So I moved into a new house over the holidays. I had around ten days off and the timing worked perfectly to pack up and move between Christmas and New Year’s. Seeking to save a bit of money, I hired a company called Move Cheap—their gimmick was they didn’t supply or drive moving vehicles—you did that yourself. They just supplied movers to load and unload those vehicles.
The woman to whom I spoke, Kristen, said my intended moving day was open. She scheduled me in the morning and mentioned that they sometimes scheduled moves in the afternoon as well. I told her I had a lot of stuff and needed the movers all day. She said that was fine and promised not to schedule anyone after me for my crew. Based on what she recommended, I hired a three-man crew and rented a 17 ft truck from U-Haul, which Kristen was able to schedule through a link between the two companies. Little did I know that things would not roll out smoothly, and with a name like Move Cheap, you get what you pay for.
On the morning of the move, I drove to U-Haul to pick up the truck. The 17-footer seemed a bit small, so I sprung for the 24-footer. That delayed me around 15 minutes. I got to the house around 10:15, the movers had been there about 15 minutes. The first thing mover Marty told me was that the third man I hired had quit via text that morning. Oh well, that happens. I showed him what we had to move. He took out a standard contract and went over insurance, extra costs for moving pianos (I didn’t have one), etc. He then stated that they had until 3:00pm, then they had to leave for their next moving gig. I told him Kristen said they wouldn’t schedule any moves after me and I had them all day. He just shrugged and said he could probably get it done by then. We start the day down one mover and with a broken promise. Not a good start.
It took several hours to load the truck, and we didn’t get to the new house until around 1:30pm. I knew we were in trouble. At 3:00pm more than half the truck was unloaded. With a dolly full of boxes, Marty said, “Well, we have to wrap things up. Sorry.” I said comically, “Marty, don’t leave me! I have no one to help me and there is some very heavy stuff left on there!” Actually, I did have some help—my uncle and brother-in-law were there plugging away, but both in no shape to carry heavy office furniture up flights of stairs. This was the middle of the week, and I had several friends out of town and others at work. At the time there was no one else to call. Marty looked sorry, and asked me to contact his boss Doug to see if they could stay and unload the rest—it wouldn’t take that long.
I called Doug and he pretended to care. He argued that they had another gig to go to, and that no one should ever have promised me they wouldn’t schedule another move after me. Actually, his tone suggested I was lying and no one had ever told me that (they had). I explained that on top of that promise, their third man never showed up. It was no one’s fault, but we probably would have been done by now if I had three movers, as I had planned on in the first place. Here’s where Doug got delusional, saying that it was my fault for being late with the truck, and a third man wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I wondered if this guy had ever moved before. He said he’d try to get some movers there at 7:00am the next day, but said it would be tough to find anyone and made no guarantees. I never raised my voice, but this was starting to annoy me. I had a half-full truck that had to be returned soon, a company full of broken promises and abandonment tendencies and all the other normal stresses of moving. I implored him, “Look, it won’t take that long to unload the truck. If they leave now, they’re already late—you’ll have two clients angry at you. If they just unload the rest of the truck, you’ll only have one client angry at you.” He didn’t buy it. As a last resort, I mentioned that I used to be in the media, and my friends at one of the news stations loved stories like this. I didn’t want to mention their company, but ...
At this point, Doug exploded. He accused me of threatening him and started frothing at the mouth. Totally unprofessional behavior. He demanded I pay the movers so they could leave. I said I would be happy to—when the job is done. He screamed at me that if I didn’t pay now, he would call the cops and have a report filled out. I told him to knock himself out. He screamed, “I’M CALLING THE POLICE RIGHT NOW!” and hung up on me. Wow.
I walked out to talk to the movers—two hard-working guys that were put into a difficult position. Marty was getting off the phone with Doug and looked like he’d swallowed a live scorpion. “My boss said I have to call the cops,” he said. I pointed out that by the time the police got there, interviewed everyone and filled out a report, the truck could be unloaded. No matter, Doug was insistent that they not finish unloading my truck, and no logic or plea could move this manager to do the right thing.
