Saturday, August 9, 2008

Moving Horror Stories and Advice Part II

Shady Business

In my previous post about moving horror stories and advice, I mentioned the need for more than one person to do a zone defense on the moving company. While one of you guards the truck, the other should be alert for some shady business practices around the house.

For Example: Balloon Packing

The moving company charges the Navy for the packing materials they use. The more packing materials they use, the more they charge the Navy and the more money they make. When a moving company uses a lot of excessive packing materials just for the sake of charging the Navy more money, this is called "balloon packing."

So, you're saying to yourself, "Self, why would I care if they use more packing materials and charge the Navy more money?
It's no skin off my nose!" Well, I'm glad you asked. Here's why you should care:

1) Besides being "fiscally responsible," saving the Navy money, and preventing the company from defrauding the government...

2) When they balloon pack you, it leads to situations like I describe in the next section about MULTIPLE TRUCKS.

I will have more to say about balloon packing at the end of this post, but first let me take a tangent to discuss multiple trucks.

Tangent: BEWARE Multiple Trucks

When you've accumulated a lot of shhhtuff like we have over the years, then this starts to become an issue. Do NOT expect an EMPTY moving truck to show up at your house on moving day. Often, the moving truck will already be partially full with someone else's household goods. The problem arises that if they run out of space on that truck, then they're going to have to call for a second truck.

WHEN THIS HAPPENS, make sure you keep track on the inventory of which items went on which truck.

Worst case scenario, here's what happened to us when we were leaving San Diego:
The first time we encountered the multiple truck issue was leaving Monterey. Having already been through the experience once, we told our moving company in San Diego that they needed to send an empty truck or make us the FIRST pickup for the truck because we have a LOT of SHTUFF.

Did they listen? Heck no. The first truck they sent was already about a half full when it got to our house. They filled that up and then called for another truck.

The second truck they sent was already about 7/8 full. The dispatch people figured they just needed a little bit of overflow from our house and clearly had no idea how much shtuff we had. They filled up the second truck rather quickly and called for a third truck.

Well... they didn't HAVE a third truck to send. Meanwhile, about a third of our household goods are laying out on the driveway of our house and it was like 5 p.m. and our kids were cranky and hungry and tired and LW and I were cranky and hungry and tired.

They ended up sending over the packing company's local runabout U-Haul-sized truck. They loaded up the remaining household goods on this truck and took it away to transfer to another moving truck when the next one became available.

If reading that last statement doesn't give you the heebie-geebies, IT SHOULD. Anytime your HHG have to change hands (going into storage, coming out of storage, changing from a local U-Haul truck to a bigger cross-country moving truck), it increases the risk that you're going to lose shtuff in this move, because you have no way of proving who took it or which company to hold responsible (the first moving company that took it to storage, the storage company, the second moving company that brought it out of storage). Yes, sure, you can file a claim to get stuff replaced, but there are some things you just can't replace due to their sentimental value or scarcity.

As I mentioned before, we had DOZENS of line items on our inventory not show up in Virginia. They made TWO deliveries and said "that's it folks!"
We said, "Whoa! Where's the THIRD truck?"
"Uhhh.... what third truck? We don't know anything about a third truck."

Of course, I had no proof there was a third truck because I didn't make them keep separate inventories for each truck. It took a lot of arguing with them (and pointing out how many things were missing) to convince them that YES, there WAS a third truck.

They eventually found the stuff that went on that third U-Haul truck and got it to us in Virginia, but even then, we were still missing a lot of shtuff. If the inventory just says "1.5 cuft box" and nothing about what was IN the box or even what ROOM it was from, then it's almost impossible to tell what was missing. The worst of our losses there were our mattress and our silverware (yep, ALL of our silverware was GONE - we had to start over from scratch).

Getting back to my previous topic on balloon packing:

When we arrived in Virginia, we discovered part of the reason we needed THREE trucks was because the moving company in San Diego had balloon packed us.

For example, open a big 5 cuft dish-pack box, dig, dig, dig and remove 4.8 cuft of packing paper, and remove ONE plastic (i.e. NOT fragile) Fisher Price toy. We had MANY boxes like that with ONE non-breakable item and LOTS of packing paper. I wish there was some way I could find out the statistics of just how much of the volume and the weight of that shipment came from packing materials. I'm sure it was staggering.

So again, stopping the moving company from doing things like this is in YOUR best interest to both keep your shipping weight down and to prevent your stuff from being separated into more than one moving truck and risking loss of your shtuff in the shuffle.

So you say to yourself, "Self, I now understand what balloon packing is, but what should I do if I think they're balloon packing or doing anything else wrong?"


Rhetorical question: Which do you think is better, to already have the QA inspector's phone number pre-programmed in your cell phone and ready to dial OR have to go hunting for it while the movers are botching your packing job?

My Advice: When you schedule your move, make sure you get the phone number for the HHG QA Inspector and program it into your cell phone so you have it readily available. If ANYTHING goes wrong with your movers, then err on the side of caution and call early.

Caveat: Note that in places with a large concentration of military servicemembers like San Diego, there are probably several dozen people moving on any given day, and probably only one or two inspectors. They're not going to make it to ALL of the active move sites on any given day. When we moved out of San Diego, I called the QA Inspector several times through the course of the day. In the end, he was too busy and never made it to our house.

But wait! Don't dismiss this as "I shouldn't bother calling because he's not going to come anyway." (a) You may be someplace where they have more inspectors and fewer people moving. (b) When we got to the Virginia end of our move, I filed a very lengthy complaint against the moving company (me? verbose? say it isn't so!!!).

The first reponse I got from the NAVSUP people who process the complaints was, "Well if it was THAT bad, then WHY didn't you call for the HHG QA Inspector???"

I said, "I did... several times... the inspector never showed up."

On the other end of the phone line, "...(silence)... Oh... Okay. As long as you TRIED calling the QA Inspector."

Okay, so wrapping this all up, here are the key points to takeaway:
- Get the HHG QA Inspector's phone number when you schedule your move.
- Have more than one person at your house on moving day. Zone Defense.
- One person at the truck: Make sure everything going on the truck has an inventory tag and is accurately documented on the inventory sheet.
- One person roaming: Watch for shady practices like balloon packing.
- If there's anything fishy with the movers, call the QA Inspector.
- If they end up using more than one truck, keep the inventory segregated to show which items went in which truck.

If you've read all this and you find it at all helpful, please leave me a comment and let me know. I appreciate your feedback.


Sagey said...

My two cents on balloon packing. It was explained to me that the packers get paid by cubic foot packed. The more boxes they use, the more the moving company has to pay the actual packers. The truck drivers get paid by WEIGHT. So they HATE balloon packers and they HATE all those lovely plastic outdoor toys we have for our kids since they take up a great deal of room but weigh practically nothing. The weight issue is another reason that you will get trucks already partially packed with someone else's HHG that are going to the same area or somewhere they can stop enroute.

Moving is FUN, NOT! :-) Though I have to say our best move EVER was our move from SOAC to San Diego. We had two great truck drivers that had our stuff the entire trip and they were polite and courteous to me as I sat alone in our garage and nursed baby ES as Blunoz was already at work. Never complained once that they had to slow down so I could mark off each item as they came in (yes, I can multi-task :-) )

One Crazy Adventure said...

Great advice... we do the same thing. When we moved here, the guys who unpacked us were so mad about our packers on the other end... they said that they give movers a bad name. I think we are going to have a west coast-east coast movers feud.

Jack said...
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