An insider offers some helpful tips on what to look for and what to ask when hiring a potential mover
Hiring a moving company should be a straightforward endeavor but it can also be stressful. We’ve all heard horror stories or seen TV exposés about shoddy moving companies – the ones that break your precious items, charge double what they quoted or don’t even show up in the first place.
So if you’re relocating, how should you choose a moving company to ensure a good experience? We asked Perry Thorne, a director and past chairman at the Canadian Association of Movers, and sales manager at Greg & Sons Moving & Storage, for his top dos and don’ts.
1. Do look for great references
If a friend or family member recommends a mover, that’s a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Once you have some highly recommended names, check to see if they’re certified by the Canadian Association of Movers (mover.net). If they aren’t, that means they failed to meet the certification criteria, which is already a red flag. “If you choose to do business with an uncertified mover, you’re taking a serious risk,” says Thorne. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau, which has a website and a toll-free number. Thorne says it’s not easy to get on its list of bad companies, so if your potential mover appears there, steer clear.
You may be tempted to check consumer-review websites to assess the quality of a mover, but take those testimonials with a grain of salt. Thorne says he’s been approached by companies that will, for a price, submit realistic-sounding positive reviews to these sites.
2. Do make sure the company isn’t a broker
Some moving companies seem like regular movers but are actually brokers. “That means the people who come to your home and make the sale aren’t the same people who move you,” explains Thorne. Instead, the broker will sell the business to a different owner/operator. This is a common practice across the country, and it means that even if a friend had a great experience with the broker, your experience could be different if your move is given to another company. Don’t be shy: ask the contact flat out if they’re a broker or not.
3. Don’t compare apples to oranges
Thorne recommends getting three quotes, but ensure you’re comparing apples to apples. “The service that professional movers provide can be totally different than what Joe the Mover provides,” explains Thorne. At some firms, movers are extensively trained on how to properly wrap furniture and manoeuvre through doorways to protect belongings, for example, but you shouldn’t expect this from every company.
4. Don’t assume bigger is better
Some consumers worry that a small company without a huge fleet of trucks might not be as reliable or professional as large national moving firms, but there are exceptional companies that are quite small. “Size is not a reflection of the quality of work,” Thorne says. “If they’re small, it can be beneficial – they pay attention to detail, and you might get better service instead of being just one of 27 moves that day.” If you’re concerned that a company might have a small number of trucks and the one allotted to your move could break down or the morning of your big day, take note: “Most moving companies have a relationship with an alternate service provider that they count on if equipment goes down,” Thorne says.
5. Don’t hire online-only companies
These days, many customers, especially younger ones, often prefer to find and book a company online. But if a company doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar location – and trucks – that’s a warning sign that they could be a broker (see #2, above). “If they have a physical location that you can actually visit, that adds legitimacy,” Thorne says.
6. Do ensure they come to your house to do the quote
Some companies let you submit your details online and then they’ll email you a quote, but this almost always ends in disappointment and frustration: homeowners, through no fault of their own, aren’t always great at taking an accurate inventory of what’s in their home.
And what about getting a quote by phone? “That’s just silly,” says Thorne. By law, a mover cannot charge you more than 10% above what you were originally quoted, but if you don’t have a quote in writing, you can’t hold them to that.
7. Don’t hand over a cash deposit
Any deposit should be minimal, says Thorne, “just to secure the date,” but deposits aren’t actually standard in the industry. What’s more common is simply providing a credit-card number, just like when you book a hotel. It won’t be charged until after the move. If a company requests cash for a deposit, be very wary – you can’t be sure they won’t run away with it, never to be heard from again.
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