Late spring and summer are the high season for moving and storage companies. They can also be the high season for fly-by-night companies that “earn” hundreds to thousands of additional dollars per move from unwary consumers who’ve chosen to skimp on the cost of an established, reputable mover or the time it takes to thoroughly research their options. Bargain movers may turn out to be anything but when they arrive with a load of “extra” charges they forgot to mention before setting out for a customer’s new location.
If that sounds like scaremongering, it’s not. Moving is expensive, and people who have just invested a great deal of money in a new home or a new place of business have other costs to deal with and may be tempted to cut corners. And, unscrupulous companies have the perfect leverage for forced payment of additional, unforeseen charges once they have a client’s goods.
The BC Trucking Association (BCTA) represents a number of moving and storage companies in addition to over 1000 companies that transport other types of freight. Road safety, integrity, and respect for regulations are of primary concern to all our members. They invest in the upkeep of their equipment, maintaining a place of business, hiring skilled drivers and other employees, and complying with WorkSafeBC and other regulatory requirements. They have a legitimate business to foster and protect. Because none of these things come cheaply, their rates are likely higher. They are also around for the long term and would suffer significantly from word of mouth if they stooped to using questionable practices.
The question for consumers is, how do you tell the difference between companies you can and can’t trust? Both types of movers may have a Yellow Pages listing, a website, and someone pleasant answering the phone. The trick is always to take responsibility for finding out everything you can about the company you’re going to trust with your goods. No one has as much at stake as you.
Always ask for references and follow them up. Visit the websites of the Better Business Bureau for the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island to see if your chosen company belongs and what their current rating is. The Canadian Association of Movers also has a section for consumers on its website that lets you view the records of member companies and provides general guidance. Visit the mover’s place of business if you can – some movers that can’t be trusted won’t actually have one. Get a sense of the condition of the vehicles and the premises, especially if you intend to temporarily store your goods there. Are they clean and secure?
When asking for a quote, don’t accept a verbal estimate alone, especially over the phone. A good mover will come to your residence to assess what the company will be transporting and any challenges at your location. Their representative will provide a written estimate that should cover all of the costs included in the move.
To help consumers investigate and choose the right moving and storage company, BCTA has developed three flyers that describe how to identify a safe company, how to get an accurate estimate, and tips for making a move go smoothly. They are available on BCTA’s website, www.bctrucking.com, for anyone looking to hire a mover. There are no strings attached to using them – whether reputable companies are members of BCTA or not, the entire industry benefits when consumers also put safety and reliability ahead of cheap rates.
Moving is stressful and it’s hard to avoid at least a few mistakes in the process. There’s no reason to make the biggest mistake of all, though. Don’t give complete strangers control over all your worldly goods, even temporarily, unless you’ve got evidence they’ll safely deliver, as agreed.
~By Paul R. Landry, President & CEO, BC Trucking Association