The 7 Questions I Answer Everyday

Since October of 2006, I’ve spent my every work day doing something involved with the Moving and Storage Industry. Sometimes it is payroll, sometimes it is license renewal or trucking regulations stuff. Mostly it is phone calls and estimates, but often I can still be found carrying goods to and from a truck. I know that although almost everyone has moved, most people are not professional movers and don’t do this everyday, so here are the answers to the most common questions that I receive. I hope this short list can help you think like a mover and get the most out of your experience.

  1. Can I leave things in drawers?”
    I know that packing is tough and tedious. Trust me, I’ve personally packed hundreds of homes. I know that boxes and supplies can get expensive. But the answer to this question is pretty much “No, you must empty most drawers.”  The good news, however, is that you can leave dresser drawers full of clothing and linen items only. Anything else and it could add a lot of weight and potentially get damaged or lost inside the dresser.

    Desk drawers must always be emptied. Desks almost always need to be turned completely on their side to fit through doors, and desk drawers tend to be catch-all vortexes of small objects like paperclips, batteries, papers, tacks, and other random bits that will go everywhere if the desk is tipped. You could look in any Mover’s truck in America at any time and find paperclips and stickynotes and miscellaneous tiny office ephemera in all the nooks and crannies.

    File cabinets must be emptied if they are the horizontal variety. The drawers aren’t made to be moved full and the tracks might bend. The vertical file cabinets can often be moved full, but within reason. Remember that movers are very strong, but they are human beings. For this reason, Fire-proof file cabinets lined with concrete must be emptied- you’d want to keep track of those important files anyway.

    China Hutch and Buffet drawers should always be emptied to prevent damage to the contents and the drawer.

  2. Can the movers take their shoes off? / wear shoe covers? / cover my carpets with something?”
    I totally understand this. You’ve got brand new floors, or you’ve just had all the carpets cleaned in your new place and you want them to stay clean and nice. I want the same thing in my home. While we go to great lengths to protect our client’s carpet and floors, we must wear our shoes during the move and we cannot wear covers or “booties” because they greatly reduce traction and we enter and exit the home multiple times while loading and unloading. The time it would take to remove shoes or put on and take off shoe covers would triple the cost of moves. Floor coverings are a great idea, but they are best used only in the entry way and hallways as we need to place furniture where the client would like it to remain. A conscientious mover will be aware of the terrain and actively keep shoes and dolly wheels clean and dry.
  3. “What do you do with TVs?”
    Gone are the indestructible monoliths of yesterday, much to the delight of movers. Modern televisions are free of the wooden enclosures with false drawers and brassy handles and even the 3ft deep, 300lbs (290lbs of which was the screen) monsters have been replaced with sleek flat-screens that look great and are easy to move. When I get this question multiple times per day I always ask if the client has kept the original box and packaging. If so, there is no better packaging, but most people do not keep bulky boxes like that around. We treat TVs like mirrors in that we pad and wrap them thoroughly and then secure them to the wall of the truck in a vertical position with the screen triple padded on the wall. If the TV has a wide base, then we fill the void with extra pads to make it rectangular. In 11 years of being a mover, I’ve never had a screen get damaged in transit.
  4. “Do I need to empty the refrigerator?”
    In a word, yes. Fridges are heavy to begin with and often they are full of glass jars and bottles. I know it’s a drag, I really do, but it has to happen. We try to put the refrigerator on the truck last so it can come off first and get plugged in at the new home. We do this to minimize food loss from spoilage. Just have some ice chests or strong boxes ready-t0-go as the movers are wrapping up the load. They’ll get that refrigerator installed first thing at your new home and then you can put all the food away quickly.
  5. How much does it cost to move?” and “How much does it cost to pack?”
    I get this question multiple times everyday and often with parameters so vague that it would be irresponsible to venture a guess. There are too many factors involved in the many types of jobs that movers do to give an answer without first gathering a lot of information. Are there stairs or an elevator involved? Long walk to the truck? Steep hills that would require shuttle vehicles? Is the home a 1-bedroom apartment or a 9-bedroom mansion? Are you an avid reader? Do you have a grand piano? Are you a collector or a minimalist?

