When A Moving Company Uses A Subcontractor

| January 24, 2012 | 29 Comments

The use of subcontractors in the moving industry is a complex issue and to be honest, one could probably write an entire book just on the subject of subcontractors, brokers and agents. For those of you who are seeking a quick answer, read the first paragraph in this blog. If you want to learn more, read on.

When you hire a moving company, you are basically asking someone to do something for you that you are unable or have no desire to do. You are asking them to transport your household goods.  Just like when you are really busy and you ask someone to help you, most of the time all goes well but sometimes it doesn’t. Everyone has heard or used the saying,” I should have just done it myself”.  However, what if you ask someone to do something for you; and they say OK, but then ask a third person to do it. Now it can become really confusing! In my opinion, communication can really start to break down as more and more people get involved. If you are moving, DEFINITELY ask the moving company if they use subcontractors. By the way, verify that you are speaking to a moving company that has their own trucks and not a broker or agent because they most likely will be using subcontractors. If you are planning on using a certain moving company and they do use subcontractors:  (1) Find out why they are hiring subcontractors to do the job. Is it because there is a specialty service involved, for example, satellite dish removal, transporting a front load washer, plasma or LED TV, piano or chandelier? Or is a storage facility needed? Is it because of the location where you are moving to? (2) Ask for the subcontractor’s information and then do your own screening on the company. See my previous blog post on “Screening a moving company at www.slickmove.net) 3) Finally, find out what level of protection they offer to protect your household goods (insurance) , how payment will be made and what your drop off window is. You should be able to have all of this information in writing prior to the move.

The first time that I had an experience with a subcontractor was when I was living in south Texas (Rio Grande Valley) and I had to relocate to New York. I called a moving company who had their own trucks and I expected them to show up.  When a totally different moving company showed up, I was surprised but it was too late to argue, because it was moving day. It is my belief that because we were so “out of the way”, a subcontractor was sent to pick up our goods. So, if you are going to or moving from a remote area, definitely, investigate the moving company that you choose.  If you have a subcontractor that is experienced and wants to please their customers you should have no problems. However, if you have a non-experienced subcontractor it could be unfortunate for you.  A quality moving company that wants to get a lot of repeat business and referrals will most likely use quality subcontractors and monitor their work. A quality moving company will want to please the client and will work hard to arrive during the beginning or middle of the “drop off window”. A subcontractor who may be less concerned about his reputation or his job may not strive to please. For example, in the contract, it may state that the movers have 3 to 20 days to deliver your items. A concerned moving company may hustle to get your items to you as quickly as they can. A subcontractor may be less concerned and it may arrive on the latter end of the window.  If you have never moved, you may not even understand the importance of being in an empty home without any of your possessions and waiting and hoping that the items arrive on time or possible early. This is exactly what happened to us. Our household goods took 17 days to arrive in New York. We were there in 3 days so that left us in an empty apartment for 15 days with nothing but the items we brought in the car.  Believe me, it’s not fun being in an empty place, without any of your possessions for that long. You might think, “What’s the big deal, I am a camper and I can “rough” it for a couple weeks”. You need to really think about it. This means going out to eat because you have no cookware or buying paper plates and cups and eating simplified. You may or may not have a microwave. You may be sleeping on the floor and have to buy blankets, an air mattress and or pillows. If you must report to work, you may have to buy clothes and if the weather is colder than where you are coming from you may have to buy warm clothes.  You may need personal care items, etc. It is not only uncomfortable but it is very costly. When we complained, we were told that our window was 20 days and it was in the contract. I guess it was, but we never assumed that it would actually take that long. Our previous move had been very timely. Remember that when you move, you may also  be encountering the costs of a security deposit and first month’s rent, storage fees, closing costs and court costs, car registration, inspection, emissions, and a repurchase of a lot of little items that you did not put on the moving truck such as cleaning supplies and perishable food. It all adds up very quickly.

Your chances of having a subcontractor transport your items increases when you move during the busy season, Professional, quality moving companies know that when your household items are on a large moving van with several other customers’ items, there is a great need to keep these items separated. People who are doing their own packing and have never moved may not realize this and they might use small boxes and have a lot of “loose” items such as shovels, skis, surf boards, small furniture, etc. Small items can easily “shift” when a large moving van stops quickly or makes a sharp turn leaving your item way at the front of the truck or vice versa. Upon picking up your household goods, a quality mover will recognize small and loose items right away and have extra boxes on hand to put small items in to protect them. An inexperienced moving company may not carry extra boxes or may not be concerned which will result in you losing some of your possessions. Color coding items is a way that movers keep items together on a truck but this only works well if the mover goes over the list and counts all of the delivered
items after the drop off. An inexperienced mover may not want to take the time to do this. Yes, you may have all green tagged items sitting in front of you but do you have the green tagged item that shifted all the way to the front of the truck when the driver had to slam on the brakes? Taking inventory after drop off is seriously important so don’t allow the driver to leave until you check for all of your goods and he signs for the goods received. If an item is damaged in transit or missing, a notation must be made on the bill of lading on the receiving end. The bill of lading is your only legal instrument on which to make these notes that will stand up in court should you need to make a claim for missing items or damage during handling or transit.

Another important issue to consider when a subcontractor is used is how payment will be made. Many of us are so used to the convenience of using a charge card. A subcontractor may only accept cash or a certified check. If you are caught off guard by this and do not have cash or a certified check when the subcontractor arrives with your household goods, they most likely will not unload them. Your shipment will be taken to a storage facility until you can pay in cash and you will be charged extra for this as well. It is important to agree in writing about payment terms with any moving company prior to using them.

Lastly, brokers, agents or small local moving companies who may be affiliated with a large van line company, which makes them appear like a reliable choice, may present some problems. When you schedule a move through an organization like this, they will have to pay a fee to the large van line company for your move. In some cases, to avoid the fee, they may skip registering your move and they may use a totally different moving company (a subcontractor). At this point the broker or agent is placing this move on their own authority and they may be under-insured or not have the proper insurance to cover the cost of an accident.  The subcontractor may be uninsured as well. If the truck is involved in an accident with your household goods on board and they do not have proper insurance, it could be very costly for you. This is a case of a “loose” agent relationship, having much less structure than a franchise – for example.

A final “tip” for you is to move Monday through Thursday when movers are not as busy, and if possible, move in the “off season” (October through March) for the same reason.

Be Prepared For Your Journey.

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I want to thank my friends at South Hills Movers who provided some input for this article!

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Filed Under: Moving Tips


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