Q: My family is preparing to relocate during the summer. How do I select a qualified moving company with confidence?
A: Many consumers fail to properly check out movers as they prepare to relocate. Following a few simple rules when selecting a mover will go a long way toward protecting yourself from being victimized by scams or problems while moving.
Better Business Bureau and the American Moving & Storage Association recommend doing your homework before selecting a mover.
As we approach the busiest time of the year for changing residences, BBB encourages consumers to know their rights ... and the red flags of moving scams. Every year BBB and AMSA receive thousands of complaints from consumers who have fallen victim to dishonest and often unlicensed moving companies.
In a too-frequent, worst-case scenario, the moving company holds the customer's belongings
"hostage" and requires hundreds of dollars that were not in the contract, to unload the van.
Note, any upstart company can claim to be a mover, so checking a mover's credentials is critical. It is also easy to check out a company with the BBB. As a consumer, know your rights and know your options, but more importantly do your homework before turning your personal belongings over to a mover.
BBB and AMSA offer the following checklist for finding a trustworthy moving company:
• Research the company thoroughly. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the federal government and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify on FMCSA's website, www.protectyourmove.gov.
Also check the company's rating with your local BBB at www.Chattanooga.bbb.org. BBB maintains more than 17,000 Business Reviews on movers across North America.
• Get at least three written in-home estimates. Not all price-quotes online or over the phone are legitimate. Keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer, which can cost you more in the end.
• Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer with either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for interstate moves or the state in which you reside for moves within that state. Also, enlist the help of BBB or local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings hostage. FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.
• Consider getting full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate a headache after your move.
Investing in full (replacement) value protection means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age. It is important to note that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost, for example, of a flat panel TV, if damaged in transit.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.