Its just over two weeks since everything started to fall apart with our move. This post has been brewing since then. Since I have so much to say and I have a lot of things to cover forgive me if I resort to list making in my attempt to get it all out.
First of all, couple of things to set the stage:
1) I am not usually a complainer and telling the story of what happened to us is not so much a way to complain about it but to help educate others to stay away from this particular company and/or do lots of research prior to making a move or using a moving company
2) I am also not usually one to pimp out my posts, but I ask you to share this post with everyone you know. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, link to it on your blog or email it out to everyone you know. My goal is to help people understand what is going on out there with moving companies because honestly before this happened I had NO IDEA. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what we went through!
Ok that being said, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning right? Here we go.
When you are assigned orders in the military and that results in you having to move your residence, you have some options. You can choose to have the military do everything for you or you can choose to take a lump sum payment and make all of the arrangements yourself. We chose the latter.
We tossed around the idea of using PODS or a PODS type container or hiring a moving company. From initial research (and surprisingly) the moving companies were cheaper. Paul received a few different quotes and a guy even came out to the house to check everything out in person and give us an accurate quote.
We decided to go with that particular company, however when Paul faxed back the paperwork to them he got a call from a guy at a different company. This guy had just received the paperwork that Paul had faxed. Paul had faxed it to the wrong company! So basically this guy had all of the info about our stuff and whadda ya know, he could give us a better price! We decided to go with them.
First (and probably only) mistake.
Usually I am a maniac when it comes to researching companies. In hindsight I am kicking myself for not doing that in this case. When I moved from Albuquerque to Seattle back in 2008, the experience was such a good one that I think I just mistakenly assumed that this one would be the same.
The company we signed with was Colonial Van Lines (CVL). They gave us a pickup window of 9/10-9/11 and an estimate based on all of the info they had already. They let us know that they would call us about 5 days before the pickup window to get a better idea of how many boxes we had (since we were packing ourselves) and then give us a closer estimate as to when the truck would arrive. We paid them a deposit and got busy packing.
On Thursday Sep 6th, “Matthew Sullivan” (I use quotes because we honestly don’t believe there is someone with that name who works there) called Paul back and talked to him about making sure we had a good count of boxes etc…He told Paul that we had way more boxes than originally estimated and the price would go up, but not by much. All in all, the estimate went up by about $800 or so. He needed more of a deposit so all in all we gave them a deposit of around $2500.
On Friday, Sep 7th we got a call from someone else at CVL saying that the truck would definitely be arriving on Tuesday the 11th and not on the 10th. We were originally hoping for the 10th, so we were a little stressed about this since we still needed to do a walkthrough in the house before we left town on Wednesday. However this was still in the window on the contract so we just hoped that they would get there early in the day so it would all be taken care of on that day.
Monday morning at about 8 am we received a call that was the beginning of the end. Someone named Angel called and told us that they could not get a truck to us until Wednesday. We of course told her that would NOT work at all for us based on our plans. Our pickup window on our contract was 9/10-9/11 and 9/12 was just not an option. We needed her to check and get back to us to see about getting a truck on Tuesday.
The rest of Monday we stressed and finished getting everything packed. Paul called “Matthew Sullivan” about 4 times throughout the day but he was never available. Angel called back later in the afternoon and said that they could not get us a truck on Tuesday, the earliest they could get us a truck was Wednesday. At this point we were in full on stress mode. Based on our travel plans, Wednesday just wouldn’t work. We needed to be out on Tuesday. We started to look up reviews online for CVL. As a result of that, stress levels increased dramatically.
NONE of the reviews were positive. Literally every review was one star and the comments were atrocious. Stories about them losing people stuff, making people sign agreements stating all of their items were there before even taking them out of the truck, not delivering items within the promised window (sometime 30+ days late) not giving refunds or discounts or anything really for this horrible, horrible service.
What had we gotten ourselves into?
On Tuesday morning we decided to call them back and tell them that if they couldn’t get a truck to us today we were going to be canceling our contract. We figured we could maybe call PODS or ABF to get a trailer to our house and we would just do it all ourselves. Based on what we were experiencing with them already, it might be better in the long run. We called on Tuesday morning at about 6:30am and spoke with Angel again, she said they could NOT get us a truck until Wednesday for sure. We let her know that we would cancel our contract based on that info. She cancelled and told us that we would be contacted by the “cancellation department” later that day or the next day.
We proceeded to call PODS but they couldn’t get us a container until Thursday. We called ABF and they COULD get us a container that afternoon between 12-4. They could drop off the container in our driveway, the only issue is that they couldn’t deliver to our new house, they could only deliver to one of their locations in Fontana, CA. We figured it was the best we could do so we booked it.
About two hours later, around 9am, Paul received a call from the “cancellation department”. He informed Paul that the COULD in fact (all of a sudden) get a truck to us today and if we cancelled our contract today they would keep our deposit since it was still within our pick up window. Paul asked when the truck would be there and this guy “James” said he would get the driver on the phone to call us right away. When Paul repeatedly asked him about Matthew Sullivan and if we could talk to him, James told him that Matthew Sullivan was no longer with the company. He guaranteed that he would get the truck to us and all of our stuff loaded TODAY. At this point and based on that info, we had no other real choice except to say OK.
We had to call back ABF and cancel the trailer being delivered. Ugh.
