My family just moved from Pennsylvania to Texas, and we employed a professional moving company to load, drive and unload the 18-wheel truck. In the course of doing so, we learned 7 secrets of highly effective moving absolutely essential to your next move — secrets the pros don’t want you to know!
I should probably make a DVD about this and sell it to you, rather than just give away this valuable information. However, since you’re someone I don’t know at all, and because making a DVD is hard and takes too long, I decided to share these secrets with you for FREE. (Read that last sentence again! It might contain a typo. I wrote this quickly and didn’t proofread before posting.)
1. Don’t Get a Professional Estimate.
You may have read elsewhere that you should get a pro estimate, and then sign a contract with a company that will stick to the estimate. Only the latter is important. The key to an affordable move is to get the least experienced estimator to visit your home and make a bid on the job. Call a reputable mover, and ask for a guy who shaves weekly, drives a field-beater with floorboards covered in discarded “5-Hour Energy” bottles, and who voted for Obama (or meant to).In our case, the rookie guessed the total weight of our household goods at 12,000 lbs. On moving day, the men who actually loaded the 53-foot-long truck discovered that we had a full-scale replica of the Space Shuttle in our basement, our mattresses were filled with clay, and one of the boxes in my office was marked “Dark Matter.” The jittery juvenile estimator also failed to examine the contents of our fallout shelter/survival bunker, missing all the ammo boxes, gold bullion, barrels of freeze-dried food, and steel drums of non-hybrid yam seeds. The actual weight of the load turned out to be greater than the estimate by roughly 473%. But the invoice, as promised, matched the estimate. The moving company has since filed for Chapter 11 protection.
2. Don’t Label Anything “Fragile”My lovely bride actually designed and printed “Fragile” labels which she adhered to all nine sides of each box. In addition, she drained a gross of Sharpie markers writing “Fragile” on every single container, except for the two shoeboxes of rocks. The latter she labeled “ROCKS.” My son’s rock collection came through the move unscathed. The same cannot be said of all of the items in “Fragile” boxes. So, when you pack boxes with antique china, glassware and ceramic figurines, handed down in your family through generations, it’s best to label the box “Rocks.”
3. Earth Gravity Is Not a Constant, It’s a Choice.To reduce potential damage to heirlooms, my bride took the extra measure of drawing arrows to indicate which side of the box should face upward, adding the word “up” next to each arrow, out of an abundance of caution. While this may seem like a simple matter of obeying the law of gravity, apparently the science is not settled. A vigorous debate rages in the moving industry about which way is up, and the precise meaning of the ancient rune known as the “up arrow.” As a result of our ignorance of the evolving views within the profession, we accidentally drew some sideways arrows, and even a few down arrows. The latter were accompanied with the word “dn” — apparently an SMS abbreviation for “down.”
4. Let It Go.
One of the most liberating aspects of moving with professionals is the Zen-like state of non-attachment one can attain by meditating on the muscular persons who are manhandling one’s china cabinet through a narrow doorway, then using it as a deck for the riding lawn mower. Watching every single thing you worked for and own vanish in the hands of utter strangers also sets you free from the sense that you control your destiny, or that you’re bound to inanimate objects that are merely material instantiations of Platonic ideals.
5. Don’t Label Boxes to Match Rooms
Our inexperience really showed on this one. In Pennsylvania, we wrote the names of rooms — Kitchen, LR, MBR, Zac’s Rm, etc. — on each box, and then when we arrived at our new home in Texas, we fastened signs to each room which corresponded to the box labels. When the movers arrived, all they had to do was put a box marked “Zac’s Rm” in the room marked “Zac’s Rm.”
This caused all manner of confusion.
On unloading day, I wandered into Zac’s room and found several boxes marked “Haleigh’s Rm.” I brought this oversight to the attention of one of the four moving professionals. At first, he indicated that if he had to “stage” the room again it would derail their logistical strategy — or words to that effect. But then he politely indicated he would put the items in the proper room. Later, I entered Jonah’s room to find the aforementioned boxes of Haleigh’s stuff. Acknowledging my mistake, I simply moved them down the hall to the room marked “Haleigh’s Rm.” There, I discovered attractive, colorful Haleigh items intermingled with steampunkish, utilitarian “Scott’s Office” items.
So, the secret is to mix-and-match room labels and box labels indiscriminately, or to forgo labeling altogether to make sure you don’t interfere with the pro movers’ logistical strategy.
6. Reading Is Fundamental, But Not Universal
It didn’t occur to us until late afternoon in Texas that the unloaders might actually be at best illiterate, and at worst hostile. The matter of the directional arrows and labels should have been a clue. I blame myself. After all, we hired professional movers not English literature majors.
A bit of empathy is in order. As the day wore on, and the moving truck took on the aspect of a circus clown car with its continual disgorging, all of that reading and hoisting started to wear on the professionals. They began to subtly question our need for “all of this stuff,” and for proper placement of it. They utterly abandoned niceties like the assemblage of beds and other unbolted items. Honestly, I don’t think they wanted to physically smite my wife. Her husband, though, was a different matter.
Tread lightly as the sunlight wanes. Offer a kind word, or simply hide in the backyard until they’re done. A trip to the ER saved, is $2,500 earned.
7. Always Tip the Loaders and Driver. Tip the Unloaders Only in Self-Defense
Even though professional movers are paid a livable wage, it’s common courtesy to tip the driver and the loaders $20-$40 at day’s end to thank them for a job well done, and to increase the odds that the full load will actually arrive at your new home.
Tipping the unloaders, however, should be done only if they won’t leave your house otherwise, or if they hint at gunplay or similar shenanigans. You might lure them outside with offers of bottled water and cigarettes, then claim to hear an oven timer and retreat to your home, feverishly bolting the door and drawing the blinds.
If, on the other hand, the unloaders start talking about a gratuity in the morning, before they open the truck, just pay them. A good rule of thumb in this case is … all of the cash you have on hand, along with any loose gems.