It was the summer of ’04 and I was busier than ever. After years of working my wife and I retired. We planned to relocate to an area we’d grown to love–the Alabama, Western Florida Gulf Coast. Our home of eighteen years was put up for sale and amazingly enough, it sold immediately. In addition, we got more than our asking price. Now, the race was on, get ready to move eight hundred miles away. July was a flurry of activity. I was busier than I’d ever been at work, putting in twelve hours days. The old saying is “when you move, you find out who your friends are.”
We’d planned to live in our RV trailer until the new house was built. I planned to work for an additional six years until my retirement benefits kicked in. I’d already secured employment as an associate at a big name retail discount store. My employment started in August. Now the search was on to find a moving company to haul our belongings. Herein began our cautionary tale. The youngest of our three grown daughters and her husband planned to surprise us by securing a moving company for us. They would pay moving expenses as a gift.
I wouldn’t want anyone to think that we were ungrateful. It’s always the thought behind gifts that matters most. Our daughter and new son-in-law were experienced in the business world. They did considerable research over the internet to find the best company at the right price. A company based in Miami, Florida was selected. This company knew what our time constraints were. They would let us know when they’d contracted with a mover. Time went on–three weeks left, two weeks. Repeated calls always got the same response, “Everything’s ok, as soon as we’ve arranged with a moving contractor we’ll contact you.”
It dawned on us, this was a fly-by-night boiler room operation. They only had one thing in mind–taking our money. They had a nicely designed homepage and an office with phone numbers. That was about as far as their legitimacy went. There was only a week before the new home owners moved in. We were really sweating it. Begging and pleading had no effect on these people. We had just a few days left. I hated to leave my wife behind, but had obligations at our new location. My three sons-in-law stayed behind and helped my wife move our household goods into a storage unit.
Meanwhile my daughter and son-in-law rented a “DIY U-Drive” type van from a well-known company. The same day the new people moved in we were still moving out. My youngest daughter and my Grandson drove the van. My wife followed behind in her. During the chaotic moving process, my wife backed her car into the garage wall. I didn’t know about that until later. The little caravan headed southeast out of Illinois. My daughter stopped for fuel before leaving Illinois. The truck wouldn’t restart. More frustration ensued. “DIY U-Drive’s” service number was found and called.
After a couple of hours waiting, a beat-up tow truck arrived. The mechanic opened the hood, looked around and said, “Hmm.” “I wonder who did that?” My wife, daughter, and grandson are not mechanically inclined. He told them the alternator had recently been replaced. An inept mechanic had wired it incorrectly. The battery wasn’t being charged. He towed the van to his garage and repaired it that evening. It was getting late, but my daughter pressed on anyway and made it to North Alabama around ten PM.
I waited nervously for their arrival the next morning at the self-storage facility. They arrived late morning safe and sound. Meanwhile the rest of the family came to help unload. I was proud of the way everyone pitched in and did their part. Later my wife and I had an enjoyable lunch with everyone. What did we learn from this experience? The moving van I could chalk up to “Murphy’s Law,” but I’m not. I think the van rental company had an obligation to hire competent mechanics. This vehicle had not been thoroughly checked out. Was this cost-cutting deferred maintenance? It was another sad example of poor customer service.
The so-called moving company I’ll cut no slack. My son-in-law disputed the charges on his credit card and refused to pay. He could never find a physical address for the business. That only added to my suspicion–the internet made it easier for charlatans and thieves to hide. My warning is this, be sure you know who you are dealing with. Deal only with well-known companies with good reputations. That is more important than saving a few hundred dollars. The grief and headaches you may suffer are not worth it. Relocation is traumatic enough.