Moving Scam: Don't Fall Victim to Bait-and-Switch Tactics

Thinking about moving to a new house? Read this first!

Moving to a new house is stressful enough. Don’t let surprise charges from movers add to the chaos! Learn how to avoid a “bait and switch” scam that comes with moving estimates.


Have you ever gotten halfway through a project, only to realize the cost has ballooned way beyond the initial estimate? Well, that’s exactly what happened to James and Judy McMillan when they hired movers for their big move across state lines.

Imaging that you carefully plan your move to a new house, get quotes from movers, and breathe a sigh of relief. Then, moving day arrives, and bam! The movers hit you with a price twice your initial estimate. Sound familiar?

This isn’t just a bad dream. It happens more often than you think, just like what happened to James and Judy McMillan. The couple from Tennessee was quoted $2,150 for their move to Georgia but moving price doubled when movers arrived.. When the movers showed up, they slapped them with a new bill of $4,300!

The lead mover surveyed their belongings and, according to the couple’s account, dramatically inflated the estimated volume by adding dozens of boxes and extra packing materials. Feeling trapped and with limited options due to their tight moving deadline, the McMillans felt forced to pay the inflated price.

Here’s the video, you can read the first comments from an user who got scammed the same way which shows it is pretty common.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BNfNMnB82M

How Can This Happen?

McMillans’ had provided a list of their belongings via email, and the moving company estimated the volume at 521 cubic feet. However, upon arrival, the lead mover re-evaluated and claimed the volume was significantly higher (including packing materials) – hence the price hike. Yikes! This bait-and-switch tactic left them feeling frustrated, trapped, and ultimately, ripped off.

How Can This Happen to You and How to Avoid It?

So, what went wrong in the McMillans’ case? There are a couple of possibilities:

  • Inaccurate Estimate: The initial quote might not have accurately reflected the actual volume of the couple’s belongings. This can happen if the estimate was based solely on a list, without a physical inspection of the home.
  • Bait and Switch: Unfortunately, some unscrupulous moving companies resort to shady tactics to inflate the final bill and might intentionally lowball the initial quote to secure the job, only to increase the price later when the customer has fewer options.

Here’s how it might play out:

  • Lowball Estimate: The company offers an unrealistically low initial quote to secure the business.
  • Surprise Charges: On moving day, the movers claim there are unexpected fees for things like packing materials, long carry distances, or bulky furniture.

This situation raises a big question: How can you avoid a moving fiasco like this?

Here are some tips to avoid a similar situation:

  • Get In-Home Estimates: Whenever possible, opt for in-home estimates from reputable movers. This allows them to assess the volume of your belongings accurately.
  • Compare Quotes: Don’t settle for the first quote you get! Get quotes from at least three different moving companies and compare their prices and services offered.
  • Read the Fine Print: Before signing any contracts, carefully read through the terms and conditions, paying close attention to any clauses related to additional charges or adjustments to the estimated cost.
  • Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the moving process and potential fees.
  • Get Everything in Writing: Ensure all agreed-upon costs and services are clearly outlined in a written contract.
  • “Binding” vs. “Non-Binding” Estimates: Be wary of estimates labeled “non-binding.” These estimates can fluctuate significantly on moving day.

Things You Must Know About Moving Estimates

Moving estimates are not always set in stone. There can be legitimate reasons for adjustments, such as:

  • Additional Services: If you require additional services on moving day, such as packing or disassembly/reassembly of furniture, these will naturally increase the cost.
  • Inaccurate Initial Estimate: As mentioned earlier, if the initial quote wasn’t based on a thorough assessment of your belongings, there might be some adjustments needed on moving day.

However, be wary of excessive price hikes that go beyond these reasonable adjustments.

Why Moving Estimates Can Be Misleading?

Estimates can be misleading? Here are some reasons:

  • Inaccurate Inventory: If your inventory isn’t detailed enough, the movers may underestimate the space required and labor involved, leading to a higher final cost.
  • Hidden Fees: Watch out for those sneaky hidden fees we mentioned earlier. Be sure to factor them into your moving budget.
  • Difficulty Access: If access to your home is difficult, like narrow hallways or limited parking, movers may charge extra for the added challenge.

Key Components of a Proper Move

A smooth move requires a careful planning. Here are some crucial aspects to consider:

  • Inventorying belongings: Take a detailed inventory of everything you’re moving. Categorize items by room, size, and fragility. This helps movers accurately estimate the volume and cost.
  • Getting multiple quotes: Don’t settle for the first quote you receive. Compare rates and services offered by six movers or more.
  • Understanding the estimate: Ask clarifying questions! Ensure you understand what’s included and excluded in the estimated price.
  • Considering add-on services: Packing, disassembly/reassembly of furniture, and storage are often add-on services. Factor these in when comparing quotes.
  • Scheduling: Book your movers well in advance, especially during peak moving seasons.
  • Preparing your belongings: Pack efficiently using appropriate boxes and packing materials. Label boxes clearly to avoid confusion during unloading.

Addressing Common Moving Issues

Even with careful planning, hiccups can arise. Here’s how to address some common moving issues:

  • Hidden Fees: Ask upfront about any potential hidden fees, like fuel surcharges or long carry charges for difficult access points.
  • Weight Discrepancies: Get a guaranteed weight on your estimate. This minimizes the risk of the final bill being significantly higher due to weight discrepancies.
  • Last-Minute Changes: Be prepared for last-minute changes. If you add items after the estimate, be sure to get the revised cost confirmed in writing.

By following these steps, you can gain more control over the moving process and avoid unpleasant surprises.

FAQs: Your Moving Day Doubts Answered

Can I negotiate the price with the movers on moving day?

It’s not ideal, but in a pinch, you might be able to negotiate. However, it’s better to have a binding estimate in place to avoid any last-minute surprises.

What should I do if the movers increase the price on moving day?

First Refer to the binding estimate and point out any discrepancies. If the additional fees seem unreasonable, try to negotiate a fairer price. You’re not obligated to pay anything you haven’t agreed to beforehand. If the mover is acting unethically, and they’re unwilling to budge contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to file a complaint.

What if I have more stuff than I thought?

Be honest about your inventory from the start. If you realize you have more belongings later, contact the movers as soon as possible to discuss the revised estimate.

How can I save money on moving?

There are ways to save! Pack as much yourself as possible, get quotes from multiple movers, and consider moving during the off-season (when demand is lower).

How much notice should I give movers?

Generally, booking movers 1-4 weeks in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons (summer and spring).

Can I cancel the move if the movers try to raise the price?

It depends on your contract and how far in advance you notify the movers. Most contracts have cancellation clauses, but you might incur some fees.pen_spark

What recourse do I have if I get scammed by movers?

If you fall victim to a moving scam, don’t give up! Here are some steps to take:
File a Complaint: File a formal complaint with the FMCSA.
Report the Scam: Report the scam to your local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Consider Legal Action: Depending on the severity of the scam, you might want to consult with an attorney.