Before I begin, congratulations on your move! Whether you are moving to save money or more space for your family, moving is always a new beginning. BC Movers wants to wish you the best.
Between coordinating mail, updating your address and organizing the move you probably don’t have much time. BC Movers wants to save you time with these ten questions that can instantly separate the good from the bad (movers).
Moving is by and large a relatively unregulated industry. A lot of the due diligence falls on the consumer. Your movers are going to be in temporary possession of many important items, some of which will have sentimental value. In some cases your belongings might represent a lifetime of work. For items such as, family heirlooms, memorable photos, jewelry, and any other property of irreplaceable nature, we recommend moving those prized possessions yourself, if possible. In the event you are not able to carry your irrecoverable contents with you, we suggest you make sure they are accompanied by a complete list of inventory and brought to the attention of the person in charge of handling your move.
These days you can pretty much start a moving company with a website, rent a truck and hire “friends,” a credit card or other method to pay for some instant advertising on a search engine or even a well known free directory like “Craigslist.”
Our purpose in providing these 10 questions to ask a moving company before hiring them is to help you avoid being misled.
“Anyone can make a hamburger, it doesn’t mean that the meat is safe to eat.”
Here is a Canadian version of the top 10 questions to instantly figure out if you are dealing with a professional.
1) Are you insured? What type of coverage do you have? Would you mind emailing us a copy of your certificate of insurance?
Since every mover is mandated by law to cover $0.60 per lb., the misconception is they “have insurance.” Well, if your 100 pound $5,000.00 big screen T.V, or expensive irreplaceable 5 pound oil painting are worth a total coverage of $63.00, then I guess you could say “technically” the movers without coverage are “insured.” Not only does the default coverage of $0.60 lb, legislated by the Transportation Act, NOT provide equal value coverage, it doesn’t provide any general liability for property damage to your house/condo, theft, or loss of your belongings either. Moving companies and carriers that have legitimate insurance policies have something to lose, and this is why they typically operate with qualified staff, more sophisticated protocols for providing a professional standard of service, and proper equipment to do the work.
If casualty is incurred on your move, amateur companies don’t have much to lose other than disputing over a discount on a bill that is far less in worth to your valuable belongings. In our opinion, it is far better to protect yourself initially by hiring the properly insured and equipped professionals.
Most professional moving companies have combinations of insurance coverage. For instance, BC Movers has $100,000 in freight/cargo insurance and $5,000,000 in general liability insurance.
Insurance is a good first question because actuaries do extensive back checks before issuing coverage.
2) How well equipped are your truck(s)? What type of equipment do you use?
Every professional moving truck has at least several 4-wheel (floor) dollies, two wheelers, bin/cart dollies, logistic ramp(s) for short runs of stairs/crossing ditches etc, dozens of clean padded blankets, furniture wrap/palette wrap, tape, arm straps, extra wardrobe/mirror/picture/
BC Movers equips all their trucks with a good number of all components listed above, including additional additional equipment such as piano skids, refrigerator dolly, cage carts, etc, for those jobs that have specialized items to move.
Having a lot of good equipment may seem less important than how experienced are the movers, and yes, you would be right if you thought so, however for those projects that have elevators, stairs, other access obstacles, having a good amount of the right equipment guarantees a much more seamless and efficient move.
Fly-by-night moving companies rarely have more than a couple of basic dollies and very few padded blankets.
There are many types of moves they are not properly equipped for, thus causing a lengthier move, even worse, damage to your belongings with no recourse.
The cheaper rate often ends up being more expensive in many more way than one.
3) Can you send me a quote and sample of your Bill of Lading?
It would be beneficial to send the movers details of your move such as:
1) Location of origin and destination so the movers can calculate the distance for fuel and travel time;
2) Access description on both ends (usually an address will help the movers find the street view on Google Maps/Earth)
3) A comprehensive list of all items being moved with an approximate number of boxes needed
4) The size of place you’re moving out of, which helps the estimator determine roughly how many boxes will be needed so they can reach a ball park figure on cubic volume to be moved.
5) Include anything over-sized or of specialized nature such as a piano, sound room, multi-piece built-in furniture that needs to be moved, outdoor collapsible structures, exercise equipment, etc…
With the above listed items, BC Movers is able to provide a very accurate assessment on what your move will cost. In many cases BC Movers will provide a firm quote based on detailed description because we have accumulated a lot of data on all the buildings and neighborhoods we’ve moved people in and out of over the years.
The Bill of Lading is your legal contract between yourselves and your movers. I’ve read about hundreds of disastrous moves that could have been avoided by just getting the Bill of Lading.
The Bill of Lading has a Terms and Conditions section. Unlike your software install or facebook sign up, you should read this thoroughly. It will have a section on acceptable fees. It will have a section on dealing with broken or damaged items and property. It will also have your methods of seeking redress.
At least if you’ve had the chance to review the Bill of Lading prior to your moving day, you will have had the time to prepare yourself accordingly, as opposed to seconds before your move, being placed under duress from the meter running, on an hourly charge basis, or any additional time restraints such as an elevator move window. Ignore the Bill of Lading at your own risk.
