Need (quasi) legal advice about dealing with a f***ing moving company

Our recent move was a complete nightmare. We booked months ago, but after giving us a moving date, the company (a major national van line whose name I may reveal later) called a week in advance to say that they had subcontracted the move out to an agent. This was not good news. They called again a few days later to say that that the agent’s truck had broken down, and that they couldn’t provide another truck of their own or from another subcontractor.

Our original move-out date was Monday, and they said it wouldn’t be there until Thursday or Friday. (The new owners were going to move in on Friday, and were not able to change their plans.) Needless to say, I insisted that the van had to be there on Thursday, but they wouldn’t guarantee this or even tell me the actual date for a few more days. This left us frantically scrambling to find alternate plans.

On Monday, still hoping the truck would arrive in time, I called Portable On Demand Storage (PODS) as a backup plan, and arranged to have them deliver four of their units to the house so that if the truck didn’t arrive on Thursday, I could have my own labor crew move the stuff into the PODS either to store on the street until my van came, or have them shipped directly to our new home.

From Saturday until Tuesday, we didn’t know whether the truck would arrive Thursday (acceptable) or Friday (disaster). On Tuesday they called and said it would be Friday.

FUCK!

However, the truck driver called on Wednesday evening, saying he would be in the city the next day and at our house on Friday. On hearing that he would be in town on Thursday, I explained the situation to him and begged and pleaded with him to come straight to us and not to wait until Friday. Fortunately, he agreed, and we were able to load everything in and get out of the house in the nick of time, no thanks at all to the moving company! I was able to cancel the PODS and the work crews, but was charged cancellation fees by both.

In the meantime, though, not only was I put through one of the most harrowing and stressful events of my life, I was unable to work for the extra four days of waiting, had to pay to change airline tickets (we had already driven across country to the new house; I flew back to do the last packing and oversee the loadout), and had to pay rent to the new owners for the extra days beyond they date we had expected to move out.

Although the main customer service agent I dealt with appeared concerned and sympathetic, others did not seem too worried about the fact that I might not be able to get my stuff out of the house I did not technically own by the time the new owners drove their truck up.

So we feel the moving company has seriously screwed us, and that not only do they owe us for our substantial out-of-pocket expenses, but that we should not have to pay the full price for the service they screwed up so badly. The truck has not yet arrived at our new house, and based on my previous experience, I know that they will not unload it until we pay the full amount they claim we owe, so they have us over that barrel.

We are considering entering an immediate dispute with the credit card company over the final charge, and will probably contact a lawyer to look into our other options. But since the total at issue is probably in the range of $4,000 to $5,000, it won’t take much of a lawyer’s time to wipe out any possible benefit.

So I would love any suggestions on what actions we can pursue. Have you been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?

Maybe small claims court for breach of contract, I’m sure someone who’s actually taken their bar exam will come along to offer real advice.

You could try sending them a private message on facebook and clearly (but shortly) explain that they didn’t show up on the planned date and because they were 4 days late, it ended up costing you about $xxxx and ‘is there anything that can be done about this?’ and see where it goes from there. They may still decline, especially if anything you signed gave them the right to do this, but they know the power of social media and may be willing to refund a portion of your money.
If you were to go that route, I’d also suggest starting with a PM, not blasting it on their page for everyone to see.

You could also try filing a report to the BBB and see if that gets you anywhere.

We got royally screwed over moving from AZ to here. We missed stuff for months afterward. They went through everything while it was in storage. They even stole my bong out of a dresser drawer. Opened boxes from the bottom. All the CDs were gone. I don’t even remember all the stuff that ultimately turned up missing.

All claims were rejected. This was also a major chain, not Two Guys and a Moving Truck.

I have no answers for you. But lots of sympathy.

Stick it to them anyway you can. That is some bad shit.
We had a cross country move and a couple of antique jewelry boxes and gaming system were stolen. Got no where dealing with the company. We went to small claims and won. Although the judge didn’t want us to. In fact he chewed me out for letting my jewelry boxes be out where they could be stolen. He basically said it was my fault. We got a small monetary award. But no amount of money can replace my Grandmothers boxes and old jewelry. Just gone.

Last time I moved, I used ABF’s U-Pack containers (similar to PODS), and I can’t recommend them enough. Not only was everything secure in the container when it arrived, and it arrived precisely as scheduled, but when we had a problem and our apartment manager told us we couldn’t have the container in our parking space at the apartment we were leaving, they were amazingly helpful, allowing us to load it at their terminal far in excess of the allotted time period for such a thing. Not only does packing the container myself, and securing it with my own locks give me considerable peace of mind that everything in it will be fine (and if it isn’t it’s my own damn fault for packing it poorly), but their helpfulness and how far they went to make it possible for us to move without having insane additional expenses was great, and I will always use them for every future move I make, even if I wind up getting my own crew to load and unload the containers for me, if I can’t, or choose not to do the work myself.

As for advice to the OP, I’d review your contract with them very carefully; they probably have weasel clauses that let them do what they did to you. It might be worth getting a brief consultation with a lawyer to have them opine on whether you could take them to small claims court successfully for this; bring the contract, bring any other documentation you can such as the receipts for the extra expenses you incurred, and see what the lawyer says, you can probably get a consultation for a reasonable price, and make your decision on how to proceed from there.