A pretty blonde female police officer arrived at the scene, followed in a few minutes by a bald male officer I instantly labeled “Officer Brick House.” The man was huge. I told her what happened, how ridiculous it was and why I was not going to pay them until they were finished. As she went to the movers for their version, I struck up a conversation with Officer Brick House, who was friendly enough. Interestingly, he did not take my offered handshake, but was not rude about it. Keep your distance and objectivity was his motto.
In a few minutes, Pretty Blonde Officer (PBO) came back, looking annoyed and shoving that morning’s contract in my face. “IS THIS YOUR SIGNATURE?” she asked loudly and unpleasantly. “Yes,” I said. “DO YOU SEE WHERE IS SAYS THEY ARE ONLY GOING TO MOVE YOU FOR THREE HOURS? THEY’VE BEEN HERE FIVE HOURS!”
I couldn’t understand her annoyance or attitude. This was not a criminal matter, and she had no authority here. She came because a bad manager overreacted, not because this was a legitimate police problem. I explained that the contract was an estimate, not a firm limit of their time. By now my uncle and brother-in-law were watching the show. My uncle pointed out to PBO that they had only sent two movers, not the three I was promised, and that delayed the process. Now, please realize my uncle is one of the nicest people on earth. He has a doctorate in ministry and is an ordained minister and college professor. He is the opposite of an aggressive person, and has the true heart of a councilor and teacher. However, PBO looked at him like pond scum. She held up the contract like the Holy Grail and said “IS THIS YOUR SIGNATURE ON THIS CONTRACT?
“No,” he admitted.
“DID YOU HIRE THESE MOVERS?”
“THEN I WOULD APPRECIATE YOU BUTTING OUT.”
Wow, PBO just dissed my uncle for trying to help! More unprofessional behavior. Why did I wake up today?
“PAY THESE MEN AND LET THEM GET OUT OF HERE, NOW,” said PBO. “IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE COMPANY YOU CAN FILE A CIVIL COMPLAINT.”
“I’m sorry, but no,” I said. “I’m happy to pay them when the job is done, as we originally agreed.”
“HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF SOMEONE MADE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOU, THEN SHOWED UP TWO HOURS LATE?” shouted PBO, referring to the clients at the job the movers were supposed to leave for.
“Ma’am, how would you like to hire movers and have them leave in the middle of the job?” I reasoned. By now PBO was getting really pissed that her “negotiating” skills were not up to the task. She pulled her trump card.
“WE (motioning to Officer Brick House) ARE NOT LEAVING UNTIL YOU PAY!”
Okay, now things were officially ugly. She had no authority to compel me to do anything, but I figured I had several options: I could ask them all to help unload the truck. I could invite them in for milk and cookies and we could all get comfortable. I could walk into my garage and close the door. Or, I could cut the movers a check and make life holy hell for this company afterwards. I chose the latter. The police and fire departments are about a block away from my house in this new neighborhood. The police—whom I support 100% in most circumstances, were being unreasonable, so I guess I had to step up to the plate.
I walked into my garage with the movers and we found a flat surface to conduct business. Uninvited, PBO walked into the garage and started making small talk at normal volumes. I admired her nerve. I paid the movers for the five hours they had worked. They asked me to sign all sorts of papers, but I refused to sign anything that wasn’t directly related to payment. A tip line item was on the last sheet of the invoice, but I ignored it. I hated to do that, but these guys were adults and they had the choice of finishing the job. They chose not to, which I understand. But no tip for you!
Everyone was now upset. The movers left, hours late to their next gig. PBO and Officer Brick House moved along. Here I was, with a half full truck and a return deadline looming. What do to, what to do? My uncle approached me. “We have a plan,” he said.
Despite my brother-in-law’s bad back and my uncle being in his mid-60s, we got the dolly from the moving truck and proceeded to unload everything, including my heaviest stuff. It took us around 40 minutes (about as long as the police were at my house) to put everything in the garage. My hat is off to two guys who didn’t need to be unloading a moving truck after the day we had. Thanks to two great Davids!
EPILOGUE: A few days later I hired Big John’s Moving to come and move all the heavy stuff upstairs to individual rooms. It took around 45 minutes and they did a great job. And those movers received the tips the other guys forfeited. The move is done. Thank God!