anything in writing from that company until after the fact (thus we knew nothing of a deductible). However, they did call us before pick up from storage and demanded our credit card information so they could charge us $5041.95 for their part of the move before they picked up the items. (We were two provinces away from the storage unit when they called us so had no way of checking that our items were truly picked up and on the way and had no contact information about them.)
- If at all possible try to insure that only one franchise does the entire move. The company we booked with recommended the second company over their own franchise in Winnipeg. I wish, at that point, that we had gone to another franchise that would have completed the entire move.
Incidentally, the move cost us a total of $8,451.00, including costs for both moving companies, the storage facility and extra boxes we purchased. I had packed many boxes of books and other non-breakables prior to the packing day to reduce the packing costs. Yes, we saved around $4000 but also had a great amount of extra work, frustration and dissatisfaction as well.
For anyone who is interested in reading the entire correspondence regarding our move, I am including that herewith. I hope our warning will help anyone contemplating a similar move. Continue reading