When we moved our family, we were unfortunately victims of a moving scam. It was a stressful and costly experience. One of the reasons I wrote Good Move is to protect other families from having to go through what we went through. This is our story.
I was standing on the sidewalk facing the plate glass window of the pizza place where my family was having dinner. With the sun on my back, I could feel the sweat collecting at the base of my spine. I glanced at my reflection and closed my eyes so I could concentrate on what the man on the other end of the phone was saying.
His accent was unidentifiable and thick, and he was talking rapidly about the contract I had signed. I could barely make out what he was saying. I opened my eyes to see my two sons on the other side of the glass holding their pizza mid-bite. My husband next to them, a look of concern brewing on his face, was letting his pizza grow cold.
It was then that I realized, we had been scammed. We had trusted the wrong people. This man on the other end of the phone was nothing but a criminal, taking advantage of our family and overcharging us for a service that we did not receive. We had been completely taken for a ride. It felt like being punched in the gut.
Just over twenty four hours before, we’d been standing 500 miles away in the front yard of our newly sold home. We were relocating our family from Massachusetts to Philadelphia, and things were not going as planned. The moving company we hired to pack and move us had failed to arrive on the day and time we had contracted, and three days later we were still waiting.
The company we originally hired had, unbeknownst to us, brokered our move to someone else – a completely unknown entity. We had been told repeatedly that the truck and the movers were on their way, and we had been waiting three long days and three even longer nights. During the day we sat idly among our boxed up possessions unsure what to do next. At night, we lay in bed staring at the ceiling exhausted but unable to sleep.
As we stood in our yard that was no longer technically our yard (the sale of our house had closed that morning), we tried to come up with options to get us out of this mess. We tried calling in favors. We tried being amenable. We tried being difficult. But none of these tactics got us any closer to having a moving truck in our driveway. We were stumped. We were powerless. It was July 1, the busiest moving day of the year, and there was nothing to do but wait.
The truck finally arrived breaks squealing to a halt looking like something out of a bad horror movie. The sides were riddled with rust and peeling paint. My husband and I exchanged glances. Not what we expected, but it will work. Right? A truck is a truck after all.
A skeleton crew of one mover and one driver skulked out of the truck. The interior of the truck was packed haphazardly with other people’s possessions. The man on the phone who was orchestrating the “deal” told us our move would cost twice as much as what we were originally quoted. The new contract was handwritten and delivered to me over email.
Maybe we should have been a little more cautious. Maybe we should have had more pause. Maybe we should have said thanks, but no thanks. Maybe, maybe, maybe…but we paid the new dollar amount (in cash), helped load the truck (they only brought one mover), and it pulled away packed with everything we owned headed to our new home.
We arrived at our new house anticipating the truck to show up that morning as promised. The delivery did not come. After waiting all day in an empty house, we abandoned the idea that the movers would arrive (their track record at this point had not indicated otherwise) and went out to grab a pizza for dinner. It was as we were sitting down to eat that my phone rang. The truck had arrived. It was on our street.
This is where I excused myself from the pizza place and found myself looking through the window at my family. I demanded that the movers come back tomorrow. I refused to accept the delivery of our things. We had been waiting all day. It was completely unacceptable to move into our new home at night.
I fought back tears of frustration. Stop it, I told myself. Do not let this monster of a man, hear you cry. On the other end of the phone, he was yelling about drivers and contracts and threatening the security of our things, but his accent was so thick I couldn’t follow what he was saying. “Slow down,” I told him, “I can’t understand you.”
He just laughed and said, “Okay, okay, I slow down. Let me explain it this way. It’s now or when I can get new driver. You decide.”
We had lost. There was nothing I could do to change the course of events. He had all of our stuff, and we had nothing to bargain with. I turned back around to face my family. Let’s go, I mouthed to my husband through the glass. Now, I added.
In the short walk to our car and trip back to our new home, all of the emotion of our move caught up with me. I could no longer be calm in the face of adversity. The stress and uncertainty I had worked so hard to protect my children from during our relocation bubbled over into a tirade that was still going strong when we pulled up in front of our new home. It was eerily quiet in the back seat.
This was more than a case of botched logistics. Our trust had been violated. This moving outfit had seen our vulnerability, our need to move immediately, and preyed upon it. They took advantage of our situation by overcharging, repeatedly lying, and providing sub-par service. It was only later that I learned that this happens all of the time.
When you are being scammed, you don’t realize that it’s happening to you. You put your faith into a company or a person, and trust that they will do right by you and deliver the service that you paid for at a fair price. The heavy accented man on the phone had assured us over and over again that his crew were doing their best, and we chose to believe him. We drained our savings and handed it over, because what other choice did we have?
By the time we got back to our new house, it was getting dark. I barely acknowledged the moving truck driver as he made his way down the sidewalk toward us. We had lost thousands of dollars and been scammed. We had been taken advantage of at our most vulnerable moment. It would take weeks for the knots in our stomachs to untwist.
But as I shuttled the kids off to a hotel for the night leaving my husband to oversee our the unloading of the truck, I knew we would be fine. We would get over the money lost. We would move past the shame of being a victim. We would one day tell the story laughing at how incredibly awful our move had been. We would move past it. Because we were together. We were safe. And we were starting a new life.
A version of this story appears in Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family’s Relocation, coming soon to major booksellers.
Want more on moving with kids? Check out our other posts.
Did you like this? I can send you an email when I post something new. Sign up here.