Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Moving Dilemmas

While traveling up the east coast yesterday, returning to Connecticut from northern Virginia, I anxiously kept an eye on the western horizon in hopes that the cloud cover would break long enough for me to view the Venus transit. No such luck, though; I had my pair of official NASA sun-gazing glasses, but no access to actual sun.

My partner and I found a nice place to rent. We haven't officially signed the lease yet, because he didn't get his written offer letter from his new employer until this morning, but we're pretty sure the landlord will give us the place. If not, our second-best choice is only $25 a month more. Within a month or less, I'll be living in an exurb of Washington, DC (and yes, I'm well aware of the irony).

I've never hired a moving company before, and I'm actively seeking advice from anyone who knows anything. What should I look for? I've read warnings of scammy movers who will hold your worldly goods hostage until you shell out considerably more money than they originally quoted, but I'm hoping that if I go with a national company, that shouldn't be a problem.

What's considered a "reasonable" price to hire movers who will move a cluttered three-bedroom apartment's worth of stuff from Connecticut to Virginia? I plan to pack the stuff myself, rather than have the movers do it; however, I WOULD like the movers to help move said boxes out of my second-floor apartment.

Also: where the hell does one GET enough cardboard boxes to hold three cluttered bedrooms' worth of stuff? Would these boxes be included in the moving-company fee? Also: what's a proper tip to pay the movers? Assuming decent traffic conditions, it would be a six-hour drive from my old apartment to my new one; would it be a caravan of my car, my partner's car, and the moving van, or is it more likely that the movers would bring my stuff down the next day?

Honestly, I know so little about this, I don't even know the proper questions to ask. Any advice you have to offer would be appreciated.

P.S. I still oppose the creeping totalitarianism of our government, and TSA still sucks. I just don't have time to rant about them right now.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Artor said...

I'm about 4k miles away, so I can't offer specific help, but here's my 2 cents worth. Whatever company you look at, google them and see what former customers have to say. If they're cheating extortionists, that shit will be all over the intertubes.
Whatever company you choose, they'll probably have cardboard boxes available, but they won't be cheap. I'd suggest going to your local grocery store and asking for used produce boxes. They're large & sturdy, and often you can use the top & bottom separately to get 2 boxes out of one. If they have a big hole int he bottom, you can put a piece of the orange-crate cardboard over it. Comes with the boxes, and you can get them for free.
As for tipping, figure your movers are getting paid minimum wage for their time, and calculate a percentage from that. If their company doesn't require them to wear uniforms, they'll probably have the leeway to accept much-appreciated beer and pizza for the heavy-lifting parts of the job. You'll have to use your own judgement to determine if they'd like getting smoked out.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Charles Pergiel said...

National companies will be higher, local companies should be cheaper. Talk to several, especially about how long it will take to get your stuff transported. If they are really busy, you might get shoved to the back of queue.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Robert Hewes said...

Once you get quotes, do lots of research at BBB and the like. Search for (company name) + scam, and read through completely.

We got royally screwed when we moved last year by Capital Van Lines out of Bridgeport CT and Bayonne NJ. Avoid them like the plague.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Steamboat Lion said...

Uhaul sell moving boxes in a variety of sizes

5:27 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Look on Craigslist free stuff and for sale to find moving boxes. Also liquor stores usually throw out lots of small boxes, or at least they used to - I haven't moved in 30 years. Doubled paper grocery bags are good for things like paperback books.

Moving stuff down from the second floor or any other floor should be part of the standard service, though I can see how it might be more expensive. I've never heard of tipping professional movers, but that's up to you. You might want to buy some insurance for your goods.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

I've been through this a couple of times, so here's my $0.02:

Get three quotes from affiliates of major companies (Mayflower, Allied, United, etc. If you use a major company, you're pretty much certain to get your stuff back. With minor carriers, that's been a problem.

If one of the quotes is way lower than the others, avoid that guy. That never ends well.

The truckers are generally independents, hired for specific jobs. Any other laborers are likely as not hired that morning. I usually tip $20 per person. They almost certainly need the money more than you do.