If a company can’t be provide with you a digital quote and/or copy of their Bill of Lading, be wary.
It’s always best to have something in writing so you can clarify the amount and negate any hidden fees.
4) How long have you been in business for?
It takes years to establish yourself as a moving company. A longer operating history means both experience and stability. BC Movers was established in 2002, and is now an affiliate in an alliance of other more established companies providing service throughout BC, and the western Provinces.
Experienced movers know how to move items more efficiently and effectively. Generally the more expensive company with experience will cost less because of the time savings, and hassle free move without casualty.
Companies with a longer history in business also have staff that have been around for years, and know the style of operation and systems the company uses to streamline its service with. This makes for a much more stress free experience as well as providing a solid level of trustworthiness.
5) How and Where do you hire your staff from?
This is a very underrated question that is almost always over looked. It is very important to know some back ground to the people who will be entering your domain for a day or two.
All of BC Movers employees have either been with the company for over 5 years, or have been hired through our staff as affiliates they have worked with on previous occasions either through the Van Lines, or other major local companies.
Amateur companies will often hire temp labour because they do not have the steady flow of business, nor the affiliations to sustain full time employees. Even some companies that run multiple trucks cannot maintain operations with qualified experienced movers. These amateur companies generally have lower rates than a professional moving company, as a result pay their inexperienced transient workers low wages.
It probably goes without saying, but this is the perfect recipe for a rather stressful and painful moving experience.
This not only costs much more in pain and suffering from emotional distress, but can also cost in other ways such as replacing furniture that was damaged, stolen, lost, etc…, and to add insult to injury, the final bill could likely be more expensive than that of a professional company with the initial higher rate because it took so long with the lack of equipment and experience.
Don’t be afraid to ask for references. As well, sometimes a company has posted videos and pictures on their website or youtube, whereby you can see who the regular staff members are, as well as hear about the services direct from the people they’ve moved in the past.
At BC Movers, we encourage you to inquire further into the hiring practices and dynamics of workmanship of the moving company you are looking to hire.
If the answer you receive is rather vague, or unsatisfactory, then it’s safe to assume that to be the level of service you’ll receive as well.
6) Will your company be the only one doing the move?
This question establishes whether the people you contacted will actually do the move.
There is a possibility that your work order will be sent to another company. If they are a 3rd party, they may receive a fee for your referral but not necessarily be bound by any contract.
The risk is you might find yourself dealing with a subpar company even though you thought you hired a more highly reputable one.
For large or long distance moves, it becomes more likely that another company will take part in the move.
BC Movers provides 100% of the service we bid on and contract to locally. Everything is in writing with a binding Relocation Service Agreement in place before we begin a move.
In the case where BC Movers is fully reserved, we do have trusted affiliates that we will refer your business to as a courtesy. We do not broker or act as an intermediary for any third party contractor. All overflow business is referred to qualified movers that must contact the client directly.
Be sure to ask whether your move will be contracted out to another carrier/mover so you can do your diligence on the third party handling your stuff.
7) Can you provide boxes or bins in advance?
Many sites suggest saving money by using second hand boxes. This can backfire. The boxes might be dirty. They might not stack properly. The cardboard might not be thick enough to hold the weight of other boxes on top. Your mover should have an extra supply of boxes and wardrobe boxes (For clothes, so that they hang properly).
Be aware that your mover’s insurance may not cover items that you have packed yourself.
Every established company should have boxes. The only difference should be in whether you pick them up or whether they will deliver.
8) What kinds of payments do they accept?
Straightforward question. If your movers only accept cash with no receipt, this could be a warning sign.
It is not hard to source an online merchant. The greater difficulty is to register your company and leave a paper trail.
Make sure you either get a receipt, or that you can use a method of payment that provides you with proof of your move. You never know, you may be able to apply the expense towards your tax deductions.
9) What is the process for settling claims?
This should be outlined in the Bill of Lading. Nonetheless, it is important to ask.
Many unfortunate customers have learned after the fact that problems with movers are generally civil. You might feel your movers are intimidating and reckless. You might feel that their handling of your property is negligible. It also means that the police are not likely to intervene.
Establishing terms of service and claims with your mover over the phone may not be binding either. Nonetheless, it is important to have some form of correspondence whether by phone or preferably in writing through e-mails.
It is good to establish who you will communicate with – is there someone who deals with customer service & claims? Is it an operations manager? Owner? Accountant?
Corresponding with the right person will help the process become more personalized, which will lead to a more satisfiable resolve.
10) What can you do about my custom design furniture?
Whether it is a buffet, a credenza or a sideboard, your mover should know the difference. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from Ikea or not. It probably has a name, Your professional mover will know. Your amateur mover might try to figure out, using some unusual name, based on your description.
Moving furniture and items requires specialized knowledge. This is often a great way to find out if the person you are speaking to on the phone knows what they are talking about.
Most people generally have had at least one good experiences with movers. Plenty of movers are reasonably decent. Still, the risks of hiring a bad mover or asking friends for help can be severe.
Think of moving as a great chance to finally do spring cleaning.
My own personal rule of thumb is: if I won’t use it in the next month and it’s not sentimental and it will cost less than 3 dollars a pound to replace, I donate to charity.