By JIM DUBREUIL and JONATHAN BALTHASER
Moving in might be one of life's most stressful experiences. The process can be a minefield of potential rip-offs. Linda Bauer Darr, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association, recently shared with ABC News' "20/20? some of her moving tips.
Tune into ABC News' "20/20? Friday, March 7, at 10 p.m. ET
Check out Darr's top eight tips for making the move a smooth and reasonably priced experience.
1) Hire a mover with an established track record, not the one that just pops up first on your Google search.
As consumers are buying more moving services online, the rogues have figured out a way to scam the system. The rogues are investing all their money in the technology it takes for them to have priority placement in the online environment, whether it's search engine optimization or some other set of tools they're using.
But, ultimately, they are using their dollars for those marketing purposes, and they're not necessarily using those dollars to invest in things like safe drivers and maintaining their vehicles. Those are the costs of compliance that professional movers take on in their everyday business.
2) Get that estimate in person.
It's important that the mover is invited into the home and is able to evaluate everything that needs to be moved. Is there a playground set that needs to be moved? Is there special equipment or a plasma TV that needs to be disassembled and taken off the wall that's going to have to be packed in special crating? Those kinds of things add to the cost. If that kind of an estimate is provided online or over the phone, chances are the movers aren't really going to be able to give you a sound estimate if they haven't been in the house and had a chance to eyeball it.
3) Make sure your estimate is binding. Then, by law, a mover can't charge more than 10 percent beyond the estimate.
If a mover shows up at your house and you have a binding estimate, you should expect to pay the price that was listed in the binding estimate unless there are special unforeseen circumstances. For example, with something that requires extra shuttle services or things that were unanticipated in the move initially, the mover can charge 10 percent beyond that binding estimate. But anything beyond that 10 percent would have to be negotiated.
4) Know who you're dealing with: movers vs. brokers
It's important that when you choose your mover, you understand who you're dealing with. Is the company that you're working with the actual mover? Are they the people who are going to load your goods and move them, or are they front men for a series of companies that do that? There are a lot of middle men involved in the business, and when you have middle men involved, there's often an additional charge. There's also another layer of distance between you and the ultimate service provider, so that can get a little bit tricky. I would recommend that you go direct to the mover. Make sure that you know who you're doing business with.
5) Weigh that sucker.
In order to make sure that you are being charged correctly and in accordance with how much the load actually weighs, you should ask for the receipt that the mover receives at the weigh station that says exactly how much that load weighs.
6) Be clear when you want stuff delivered, but be flexible, too.
If you're within a 24-hour window of the goods being delivered to your destination, I think it's very important that you arrange to be flexible. You don't know for sure when that truck is going to pull into town. I think you need to clear your schedule and make sure that you're available to the mover. You don't want a mover to be waiting with a loaded truck on a city street or in your community. You're upsetting your neighbors, and you're wasting his time and probably yours.
7) One burly dude alone cannot move your stuff.
If a mover shows up at the destination by himself and he is the only person available to unload that truck, that's not a good sign. As a consumer, I think that I would call the company immediately and ask for reinforcements. That's a big job, and you don't want to leave it to one individual person.
8) What to do in the worst-case scenario of hostage loading.
If the mover is refusing to remove your goods from the loaded tractor and requiring you to pay more money than you believe is reasonable, you're in a hostage-goods situation. When that situation comes up, it really is a civil issue and not at that point a criminal issue. You might want to call local law enforcement just for the presence because I think that is going to put additional heat on the rogue during the operation. You can also call the American Moving & Storage Association, because we can help to negotiate between the mover and the consumer and make sure that we and the consumer really understand what's going on, what the consumer's rights are and what the proper actions are to take. You can also report rogue activity on this website.
Finally, there is actually an industry-lead program called Move Rescue that employs 5,253 moving-industry experts and legal experts who can be called upon at a moment's notice in real time when a hostage situation is taking place so that someone can come to the scene and help negotiate through what's taking place.
For more tips from the American Moving & Storage Association, go to www.moving.org