The Handy Resource to Not Hiring A Terrible Moving Company
Moving sucks. Seriously, who doesn’t hate hearing the question “Can you help me move?”. Nobody likes being that person. Hiring a professional mover takes a huge load off the whole process.
But it also brings a totally different kind of stress. How do you hire a mover that doesn’t suck? So many of them do. Moving is a totally unregulated industry in Alberta. There are no special licensing rules to operate a moving company, something that is commonplace in the States.
Any dude or gal with a rented truck can legally call themselves a moving company. This makes it attractive industry for amateurs and scammers. The upfront investment to start a moving company is basically nothing. Unsurprisingly, this makes movers one of the most complained about industries in Southern Alberta. They’re not as bad as florists (what, florists? really?), but they’re still on the list.
Bad moving companies can dodge their crummy reputations by operating under different names and phone numbers. This allows them to do things like charging ridiculous extra fees and holding people’s furniture hostage – and then bounce off without a care in the world. Your bad review means nothing. For the amateurs, they have no reputation to protect. They’re looking for the quick buck.
Being a professional mover means being a professional at not breaking things. That’s not a situation you want to be unsure about when all your worldly possessions are involved.
So what’s a buyer to do? Arm themselves with knowledge of course. Get to know the norms and you’ll know instantly if you’re being jerked around. So watch out for the following green flags – and treat any deviation as a serious red flag.
1. Their pricing and billing follow industry norms.
Some groundwork on how pricing should work:
- Local moves: you pay by the hour and you pay after the move is complete. A professional company won’t ask you to put money down.
- Long distance moves: you pay by weight. In the past, companies have been caught fudging these numbers. (link to marketplace story from way back)
But when it comes to billing, the single most complained about item with moving companies is hidden extra costs. This is a favourite method for sliding in extra money on your bill in a way that seems legitimate. Such as charging you for the distance from the door to the truck being ‘farther than anticipated’, or there being ‘more items than what was quoted for’. This doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate reasons for charging you more, but you should find out what those parameters are before hiring a company.
A good rule of thumb is that if you are being charged extra for something – it’s because it’s your fault and it caused the move to take longer than scheduled.
A pro moving company will have an excellent idea of how long it will take pack up your house based on the amount of rooms in it. This is built on a set of conditions:
- Everything is packed when its time to move. If the movers have to help you finish packing, you’re going to be charged extra
- You aren’t able to let them into your house, either the one you’re moving to or moving from. You will be given a timeslot for your move, usually around 2 hours. If you aren’t there at the start to let the movers into your house – you will be charged extra for the delay. Ditto for if you can’t open the house you’re moving to. Have a plan in place for this.
- You didn’t accurately describe the size of the move when getting your quote. If you have a 5 bedroom house and you tell the mover it’s a 3 bedroom house, it’s not their fault of it takes longer than the quote and you are charged more. To avoid this, be very explicit about the size of the move and all of the rooms involved.
If you have your possessions packed up when the movers arrive, if you were accurate with the scope of the move (you said 3 rooms when it was really 6), and the movers have immediate access to both the locations in the timeframe given – you should not have any extra costs. If you fulfilled the above the conditions and the moving company still wants to charge you more – you are likely being scammed. Any company you hire should be very clear on what they will charge extra for, and all the items that will appear on your invoice.
So ask your moving company about how extra costs work and don’t let them be vague about it. If they can’t give a clear answer on this with detailed examples – they suck.
2. They are properly licensed and insured and they don’t try to trick you about what that means.
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked or misunderstood.
Obviously if the moving company tells you they are unlicensed or uninsured, you’re not going to hire them (if you would, you need a lot more help than this article can provide).
But beyond that, a moving company being licensed probably doesn’t mean what you think it does. There are no extra licensing rules to be a moving company in Alberta and a business having a license doesn’t protect you from common scams or amateurs. In the United States, there are licensing rules that prevent moving companies from operating under different names or phone numbers and other expectations that must be fulfilled to make churn and burn tactics more difficult. These extra rules are nowhere to be found here.