I lived in Fairfax, VA from 2001-2006. Most people spent 45-90 minutes each way commuting. That's usually over 2 hours a day in the car, and it sucks. If at all possible, live closer to the city center than you work. Traffic into the city in the morning (6-9:30am) or out of the city at night (4-8pm) is pretty much parking, but if you're going the other way it's easy. The Beltway is jammed at rush hour, so avoid it if possible.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Oh yeah, and if you're stuck in traffic for four hours (happens about once a year), there's no place to pee near the Beltway. Plan fluid intake appropriately.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Ewing said...

Based on prior experience, I would get a minimum of 3 quotes. You're generally going to pay a little more with the big national companies, but you will have fewer worries. As someone else already mentioned, beware of a quote that is much lower than the others. The reason is, it's usually not a binding quote. Be sure you're getting a binding quote. They price is based on weight. The guy will come to your house and look at all your stuff, look in your closets, attic, etc. and guesstimate the weight. The quote will be based on that.

It will cost more if they pack and provide boxes. I don't know if a grocery store is the best place to get boxes. There tend to be critters in them, plus these days, most stores compact the used boxes and sell them to a recycler. You may not be able to find enough boxes to do the job. I usually go to UHaul and buy boxes (small, medium, large and a few wardrobe cartons). Most of them will buy back your unused boxes, so you don't have to worry about buying too many. If you have a metric buttload of stuff, you may need to go to a couple of locations to get enough.

Be prepared to move some things in your car. Your irreplacables and your firearms (they aren't allowed to touch those). I wouldn't worry about the tip. It's been my experience, one or two items will turn up missing. Consider that your tip. ;)

You don't have to follow the truck. He will have to stay to designated truck routes, which are longer. You will most likely get there first, probably the day before. They should be able to give you an ETA. You may need to get a room, or make a pallet on the floor for a night, before they get there. Be prepared to give him good directions to your new place. Remember, a truck is 8 1/2 ft wide and 13'6" high.

Hope this helps a little.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

One other thing: There will probably be 3-4 different loads on the truck, each heading to different destinations. If you're moving from Connecticut to DC, for example, there may be a load from Boston going to NYC on the truck, and a load from Maine going to Florida. Between loading you and unloading you, they might drop off the load in NYC and get another load in Baltimore.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Thanks, guys. Thus far we've done less "packing" than "discarding" -- jeez-Louise, but we have/had a LOT of books -- so I've made multiple visits to the thrift store, and the neighbor kids have had fun picking through our discards before we haul them away. We haven't even had movers come in yet to give us a moving estimate, as we wanted to get rid of all the stuff they won't be hauling.

We have a LOT of liquor-store boxes in here, now. Those ought to make a fabulous impression on our new neighbors. I'm becoming quite the box connoisseur. "Three Olives" vodka is my favorite liquor box: black background decorated with trippy Union Jacks in all sorts of weird hippie colors. "SeaGlass" wine boxes -- very understated type of attractiveness, plain white box with blue and green seaglass decorations. Jose Cuervo pre-packaged margarita mix boxes are bright enough to wake you up just by looking at them. Captain Morgan the rum guy looks distinctly lecherous. "Yellow Tail" wine boxes are mostly black with a hint of yellow trim, meaning there's little space where you can use a black marker to label the box and have your label actually be read.

Our new neighbors will doubtless be ecstatic to see all those liquor boxes filling the vacant unit on their street.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Kayla said...

Jay, I don't totally agree with you regarding small moving companies. It's a common prejudice that all of them are scams that try to leave you without your stuff, but I've been working in a small moving company for several years and the reality is not quite as you described. Hiring these movers might have some advantages: they are flexible and adjust to your needs (big companies...don't really care about that). The only advice I have for Jennifer is to research a lil bit for credentials, a scam mover can hide himself to long on the internet.
Also, if you need boxes, try liquor stores, Starbucks, grocery stores...book stores. You can get quality boxes for free

7:41 AM  

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