There’s a dark side to every business. Sure, there are laws and regulations, and good business practices. But they don’t seem to be much help these days. And sometimes, when you get scammed, there’s nothing the law can do about it. The moving business is no exception. This guide will help you avoid these mistakes, by helping you investigate a moving company. This way, you can be sure that no one will take your money or your possessions unlawfully. There are several steps you can take, and they will help you avoid a trap.
1. Talk to your friends
Let’s say you have a friend you’ve been in touch with, even after he or she moved to a different location. Maybe some of your friends have moved into the neighborhood from some other place. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that they both have a recommendation to give to you. They both used companies, and it may have been a great experience.
2. Search for a company online
Most businesses, including moving, have an online presence. The age we live in is called the Information Age for a reason. You can use the best of it to your advantage. You need to look at advertisements in your area, both on a local and regional level, in order to answer some of the following questions:
- What are the names of nearby companies that offer their services?
- What services does each of them offer?
- How much do they charge?
- What kind of deposits do they require? A small fee, maybe? On a percentile basis?
You may come across an oddity. For example, the services may be all too cheap in comparison to the rest of the offers. According to American Movers and Storage Association, the average cost of an intrastate move is about $2,300 (4 movers at $200 per hour). Remember, this is an average, and there are many companies. So, a $175 per hour shouldn’t be a red flag, however, $75 or $50 per hour should raise some issues. Of course, the price depends on whether you’re moving interstate or to another state.
2. When trying to investigate a moving company, mind the deposit
Here’s a big one. The price is okay, but the deposit is just too large? This already raises some red flags. If the deposit is obscenely large, that’s probably a no-no. Many companies ask for large deposits because they don’t intend to give it back for whatever reason. They may be using those large fees to pay off sub-contractors. If they are using subcontractors, beware! These are not reputable companies. Speaking of which…
3. Mind the DOT number
The DOT or USDOT number is a registration number all moving companies should have. In other words, if a company doesn’t have it, that’s a massive red flag. The US Department of Transportation (hence, DOT) issues this number to all US movers. When you investigate a moving company, always check if they have one. If they don’t, do not enter into a contract with them. They are operating outside the law! If you come into contact with them and ask their DOT number, the employee should give it away immediately. If he doesn’t, the deal’s off. Be sure to check the DOT database.
4. Check the user experiences
This, of course, doesn’t mean (only) your friends, associates, and family. You should check if the moving company has any good business reviews. There are several suspicions to watch out for:
- The company doesn’t have any reviews. This, could, of course, mean that the company has recently started. This is an information you should check. If they started their business several months ago, not having any reviews isn’t necessarily a red flag. However, if they’ve been in business for the past 10 years, without a business review, there’s something suspicious going on there.
- The company has only positive reviews. Those are probably bots, that is, company employees engaging in an act of shameless self-promotion. Of course, this is a marketing strategy, that should give a dishonest business away. These reviews often praise the company in all possible ways, however, keep in mind that positive reviews could just be a sign of an excellent business practice.
- The company has negative reviews only. This is self-explanatory, and you should stay away from such a company at all times.
5. Get everything in writing
Fraudulent companies use things like additional fees and hidden costs to get you to pay more than your fair share. For example, heavy stuff, such as furniture, may cost more to carry upstairs or downstairs. This, of course, might not be on the contract. If the contract itself is incomplete, do not sign it. If they ask you to sign a blank document, do not sign it. You will, for sure, have a hard time proving in court that you actually signed a blank document. If you are unsure about the wording of your document, contact your local attorney. For example, a sentence with two or more meanings on the contract should arouse your suspicion.
6. Finally, check out the Better Business Bureau
Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a nonprofit organization that helps you find out who you’re dealing with. Their search engine is a very good tool that will help you investigate a moving company beforehand. They offer ratings, an option to file complains, and accreditation for businesses. You can search businesses by name or by area, which is truly helpful. If you cannot find investigate a moving company through BBB, it is likely, though not exactly guaranteed, that they operate outside the law. BBB will also give you details like:
- Type of company;
- Ownership structure;
- Date of foundation;
- Business category;
- Alternate business names;
- Contact information (phone number and link to website).
All things considered, if you find some red flags during your research, you shouldn’t automatically do away with the company. It could be a simple mistake. For example, if you don’t find them through BBB, it could be because they started operating only recently. But you should always investigate further to make sure you don’t part ways with your hard-earned money.