November 28, 2016 Chris Jolma

Sometimes movers just take your stuff…

I came across this today: a moving company found on Craigslist didn’t just do a bad job and hold these customers’ things hostage – they stole the whole load!

The gist: the customers found some movers on Craigslist, hired them, and then the guys took off with about $75,000 in furniture. (It must have been pretty high-end furniture because, judging from the video, it appears that they have a smaller, maybe 16′ truck. So, it wasn’t necessarily volume we’re talking about here. But I digress…) The customers were somehow able to recover a box of some personal papers, but the movers have apparently disappeared.

I guess I’m not too surprised because I see and hear new examples of crazy every day. One common tactic shady movers use is to low-ball the quote, get control of people’s items, then demand exorbitant additional fees based on usually flimsy or intentionally confusing fine print. The sad thing is that it’s often legal because they say that rates might go up if yadda yadda yadda. Until you pay up, the moving company holds your stuff hostage.

It’s common, and therefore not too shocking, but what is shocking is how in 2016 this kind of thing is still happening. With a plethora of review websites, consumer advocacy groups, and heck, cameras on virtually every cell phone now produced, shady operators still try to get away with it. Given the number of stories or reviews I read about this, I’m guessing it happens a lot more often than we even hear about. Aside from it being just plain wrong, it’s an incredibly stupid way to do business. People use moving companies at most once per year. It’s not like needing to pick up milk every couple of days. So, while repeat business isn’t as big of a factor, reputation is. The once-and-done transactional model is a great way to go out of business.

The other thing about this story: Craigslist. It’s been years since I relied on CL for generating business, and I don’t knock it as a place to get started, but even in the few years since I began doing this I’ve seen CL become pretty much useless for advertising moving services. Everyone with a relatively strong back, access to a box truck, and no real relationship with integrity thinks he can start a moving company. With a seemingly low barrier to entry, starting a moving company seems like the easiest and quickest way to make some extra cash.

It’s a bogus impression – to do it right and legally, you have to be ready to fork over a ton of cash right from the get-go. There’s insurance, marketing, a place to park your fleet (and make no mistake – in order to net any profit, you’ll need at least a small fleet to get started…) So, you see a lot of people who don’t bother with any of that, and they naturally gravitate to the shady underworld of Craigslist.

My advice to anyone seeking moving services: check out any of the many consumer review sites like Yelp.com. If price is your first and most important concern, you’ll surely be able to find cheap movers, but the trade-off is almost always reliability, integrity, and restitution if things go bad.

Just remember: for the time-being, the moving industry still very much deserves its reputation. Do your research and expect to pay a little more for legitimate movers. (The higher price comes from compliance with state and federal regs, decent wages for the workers, and the taxes and insurance legitimate companies must pay. But that’s for another post…)

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