Though I’m still in the middle of the country, well, not exactly the middle anymore – now we’re in Arizona – and so the move has not finished because I still have to deal with getting a stranger’s couch out of my apartment when we arrive to San Francisco, I’ve been thinking a lot about this experience. The various other options we had. How I might have taken some precautions to make things go more smoothly.
Let’s start by saying that I’ve moved across the country (well, half-way, and back) four times, and on average for the last 16 years I’ve moved once every year. So I am, shall we say, an experienced mover. I have a packing system, it involves spreadsheets. I’ve packed my husband and I for four separate yet simultaneous moves (when I was going off to MFA school, and he was staying in Boston but moving to a smaller apartment, so some of our stuff had to go into storage at my dad’s and some at his grandmother’s) without missing a beat or a box. I am not a stranger to the complexities of moving.
The first time we moved long-distances we did it the “traditional” college-student way: we rented a truck, packed it up, drove it, and unpacked it. It was horrible. In part because the truck we had was a 12′ truck, but we only had enough stuff for a cargo van, or maybe less. In part because it was extremely expensive (as one-way moves tend to be). And in part because I’m a nervous passenger already so driving a practically-empty 12′ Penske rental truck through the Pennsylvania foothills was probably the worst possible thing we could have done.
Learning from that move, when we moved me back for a year off, my brother and my father rented an Enterprise cargo van (round-trip), came out, packed it up, and then my brother and I drove back while my father flew. It cost about the same as the first way, but was slightly better because we were in a smaller truck when I thought for sure we would plummet to our doom off the rainy Pennsylvania foothills.
So then when we moved back to Iowa, together, we tried a third way. We packed and shipped with FedEx everything that wasn’t potentially breakable. And then everything else got packed into our car (that we had bought for my husband to use for his job in Iowa) that he and a friend drove out, while I just flew out with our cat. That worked well, and was about half the cost of the truck, so that’s what we did on the way back, too.
So that was a strong contender for this move, too, seeing as how we were definitely going to have to drive the car out anyway. I also checked with some friends who’d done this previously, and got estimates on Pods, and other pod-like services. Door-to-Door was the cheapest, in case you’re curious. But when my cousin told me about the movers she had used for her grandmother’s things from Illinois to Florida, and that she was going to use them again to inherit some of our great-grandmother’s furniture I was no longer in a position to keep, I decided to get a quote from them. And the rest is history (part 1 and part 2).
In retrospect, maybe the pod-like system would have been better. Maybe it would have been worth the almost double price-tag to be in control of the packing and unpacking, to schedule the pick-up and delivery. But maybe not. Because in retrospect there are definitely some things I could have done differently to make sure that things went more smoothly.
1. Been extremely firm about the earliest possible delivery date. It’s in the contract. And I don’t know why, but in an attempt to seem flexile and undemanding as a customer I made sure to tell them that “just in case” I had a friend out there with a spare set of keys. Which they took, apparently, to mean that they could deliver things whenever they wanted.
2. Numbered all of our boxes in purple or green sharpie (a color someone else is unlikely to have) 1/40, 2/40, 3/40 etc. That way it was clear exactly how many boxes were ours, and which ones they were. And written our last name on them.
3. Bought stickers to put on all the furniture and boxes that indicated they were ours. The moving company used a sticker system, but they only had three colors: red, green, and yellow. The likelihood (and in fact actuality) that someone else on the same truck would have the same color as ours was high. If, say, I had bought or printed out hot pink nautical star stickers to put on everything, that might have resulted in us getting our, and only our, things.
4. Get everything in writing. When the manager told me it would be all right to pay by credit card on the delivery, I took her word for it. If I had her put it in writing, there would have been no negotiating.
5. Asked for emergency contact information in case we needed to reach someone while their offices were closed (like all day on Sunday, the day of our delivery). This should not be negotiable. Either they have someone who can help us on a Sunday, or the delivery can’t take place on a Sunday. End of story.
If I had done those five things, and/or if we had just gotten our things delivered on or after the day that we had on the contract as the earliest possible delivery day, then I think the whole thing would have been a breeze, and we would be singing their praises. Provided nothing got broken, which, of course, is still to be seen. Hopefully there won’t be a part 4 to this, and I can just move on with my life already.