Moving in a disUNITED Way

It’s not often I write about personal customer service fiascos, but this one is indicative of a pattern that so many people have unfortunately experienced, that I want to bring it to light. None of us should have to experience this type of service, especially when paying a high price for the delivery of the service. No one should feel completely helpless at a time as stressful as a cross country move with entrusting their belongings that have meaning to their life and their foundation.

My husband and I have been planning a cross country move for some time. We contacted Merit Moving Systems, a company we have moved locally with 3 times before, with really good service and good movers. Merit is an agent for United Van Lines. With our businesses and travel schedule, we decided to have the company both pack and move us. The sales person, came out several times and looked at everything we needed packed and everything we needed moved and gave us a price. The price was more than I ever imagined, but we had a lot of things and were moving the home and a small office, and ending up at a home and office on the other end. The date was scheduled for June 26th for the home and office to be packed, the 26th and 27th for movers to come. The Van was to leave the 27th and arrive by the 28th or 29th. Merit told me that the contract has a window until July 8th, but that timeframe for this move never happens in their experience, but is there in case the truck breaks down or a weather event happens. I was assured the truck was to leave right away.

On packing day, one person showed up. Luckily for me, I had spent a lot of my waking hours packing my own things, in my own boxes. But one person to pack 4000 square feet of well lived in space was not going to work. He called his office looking for the other packers, to no avail. He was it. In that day, he packed the kitchen. I had already packed a third of the kitchen, and I assure you I don’t pack the way they pack. I throw things in boxes, only protecting that which is breakable. He packed things like a metal measuring cup in about 20 sheets of packing paper, (see photo) a wooden spoon in 10 sheets. I assume this is how the packing costs get elevated for the materials used. It was really way overdone, and therefore less fits in boxes, and more supplies are used, which is more money. I appreciate protecting glassware, not Tupperware, and things that are not breakable.

I was concerned about how far behind they were, and asked how many would come the next day, and was told 6. The 27th, the packer came, and 2 movers. I think another came later. They needed to shuttle my belongings as we have a steep driveway, to the larger van, but the van was not staged at the bottom of my driveway, it was 10 miles away! So when a truck was filled, the movers did not return for 3 hours. On the back end of the move, they did the same procedure but staged the van at the end of the driveway and they were back in 20 minutes.

The movers just did not seem to have it together, and were not sure of what items were going to the office and which to the home, so I explained all of that again, so that all of the items going to the office were to be packed last and offloaded first. At one point I went into the kitchen to toss a piece of trash and my kitchen wastebasket was gone. I asked them where it was and they had packed it, very early in the move, and packed it in the truck full of trash and food scraps! I had them take it off the truck and remove the garbage bag. These are “professional” movers? By day 2 we were way behind. My husband and I had scheduled to drive the same time the moving van would leave, and scheduled our employee that was making the move to leave as well, to start work on July 3rd. I called Merit several times concerned that they had not provided enough people to accommodate this move. They did not seem to know why we had so few people and kept saying that the “scheduling people”, were in charge of that. We asked what time they would be there Wednesday the 28th, as we were very behind, and they said 8 am. The lone packer showed at 9:30 and the rest of the crew of 4 at past 11 am. It was the same packer, but all different crew. My husband and I stayed up the night before packing everything we could, with our own materials and packed his office and almost everything else in the house, except for the  pictures, tv’s and large items. But we cleaned out every other cupboard on the property ourselves, and the closets. This will be important later in the saga.

We had to re-explain the move, the home and office items, as these guys knew nothing about what they were doing with respect to this project. The lead person was surly and uninterested and spent much of his time texting.   I felt a lot of tension with this crew and they were not customer friendly at all. They filled the truck, and left for at least 3 hours. I was on the phone to my contact at Merit, who now was telling me the truck was NOT leaving that day, or the next, and in fact they could not tell me when it would leave, as they had no driver for it. As she had no decision making ability, I asked to speak to the people at United that did have authority and made the call. I relayed how poorly the move was going, how I had been assured the truck was going to be on its way, and now am told they don’t have a driver, and cannot give me any eta on the move. He agreed and said “it’s just a bad move, we’re sorry but there is nothing we can do, it’s all the schedulers at United Van Lines and we just relay the information”. He also said, they have window until the 8th so they can take all of that time as they choose, despite what we were told and planned for. I asked who does make the decisions, and he gave me the phone number, which was probably funny to him, as they are back East, and were closed. I got nowhere. I was wondering if this entire move was a surprise to everyone at United. One packer, half the crew needed, inexperienced and surly, no driver, no information on anything.

The crew finished packing at 9:30 at night. We decided to get a few hours’ sleep before we headed out at 4 am. While on the road I received a call from the customer service person telling me that the truck had left Thursday. I was relieved to say the least, but that was short lived. Friday I was told the truck did not actually leave and they did not know when it would but not before Monday July 3rd, the day our office opened for business, with nothing in it but our assistant who had driven all night to be there. There was no further communication from United until I called on July 3rd to check where my belongings were. We had been at our destination without our belongings for 3 days, our business unable to resume, employees on the payroll. On July 3rd, I was told the truck did leave that day, but there was no date when we would see our belongings as there was no team on the back end to deliver them, and they did not know when the van driver would arrive. On the 5th we were told the driver (for a 2 day drive) would not arrive until Thursday, the 6th, but they could not tell us when we would receive our belongings as they had no team to deliver them.

After many phone calls, and angry conversations, a team was “found” and scheduled for Saturday. My 2 weeks off was at an end and I would not have time to put anything away, but at least it would be delivered. Part 2, next week, will include the response from United as to the “bad move”.

Linda Martinelli is the first sole female franchise owner in Proforma to qualify for the Million Dollar Club and reach Multi-Million Dollar Club status. She was also Proforma’s first female development coach and in 2005, was the first female elected by her business peers to the elite Owners Advisory Council. In 2011, Linda was named one of ASI’s Top 10 Women to Watch and earned Proforma’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Award in 2012.