HOUSTON – It was a super stressful day for Caelei Henderson, a hard-working mom from Katy.
Henderson said she was about to entrust everything she owns to a moving company she knew next to nothing about.
“I found them on Craig’s List and all I really knew is that their prices were very low. I didn’t check much more than that,” Henderson told KPRC 2 Investigates.
What happened next was a moving day nightmare, which ended with Henderson asking her moving crew to hit the road and get out before the work was even done.
“They were a three-man crew, but the entire time, there were really only two guys working. The third guy just kind of stood around and complained a lot. They would also disappear for long periods of time and I would go looking for them and find them standing out by their truck smoking. They never wrapped anything. I don’t think they even had the materials to wrap anything. After five hours, even though there was still more to move, I asked them to leave,” Henderson said.
Every year, the Better Business Bureau gets more than 13,000 complaints from people about rogue moving companies taking their money, damaging their furniture and possessions and, in some cases, hijacking their belongings in an effort to extort more money.
“I think the biggest mistake that people make when hiring a mover is they try to rush the process. After all, these are your most prized possessions. These are items you have collected your entire life and you are putting them in a complete stranger’s hands,” said Mitch Gonzalez with 3 Men Movers, a company that does over 40,000 moves a year.
So, before you start to wrap up your dishes or pack a box with your belongings, here are some things you need to do before choosing a moving company.
1. Get price estimates from four different companies, but never go with the lowest price.
“The way it is with professional movers, we all kind of have competitive pricing. So, if you see somebody with really, really low pricing, that would be a red flag for me. I mean, it makes sense, how can they perform a professional service and still be at such a low cost,” Gonzalez said.
2. Make sure the company is licensed and registered, which any worthwhile moving company will certainly be.
”Yes, a professional moving company needs to be licensed, insured, and registered with the state of Texas as a professional mover. You can look that up easily on the Texas DMV website,” Gonzalez said.
You should also check the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. This website has a listing of every licensed moving company in the country and lists customer complaints about those companies as well.
Also, check the outside of the moving truck itself for a very important number, in fact, two important numbers that need to be painted prominently on the truck itself.
“You definitely want to make sure they have prominently displayed the U.S. D.O.T. number along with the Texas D.M.V. number. This allows you to track exactly who’s showing up and what equipment they’re using to transport your belongings. If it’s not there, cancel the move,” he said.
3. Make sure your belongings aren’t damaged, furniture scratched or broken, and your artwork isn’t destroyed.
4. Make sure the movers promise in writing, in the contract, to pad and wrap all furniture and artwork.
5. Contact your insurance company and consider buying extra insurance to cover any damage that may be done to your items on moving day. The reason for that is simple -- because what any moving company is required to pay you under the law is next to nothing.
”The fact is, it’s 60 cents per pound, per item. That’s it. That is what a customer can expect. I would definitely have a long discussion with your mover about what they will do if any of your belongings are damaged,” Gonzalez said.
Henderson admits she didn’t do any of the things that Gonzalez suggested. But now, she said she wishes she had.
“Yes, I certainly wish I had done more to research this company. I could have read the complaints against them, but I didn’t,” Henderson said.