When unsuspecting families get taken in by dishonest movers, as in the recent reports we’ve been hearing from Hawaii, we can’t help but take it a little personally. As a fourth-generation, family-owned business, we take pride in what we do—moving your most important personal possessions easily, affordably and safely. When we see a disreputable company who mishandles the belongings of its customers, we know it erodes trust all around.
In order to help you protect yourself, we’ve put together this 6-point checklist to help you find the right moving company on Guam. Whether you choose us or one of our competitors, we’ll show you exactly what to expect from your moving company. These six pointers will make it simple to choose the right mover, one who will get your possessions safely to their destination, no matter whether you’re moving locally on Guam or relocating from Guam to a new home.
1. Get Three, Independent Quotes—in Pounds
When you’re deciding on a moving company, your first step will be to get quotes from three, independent companies. This will give you a good ballpark cost for your move.
Note: If one quote is significantly lower than all the others, be wary. This could be a sign that there’s something amiss. In point #4, we’ll show you how to do your research to ensure the company you choose is backed by a strong track record.
You should also look for quotes based on weight, not volume. Reputable moving companies use weight to price their moves because it offers an objective measurement that’s easily understandable. For example, let’s say you’re given a quote of $1.82 per pound. With that price, you’ll know exactly how much it will cost to ship your mattress by using the formula below:
Cost per pound x Weight = Price to Move
$1.82 x 89.5lbs = $162.89
Now, if a company charges by volume, the cost would be ultimately based on how skillfully their packers can tuck your possessions into their truck. That’s not quite as objective a measurement. That’s why most legitimate moving companies rely on weight.
Additionally, as a U.S. territory, Guam’s moving companies are subject to the regulations of the Federal Motor Control Safety Administration. The FMSCA requires that your final moving charges be based upon the actual weight of your shipment, as well as the services provided and the tariff provisions in effect. (Review your rights here on the FMSCA website.)
So if a moving company seems reluctant to give you a quote in pounds, you may want to look elsewhere.
2. Opt for an In-Person Survey and a Written Estimate
As you’ll see in the FMSCA brochure linked above, it’s your right to get a written estimate from your moving company, based on an in-person or video survey.
It’s also in your best interest. In order to create an accurate quote—one that will hold true on Moving Day—your moving company should send someone to come out and actually look at your possessions. That’s really the only way for them to truly understand how much stuff you have.
Think of it this way: Have you ever walked into a house that’s crammed to the gills, where every nook and cranny is occupied by a souvenir, a picture or a collection of figurines? One where you can barely turn around without knocking something off a shelf? Well, it would cost that person more to move than it would cost someone who has very few personal possessions, even if they both occupy a 2-bedroom apartment.
That’s what a surveyor will look for when he or she comes out to create a complimentary quote. Surveyors will also look for particularly heavy things, such as an extensive library of books, so they can more accurately ballpark your actual cost on Moving Day.
If a company is reluctant to send someone out—or if they’re willing to rely on an estimate form you filled out online—take that quote with a grain of salt. It’s very possible things will change on Moving Day, and your move could cost you more than you expect.
3. Be Suspicious If They Request a Large Deposit
Some moving companies may ask for a deposit to reserve a date for your move. That request, in and of itself, isn’t a red flag.
However, if they ask for a large deposit, one that’s more than 20% of the entire cost, make sure you do your research before handing over any money. (More on that next!) Additionally, if they request the money in cash, be wary. If possible, put the deposit on a credit card, which offers you the possibility of contesting the charge if something goes wrong.
4. Do Your Research
Now that you know a little about what to look for, let’s talk about how you go about vetting the companies who have offered you quotes.
- If the company has a local address, consider taking a drive by their offices or their warehouse. Does everything look like it’s in good condition? If the office is open, consider popping your head in and saying hello. If their trucks are visible, do they seem to be in good shape?
Note: This is a great reason to hire a local company. Especially when it comes to relocating from Guam, you may find a number of companies on the Internet who are happy to help. However, many of them may be based off-island, which makes it harder for you to check their credentials. If you stay local, you can drive by or even visit the offices of the movers you’re considering so you can get a better feel for how they operate.
