How to get an accurate estimate and a great move

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Harry O'Brien

How to get an accurate estimate and a great move

Postby Harry O'Brien » Tue Mar 18, 2003 4:57 pm

I work for Molloy Bros. Moving and Storage, an agent for Mayflower Transit, based in Old Bethpage, N.Y. and established in 1947. All of our customers are treated fairly; as were the customers at most of the other companies I have worked for in the past. Looking at your board and reading the many horror type stories I pondered on what advice I would give a friend or relative if I were no longer in the position to personally arrange their move.
Here is the advice that I would give:

1) Stick to the Major Van Line affiliated companies The majority of unresolved problems that I have seen both on the net and on T.V. are with consumers that have chosen no name “fly by night” type companies. The major van lines are United, Mayflower, North American, Allied and Atlas. You may pay a little more with the major van line agencies, but it is worth the additional cost to go with a moving company that is accountable to their van line.

2) Make sure that you receive an “in home” estimate This is very important as an estimator will be able to point out things that you might not think of when someone is giving you a quote on the phone.

3) Make a list of what you are shipping and be sure it matches the “table of measurements” list given to you with your estimate The “table of measurements” is the check off form that the moving company salesman uses to compute you weight/cubic ft. that is the basis of your estimated cost. Make your list and if your list has more items listed on it call your moving representative
So he or she can revise your estimate and give you a more exact cost.

4) The truth about the 110% clause All of the major moving companies will unload your belongings upon payment of the estimate plus 10% on interstate orders. This does not mean that is all you have to ultimately pay and is not meant as a ceiling for which not additional monies will be owed. If you had followed step 3 the 110% should not even be an issue as your estimate will be accurate. If you are looking to scam the moving company rest assured that if you do not pay the remainder of monies due within 30 days you will be turned over to a collections agency. If you are a low life scam artist, like many of the movers listed here are also, you will most likely not pay or care about the damage to your credit rating.
Honest movers and honest customers seem to have a lot in common IMHO.

5) Go with the company that offers you the most piece of mind not the one with the lowest price. All the companies that are agents with the 5 major van lines are professional moving companies with a large investment in their companies. Although there are differences within the majors all are accountable to their parent companies and the Van line will mediate problems between customers and agency’s to a satisfactory end in most cases.

Follow these five easy steps and I think you will obtain a satisfactory experience in your move.

Nobody deserves to be mistreated and anyone who needs advice pertaining to moving feel free to contact me.

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Postby twalker » Tue Mar 18, 2003 5:22 pm

Mr. O'Brien,

Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts on this site. There is another article already available on this web site that is not only more informative to consumers, but also written from a consumer's point of view. I think that makes more sense since this is a consumer web site don't you? The article can be found here:

I don't subscribe to the idea that you can reasonably find peace of mind in your moving company in four steps, but obviously opinions vary and you are welcome to yours.

I do agree with you that price should never be the main consideration when choosing a moving company. I disagree with you about the 110% rule on the basis that it is irrelevant. If a company wants to rip a consumer off, there is no government agency or consumer group who will step in and enforce the 110% rule. Period.

As far as consumer ripping off moving companies after they paid 110% of the original quote? Maybe you can start your own web site someday.

Tim Walker

Our team is comprised solely of unpaid volunteers. If you would like to make a donation to our cause you may do so at

Harry O'Brien
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Location: New York

Postby Harry O'Brien » Tue Mar 18, 2003 5:50 pm

Thats not true Tim.
If a customer moves with United Van Lines or Mayflower they are ordered to unload after the customer pays 110% of their estimated costs. This is true even if the customer has purposely added items that they indicated would not be moved. I know this to be true as I have worked for both United and Mayflower agencys for many years and have seen it first hand.

The fly by night companies being targeted on television and the net are simply criminals that nieve people have chosen to use to save a few dollars.

I believe your site is doing a great service exposing these scam artists for what they are "criminals".

These low lifes hurt the legitamate companies almoast as much as they hurt the consumer.

I am sure you will agree there are good and bad companies in every industry. Just as there are honest and dishonest people in all walks of life.

If low price is the reason some consumers are drawn to these companies like moths to a flame, then perhaps they might save themselves the heartache and hire a u haul and move themselves.


Harry O'Brien

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Harry couldn't be more right!

Postby Tyrone » Wed Mar 19, 2003 2:27 pm

Mr O'Brien, I couldn't agree with you more, in one respect:

By far, the single approach we recommend most strongly to save money and heartache is to rent a truck and move things yourself. At the end of the day, that is the only way to guarantee that your belongings will not be held hostage.

