Q: I just got a new job out-of-state, and our family will be moving soon to be closer to where I work. Does the BBB have any tips on hiring movers?
A: It so happens that May is National Moving Month, which kicks off the busiest time of year for Americans changing residencies. It also means unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers are waiting to take advantage of unwary consumers.
Nationally, the BBB received more than 1.4 million moving-related inquiries and more than 9,300 complaints against movers during 2012. Complaints included damaged or missing items, big price increases over originally-quoted estimates, late deliveries and goods being "held hostage" for additional (disputed) payment.
Better Business Bureau is again joining with the American Moving and Storage Association to provide important tips on how to avoid scams and find a trustworthy moving company:
1) Research the company thoroughly. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. FMCSA assigns a unique motor carrier number that can be verified at protectyourmove.gov.
2) Get at least three written in-home estimates. Not all price quotes online or over the phone are legitimate, and crooks are not likely to send an estimator to your home in advance. Also, remember that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic, low-ball offer.
3)Know your rights. Research your rights with either the FMCSA for interstate moves, or with the appropriate state agency for moves just within that state. Interstate movers must give you two booklets detailing your rights.
4) Consider accepting full-value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate headaches after your move. Purchasing full (replacement) value protection from your mover 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, for example, that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost of a flat panel TV if damaged in transit. The cost of full value protection must be included in the initial estimate you receive for an interstate move.
To check out a mover near you visit bbb.org, and AMSA's moving.org websites. Follow BBB on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BBBTNGA.
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 e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.