Avoid Stress On Moving Day

day-before-checklistWaiting three hours for movers, Liz Andrew had an inkling her move might not go smoothly.

The move at the end of July – from her Midtown basement apartment to a storage facility – began after two movers showed up. Andrew said they demanded a payment up front, and once they arrived at the facility the price jumped about $150 above the original quote.

Minutes before the gates closed for the night, she said, the movers “slipped out,” leaving her belongings stranded outside her storage.

“I just feel like I was screwed . . . I don’t want other people to be,” said Andrew, 51, who has complained to the Better Business Bureau and posted a warning on Kijiji, where she found the company.

A representative for the company, who would only give her name as Jasmin, said it’s had many positive reviews. The price went up to include tax and additional time, she said, and the workers left because they felt “harassed” and that they wouldn’t be paid for extra time.

Andrew, however, said she’d already paid for more time than was worked.

To avoid similar disputes, scams or other moving-day headaches during summer moving season and upcoming dorm move-ins, experts are advising thorough research and other tips before hiring movers.

Referrals, references and research

The best way to start a search for a moving company is to ask friends for recent referrals, said Sandra Bento, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Consumer Services. Last year, the province received 90 written complaints about issues with moving companies, including billing disputes, lost and damaged items and belongings being held ransom.

Research is essential, especially if you use Kijiji, Craiglist or other ads. Just searching the company name likely isn’t enough.

“One thing is to lookup the phone number, often the company will have the same phone number and go by a bunch of different names,” said Brian Sharwood, president of HomeStars.com review website.

Bento suggests getting three references, and checking them thoroughly, from each company being considered.

The Canadian Association of Movers lists accredited companies on its website and suggests those options, as well as looking at grades given by the Better Business Bureau. “Homework and research are vital, after the fact it’s kind of too late,” said association treasurer Perry Thorne.

Get an in-person quote and put it on paper

imagesIt’s impossible to get an accurate estimate over the phone or email, Sharwood said, because movers need to assess belongings, stairs and all factors that could change a move.

“Companies shouldn’t give you a quote without coming to see you and see your house,” Sharwood said, adding that based on Canadian online reviews, the average move costs $1,490.

Thorne said too many people are driven by the promise of low prices online, which should actually be red flags. “Trying to move cheap doesn’t work,” he said.

Once a contract is in writing, Thorne said moving companies must legally stick within 10 per cent of the estimate, so it’s important to keep a copy handy for moving day.

Before signing, Thorne said to make sure all fees are broken down, including content protection, which should be explained in detail in case there’s any damage during the move. He also suggested finding out more about the company generally, plus checking whether they have a physical location and have a WSIB certificate, so consumers aren’t liable for workers’ injuries.

When something goes wrong, complain

If something goes wrong, Sharwood said people shouldn’t be afraid to complain and write reviews. “There are some great movers out there, there are also some really bad movers,” he said. “Weed out the bad people.”

If belongings are being held hostage, he suggested calling the police, although it’s often murky when a civil dispute turns criminal. Police do sometimes investigate moving companies and in 2010, one company was shut down when police laid 160 charges, including fraud, extortion, possession of proceeds of crime and mischief.

Bento said people should contact police if they feel threatened or endangered but otherwise they can pay the company and later file a complaint directly with the company.

If that doesn’t work, she said consumers can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or contact the ministry, which investigate allegations and potentially can lay charges under the Consumer Protection Act.

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