Friday, July 20, 2007

A story you won't read this weekend

Last Friday, I was tabbed to help the gf move. She got a job in Winston-Salem, about three hours down the road. She was going to be reimbursed for moving expenses, so she shopped around and found a relocation service (recommended by the U.S. Postal Service in their MoversGuide®), scheduled the move, packed everything herself, even made sure that it would be no problem for the movers to pick up the new furniture she had bought at a store a few miles up the road. Meanwhile, my duties consisted mainly of scheduling her going-away get-togethers.
The trouble began Thursday. The gf arrived at trivia, smiled at the friends come to say farewell, and said, "I'm not moving tomorrow." She had called the relocation service to confirm the movers were coming on Friday. She was placed on hold, transferred to someone else, placed on hold, transferred to someone at the moving company that had been hired to actually move her stuff, placed on hold, transferred to someone else, placed on hold, and finally told that no, they would be arriving on Saturday. The remainder of the conversation:
"But I scheduled this for Friday."
"Well, we're very backed up, and we have a two-day window to arrive."
"Was anyone going to call me and inform me that you weren't coming?"
"We're very sorry, ma'am." (Translation: no)

Friday was spent calling Nationwide Relocation Services and Ben-Hur Moving (a "local mover," based in the Bronx. Yes, the one in New York.) to make sure that a) the movers would actually show up on Saturday and b) there wasn't some nasty hidden "weekend rate." Her suspicions rose when she started trying to give people directions relating to picking up the new furniture; every single person cut her off with "no, no, I don't need to know that, you'll have to tell [insert person who would be called next]." Still, she was assured, there would be no problem picking up the new furniture. When she asked what time the movers were coming, no one would commit to a time. When she asked if it could be narrowed to morning/afternoon, she was told only that the drivers would call, and they would give her sufficient warning before they arrived.
Saturday came, and by noon, she had recruited her father to the calling effort, because the movers still hadn't called, and she wanted to get out of the contract and just rent a U-Haul. Sadly, the service would not cancel the contract unless she agreed to forfeit the $900 deposit. Finally, at 1:30, the driver called.
"I'm confirming a pickup for 11:00."
"11:00? As in tonight?"

When asked how he planned to pick up the new furniture (remember that?), the response was, unsurprisingly, "what new furniture?"
Clearly, a midnight move was not an option, so after several more hours of increasingly angry phone calls, it was agreed that the movers would pick up the furniture at 9:00 Sunday morning, and then come to Clemson. My job was to keep the gf sane for 24 more hours.
Sunday came, and at 9:30 the driver called.
"We're on 385, we'll be in Clemson in an hour."
"You've already picked up the furniture?"
"What furniture?"

Ever had someone blathering at you, and you weren't sure what they were talking about, and you just kept saying "yeah, yeah, okay," just to get them to leave you alone? That's what happened here. They finally picked up the furniture at 11:00 (on a Sunday, recall; the store owner is a saint), got to Clemson at 1:00, and took four hours to load three small rooms. At 5:00, I went home to walk the dog and get ready for the drive to Winston-Salem. As soon as I walked in the door, the phone rang.
"Is my contract there?"
"Yep, right here on the kitchen counter."
"What does it say about who I have to pay when I have to pay them?"
"Payment On Delivery. There's nothing about who you pay, but I would assume you pay the relocation service. Why?"
"The movers say I have to pay them the balance now. And they don't take credit cards. And they won't leave until I sign a document saying that I understand this, and that I'm expected to tip them 10%. It's Sunday! Where am I going to get $800 in cash?"
I spent some time working for a moving company, and not once in that time did I hear it suggested that I, or any of my co-workers, or the OTR drivers we would help, receive a tip. Maybe it was just that company. Maybe this started when the coffeehouse tip jar started invading every store in creation. But that's sort of tangential to the point, which was that the tip, the cash-only policy, the demand for payment before delivery, were surprises. You would think, in several weeks worth of phone calls arranging this, someone would have mentioned that, oh, yes, you need to have cash or a cashier's check on hand to pay the movers before delivery. An hour later, she called back:
"I'm not moving tonight. I'll be there in a few minutes."
It took until Monday evening to get her moved in, almost 72 hours behind schedule.

Maybe this is exactly what one is supposed to expect when moving. Maybe we were being unreasonable, and everyone involved in both the moving company and the relocation service acted professionally at every turn. But, as I said, there were a lot of surprises in this move, and there seemed to be no effort made to keep us informed, and a lot of effort to avoid taking responsibility for anything. At any rate, there's your cautionary tale. Get things in writing, ask lots of questions, and then ask more questions, and expect the things you got in writing to be meaningless.

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