Whether for college admissions, potential prom dates, or alternate escape routes for bank heists, backup plans just makes good sense.
Things often don’t go the way we’d like them to, but ironically backup plans usually get overlooked when it comes to one of life’s most momentous events—moving.
It’s the morning of your big move.
One of the busiest moving days of the year.
The boxes are packed, the appliances are disconnected, and the kids are occupying themselves with the last few toys that aren’t stuffed into boxes.
The moving van and crew should be on the way.
The phone rings.
It’s your friendly move coordinator, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a problem.
The truck and crew they promised aren’t available, and worse yet, there’s no telling when they will be.
Translation—you’re on your own, and the new homeowners are planning on moving in the following day.
If your mover has cancelled, jump to this section to see your alternative moving options.
Sadly it’s an all too common occurrence, especially during peak season in the moving industry which usually lasts from the beginning of June until the end of August.
During this 3-month stretch, most moving companies have more business than they can possibly handle.
And like airlines, they overbook their schedules to ensure they’re operating at maximum efficiency—and maximum profit.
The downside is that if some customers don’t cancel their moves (which is usually the case), others will get kicked to the curb at the last minute.
And if you’re one of them, it can make an already tense and stressful situation exponentially worse.
By now you may be thinking—why not just move during non-peak season when customers are scarce and moving companies have tons of excess capacity?
It’s a great idea, but for families with kids, it’s not always feasible.
Relocating in the middle of the school year can be particularly disruptive.
Moving during the summer when schools are closed gives them time to get acclimated to their new homes, to make new friends, and start school normally like all the other children.
But those considerations might make getting stiffed on a move at the last minute more likely.
Avoiding the situation altogether is the best bet.
It’s not always possible, but thankfully there are things you can do to protect yourself.
1. Become an educated consumer
Bar none, there’s no better way to protect yourself from a last-minute cancellation than by learning everything you can about the moving business.
Consider checking out the American Moving and Storage Association’s (AMSA) website for starters.
It’s chockfull of relevant information for consumers, and don’t be shy about sharing your newfound knowledge with moving company representatives when they’re doing their pre-move walk-throughs of your home.
Moving companies are much less likely to cancel on well-informed customers.
2. Ask for a copy of each prospective mover’s cancellation policy
Words are cheap.
Most movers claim they don’t bail on unwitting customers on move day, but some do anyway.
Ask for a written copy of their policy regarding cancellations.
If they don’t have one, it might be a good idea to move on to greener pastures.
3. Go with an agent of a reputable national van line
Moving companies affiliated with large national van lines are less prone to stiff customers by pulling a no-show on move day.
As agents for corporations with vested interests in maintaining good reputations, they’re required to adhere to strict quality measures that many local companies aren’t.
Sure, there are lots of ethical high-quality independent moving companies out there as well, but if they leave you high-and-dry you’ll have less recourse.
If issues arise with an agent for a van line and their local staff members aren’t receptive to making things right, their national headquarters are just a phone call away.
4. Adjust your move dates
The last few days of the month during the peak season are the busiest days of the entire year for movers.
Schedules may be totally booked for June 30th, but on the 10th or 12th of the same month, there may still be an opening or two.
Likewise, scheduling your move for a Monday or Tuesday as opposed to Friday is a good way of ensuring your truck and crew will arrive on schedule.
5. Use an actual mover instead of a broker
Bashing moving brokers is so popular these days it’s a wonder it hasn’t become an Olympic sport.
In previous articles, we’ve established that the relationship between movers, brokers, and customers is often shrouded by smoke and mirrors, but that’s not to say that all brokers are bad.
In fact, some reputable brokers strive to service their customer’s moves just like high-end moving companies do.
But few in the business would argue that statistically speaking, it’s a fact that you’re more likely to get a move day cancellation from a broker than you are from an actual mover.
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Though the above tips will increase the chances of having a positive experience, there’s no magic pill that can take all the risk out of moving.
Even if you’ve done everything right, you may still find yourself hung out to dry.
It’s a bad spot to be in, but it won’t necessarily mean that you’re out of options.
Now let’s look at a few ways of getting yourself out of this unenviable situation once it has already happened.
1. Other Full-Service Moving Companies
For some customers, moving the contents of their home on their own just isn’t an option.
This is especially true for the elderly and established families with kids who’ve accumulated lots of ‘stuff’ over the years.
For them, their first action after a move-day cancellation should be to pick up the phone and call other area movers.
If you’ve taken heed and planned your move during the beginning or middle of the month and on a day other than Friday, you’ll have more chance of finding a company that’ll be willing to help pick up the pieces.
It’s still a longshot though, and you’ll likely pay much more than you’d originally budgeted, but it may save you from huge hassles with the new homeowner.
2. Moving Containers
Container companies are generally more flexible than their traditional moving counterparts, and they’re used to dealing with short-term service demands.
On the downside, however, they don’t provide labor, so unless you’re a recent college graduate with a futon and a few book boxes, you’ll probably have to scrounge up some help on your own.
Thankfully the number of companies like HireAHelper that provide moving labor has increased significantly in recent years.
Check out this article for an in-depth comparison of the most popular container companies.
3. Freight Companies
Freight companies are trucking firms that haul common commodities like food, paper products, and clothes.
Though they don’t typically transport household goods, some have started offering relocation services in recent years because the number of do-it-yourself moves is on the rise, and it’s a lucrative sector of the transportation industry.
And unlike full-service movers, freight companies don’t experience huge surges during the summer months and at the ends of the week.
After all, the demand for canned beans and toilet paper doesn’t change much between Monday and Friday, or June and September.
Freight companies are also generally more responsive and have more trailers than movers do, so turnaround times are quicker as well.
Again you’ll need to track down labor, but securing an empty trailer is a huge step in the right direction.
If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s this—
Leaving things to chance is a great way to set yourself for an epic headache.
Before doing anything, you’ll want to spend ample time analyzing the pros and cons of professional movers versus other services like container moving and freight companies.
If a full-service move is right for your family and you’ve been diligent and picked a reputable mover, you’ll still want to have a backup plan just in case the unthinkable happens.
It never hurts to call container and freight companies and tell them that you may hire a professional mover, but that you’d like to consider their services as well.
Tell them how much you have and when and where you’re moving.
Also ask how much lead time they typically need, and what their turnaround time is for last-minute orders.
Then when you’ve done all you can, rest assured that you’ve put yourself in a better position than nearly everyone else who’s moving when you are.