Avoid Becoming A Moving Horror Story

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The boxes are packed. The furniture is wrapped. The trucks are loaded. All that’s left is saying goodbye to the family home.

Just when the hardest part is over, imagine the move going terribly wrong.

The workers drive away in their trucks with grandma’s china, countless antiques or cabinets full of important files, and when they arrive at the new location, they won’t unlock the doors until a surprise 60-percent upcharge has been paid.

“They say that death, divorce and moving are the three most traumatic things a person can go through,” Twin Forks Moving and Storage owner Chris Denon explained last week during a telephone interview from his Bridgehampton office. “You’re laughing, but I’m telling you, it’s the truth. You don’t see that kind of scam stuff so much out here. You get a lot of that in the city.”

The keys to a successful move are correctly estimating the amount of furniture involved while dealing with a reputable moving company, according to Mike Gregory, general manager of Despatch of Southampton Moving & Storage.

“You hear horror stories in the city and New Jersey. They will come in and give you a price and when they’re all finished, the price could be 25 to 60 percent higher and you are required, by law, to pay that,” he said. “They just say that you either took more than when I did the survey or they’ll low-ball the price to make sure they get the job. Regardless, you’re required to pay the balance between 30 and 45 days.”

To avoid tricks and cons during a move, start by securing at least three estimates from local moving companies, Mr. Denon said. Ask for the mover’s Department of Transport (DOT) number, which will verify its licensing and insurance, and check out the company’s website. Also do a little online research to check for any written complaints.

“Be weary of guys operating off their cell phones. They don’t have workers’ compensation, nor do they have cargo insurance or liability insurance, which we all have to have,” Mr. Denon said. “You don’t want a guy getting hurt in your house and then coming back to sue you.”

Since most companies charge for travel time, make sure the mover has an East End address, Mr. Denon said. Some out-of-area companies take out advertisements in the local phone book to draw interstate business, he noted.

Also, beware fixed rates. If the price sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Moving companies should be charging hourly—anywhere from $120 to $200 per hour, for two to four men, Mr. Denon said. The company should also be conducting a thorough assessment of each of the rooms that need to be moved in order to determine the best estimate.

“A guy who flat-rates you usually wants to get it on and off the truck as fast as possible, without putting the beds back together, without reassembling the mirrors,” Mr. Denon said. “Moving doesn’t have to be as grueling as it’s made out to be if you plan out for it.”

Before packing up any valuables or furniture, clear out anything that will not be moving to the new house. It can be a difficult process, Mr. Denon said, but try not to fall into the guilt of keeping a piece of expensive, yet useless, furniture. It will only drive up the cost of the move.

“There’s hundreds of little problems that arise in this business either because they didn’t get rid of the stuff they anticipated, or they’re not realistic in what they tell the mover is there,” Mr. Denon said. “Moves are always more than people anticipate because they’re so used to seeing it every day. Say you have three desks. What you don’t see are the three computers, three monitors, three chairs, three filing cabinets, two rugs and the hanging artwork that go along with them.”

After agreeing on an accurate, well thought out estimate, get a signed contract, Mr. Gregory said.

A standard, 2,200-square-foot house can be moved in one day if it’s all packed and ready to go, Mr. Denon said. The 5,000-square-foot homes start to cross into the two-day move territory, he reported. Typically, the men will work nine- to 10-hour shifts, as opposed to one 15-hour move, he added.

“I’d rather do two seven-hour days than one 15-hour day. Because at the end of the 14th hour, they’re tired, you’re tired, tempers are short and furniture gets broken,” Mr. Denon said. “People are crazy on moving day. They call up screaming over stuff and then they call me back two days later and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I was off my rocker.’”

He laughed, and continued, “It’s just traumatic. You invite four men into your home who you’ve never met before, [they] pack up all your stuff, [you] watch them put it all in a truck and then they drive away with it. That’s stressful. So you really want to make sure you have the right people doing it.”

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