Moving is consistently rated as one of the most stressful life events. All that packing, cleaning, unpacking, and resettling is more than just hard work. It’s stressful. One of the most important decisions you make during the moving process is hiring movers to transport almost all of your belongings. Handing your life’s possessions over to movers is a huge act of trust. All you can do is hope that the movers know what they are doing and won’t damage or lose any of your property. But sometimes it gets even worse than a few broken items. What happens when movers hold your belongings hostage? That’s just what happened to these consumers.

A Stressful Move

Rosemary and Richard Sweeting are a military family who had moved before, but the move was always taken care of by the US Army. So when it came time for their move to Atlanta, they were faced for the first time with the task of hiring movers on their own. Not knowing where to start, Rosemary filled out an online form to receive a quote for their move. As soon as she did that, she was inundated with calls from all sorts of movers offering their services. It was overwhelming, but eventually, she picked a company.

The company the Sweetings picked sent out a representative who gave them a quote of $3,000 for the move. Rosemary wanted to make sure that the quote included the packing, moving, and delivering the items. She asked over and over and was just told that if that’s what she wanted, that’s what she would get. She signed paperwork, but never got a copy of it. She requested them in writing via email, but she never received the documents.

When the day of the move came, the movers packed up her belongings and took them away, and the Sweetings assumed everything was taken care of.

A Hostage Situation

When the Sweetings arrived in Atlanta, their belongings were supposed to arrive, too. But when they tried to contact the moving company, they were told that the original quote didn’t include everything. They would have to give the moving company another $1,000 to get their belongings back. It was a classic hostage situation. The movers held all the cards, and if the Sweetings wanted to get their possessions back, they had to pay up.

Eventually, the Sweetings paid the extra money, which ended up increasing the cost of the move to nearly double the original quote.

How to Avoid Moving Problems

The first red flag was that the movers didn’t want to give the Sweetings their paperwork. Always make sure you have everything in writing. If you do, and the movers try to hold your belongings hostage, you can go to the Department of Transportation or law enforcement with the documents to get your stuff back.

Another red flag is when a mover asks for upfront payment. The industry standard is to ask for 50% upfront and the other 50% upon delivery.

A third red flag is when movers are out-of-state. Most large carriers have movers in all 48 lower states, and the movers who show up at your home are local subcontractors. If you can, work with a local company that has a real, findable office. Get referrals from actual past customers and check out the Better Business Bureau to see if the company is rated.

Finally, check the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for tips on protecting your move.

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