BBB gives moving company, Northern Van Lines, 'F' grade

BBB gives moving company, Northern Van Lines, 'F' grade

August 31st, 2012 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett

BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett

Photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt

The Better Business Bureau blasted an Apison-based moving company Wednesday, revoking its accreditation and giving it an "F" ranking.

The business watchdog received 88 complaints nationwide in the past three years against Northern Van Lines, which refused to respond to the complaints, local BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett said.

"Almost daily, we're getting complaints from consumers and we're trying to help them," Winsett said. "Bottom line, we're saying that people really need to look for other moving vendors other than Northern Van Lines at this time. At this time, they are not meeting contractual obligations to other customers."

But Rob Michaels, company sales manager and the owner's brother, said anyone in the moving business is bound to receive complaints, and the complaints to BBB are a small fraction of the thousands of customers he served since the business opened in 2006.

Northern Van Lines operates five sales locations across the country and handles more than 1,000 long-distance moves a year.

The majority of complaints come from customers upset about slow delivery times. But Northern Van Lines' standard contract doesn't guarantee a delivery rate, only that items will arrive within the 21 days regulators allow a moving company to take.

"Out of all those 88 complaints, I bet there's 10 or so that are legitimate complaints," he said. "But for some of the things, we've done nothing legally that's wrong."

Michaels said he felt the Better Business Bureau was unfairly penalizing the business for bucking the organization's guidelines, which can include paying the BBB for help improving customer service.

The company applied earlier this year for membership in the organization and initially was accepted.

"But we had all of these complaints and issues that they were not resolving satisfactorily so in turn our board had to revoke their membership," Winsett said. "It's not very often that we do a revocation, but we had a situation where they decided not to respond to us."

Seattle resident Dustin Hamren is one of the complainants who contacted the bureau. He used Northern Van Lines during his move from Nebraska at the end of May and said his items arrived later than expected, the move cost more than expected and the company was difficult to get in contact with to resolve problems.

"The long and short of it is eventually I got my stuff, but it wasn't till the beginning of July," he said. "I'm lucky because I had family to help me out, but if I hadn't I have no idea what I would have done."

But Michaels said he regularly gets complaints about delivery times from customers who don't read the seven-paragraph contract.

Michaels said those complaints are to be expected, and its unfair of the Better Business Bureau to bash the company as they have.

"They like to hold stuff over your head," he said. "I'm not trying to hide anything from anybody."