Use caution when choosing a mover, so you and your possessions don’t end up in the lurch. Photo: Nicolas Huk.

Shady movers can take you for a ride

Do your homework before trusting your worldly possessions to a moving company.

Moving is more than just relocating your belongings to a new home. It requires time, patience, money, and trust. With more than 700 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Canadian Association of Movers (CAM) collectively last year, BBB says choosing a mover is a heavy decision not to be taken lightly.

“Unfortunately, fly-by-night and no-name ‘truck-for-hire’ types can take advantage of the fact that consumers are under emotional, financial, and time pressures when moving,” says Evan Kelly, senior communications cdvisor for BBB serving Mainland BC.

Nancy Irvine, president of the Canadian Association of Movers, says the key to a smooth move is research.

“We strongly urge consumers to do their due diligence before hiring a mover, as they would before purchasing any other major service. Make moving easier by checking with the BBB and the CAM to see if a mover holds good standing reputations with professional organizations.”

What could possibly go wrong with a move? Quite a lot. Among the complaints customers have about movers are missed delivery or pick-up dates; lost or damaged belongings; charges that exceed the estimates provided; and claim disputes for lost or damaged items.

The BBB says that customers should be aware of several possible pitfalls, such as fly-by-night movers who show up in an unmarked truck rather than one that is clearly marked as a company-owned fleet truck, and who load up your possessions and take off. Only when you arrive at your new residence do you discover your things did not also make the journey. Most professional movers wear uniforms, undergo background checks, and will provide an order number for tracking.

Some unscrupulous movers do not become apparent until, after everything appears to be going smoothly, you arrive at your new home and are presented with a demand for more money before they will release your possessions from storage. Conniving movers try to gain the trust of customers, and persuade them there is no need for a written contract. Then, if something goes wrong during the move, the contractor denies responsibility, leaving you on the hook for costs and/or damages.

When looking for a trustworthy mover, there are several things you can do to ensure that all goes smoothly with no nasty surprises.

Get it in writing: Get three written estimates from different movers based on visits to your home. Though most professional movers do give quotes over the phone nowadays, it’s a good idea to still get written documentation of all the services you are receiving.

Set up an inspection before moving day: Ask the mover(s) to come and inspect your house before the big day, so they can become familiar with its layout. If a mover doesn’t feel it is important to do this, it could be a red flag.

Ask the mover about shipment valuation and licensing: Shipment valuation is the total value of a shipment agreed upon in order to secure a specific freight rate. Also find out what your household insurance will and won’t cover during a move.

Prepare for damage: Even though trustworthy movers are trained to handle your belongings and your home with care, it is difficult to move an entire household without at least some damage. Be sure to inquire about inadmissible and non-protected items. And be aware that if you pack a box or boxes yourself, the mover is not necessarily liable if the contents are damaged or go missing in transit.

Watch for red flags: If a mover doesn’t provide insurance details or a company address, look for another mover. Some legitimate movers will request a deposit, so it’s best to pay with a credit card rather than cash or a cheque. If there’s a problem, you will have some recourse available.

File a complaint: If you do run into trouble with your mover, file a complaint with Not only can BBB help facilitate a resolution, your complaint could also help future consumers.

Make sure, before you move, to check the moving company’s rating with BBB and standing with CAM. Both organizations provide trustworthy and relevant information about moving companies and contractors. Check out a company’s rating with BBB, as well as its complaint history, verified customer reviews, and other important information. Check with CAM for a detailed consumer checklist that will help you find, and hire, a qualified mover.

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