How to Choose the Right Moving Company

How to Choose the Right Moving Company

Beware! This is a cautionary tale about the anxieties of moving, of doing your research and hiring “the right” movers, only to find out that even the most reputable companies will offer you empty promises just to get you to sign on the dotted line. Intrigued? Keep reading to find out how we dealt with one such establishment only days before taking our family and possessions across three provinces.

A Little History

Gaby and I have moved a handful of times in our married life, and most of our moves were simple affairs. Some boxes, a few pieces of furniture, and a U-Haul truck. Even our first interprovincial move from South Eastern Manitoba to Calgary, Alberta went off without a hitch, seeing as we didn’t have much to take with us. (Tip #1: Plan to buy most of your furniture after you move, or you’ll just have to move it again.) Over the next 11 years, we resided in two different rental condos, as well as our first house. In our experience, intracity moves are by far the easiest, especially when moving from a rental. (Tip #2: Plan to pay an extra month’s rent to reduce your stress level and allow yourself additional time for cleaning, sprucing, and painting before handing back the keys.) I don’t know if there’s anything that could have prepared us for the huge task of moving our family of five across three provinces.

Time to Declutter

How in the world do you declutter a house that you’ve lived in over a period of years? When we first moved in, it was just the two of us, Gaby and I. Katrina, Serge, and Hunter quickly followed, and before we knew it, we had accumulated a massive amount of stuff (little ones need so much!). I’m a very organized person who doesn’t like the unnecessary, so when I say we had a lot, it was all useful! Stuff we employed on a regular, or at least seasonal, basis. How were we going to move it all?

Our Calgary Basement

Our new house in Manitoba was approximately the same size as our Calgary home, but without a basement (though it featured a large crawl space for storage). So, first thing was to place online classifieds to sell any excess pieces of furniture. Then we decluttered. And decluttered some more. And then, a little bit more. There was not much room to be sentimental. Even the kids got involved, and did so well when it came time to downsize their toys. (A very proud parenting moment!) Our next step was figuring out how we wanted to move what we were keeping.

Doing Our Due Diligence

Empty Moving TruckI spent weeks researching different ways to move cross-provinces. There are hundreds of moving companies out there, as well as rentable storage containers, and of course, options for renting and driving your own truck. Whichever company we decided on needed to be able to store everything for 11 days, the time in between possession dates that we had allotted ourselves to ensure all the paperwork and monies went through.

There were pros and cons to each approach. In my opinion, hiring a moving company was the most terrifying. Just Google “Moving Companies” and you’ll find numerous horror stories and bad reviews of missing belongings (ranging from a box or two to entire truckloads), shady businesses with vague paperwork and insurance policies that aren’t very beneficial to you at all, and missed move dates and deadlines. A lot of those enterprises want to give you the cheapest price, but with the cheapest price, you also get the cheapest customer service, if any at all.

In the end, I received quotes from two of the more reputable movers, as well as from two storage unit companies. (At this point we were not considering rental trucks as there didn’t seem to be a way that we could store our belongings for the time in between possession dates.)

Making the Final Decision

Our final decision was based on this question: where would our belongings be during the time between possession dates. If we went with a moving company, they would be offloading all our possessions into a warehouse for storage until the move-in date. This meant that every box and piece of furniture would need to be moved four times – onto a truck from the Calgary house, off the truck and into a warehouse, back on the truck from the warehouse, and ultimately off the truck and into our new home. This left a lot of room for error – boxes could be misplaced or forgotten, and furniture more likely to get damaged.

We decided that if we needed to store our belongings, the best way would be to use movable storage units, as all the boxes and furniture would remain in said unit until the possession date. So, after confirming multiple times that the company we chose could deliver to our remote location on the days we needed, we booked two units.

Not an Inch of Empty SpaceWhen the Plan Crumbles

The day came for the units to be delivered to us. With a lot of the non-essential living items already packed, we started to load them the very next day (Tip #3: Allow yourself adequate time to pack and load your contents if you are doing it yourself. We’d given ourselves six days to load the units before they would be picked up again.) This is the point in the story where things got complicated.

On the third day that we had the units, I received a distressing phone call. The person in charge of overseeing our move told me that the final delivery could not be completed as requested due to branch policies. Unfortunately, this would not work for us because Gaby was only coming out for a limited time to help with the unpacking (he was still working in Calgary at this point, and would be for the next few months). I insisted that they find a way to accommodate the promises they made. In the end, the Winnipeg branch decided that they would not go against policy, insisting that they could find no record of the promise that had been made. I demanded my money back, and we unpacked the units back into our garage. It was a long and difficult process to receive our full credit, as they refused to return the initial delivery fees, stating that they did keep that promise in delivering them on time. My argument to them was that had they told me that they could not deliver the packed units as they promised they could, I would not have had them delivered to the Calgary location in the first place. (We eventually received our full credit a few weeks later.)

As I was arguing back and forth with the company, trying to speak to managers and the like, the moving plan was still crumbling around us. We now had an entire house to move in less than eight days, and no strategy. We were in scramble mode. Though I had initially dismissed using a rental truck, it was U-Haul who came to our rescue. With a little fenagling, I secured their largest sized truck and paid only a small upcharge that allowed us to keep all our belongings on it for the extra days. Some family members agreed to allow us to park it on their property for the duration, and would watch over it for us until we took possession on July 15. (The truck parked on their property made for some good small town gossip as everyone thought that it was them that were moving out!)

Final Thoughts

Moving DayThe good news is that when everything was said and done, we moved into our new home without any further complications. But this whole situation gave me a lot of insight, that no matter how much you plan, dot your i’s and cross your t’s, there are going to be some hiccups along the way (sometimes some pretty significant ones). Businesses can make promises to you that they have no intention of keeping when they find out that keeping that promise will be an inconvenience to their timelines and capital. I’m very thankful to the people I worked with at U-Haul, for their sympathy and willingness to help us out, making a bad situation a whole lot better. The lesson that we learned from this was to never use a company where you can’t control where your possessions are and when (or if!) they’ll be delivered to you. Moving a whole house by yourself is a tough job, but usually has a much better outcome when you know that your stuff is there when you want it.

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