Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
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In May, college students take their last final, and many leave their college town. May marks the beginning of the busiest seasons for moving. According to the U.S. Census bureau, about 1 in 9 people move during a given calendar year, which equals roughly 40 million Americans.
May is also a time when unscrupulous and unlicensed operators are most likely to take advantage of consumers. Be cautious when hiring a moving company or you could end up with a business that doesn’t deliver. Some moving companies falsely advertise they are “licensed and insured,” but customers who hire them risk losing literally everything they own. If a consumers hires an illegal moving company, they little or no recourse if their belongings are damaged, lost or stolen.
Moving can be among the most stressful events in anyone’s life. Better Business Bureau can help consumers find trusted movers, and can provide tips to reduce the chance of foreseeable problems.
Common complaints with moving companies include damaged or missing items, bills that were higher than estimates, late deliveries, and, in some cases, goods being held hostage for additional payments. Ask what type of protection the company offers against loss or damage (full replacement cost, depreciated value, or the basic 60¢ per pound valuation carriers are required to provide)?
“Finding a trustworthy mover is vital to having a stress-free move,” said Blair Looney, BBB President and CEO serving Central California & Inland Empire. “We encourage consumers to check movers out with BBB, contact their references, and understand your contract with the moving company. Then there should be few, if any, surprises.”
BBB’s website has BBB Business Reviews on companies that provide moving or related services. The reviews list any customer complaints registered against the companies, how they were resolved, and the mover’s website and contact information.
An interstate household mover should be licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a department of the U.S. Department of Transportation. For in-state moves, moving companies are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission. Check to see if a company is active, or their license has been revoked.
Some “red flags” to watch for when hiring movers include:
- Movers who don’t make an on-site inspection of your household goods and give an estimate over the phone or by email. Such estimates often sound—and are—too good to be true.
- Movers who demand cash or a large deposit before the move.
- Movers who don’t provide you with a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” a booklet that movers are required to supply to customers planning interstate moves.
- Company websites that have no address and no information about a mover’s registration or insurance.
- Movers who claim all items are covered by their insurance.
- Telephone calls answered with a generic “movers” or “moving company” rather than a company name.
- Offices or warehouses that are in poor condition or don’t exist.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned or marked fleet truck.
BBB offers consumers the following tips on hiring a mover:
- Get at least three written in-home estimates. No legitimate mover will give you a firm price online or over the phone. Remember that the lowest estimate may be an unrealistic low-ball offer that can cost you in the end.
- Know your rights. Learn about your rights at www.protectyourmove.gov or from your California attorney general.
- Make sure the mover has insurance. The insurance should cover your goods while in transit. However, you may want to consider getting full value protection (insurance), which may add to the cost upfront but could save you headaches after the move. Be sure you understand what the insurance covers, whether items will be repaired, replaced or if you will be offered a cash settlement that you can use to repair or replace the item on your own.
- Check the mover’s complaint history. BBB Business Reviews include a company’s complaint history with BBB. Find them at www.bbb.org.
- Use BBB’s Request A Quote. BBB Request A Quote is a great way to find trustworthy movers. Enter your request and contact information on BBB’s website. BBB will send three BBB Accredited Businesses a description of your needs, and the businesses will be asked to respond within 24 hours.
You can always file a complaint with the National Consumer Complaint Database Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or your BBB.