As far as the 110% rule, all the driver has to do is claim that the shipper requested additional services at the time of delivery. Your suggestion of an in-home estimate makes sense in terms of protecting against additional physical items, but the "additional services" loophole is big enough to drive a truck through. For example, a shuttle truck...

On delivery day the driver could make up any number of things that may or may not be actually necessary, and then demand full payment or else take the load hostage. That is the crux of the problem; the extra charges are completely arbitrary and solely at the discretion of the driver, into whose pocket the extra money goes. This conflict of interest is inherently a situation that fosters "creativity" on the part of the driver as long as there continues to be a lack of consequences for his "creativity." In real life, any protection afforded by the 110% rule has been greatly exaggerated.

In other words, if there is no incentive to refrain from pickup up an extra few hundreds or thousands, then there is no reasonable reason to believe that they will refrain from tacking on the charges on moving day. The only thing that would prevent someone from doing this is sheer honesty, a commodity one finds in increasing scarcity these days.

The legal protections available to the moving company (collection, lawsuits, TAX WRITE-OFFS OF BAD DEBTS, etc.) are plentiful enough to warrant an elimination of the large loopholes that allow for hostatge loads. Let's face it, the impact of a scam customer on an honest moving company is much less, in human terms, than the impact of a scam moving company on an honest customer. A system that allows and even encourages arbitrary hostage loads is, quite simply, unwarranted, unfair, and unnecessary.


Postby AIC » Wed Mar 19, 2003 3:20 pm

I know for a fact that Mayflower will not relinquish one's goods upon payment of 110% of the estimate where the driver/agent claims that "additional services" at destination are needed.

I had a "guaranteed not to exceed" estimate of $1741.89 to move my goods from Atlanta to Chicago. On delivery day, Mayflower's agent, Century Moving & Storage of Lombard, IL, demanded the FULL amount of $2556 in cash. Century claimed that the additional $800 were to cover "additional services" (such as long carry, shuttle, stairs, "small elevator," and others) that were needed to get my goods off Mayflower's truck and into my home. Because I could not come up with the full amount demanded (about 150% of the estimate), Century took everything I owned into storage that day. Century claimed that "the owner" would "give me a break" and deliver my property in seven days if I showed up the very next day at Century and gave them more than $3900. This was supposedly a "big discount." I knew it was not.

Century/Mayflower held my goods hostage for three months, until I sued and sought a court order for my goods' return. My lawsuit is still pending.

Mayflower claims that there is, in effect, an exception to the 110% rule. (AMSA agrees.) Mayflower claims that it was proper to demand, on the spot, the full $800 in "additional services" plus the amount of my "guaranteed" estimate. And, had my estimate been "non-binding," then I would have owed $800 plus $1916.08 (in full, on the spot). That's their position. And they're sticking to it.

And no, I did not add additional items to my shipment. In fact, months after I sued, I finally got my weight ticket. It shows that the actual weight of my shipment was hundreds of pounds LESS than the estimated weight.

Harry O'Brien
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Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2003 5:18 pm
Location: New York

Postby Harry O'Brien » Wed Mar 19, 2003 4:47 pm

Let me inform you of something that you may not be aware .
As of 2002 the major 5 van lines switched to tariff 400n to effectivly address problems like aic faced. The tariff now has no provisions for long carrys, stairs or elevator charges. These are no longer being charged by the "major 5" at all.
The only charge that would be beyond the 110% and constitute as an additional service now is an auxillary service. This would be necessary if the tractor trailer that is moving you interstate has no acess to your new home and needs to be transfered to a smaller van to facilitate your delivery. I think everyone would agree that if the place that "you" choose to move into does allow acess to a standard over the road tractor trailer then of course paying for an additional service is fair to both the consumer and the moving company.

I just thought of an additional step that should be added to my list :

"Be sure to call the building manager or realty agent and make 100% sure that your residence at destination is both accessible and allowable for direct delivery by a tractor trailer(53ft). "

This way at destintation you will know in advance with neither the moving company or the customer suprised at the last minute.

Here is my stand on dishonest movers :
If a company falsifys documents to steal from a customer ,as aic claims that a company did to him, then who ever did this wrong doing should be thrown in jail like any other common criminal.

Here is my stand on the 110% rule:
If the shipper uses one of the 5 majors and follows my steps listed above the 110% rule is never even an issue. The 110% becomes an issue when the customer takes items that were not included in the original price or asks to have additional items packed. Know exactly what you are moving and know exactly what you want packed if anything. If you do this your estimate will be accurate and both you and the company you choose will have a satisfactory relationship.