    This is why we do as many onsite estimates as is possible. It should be noted that quotes given over the phone are not legally-binding. In California and many other states, once an estimator has come to the home, they must provide what is called a Not-to-Exceed price. This means that the top end of move costs is know unless the shipper changes the parameters of the move.

    Every moving company will book jobs over the phone without estimates, as some moves are pretty simple, but beware of any company that isn’t willing to send an estimator out. This can be a red-flag because they know they’re not bound to the phone quote.
    As for packing, this is virtually impossible to quote without actually viewing. The most general rule of thumb for some semblance of an estimate is that a full-pack costs as much as a move or more. A professional pack is an awesome service, but consumes a lot of time and materials.

  6. “What if the movers break something?”
    The answer to this is not as simple as it should be. It would be reasonable to assume that if a mover breaks something, he should repair or replace it, but it is considerably more complicated than that. The Moving and Storage Industries are regulated, mostly in the arena of transportation and trucking safety, but also in how we charge for services and handle damage claims. The system is far from perfect, but the rules that govern moving exist to protect the people moving (the Shipper) and the moving company (the Carrier) from harm and fraud. Regulators acknowledge that there is inherent risk in moving household goods and used office fixtures and that neither the shipper or carrier should be required to shoulder 100% of the burden. That is why shipper is automatically granted a base rate of $0.60/lb/article free of charge. If you’d like more coverage than that, the mover can provide it based upon the value of your shipment.

    This is called valuation and it is not technically “insurance.” It is very similar to a damage waiver that comes with a rental car. There is an upfront, non-refundable cost and that cost varies depending on the declared value of the shipment and the deductible amount you choose, typically $500, $250, or $0.

    A mover/carrier’s inarguable responsibility is to note the condition of your goods before transporting, and to deliver said goods in the same or better condition. That is the mover’s aim and daily goal, but it isn’t always possible. The best thing about  Valuation is that the shipper and carrier must discuss shared responsibility and costs BEFORE anything is moved so that if the worst should happen and there are damages, it has already been established how the claims process will be handled.

    It is important to note that movers have a legal right to attempt to repair items before paying claims. All claims must be submitted in writing and will only be addressed after the moving charges are paid-in-full. This is to protect movers from fraudulent damage claims by those looking for a free move, and to protect the shipper from having legitimate damage claims ignored or improperly handled.

    In the real world, away from all the contracts and insurers, many movers will take care of small damages and make repairs to be good people and make their clients happy. We keep some wall spackle in our trucks so we can fix drywall dings immediately on the job. We try not to ever bump the wall, but it happens: moving is tough.

    Where actual insurance comes into play is different and that difference is crucial. My trucks are insured for cargo and my warehouse is insured for cargo. Before every job, we will ask each shipper what the value of their shipment is. Even if they decline to purchase valuation and take the $0.60/lb for free, I need to know what the shipment is worse in case of a catastrophic accident with the truck, or damage to our facility that destroyed stored client goods. In those instances our insurance company would be paying out the claim based on the stated value. It’s complicated stuff, but a necessary part of the Moving industry in our modern world.

  7. “What do I do with lamps?”
    If they fit in a box, please pack them and box the shades separately. This is not very realistic for most people because lamps run the gambit  of sizes and shapes. We often roll them in pads and place them on up high in the truck safely on top of stacks. We do remove the light bulbs and ask them to be packed separately. Floor lamps basically never fit in anything other than a specialty lamp box, so we will cover them in pads and secure them to the wall of the truck.

    There is one particular kind of floor lamp that is exceedingly terrible to work with and should be completely disassembled prior to a move:

    “Why? WHY!?!?!?!?!?”

    There’s no beating around the bush with this one: this lamp is a mover’s nightmare. It is typically no less than 7ft tall. The base is super heavy and often the connection between the lamp and the pole is not strong enough to withstand even a gentle breeze. Often the metallic enclosures around the bulbs scratch really easy. The bulbs are specialty and proprietary so you can’t just pop down to the hardware store and get replacements. I can admit that when they are in place in a finished room they look great and provide lovely reading light. This item is not intended to be moved in one piece and if you try it will not go well. You can pay the movers to take it apart but I will warn you that it is a very time-consuming process. Some of the nicest things to have in a home are the most difficult to move, but if a piece is worth it, it’s worth disassembling and transporting properly.

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