That’s my thinking. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if there is wording in the contract that specifically allows them to use a contracted service, change dates and on top of all that doesn’t allow you to collect any money from them if those things cost you anything, they may even say that you have to use a mediator.
That’s why I suggested that you first just ‘nicely’ ask them about it on facebook. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get some kind of a discount. If they tossed you a grand, would you be okay with that?
But if you were going to sue them, have a lawyer look over the contract see if it’s worth it and/or guide you on how to sue them. That is, maybe you can’t sue them for being 4 days late, but you can recover some or all of what you paid for the other services you hired (and fired) while waiting for them.

That is a horrifying story. You have my sympathies and good wishes.

I always thought that my family did our own moves from a lack of money to pay a moving company. Maybe there were other reasons as well.

We had a moving company once. We had everything in the house packed and easy to go on the truck. They unwrapped all the bed pieces somewhere along the line, and they looked like the company had dragged them from Baltimore to Phoenix.
Many things were broken or missing, but the claims period was so short that there was no way to open every box and examine everything in the time given.

We had jobs in PHX, but no house, so we arranged with the company to store everything in PHX, and we would call them to deliver when we had a place. When we called, we discovered that they had stored it in Baltimore, so we had to wait 2 weeks to get our stuff. We had to go shopping for all kinds of items we didn’t really need while we waited–most notably and costly being clothes for work.

Since then we have gone with U-Haul. Not ideal, but it’s our fault if there’s a problem. The next move will depend on the time we will have. I am looking for a job, and I am willing to stay here, but we also want to move back home. If we are going to move, it will have to be fast, as late in the summer as it is already. I’d like to look into PODS or another “you-pack” company.

Once everything is over, if you remain dissatisfied, be sure to share your feelings with potential future customers. Dispassionately describe what happened on Yelp, Facebook, etc.

For my experience in Chicago, I’ve discovered there’s a few really good moving companies, and after that the drop off is steep. If you can’t get one of the good ones, it’s not worth hiring anyone else.

Read this website carefully and see if there are any discrepancies between what your mover did and what is required by FMCSA:

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move

Check and verify you were provided the following by the carrier:

•A written estimate

•The “Ready to Move” Brochure (or a web link, if you prefer)

•Information about the mover’s arbitration program

•Written notice about access to the mover’s tariff

•The process for handling claims

•Booklet, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” (or a web link, if

you prefer)
If there are any discrepancies, or you were not provided any of those documents, go to the FMCSA website and file a carrier complaint. Your complaint will be investigated, and will likely result in a review of the carrier’s entire operation.

Is the carrier the business that he paid or the business that showed up since it was contracted out?

Without more info I’d say the first. Unless they just acted as a broker and the contract we with the second.

Leave reviews, especially with the BBB, and with any sites that handle movers in particular. If you used any in choosing your mover, leave them there. They do make a difference when people select their movers in the future.

As always, the contract is key. From the site linked above:

and

It sounds like the OP didn’t contract for “guaranteed service”. If the contract states otherwise, then you likely have some recourse - though it will be limited to what is specified in the contract.

You could always try them in the court of public opinion, as is popular these days. Try reaching out to your local media, media in the city you moved from, national media… whomever. Blast them on Facebook and encourage people to share it.

Large companies tend to not want to look bad.

I think that some of the folks who work for these companies consider anything they can filch a perk of the job.

Okay, so we submitted receipts for our out-of-pocket expenses caused by the delay, totaling over $2,000. They countered with less than half that, and when I asked why, they said they normally only pay $30/day for delays, and raised it a couple hundred. Clearly they just want to pay us something to go away. As I and others here have assumed, the contract does give them outs for almost everything, so I doubt we could succeed in getting much more out of them, and it would be a pain to even try. Just what they want.

But here’s the stinger: the form they sent us to sign to get the payment includes what is essentially a gag order:

This would seem to be intended to prevent us from slamming them (with the facts) on Angie’s List, Facebook and other social media, or technically speaking, even telling friends about what happened in private. (Or posting here, for that matter.)

We are very reluctant to agree to that, since we think that people who are considering hiring them need to know about our experience. It could be that the good rating they have at Angie’s List is due in part to mistreated customers being gagged.

Although a thousand bucks isn’t chump change, at this point I’m seriously considering telling them that my silence will cost them a lot more. If they offer more, I’ll consider at what point I’m willing to sell out, or I’ll preserve my dignity and freedom of expression and let them have it every way I can.

But what are our options if we take the money? I’ve heard that NDA’s are widely considered unenforceable. Does this fall in the same category? If we take the money and then blast them (factually) online, are they likely to come back and demand we repay the money, or sue us for breach of contract and demand even more? Are they even likely to find out? Do they have people scanning the Web looking for things like this? Could we somehow post anonymously in a way that couldn’t get back to us? What do you think?

It sounds to me like they’re asking you not to make an actual claim against them. That is, you can’t sue them, dispute the charge on your credit card, report them to any government agency or the BBB.
Trashing them on social media, I don’t think, would be considered “filing” a “claim, complaint or grievance”.

I’d be tempted to take the money and run. You’ll get over it.

If you don’t take the money, I’d dispute the charges with your credit card company, if you use’d a CC (or see if they have any type of insurance to help you out).

Here’s the thing, it’s either a sure $1000 with a minor restriction or taking a gamble on $2000 or zero.