All day Tuesday, we spent taking stuff downstairs and into the garage to make whatever was going to happen easier. All day was spent in waiting mode unsure of what would would actually happen. At 3:45 pm the driver called Paul and told him that he would be at our house at 7pm that night. SEVEN pm?!?What moving company shows up to your house that late? Plus we had a farewell dinner planned that night with all our friends and family.
We called CVL back and spoke with a different lady this time. We let her know we talked to the driver and told her what he told us and that he would obviously not be able to load our house that day and that we wanted to cancel our contract. She was very agreeable and said she would cancel us and we would be contacted by the cancellation department tomorrow. Great. We thought we were finally in the clear and rid of this horrible company.
About an hour later we got a call from James again. He said that he contacted the driver and he would be at our house by 6pm, not 7 and he guaranteed that our stuff would be loaded by end of day today. Otherwise if we wanted to cancel they would keep our deposit.
We were literally handcuffed. If we decided to cancel the contract we were out the money for the deposit since it was still in the delivery window and based off of what this guy was telling us. BUT they had already told us they couldn’t get a driver to us until Wednesday and now they were saying they would get one to us but not until 6-7 pm. The window on the contract doesn’t have times (although I think a case could be made for regular business hours) so we had no choice but to just wait.
Paul called the driver back and he said he had just crossed the Oregon/Washington border. Say WHUT?!?! It was like 5pm. We knew he wouldn’t be at our house at 6 or even 7 for that matter. By now CVL offices were closed. Paul told the driver to call him when he was about 1/2 hour away.
We went to our farewell party exhausted and frustrated. At about 8:30 the driver called Paul and was lost…Paul headed out to go find him and meet him at the house, he arrived there at about 9pm.
The first thing the driver did was go over the necessary paperwork with Paul and once that was all done he told him that they were “tired” and would it be ok for them to come back at 8am? By this time we were even more handcuffed. We either say fine OR tell them they have to start loading all of our stuff into the truck at 9pm at night. Not only is that most likely not safe, it would be in violation of home owners rules about noise etc… plus who knew how long these guys had been working already. So Paul told them fine and headed back to the house we were staying at for the night.
In the morning he headed back over to our house and arrived before 8. When the driver wasn’t there by 8:15 he called him. Turns out the driver left (LEFT!)and would be back “in a few hours.”
Unbelievable. (well not really at this point)
I arrived at the house at 9 expecting to find a truck in the driveway being loaded. Instead I found Paul on the phone with CVL. We both got on the phone and told them we wanted this contract cancelled for good. The way they had been treating us so far, there was no way we wanted to hand over all of our possessions to them to do who knows what with.
This time we did not get off the phone until they put us through to the “cancellation department.” This call was one of the most frustrating calls I have ever been on. It lasted around 45 min. James again.
He kept telling us that the driver was in Tacoma and was headed back to us right then. He guaranteed us our stuff would be loaded and out of there that day. We told him he promised us that yesterday.
He told us the driver and company (CVL brokers deals, they don’t actually do any of the work) would be “reprimanded” and to “make it right” he would give me $100 off the price (which he said was 3x time normal amount). ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. I basically laughed and said “you have got to be kidding me.”
He said that since we signed papers at 9pm last night that it was fine for the driver to come back today and that he would keep our deposit. We told him that we could not believe a word he was saying after all of the lies they already told. We also told him that the driver agreed to be back to our house at 8am. Even if that could be construed as a verbal contract, it was broken by the fact that the driver left without notifying us.
He mentioned numerous time that he used to work in “contract negotiations” and that there would be no way that we would get our deposit back if we cancelled now. We explained to him how it was now Wednesday at around 9:45 am and the driver had not touched nor loaded ONE box despite being guaranteed numerous times the previous day that we would be loaded by now. We also explained that we had been in limbo for two days based on their practices and had also done the majority of the work that movers are responsible for (loading everything into the garage.)
He kept saying how he understood how frustrated we were and how this is all very stressful, but that he had the driver on his way back to us and would get us taken care of. He even offered at one point to up his generous offer of $100 off to $200.We told him we had enough. We would fight to get our deposit back…
YOU. ARE. FIRED.
Even though it was Wednesday morning and we had no other plans as a backup at that point, we both felt incredibly relieved. Who knows what might have happened to all of our stuff had we allowed them to take it. After reading the reviews online, most of the worst stuff that we saw happened to people after their stuff was picked up not before. So we consider it a blessing that we were able to cancel before they actually loaded anything.
We got busy.
- I got on the phone and bumped all of our hotel reservations by one night.
- Paul got on the phone and scheduled an ABF trailer to arrive first thing Thursday morning.
- Friends and family came to the rescue and helped us load everything up into that trailer first thing on Thursday morning. **Sidenote…the driver of the truck that showed up at 9pm said it would take them 5 hours to load everything and they had two guys. We had 5 guys and it took them 6 hours to get everything loaded. Hmmmmm…..
- On Thursday, we got everything loaded into the ABF trailer by 3:45pm and left it in our driveway and headed to Oregon at 4pm. We had planned to leave town Wednesday at 2pm. A full 26 hours later than originally planned but it seriously felt like a lifetime.
As it stands now I am going to file a letter with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General regarding CVL. I will also file a report with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.) I have filed disputes regarding the charges on our credit card for the deposits and hopefully we will get those back.
I encourage everyone who may be moving in the near future (or the not so near future) to DO YOUR RESEARCH and make sure you are using a reputable mover. There were obvious things that we missed here that could have easily been prevented with even 15 minutes of research.
Here are some links on how to find a reputable mover.
Some links to reviews of Colonial Van Lines