One of the easiest times to take advantage of someone is when they’re doing something new and unfamiliar. So, anytime you’re doing something for the first time, keep an eye out for scammers.
I had one of these experiences the first time I moved across the country with more stuff than would fit in the back of my car. Despite being a tech-savvy millennial who has traveled across five continents and earned an MBA, I was taken advantage of by “legal” scam artists with a knack for old-school selling.
My Experience With Vinny the Salesman
I had just received a job offer and needed to move from Florida to California in two weeks. The race against the clock was on. We had two cars we needed to get out to the West Coast and very limited time, so we decided that driving a U-Haul wasn’t an option.
I submitted my information on a site that promised to provide quotes from multiple moving companies and started receiving emails and phone calls within minutes. The cheapest quote was for $1,400. The most expensive was just over $3,000.
The most persuasive salesman, Vinny, offered a price of $2,000 and said that anyone charging less couldn’t be trusted. Considering his rate was right in the middle, and the two companies offering to do the job for less didn’t sound as authentic, I went with this guy.
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It turned out that Vinny was a moving broker — a great salesman who gets you to sign a contract, takes a commission and then hands you off to one of those $1,400 movers who he told me “couldn’t be trusted.”
Vinny pulled out all of the stops to convince me he was the best option, too. He even went through the theatrics of shouting across the office to someone to ask if “Bill from dispatch” could put a few extra boxes in the truck for free. Of course, there was no “Bill” and there was no “dispatch.” He was more than likely shouting to no one. And, after paying my $600 deposit, I never heard from Vinny again.
When the movers finally arrived, they didn’t include any of the freebies that Vinny had promised me. There were no free boxes for hanging clothes or large pictures, and they didn’t waive the $300 stairway fee (we lived on the second floor of an apartment complex, and Vinny said that he would include that at no cost).
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The movers told me that these brokers often make false promises to persuade the customer, without telling the movers, who wouldn’t agree to these terms. Once the movers accept the offer from the broker and arrive at the customer’s house, there’s an awkward discussion between the two groups as neither party anticipated the extra costs and work.
The movers told me that the $600 deposit I paid went straight to Vinny as his commission. While they received the following $1,700 that I paid them directly. Had I chosen to work with one of the discount movers who called me, I could have done the entire move for $900 less.
How to Avoid Getting Scammed
If you aren’t interested in wasting your time negotiating with questionable characters, then the two best options for moving are to either do-it-yourself with U-Haul or work with established moving companies, such as Allied Van Lines.
The last time I moved, we used U-Haul Pods and those worked great. U-Haul drops them off for you to fill up and then delivers them to the new address for you to unload — painless and affordable.
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If you do decide to work with a budget moving company, here are a few tips to ensure that you do it right.
- Ask the salesman if they are a moving company or broker, and listen closely to their answer for any hints of dishonesty.
- Check out the company’s website and Yelp reviews. If it’s legit, they should be able to prove it online.
- Make sure that every promise is clearly written in the contract.
- Pay with a credit card so that you can dispute the charge if necessary.
Any time that you’re doing something new and expensive, talk to people about it before making any commitments. Read articles online, talk to friends and find Facebook groups to ask questions. By spending a few minutes getting advice, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars.
Oh, and if you ever get a phone call from a mover named Vinny, forward him this article.
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