AIC : You had a "not to exeed estimate" which is a binding estimate. The 110% rule does not apply on binding estimates. The mover in the case of a binding estimate may only collect the amount of the estimate exactly not 110% of it. If you have a binding estimate and request additional services such as packing or wish to ship additional items the driver must have the customer sign an addendum which changes the cost of the binding estimate. AIC if you had circumstances at destination that required additional services that applyed at that time long carrys, stairs elevators im sure everyone would agree that it "is" only fair that the person actually performing these services are compensated. If you would have notified your moving company ahead of time of these circumstances your estimate would have been 100% accurate.

That said if anyone feels they are being scamed by any moving company I will volunteer my advice anytime.

Alot of what I see here, not in AIC'S case, reminds me of when the yugo car came out in the 1980s. People were crying about buying a car that fell apart in 6 months and wondered why it wasnt dependable like their neighbors Honda.
Stick to the 5 major van lines or u-haul it yourself :wink:


Postby AIC » Wed Mar 19, 2003 5:29 pm


Why don't the van lines just automatically include the "shuttle" in every estimate and tell the shipper that if one turns out to be not necessary, the shuttle charge will be refunded?

Also, although we know the driver/agent is *supposed* to charge "tariff rate" for the shuttle, what is to prevent the driver/agent from pulling an arbitrary number out of the air for the shuttle and demand that this amount PLUS the original estimate amount must be handed over NOW or else?

And, according to your new tariff, is the driver absolutely prevented from deciding that there are "extra labor" or other "miscellaenous" charges to be tacked on?

By the way, according to Mayflower's interpretation, the 110% does NOT apply to non-binding estimates either -- all that the driver/agent at destination has to do is utter the phrase, "additional services not listed on your estimate are needed" and all bets are off. So a customer who has a non-binding estimate will have to turn over 110% of the estimate PLUS a theoretically uncapped amount in additional services. Ask Mayflower if you don't believe me.

This interpretation of the 110% rule makes no sense. With an interpretation like that, what moving company needs to defer demand for payment of the balance for 30 days? What balance would be left?

Mayflower's interpretation also violates the federal regulations and state deceptive trade practices laws. I'm not blaming you for it. It's the "leaders" of your industry that have promulgated this garbage. If you ask me, your "leaders" are going to lead the industry into a multi-state class action by the State Attorneys General. (Once Petri's bill with the state enforcement provisions are passed, that is. It's only a matter of time.)


Postby Guest » Wed Mar 19, 2003 6:07 pm

Mayflower does make their agents and drivers unload when they pay 110% on a non binding estimate. United Van Lines does as well . I know I have seen it first hand many times over the years.

On a binding estimate the driver must only collect the binded amount of the estimate and not 110% which is 10% more than the actual estimate.

In your case you had a binding estimate, according to your above post.

If you had done your homework as in finding out the vehicle restrictions on where you were moving you might not have had to pay any charges.

This is clearly spelled out in the brocures that all mayflower customers recieve.

Dont you think that the men that are moving your furniture, who are often left crippled in their old age from the vigors, deserve to be fairly compensated for doing additional services. You choose where you wanted to move to Mayflower did not make that decision for you.

Your idea of charging a shuttle on every move and removing it later would not work in todays marketplace. It would make the major moving companies initially several hundred dollars higher than their rougue competition giving less astute consumers then yourself further reason to"take a chance" on their inferior services.


Postby AIC » Wed Mar 19, 2003 6:31 pm

No one is arguing that service providers should not be compensated for their work.

This is a consumer protection issue. The 110% rule was designed to protect consumers from being surprised with extra charges at destination and getting their goods held hostage. It is not designed to protect the moving company. As you stated, the 110% rule does not cap total charges at 110% of the estimate. It caps only the amount of money the customer has to tender to get his goods released.

The intent of the rule is to provide the customer with a certain and exact amount he must tender to assure the release of his goods. The mover of course may use legal means to collect any legitimate balance (such as billing the customer or taking him to court if he doesn't pay). Holding the goods hostage, while obviously a very effective and cheap way for the mover to get the cash he believes he "deserves," is lawless. For a moving company to declare that in certain "rare" instances it may invoke some perceived exception to the 110% rule is wrong.

edward d
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Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2003 1:42 pm

Postby edward d » Wed Mar 19, 2003 10:02 pm

Hello...I know some of you have read my posts before. Many of my posts are sarcastic in nature due to my beliefs that this site is often filled with so much narrow minded thinking that I can't stand it. I have watched Mr. Walker develop a wonderful site and I do understand his concerns and have great respect for his and all the volunteer efforts that go into this site.

