(Note: All names have been concealed to avoid slander.)
Heather's employer generously offered us a moving allowance: a dollar amount we could use to pay for anything related to moving to Alaska (moving Co., travel costs, gas, food, hotels and even first month's rent in a place to live if the money would stretch that far).
During my initial discussion with N, the chief saleslady for Moving Company, I explained our plan to drive cross-country. She said it would take approximately 25 days to ship our things. The plan: we could have our stuff picked up (10/2) a week prior to our departure date (10/10) so that we and our stuff arrive in Anchorage at about the same time. Sounds good.
Also, part of the initial discussion was how much stuff we had. She asked how many pounds of household goods we had. Now let me stop here and ask: Does anybody, I mean anybody, have any earthly idea how much your combined household goods weigh? Answer: no. However, as moving companies bill by the pound they insist on procuring a rough estimate from the shipper (me). Somehow, I'm not really sure though, we landed on about 2,000 lbs of stuff. I was given a price rate based on about 2k pounds. Each additional 100 lbs would cost "x" amount of dollars. Okay, this is how moving companies do it, fine by me. The estimated cost would be about 1/3 of our total moving allowance giving us plenty to travel on.
Standard procedure for a move such as this is for the company to send someone out a week or so before the move to inventory our items and get a better idea of furniture, number of boxes and a more accurate estimate of the weight. However, this company had no one to send so they went with their second option, an over the phone inventory. Fine. I talked with L, chief N's assistant. L asked about all of our furniture, calculating cubic feet and weight. I walked through the house telling her about any items that wouldn't fit in a box. She then inquired as to how many boxes we'd be shipping. Again, having not yet packed, who the *#&% knows!?
I guessed, "Maybe around 45 or 5o boxes."
"Hmmm," she said, "probably not that many just for a 2-bedroom apartment. Usually it's more like 20-25."
Okay, she was the expert, so I deferred to her good judgment. We estimated about 25 boxes. Again, she confirmed that it sounded like it would be 2k pounds or just over. "Good, everything is still looking good," I thought to myself.
Moving Day: The truck driver calls that morning for directions. Upon arriving at our apartment he judges that he can't fit an 18-wheeler into our complex. He informs me he'll have to run and get a smaller truck to transfer our goods from our house out to his big-rig across the street in the grocery store parking lot. Not a problem, they must do this all the time. After all, I don't know many places like this you can actually fit a transfer truck. I'm informed that once our stuff is properly stowed he will hit up a weigh station and find out our exact weight.
The movers begin carrying boxes and wrapping up furniture. They finish up and our stuff begins it's journey to Alaska: the last frontier. For the next week, Heather and I sleep on the floor and say goodbye to our Asheville peeps. Oct. 10th we set out on the road. Day three of our journey, while standing underneath Mount Rushmore, I get a call from R, my contact who monitors our stuff while in transit. He informs me that our stuff has reached High Falls, Montana, where it will be transferred to another truck.
"Great," I replied, "hey, what was the official weight of our shipment?"
He pauses, and spits out, "Right at 5,000 pounds."
Holding back the freak out, I inquire, "So, how much does that change our projected invoice for this shipment?"
Doing some quick math he tells me the new price, which will be just over 9/10 of our entire moving allowance! Queue the freak out.
After a few days of freaking and wonderful traveling I drafted and sent an email to chief N requesting that our rate be adjusted to a rate more suitable for a 5k lb shipment. It seems the gods smiled on my email that day (or at least N did), and I was contacted by N who said she could reduce our invoice to about 7/10 our moving allotment. This was acceptable, but it drastically changed some of our financial plans. It would seem that we would be footing a significant portion of the moving costs.
After arriving in Anchorage I contacted R (transit monitor) letting him know we're here and asking how soon our things will arrive. He doesn't know, but reminds me that it typically takes 4-5 weeks for this kind of move. Funny, how I was initially told 25 days (3.5 weeks) and now suddenly the norm is 4-5 weeks. Grrr. Okay, no matter, because we didn't yet have apartment for our stuff to go into.
