Like their counterparts in the civilian world, military families on the move are no strangers to spotty service and late deliveries.
Some service issues are unavoidable, but when household goods show up days or weeks after members arrive at their new duty stations, otherwise smooth moves can become epic hassles.
Recently, however, clever Army wife Valerie McNulty came up with a simple solution to track her family’s belongings.
According to Military Times, the family experienced frustrating delays on a recent move from Colorado to New York.
But rather than crossing her fingers and hoping for the best, Valerie McNulty took matters into her own hands by placing an Apple AirTag inside a box of toys.
As it turns out, the inexpensive little tracking device helped avert what might have been yet another moving debacle.
What’s an Apple AirTag?
Introduced less than a year ago, AirTags was designed to track commonly lost items like wallets, keys, and suitcases.
AirTags are just 1.25 inches in diameter, ⅓ of an inch thick, and they’re powered by tiny batteries that generally last about a year.
When an item with an AirTag goes AWOL, finding it can be as easy as using Apple’s Find My app on a cell phone, tablet, or laptop.
Priced at around $30, AirTags are perfect for tracking household goods shipments.
In the aforementioned Military Times article, Mrs. McNulty said that she and her family generally had positive experiences on previous moves.
However the delivery dates came and went on their most recent relocation, and their household goods were nowhere to be found.
After reaching out to her move coordinator, she was informed that delivery would be made the following day.
But using Apple’s app, she determined that at that very moment her items were just a few hours away in neighboring New Jersey.
Intent on getting her “stuff” sooner rather than later, Mrs. McNulty called the driver, but he told her that he would not be able to deliver her items the next day.
Worse yet, when she informed him that she knew where he was, he hung up on her.
Yeah, sounds like somebody needs a little “sensitivity training.”
Mrs. McNulty called the company again, but this time they claimed that they didn’t know where the driver was.
Which, you guessed it, is nonsense.
They almost certainly knew (or could have found out) exactly where he was, because all commercial vehicles are legally required to carry electronic logging devices to comply with Hours of Service regulations, and without exception, these units can be tracked using GPS.
The family’s household goods were delivered shortly there after, but had Mrs. McNulty not been proactive, things could have turned out differently.
In the interview with Military Times, she said –
“I hope other military families hear our story and they, too, add AirTags to their HHG.’
Talk about great advice.
Apple AirTag alternatives
Not everyone has (or likes) Apple products.
Thankfully, the following tracking devices work well for that intent on keeping an “eye” on their household goods shipments while they’re in transit.
Samsung Galaxy SmartTag
As a reliable Bluetooth tracker, the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag is a great AirTag alternative for folks who already use Samsung phones.
Accuracy & range – about 400 feet
Galaxy SmartTag price on Amazon – about $28
One of the Tile Pro’s standout features is that it’s a cross-platform device, which means it works on both Apple and Android devices.
Accuracy & range – about 400 feet
Tile Pro price on Amazon – about $35
Competitive pricing, cross-platform operation, abundant features, and longer-than-average battery life make the Chipolo One tracker an all-around great value.
Accuracy & range – about 200 feet
Chipolo One price on Amazon – about $28
Among the smallest of all trackers, the Cube Shadow has a rechargeable battery and is far more weather and water-resistant than many of its competitors. In fact, Cube Shadows can survive immersion in three feet of water for approximately 30 minutes.
Range & accuracy – about 200 feet
Cube Shadow price on Amazon – about $31
Tracking devices – inexpensive ways to protect your family’s possessions
Sadly, headlines like this one from Oregon are making state and national news with increasing frequency.
In this case, a rogue moving company booked moves and took customer’s money but never delivered their household goods.
Instead, they dumped them in a rundown warehouse where they might have stayed forever, had police not caught a break when one of the customers took a number of incriminating photos while engaging in a little covert surveillance.
In the end, detectives identified a number of additional victims, all of whom were eventually reunited with household goods that’d been missing for months.
Don’t be the victim of a moving scam
Unfortunately, the perpetrators are long gone and probably untraceable.
The police aren’t optimistic about making any arrests, so hopefully, some day karma will catch up with these scoundrels.
But justice aside, things could have been a lot worse.
The truth is that these families may never have gotten their items back, or it could’ve taken years before they were located.
Either way, stories like these highlight the importance of conducting your own background checks to find reputable moving companies.
In addition, had even one of these families used a tracking device, they may have known where their household goods were all along.
Rogue movers prefer to stay in the shadows
The last thing rogue movers want is for customers to know where their household goods are.
The takeaway here is that it may be worth telling prospective movers that you plan on placing at least one tracking device in your shipment.
After all, if they don’t know it’s there, it’s “business as usual.”
To legitimate movers that take providing top-notch service seriously, this shouldn’t be an issue.
On the other hand, the mere mention of tracking devices will almost certainly elicit inappropriately and telling responses from less than reputable movers.
Though it’s just a guess, once confronted with the prospect of being “tracked,” most shady movers will probably come up with 101 reasons why they can’t move you.
If so, count your lucky stars, because chances are you just avoided a potentially gut-wrenching situation.
The pros and cons of using tracking devices
Since tracking devices are small, inexpensive, and capable of locating missing items within a few hundred feet, there’s no reason not to use at least one when moving.
On the downside, don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security.
At the end of the day, nothing – not even tracking devices – can take the place of doing your due diligence and insisting on working with a reputable and experienced moving company.
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