Sunday, September 5, 2010

A plan, a plan, my kingdom for a plan...

It still boggles my mind the way my life has changed during the course of this year, and it's not over yet!

After meeting with 4 moving agents last week, we have picked a moving company, picked the dates, and signed the contract. What an ordeal. I've learned a lot. A lot. There are some common denominators with the way all of the agents work, but there are some definite differences too. Those differences are what I used to determine who got the job.

The Bekins guy was the first guy I had come over. He was about an hour late, reeked of cigarette smoke, and did everything on paper using tally marks as we went around the house taking an inventory of what would be packed and moved. His estimated weight of the total amount of items was 6400lbs.
Estimate for packing and transit: $3368 (after tax, but before insurance, which is normal)
Pros: Price is within our budget, fairly accurate on weight (I learned this after speaking w/ another agent
Cons: Late, smelled like cigarettes, SUPER opinionated and almost overly familiar instead of respectful. He gave his 2 cents on everything he saw in my house.

I had never heard of Acclaimed Movers, but I thought I would give them a chance and see how they stack up against the other, more well-known companies. One thing I learned with them is that most moving companies are smaller, independently owned franchises working under the umbrella of the larger, more well-known companies. Acclaimed was proud of the fact that they are their own company, with no parent company over them. They are also proud of the fact that they base their price on cubic feet, not weight. This is the only company I met with that does that. They feel it is more accurate and a better way to protect the customer from extra charges. But....when all is said and done and the truck on the road, how does one measure the accuracy of the cubic foot estimate? There are only weigh stations, not cubic foot stations.
Estimate for packing and transit: I'm not really sure. He didn't give me a final all-inclusive number. The transit price alone came to $2400, which is about what the others said. The cubic feet price = a 5200lb estimate.
Pros: Very nice, respectful agent. Didn't smell like cigarettes. He explained things well. Used technology (iPad) to take inventory. The final estimate was emailed to me from his iPad while the agent was still there.
Cons: Agent was late. Did not give a final, all-inclusive packing/transit estimate. Both the lady I spoke to on the phone and the agent--although nice--dissed other companies, which I don't feel is a good sales tactic.

By the time the 3rd agent, the Mayflower guy, was late, I was getting pretty used to it. My house is not super easy to find because it is on a small street, the last street in the city where 3 cities meet, but it isn't like its impossible to find. They all have GPS. The Mayflower guy gave the impression of being a lot more professional, despite the fact that, like the Bekins guy he too came in reeking like cigarettes. He had a nice, impressive notebook of laminated pages and gave me a little sales presentation before walking around the house. I felt like this was a little overdone, like he was trying too hard, but I let him go through his motions. He took inventory on a PDA, and was probably the most thorough, so the inventory time look longer with him than with the 2 previous agents. At the end of the inventory, we sat in the living room and he pulled out a small case with a portable, wireless printer. The PDA sent the inventory and estimate to the printer, and he printed up my estimate. By the end of our time together I was very impressed, and, even though the price was more than Bekins, I felt really confident and Mayflower jumped to the top of my list of who to hire, until the next day.....
Estimate for packing and transit: $7049!!!!!!!!!! HUH? Yes, the Mayflower guy tried to pull a fast one, and it was the United Van Lines guy and I who figured it out together. For one thing, the Mayflower guy came up with a weight of over 9000lbs. Then, when all was said and done, he NEVER directed my attention on the estimate to the final number of $7000+. He only directed my attention to the transit price. I didn't realize this until the next day.
Pros: Respectful and very thorough. Inspired a lot of confidence (I thought.) Told me that about 75% of his estimate calls evolve into being hired, which I thought was impressive. (I thought.)
Cons: SNEAKY!! I learned about the term "dishpacks" this week. Dishpacks are boxes that are sectioned off and used for packing breakables. I have an above average amount of breakables in my small house, a combination of wedding china and stemware, and things that I have inherited from my grandparents' house. Still, despite that fact, the Mayflower guy estimated 30 dishpacks would be needed (which ups the price) whereas the Bekins and United guys estimated around 12-16. The Mayflower guy also wanted to crate the glasstop for my rattan table--another great expense--despite the fact that even he admitted that the circumference was smaller than the ones they usually crate. But the clincher that made him lose my business was never directing me to the final all-inclusive estimate of $7049. That is $3000 more than any of the other companies. Shameful. And I almost hired him!