Insurance is a vague term as well. Many people think that it means any damage to their belongings or property will be covered. This is true in the sense that if you hold your hand over your head in the rain, you will be covered from getting wet. This is something that the moving company should explain to you in detail, and again, industry norms should be adhered to.
Most commonly, a moving company’s basic insurance coverage will protect 60 cents per pound of any item. A damaged item weighing 50lbs will be covered for $30.
But this protection has limitations. Anything packed in a box that you packed yourself will not be covered. If you put it in the box, it’s your concern. Not only that, you are only covered for external damage. Meaning that if your TV suddenly doesn’t work after your move – but has no external damage – then it is not covered. Womp womp.
Don’t let this scare you too much. This information is only to help you separate out the pros from the amateurs and scammers. Any professional moving company will be upfront about how their insurance works.
If the company you are vetting isn’t up front about their basic insurance policy, they suck.
Extra insurance is an option as well for firm piece of mind, but our local moving authority tells us that he only recommends it on long distance moves (between cities). If you are moving locally, items being damaged is very rare. Taking the time to hire the right moving company is almost always enough for protection in your local move. He adds that you are more than welcome to purchase extra insurance of course, but it can be expensive and is very rarely needed.
3. They don’t subcontract. They use their own uniformed employees and branded trucks.
This one doesn’t require a lot of explanation.
Ask who exactly will be doing the move. Are they employees of the company, or are they subcontractors? Is the truck rented or owned by the company?
They might try to tell you that this doesn’t matter. You can then feel free to laugh at them.
If the moving company uses subcontractors, then you’re not really hiring that moving company – you’re hiring the company / people they hire. And who knows who that is. Additionally, if they are using a rented or unbranded truck, this is a sure sign of amateur movers or a company that operates under many different names to avoid accountability. Either way, they suck.
A professional moving company almost always own their own trucks, have some kind of branding, and have their own professional employees. If you do nothing else, following this simple rule will go a long way in weeding out the bad eggs – they’re usually just not going to bother with all of those things.
4. They have a good reputation in places other than their website. Use critical thinking and judge whether they are legit reviews or not.
Don’t just take their word for it. They should have a verifiable reputation from some third party source.
Google reviews have got a bad rap, but they’re quite effective if you follow a couple rules. Few companies will make the investment for fake reviews that can fully masquerade as a real review profile. It would be enormously expensive.
Real reviews should seem real. A genuine review profile will have reviews from people located where the business performs services, will be written in a variety of ways / styles (individuals are different), and will usually include details. There should also be enough reviews that faking this size of review profile would be an investment beyond its return (at least 50 reviews).
They should have some social media presence – this indicates at least some effort has been made for real marketing. Not being active on social media doesn’t mean much – but they should have a Facebook page with information that matches their Google Knowledge Panel, which matches their website.
5. They aren’t elusive when you mention a contract.
According to Calgary Pro Movers, a contract should always be provided if requested. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need one – for smaller local moves, a contract is rarely very relevant similar to the case of moving insurance. If you are moving especially expensive items or are doing a long distance move – then a contract is essential. But small local moves that don’t involve a lot of money, it’s not do or die to have one.
Again, the important piece of information is that this is a way of vetting the company for professionalism. If you mention a contract and they become elusive or won’t take the job – they suck. If they happily comply and have a template ready to go – they’re likely not too concerned about you suing them. Always a good sign.
Hopefully this helps you feel more confident the next time you’re looking to hire a mover. Some of it may seem obvious, but its good to have a full picture of what to expect from a real professional mover. At some point proper licensing might prevent the scammers and amateurs from ripping your off, but until then its your job. The points mentioned above will keep you safe from the churn and burn companies operating under different names, from companies that are likely to find nefarious ways to charge you more, and from amateurs who mean well but will break your stuff.
There are lots of great options in this city, and lots of terrible options too. All it takes is a little knowledge to find the former and keep from being jerked around by the latter.
And now you don’t have to annoy your friends by pretending that free pizza is a fair recompense for hours of backbreaking labour.
They will all thank you for it.