Shawn Marquez has seen it time and time again: A moving company promises one price, then once all the possessions are on the truck they demand more money, essentially holding the load hostage.
That’s what happened to Bob and Susan Shaw when they moved from Florida to Ahwatukee Foothills. They were told it would cost under $4,000, then midway through the move they were told that because the weight was more than expected, they would need to pay an additional $2,000.
“It’s a big shakedown, and we have seen it time and time again,” said Marquez, director of compliance programs with the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures.
“Weights and Measure has been investigating moving scams, not because we want to, but because no one else would do it,” Marquez said.
Fortunately for the Shaws, when the van arrived in Ahwatukee Foothills last weekend, waiting for it was J.J. Stroh, an inspector with the department, plus several Phoenix police officers, even though the issue was a civil, not a criminal matter.
Because the issue revolved around excess weight, the state essentially called the bluff of the moving company.
“We will be happy to escort them to a scale and weigh it empty and then with the furniture back on,” Marquez said.
In the case of the newly arrived Florida couple, the mover agreed that there was no need to weigh the truck or for an additional payment.
“I get kind of angry about this because the folks that do this, they turn my stomach, they make me sick. When you have seen as many bad moves as I have, broken furniture, possessions stolen, it makes me angry,” Marquez said.
So what should you do to make sure your life’s possessions don’t get held hostage by a rogue mover?
“Just do your homework,” Marquez said. “Remember the old adage that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Don’t jump at the cheapest deal: Many slick Web sites are actually a front for brokers who will promise one thing, then sell the moving contract to someone else, who might appear in the middle of the night with a rental truck and demand more money.
Research movers: Ask for references, call the Better Business Bureau and in Arizona, check with Department of Weights and Measures Web site for tips on how avoid shifty movers.
If the move does go badly, Marquez said to file a complaint with as many agencies as possible, from the local police to the Department of Weights and Measures to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.