Moving is tough, even when it goes well. But if something goes wrong? Well, it can go really, really wrong. As proof, check out these moving horror stories that can even happen to smart people—plus some hard lessons they learned—so you can keep them from happening to you. We've got you covered!
“When we moved from Maryland to Michigan, a box with every single Hallmark ornament my husband’s mom and grandma had given him over the years turned up missing and were never recovered. Surprisingly, the baseball card collection made it just fine.” – Kristy Natwick, Commerce Township, MI
Lesson learned: When moving, you'll want to take special precautions with items you value, whether for financial or sentimental reasons.
“Most carriers have a clause in their contract stating they will not be liable for damaged or missing personal items such as jewelry, passports, checkbooks, coins, stamps, and the like," says Nancy Zafrani of New York City–based Oz Moving & Storage.
To protect these things, “You may want to group together the items you are most concerned about and have those specifically inventoried—and then have the boxes sealed with tamper-evident seals. Upon delivery, make sure to inspect all items and document any missing or damaged items on the manifest before the movers leave,” she advises.
If things get lost, stolen, or damaged, you have options. Some homeowner policies may cover it, and most moving companies also offer insurance. Unfortunately for the collectors among us, sentimental value is not considered generally, she says. “Nor, sadly, would they consider the time and effort taken to accumulate such a collection.”
The price as moving target
“When the movers arrived, they increased the quote more than 50% versus what I was quoted over the phone, and I was forced to pay or they wouldn’t move my items. Turns out that estimates given over the phone aren’t binding, which they had not mentioned when they gave the quote. The movers then spent more than three hours moving two small rooms—with me helping them move boxes and furniture while they took breaks." – Ross Lipschultz, Chicago, IL
Lesson learned: Always get a quote in person, rather than over the phone, so movers can eyeball your belongings. Your “three rooms of stuff” might be the same as six rooms for someone else. Also, opt for a flat rate over hourly so there are no surprises on moving day, says Adam Pittenger, CEO of Moved.
“You'll need to provide a full list of your inventory before locking in a flat rate," he says. "But as long as the list is accurate, you'll know exactly how much you'll be paying at the end of the day.”
The no-show showdown
“I was moving my car from Florida to Oregon so I found a company, paid the deposit, and scheduled the pickup. They. Never. Arrived. I had even spoken to them earlier that day, and they had said they were on the way. I never did hear from them again and, of course, my deposit was never seen again." – Colleen Nichols, Portland, OR
Lesson learned: Disreputable movers may be rare, but never forget that you're essentially entrusting your valuables to someone who could easily carry them off—pretty easily we might add. So, make sure to do a little due diligence by seeing, first of all, if any complaints have been filed by checking with the Better Business Bureau.
For an interstate move, visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Protect Your Move site, which has a searchable database that shows if the company is registered, licensed, and insured and if any complaints have been filed.
“If you collect this intel, chances are good that you are working with a quality moving company,” notes Pittenger. This makes it more likely the company will show up and do the job right.
“They said it was going to be a few weeks until my stuff arrived, and in the end it took months. Meanwhile, I had a toddler who was literally sleeping on the floor because I called them at least once a week, and every single week they told me my stuff would arrive 'in a few days,' so I didn't want to actually buy stuff. When I got the final moving docket, I learned that my goods had been stuffed in a warehouse in Albany for months while they actively lied to me about how long it was going to take.” – Janis Isaman, New York, NY
Lesson learned: Make sure the contract adequately reflects the expectations you've set for timing, but understand that in a long-distance move, your items may well arrive a few days behind schedule, says Pittenger—but not months, of course. But, you’ll want to play it safe and cover yourself for a few extra days.
“Often long-distance moves are batched together, but the moving company should be transparent with the dates and details,” he says.
When DIY becomes SOS
“We were college students trying to save money, as college students do, so we decided that we definitely could move ourselves, no problem. Unfortunately we got our couch stuck in a stairwell and had to call a moving company to come help us. Let’s just say that we didn’t save any money that weekend.” – Pete Davis, Seattle, WA
Lesson learned: A lot of people try to save money during their move by doing it themselves, but they often just end up hurting themselves or their belongings. At the very least, before you start a DIY move, measure the biggest pieces, then measure the doorways, stairways, and the truck you’re planning to use to make sure everything will fit. Getting in over your head and having to call emergency help is going to cost more than paying for qualified helpers in the first place!