In the mean time, Moving Company had sent the primary invoice to me and to the hospital who was paying for the move. However, days later, I received a call from the hospital to inform me that they had received a second bill from Moving Co. for an additional $1200. This was news to me, because it was made clear that everything regarding billing would be sent to me and the hospital. This second invoice was itemized as follows:
1) Small truck for small apartment street: $700.00
2) Packing of 15 boxes $500.00
There are so many problems with this, I don't even know where to start. But here goes. First, we agreed that we would do all the packing, which we did. The movers didn't have to pack a single box of stuff. What they did pack were things like mattresses, box springs, large mirrors and a painting. However, packing of those such items is already included in our primary fee to Moving Co. Second, even if they did pack 15 of our boxes of stuff, where do you get off charging 500 friggin' dollars to pack 15 boxes!?! Next: yes they had to acquire a smaller truck for our apt., but I can go down the road to U-Haul and rent a truck for the day for only $50 bucks. Where do you get $700?
I told the hospital not to pay anything till this was resolved. I called Moving and couldn't get a hold of N. Left a message. No returned phone call. I called the next day. I sent an email: nothing. I called the next day and got R who sometimes helps with matters of billing when N is busy. Now, Moving Company subcontracted our move out to Second Moving Company. They are the actual company that picked up our stuff, because Moving Co. didn't have people in our area. Whatever. R informed me that they had received a second invoice from 2nd Moving Co. for the small truck and that they have to pass this bill along to us. That's where the second bill came from.
In this conversation I also mentioned that the $500 packing fee was bogus, that we'd already paid for that service. R's response was, "well we've got the movers saying they packed some boxes and you saying they didn't. It's your word against theirs. How do we know who to believe?" This infuriated me. However, after that conversation, a 3rd adjusted invoice was mysteriously sent. It was only for the $700 small truck fee. The $500 packing fee had magically disappeared, and no one on their side said a peep about it again.
I wanted to know how this $700 for a small truck was itemized, broken down. Richard didn't know. So, I called 2nd Moving Co. and started inquiring. The first lady was pleasant but couldn't answer, so she suggested I talk to their manager, D. (Note: Now I am talking with the subcontractor company, doing leg work that should be done by Moving Co.) When I spoke with D, I asked why it costs $700 for a small truck. His polite response, I kid you not was, "I don't know anything about $700 dollars, we invoiced Moving Co. for $552.20, that's all."
It is now clear to me that Moving Co. was trying to screw us royally. They somehow added a $150 markup to this already outrageous bill?! Nathan mad. Heather was literally ready to violently destroy somebody.
I tried to get a hold of N, because she seems to be the only one that can make things happen, but with no avail. Once again I spoke with R. I asked him how $552 turns into $700. He said, "Well, we've got to make some money somehow."
I responded politely. But what I was thinking was, "You're already making your profit in the large amount from the first invoice. This second markup is just ridiculous." It now felt like they were trying to scam us.
Not to mention, by this point it had been 5 weeks and we still had no word on our stuff getting delivered, and R had no idea where it was.
After several more days and attempts to talk with N, I drafted another lengthy email requesting that Moving Co. pay all or the majority of this $552.20 invoice. I was polite, firm and persuasive. Too long to post here, I simply spelled out how we had been misled, ignored and how the bills were bogus, over priced and much of it should be covered in our initial payment to Premier. The story concludes several days later when N, finally like a ray of warm sunshine, contacts me. She said nothing in direct response to my email; however, she said they could reduce this second invoice down to $176 dollars. By this point I was ready for it to be over. I can handle $176 for an extra truck rental and a bit more labor on their part. Whatever. We agreed and the final invoice was sent for the last time.
Somehow, through persistence and downright nagging, I managed to turn a bill for $1,200 into $176. Magic! This makes me wonder how many people just go ahead and pay whatever invoices get sent to them by this company. I imagine they get away with these rip off scams all the time. I'm just glad we were careful and smart enough to know what we were paying for.
As for our stuff, it was picked up on Oct. 2nd and delivered 6.5 weeks later on Nov. 16th. A far cry from their first estimate of 25 days.