UNITED VAN LINES (McCollister Moving Company)
When the United Van Lines guy arrived, I felt like I was being charitable, because in my mind I felt like Mayflower had already won me over. I am SO glad that I let the United guy come over. United Van Lines and Mayflower are cousins, working under the same parent company. But, under those well-known names we are dealing with independently owned franchises VIP Transport (Mayflower) and McCollister Moving Company (United.) There were some definite similarities in that both agents used the same software to take inventory on their PDAs and printed everything up at the end on their little wireless printers. And, even though the United guy was late, I appreciated that he didn't smell like cigarettes, didn't give me the hard sell like the Mayflower guy, didn't diss other companies like the Acclaimed guy, and was very professional. I also liked that he made adjustments on the weights because he actually picked things up, like my piano, and tables and chairs, realizing that they probably came in lower than what his inventory software would estimate. His final weight came in at about 6400lbs, like the Bekins guy.
Estimate for packing and transit: $4600 (once we added insurance it went up to $4900)
Pros: Was respectful, very thorough in the inventory, adjusting the weights, explaining everything on his estimate, and helped me to make the final decision once we realized what the Mayflower guy had done. It all began with my question,"How is it that you are $300 more than Mayflower and yet 3000lbs under?" Both of us poured over the estimate of the 2 companies and he was very helpful. At first I was wary about showing him a competitor's estimate, but then I realized that I needed help making sense of this very obvious discrepancy, and, hey, I didn't owe Mayflower anything. All this time I was thinking that Mayflower's price was $4300, until I saw there, plain as day, in bold on the 2nd page, TOTAL: $7049. I was shocked, and I felt stupid. I don't like being made to feel stupid. In one fell swoop, Mayflower lost my business. Lying by omission is the same as lying to your face, in my book, and that is what the Mayflower guy did.
Cons: Agent was late, would occasionally go off on tangents during the conversation about things that were irrelevant to what we were talking about. Not really a big deal.

And the winner is.....United Van Lines (McCollister Moving Co.) Their combination of professionalism, price, thoroughness was the best. We hired them, signed the papers, and everything is set. I should be getting a phone call on Tuesday from their moving coordinator to go over everything again. On the loading day, they will send a quality control guy out to observe how everything is going and who will interview me on my impressions of their company.

The bottom line...
Moving is very overwhelming, emotional, and expensive no matter which company you choose. You just have to shop around and go with your gut. You have to know what you want and still stay one step ahead of the agent as you talk to them to make sure they are being straight with you. The last thing you want in a task this huge is to feel like someone has taken advantage of you. What these companies really need to remind their agents about is that they are the face of the company. They are our first contact with the company. Maybe Mayflower has other agents that work differently than the guy I got, but to me, his sneakiness will make me look at Mayflower negatively from now on.

The dates and the PLAN:
What seemed a near-impossible task to pack up my house and get it moved up to Washington in a few weeks is now not only a possibility, but what is going to happen. Eric flies in on the 26th of September. United will come and spend the day packing up the house on the 28th. The 29th they will return and load everything onto the truck. Thankfully they don't pack the bed and mattresses until the loading day, so we'll only have to spend one night on an air mattress (surrounded by bewildered pets in an empty house.) We will leave on September 30th and arrive in Longview, WA on October 1st. The plan includes Eric renting a car down here, in which we will pack 3 big plants and the suitcases. I will get to be in charge of the pets (lucky me) and their supplies. I bought a big soft crate for the kitties and they will have to all fit in there for the 2 day trip. And, although there are hotel rooms that take animals, we have yet to find one that will take 4, so we might get stuck having to get 2 hotel rooms. Either that, or maybe we can convince a hotel to take us and the pet menagerie in 1 room with an extra deposit. I'll have to do more research.

What I also learned about moving companies is their transit times and our choices of delivery days. United told me that it would take about 3 days for our things to get up to WA. "Day 1" is the first day of transit, which is the day after loading day. We get to pick a 3 day window for our things to arrive, starting on Day 3 (October 2nd.) We opted for Days 3-4-5, knowing full well that it is unlikely that the things will arrive the day after we do. It also gives us more days in the house together before Eric has to go back to work on October 8th. Sometimes his "4 on/4 off" schedule is a hassle, but in cases like this, it is actually a blessing. Taking one "week" off work actually gives him 12 days.

What an amazing ride. If anyone had told me a year ago that right now I'd be married and preparing an interstate move, I would've thought they were crazy. But that is the turn that life has taken.
Eric has now spent 2 nights in the new house and I will be flying up to WA on Friday (6am flight!! EEK!) for a short 4-day visit and to look at the house again before we move in the bulk of our stuff (which is mostly coming from my house.) This whole married-but-separated thing is getting really old, and 5 1/2 weeks apart was just too much. So we bit the bullet, and I got the last seat on a flight Friday morning.

And that my friends, is the plan! There is still much to be done, and I am still expecting some wash of emotions to come over me as I leave Southern California for the Pacific Northwest, but I've gotten pretty good at dealing with life's changes lately and this is the final chapter in 2010. The thing that I'm finding out as a married person is that when you do these huge things alongside someone you love, they don't feel nearly as huge as if you were to do them yourself. You feel much more powerful. This is definitely a case of 1+1=so much more than 2. And having a plan feels great!


Karen said...

Whew! What an exhausting process! At least the worst of it is behind you now - and think how wonderful it will be to let someone else pack up all of those boxes.

I have to admit, I'm laughing a little as I picure you guys in a hotel room with all of those animals. Please take a picture of that! Maybe have Eric pose with all of them! =)

Good luck this month! I'm so glad you get to see Eric again!

Kristie said...

Yes, I am SO happy that someone else is doing the packing. I was literally paralyzed with where to start. As far as the hotel room with the animals, I have no idea how we're going to make that work, but thank goodness it is only for 1 night. I hope we get some sleep! 3 days and a bit until I get to see my husband!