Moving season brings BBB warnings: 40 million expected to hire movers this year

BBB got 9,300 complaints in 2012

SAN DIEGO - Forty million people are expected to hire movers from May to September, with June being the most popular month for moving. The Better Business Bureau says thousands of consumers will experience issues like getting quoted one price and then having to pay extra when their furniture arrives.

San Diegan Jennifer Andrews and her husband moved in April and had half of their items go to storage and the other half to their new home.

"Moving is stressful anyway and why should people have to have added stress?" said Andrews.

Andrews said they hired One Stop Moving in San Diego because of the employees' demeanor and friendly personality.

"We had three men arrive, they quoted us at a 7-hour move," said Andrews.

Andrews said things were going fine until she said the moving truck broke down.

"It was a two-hour wait to figure out what to do. It was decided by phone to move all the items from the truck, to the street, up and over the speed bumps, through the moving parking gate and one block to the other end of the storage," said Andrews.

Andrews said her 7-hour quote turned into a bill for 11 hours.

"We shouldn't be paying those costs. I'm sorry the truck broke down, but that's the responsibility of the moving company," said Andrews.

One Stop Moving said they billed the couple what was agreed upon and gave them a break on the price. They sent Team 10 a contract that shows the truck did break down and shows a discount of $313.

Andrews said she should have gotten her original estimate in writing.

The BBB hears from thousands of consumers about moving companies every year.

"Nationally, in 2012, the BBB got 1.4 million inquiries and 9,300 complaints," said Rachel Newman of the San Diego and Imperial County BBB.

Consumer Reports recommends getting estimates from three companies in writing, and Newman said to ask for references and check them yourself.

"If a company insists on giving you an estimate over the phone or Internet instead of coming to your home, that's a bad sign. And never sign a document that has a lot of blank spaces that haven't been filled in. Another red flag? The movers are using unmarked trucks," said Anthony Giorgianni of Consumer Reports.

The Better Business Bureau gave Team 10 these tips:

-- Research the company thoroughly. While regulations vary by state, all interstate movers must be, at minimum, licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. FMCSA assigns a unique motor carrier number that can be verified at protectyourmove.gov. Additionally, look up the company on bbb.org to view the business' history, consumer complaints and for access to company contact information.

-- Get at least three estimates. Don't settle for only online or over-the-phone estimates; get three in-home estimates to ensure they are accurate based on your living situation. Not all price quotes online or over the phone are legitimate, and crooks are not likely to send an estimator to your home in advance. Also, remember that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic, low-ball offer, which may cost you more in the end.

-- Get it in writing. Before the move, get a contract in writing that spells out the pickup dates and dates of delivery. The FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims and having proof of your original agreement will ease the process.

-- Consider full-value protection. It may cost a few dollars more upfront, but purchasing full-value protection can provide some peace of mind and eliminate headaches after your move. Purchasing full (replacement) value protection from your mover means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age.

The website, www.protectyourmove.gov lists all companies licensed for interstate moves and tells you if there are any complaints.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration offers free arbitration when it comes to moving complaints for consumers.

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