- Check out their DOT number. All licensed movers are required to display this number on their website and in their ads. You can enter that number on the FMSCA website to see the company’s information, including their licensing info, crash reports and whether there is a pending insurance cancellation against the company, which can indicate deeper troubles.
- Check their social media accounts. Angry customers often leave comments on a company’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram properties. You’ll want to take some of these with a grain of salt. What you’re really looking for are patterns. Are people reporting the same problems again and again? Does the company respond professionally to these complaints? If the company doesn’t have social media properties, try Googling the company name with the word “complaints” and see what you find.
- Search the Better Business Bureau’s website. Check out the company’s rating and whether any complaints have been filed.
You also may want to consider working with a company who’s been certified by the industry’s top associations. The American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) offers a ProMover certification. Additionally, companies may affiliate themselves with organizations such as the International Association of Movers (IAM) and the International Shippers Association (ISA). If a company has taken the time to get certified or join one of these organizations, they’re likely a legitimate company committed to professionalism.
Finally, although this might seem like a lot of work, let’s remember what’s at stake: You’re going to trust the handling and safety of your possessions to a moving company—possibly for a few hours for a local move or a few weeks, in the case of relocation. When you thoroughly research, you’ll feel secure in trusting your moving company with your most important personal possessions.
5. Ask About Insurance Options
We’ve heard recent reports from the FMSCA that some disreputable movers have told unsuspecting consumers that they don’t have to pay for insurance. Instead, all goods will be covered by the carrier’s insurance.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the full truth. The FMSCA requires all moving companies to offer two choices when it comes to protecting your move:
1. Full Replacement Value Protection
If something happens to your possessions during transit, this protection covers your items for the cost of full replacement or repair. You should be given the option to add this coverage on top of your moving quote.
2. Released Value Protection
This is minimal coverage that’s included in every move. Under Released Value Protection, your moving company assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per article. This might sound reasonable, but let’s walk through an example so you can understand the difference in coverage.
Let’s say the worst happens and your mover damages your sectional couch, which you bought for $1,200. It weighs 476 pounds in total.
Under Released Value Protection, you’d receive:
476 x $0.60 = $285.60
However, under Full Replacement Value Protection, you’d be compensated for the full replacement or repair to the couch’s original state.
Given these differences, you can see the extra layer of protection that Full Replacement Value Coverage offers. Consider your options carefully before making a final decision.
Finally, any reputable moving company should explain these plans to you. If they don’t or seem reluctant to discuss moving coverage, you might consider looking elsewhere.
6. Never Sign Blank or Incomplete Documents
In the hustle and bustle of Moving Day, it may be tempting to sign documents without reading them carefully. Incorrect documents can create serious problems, including under-valuation and under-insurance of your shipment.
Resist the temptation, and make sure you both review and understand every document you sign.
You’ll also want to watch out for requests to sign documents with blanks or incomplete information. This can give unscrupulous movers the ability to alter documents after the fact, without your knowledge.
However, there is one exception: If you’re working with a non-binding estimate, the actual weight of your shipment may be blank until the weigh-in is complete.
If you have any questions about what you’re signing, don’t hesitate to ask. A few questions up front can save you a ton of trouble down the line.
Awareness is 90% of the Battle
Unfortunately, moving scams do happen, and they hit their victims hard. After all, what’s more personal than our personal possessions? However, by using the six points above as a checklist, you’ll know exactly what to expect of your moving company. When they meet—or even exceed—these standards, you’ll know you’ve found someone who’s professional and reputable, someone who will treat your possessions with the utmost care.
Moving locally on Guam or relocating off island? We’d be happy to help! (And feel free to put us through this six-point checklist!) Just reach out to us for a quote, and we’ll send a Certified Moving Consultant to do an in-home survey. Additionally, because we own all of our own trucks and our warehouse on Guam, we can guarantee that we’ll keep your household goods safe and secure during your move.