Family Fights Moving Company for Belongings

Part 1: After moving across the country, one family feared they would never get their stuff back.
6:20 | 09/04/13

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Transcript for Family Fights Moving Company for Belongings
for joining us, if you have ever had an airline lose your luggage, you know what that sense of panic can feel like. Now, what if it is all of your life's belongings? Baby clothes, pictures, furniture, in the hands of a moving company holding your property and demanding more money. Earlier this summer, we met one family who said the movers did just that. So we joined them on their quest to reclaim their possessions. Abc's nick watt went undercover in this series ""nightline" under look out". Reporter: It is sunrise in phoenix, arizona, and undercover operations is in the works. I think we should remember this. Reporter: There is backup outside. I have an unmarked pickup. Reporter: Joanne and brian ramel are on edge, waiting for the arrival of a moving truck, loaded with their worldly possessions. I'll just be sitting here, or should I go with you? Reporter: They enlisted the help of the law. This man here, the agent for the arizona department of weights and measurement. They get called a lot by people with moving problems. You look like the friend who is here to help them move. Reporter: They tipped off the lookou lookout. Oh, here they are, the unmarked truck. Reporter: This is the story of a family who found themselves locked in a battle with their moving company. And they are pulling out the stops. The ramels and their four kids just moved down here to the grand canyon state. They drove themselves, clean across the country. And hired a moving company that on line looked pretty good. To bring all of their stuff. But there is a problem, a potentially very big problem. I am not entirely sure that we'll get back our household goods. The baby pictures, the computers, the little handmade doll clothes that my mother sent to my daughter, my wedding dress. Reporter: Joanne was in charge of the move and did what most people do. There was a website for a moving company. Reporter: Sure enough, the neighbors moving in storage looks great, big shiny trucks and happy, happy families. Joanne, who claims she is good at math calculated how many boxes she would need, called them up, they hammered up a quote, and said it would cost about $8,000. They said 8,000 pounds, all of my years of experience, you will be fine with that. Reporter: The moving companies give estimates all the time and are usually good at it. Within 200 pounds of the right weight. Except sometimes this happens. A different company showed up from new jersey. Called "moving express and storage". Reporter: You see, the company that joanne contacted doesn't actually move anything. They're just a website that sells your stuff to other moving companies. It says so in the very, very small print here in the ramel's contract. In this case, it was moving express out of new jersey. In the very beginning, he pulled out all of these papers, you need to initial here, initial here, there was not a lot written on the contract. I asked about the weight. Oh, yeah, we'll do all that at the end. Reporter: Moving express greatly increased their weight estimate from 8,000 pounds to 13,000 pounds after they loaded it up. And according to the family, they told the family it was actually 16. It is like saying it weighs as much as two elephants, not one. Okay, I can understand it was a little more, but doubling it. Reporter: Oh, yes, and the movers said the extra weight meant the family owed them another $4,000. Joanne was crying, saying where is the money going to come from? Reporter: The ramels said they asked for the items to be weighed, which is their legal right, there was even a weigh station down the road, and they refused, instead, handing them this form waiving them a right to the wave. The ramels didn't sign it. The truck left, bound for arizona, or so they thought. They were holding my items hostage, and I just didn't get it at a time. Reporter: The ramels packed up the mini van and set out with their children on the 3,000 miles to arizona and a new life. We're looking for nevada, idaho, wyoming. Reporter: From the road, they called and said they again asked for their stuff to be weighed. I said when I get there, i want it to be weighed. It ain't going to happen, lady. And then he lowered the boom. I said well, where is my stuff? It is here in storage in new jersey. Reporter: They only spoke with that guy named james. Why isn't it on the road? Well, don't feel like I can release it. We don't feel like sending it all the way to arizona if you don't have the money. I was like, he has got my stuff. He is not planning on giving it to me. Reporter: But what these movers didn't realize is that we were already on their tail. Soon, spencer, our producer, was staking out "moving express," their office in new jersey. This is the team that came through. Reporter: And there he is, the boss and owner of "moving express," the company the ramels say was holding their stuff hostage. And wouldn't you know it? The previous tenant here was another moving company, at least until the department of transportation revoked its license. The co-owner of that company, a guy named, oh, wait, moshegam, by this time, the family called and hatched a plan to get what was theirs back. Abc news "nightline" brought

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