Now, let me post my grievance with Harry. The very thought that you are safest moving with one of the "majors" is laughable. The "majors" experience all the real life drama of any moving company regardless of the color of their trucks. Drivers that cheat, do drugs, manipulate weight tickets. Helpers that steal and carelessly damage furniture. Sales personnel that manipulate cube sheets by changing weight factors. Dispatchers that lie about truck breakdowns, etc. Just because you have an orange or green, or yellow truck does not give you sanctity. The moving industry is like a franchised restaraunt. I believe we can all say that we have all been to a bad, dirty, disgusting McDonalds. At the same time, we have also been to the most stunning McDonalds. It is not the color of the truck, but the consistent quality of the effort that the agancies management puts into training and coaching his staff. The value structure of the agancies management group will be the overriding factor in the success of your "major" van line move. Has anyone wondered why so many "major" van line agents have on-site scales? Is it possible that they manipulate weight tickets and call them certified? I've seen it happen.
Being "major" only helps you hide better as a wolf in sheeps clothing.

I am sure it shocks everyone that I am a manager of a family owned independent moving company. I know I speak loudly for every family owned mover that allowed itself to be lured in as an agent for a major van line only to have it's revenue bled dry and then lef tfor dead when you could not afford the chargebacks and being ignored by dispatch because your driver missed one pickup date. Yes, we were a Mayflower agent once upon a time. If it wasn't for being purchased by Unigroup, Mayflower would be in the dust bin. Since leaving Mayflower, my family owned business has tripled in size. We consistently outsell and outperform every major mover in our market. How?? we take great pride in our work and our thrilled to be an independent. are right. The 110% rule stinks and the majors ignore it as much as anyone.

I look forward to the replies I am sure this will generate...ggod day all.

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Postby twalker » Thu Mar 20, 2003 12:12 am


You have been known to raise some eyebrows, but I don't think that you're too far off target here unless you're thinking that other moving companies, or agents are ready to pounce on you about your post.

Let's put this into perspective. Given my bad mathematical skills, I'm also looking forward to replies, but this is what I find interesting....

By my count, there are 42 members on the American Moving and Storage Association's board (the AMSA). Of those members, 29% belong to Unigroup who owns United and Mayflower. Another 12% belong to Allied, and 7% belong to Atlas. Bekins and North American get another 10% of the vote.

So to wrap up where the interests lie at the AMSA, 58% of the votes on the board of directors go to the majors, and that's not counting some other 'big players' such as Paul Arpin, Red Ball, Graebel, and more.

What I cannot tell you is:

1) How many of the hundreds of AMSA members are agents of the majors, and how many are mom & pop operations, or even regional operations.

2) What percentage of the AMSA's funding comes from the major's agents and how much comes from mom & pop, and regional operators.

What I can tell you is that it doesn't matter. Unigroup members will vote for their own interests, just like Allied members will vote for their own (similar) interests. What matters is that the consumers, the mom & pop operations, and the regional operators don't have a reasonable voice at the AMSA so don't expect them to cover your back.

Now, before I get a call from Joe Harrison... this isn't an attack on the AMSA, and I'm not accusing the majority voters of running scam operations. I'm just counting votes here.

Tim Walker

consumer advocate

AMSA dues money

Postby consumer advocate » Thu Mar 20, 2003 7:42 am

another interesting statistic would be what percentage of AMSA members' dues money goes to lobbying Congress against regulation of the industry.

Harry O'Brien
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Location: New York

Postby Harry O'Brien » Thu Mar 20, 2003 10:07 am

Edward , I did not mean to say that all independents were scam artists there are exceptions to every rule. There are a handful of independents that I can think of that are fine movers, but it is difficult for the average consumer to tell the good from the bad unless they were reccomended by someone to a company like yours.
The analogy of good and bad McDonalds resturants was a good one. However you would be better off going with the worst van line agency company then any of the criminal type independent companies. If someone goes with any of the "major" van lines and has a "legitimate" problem with an agency the Van Line themselves will mediate it to satisfactory outcome for the consumer. The Van Lines themselves side with the consumer 99.9% of the time even if their complaint is not valid.

I have met and worked with over the years both United Van Lines and Mayflower Transit agents. What I have encounted is people that seek to provide a quality service and are dedicated to stay in the moving business despite diminishing profits and rougue competition.

Regarding the 110% rule : I would say less than 50% of people pay their balances after paying the 110% to facilitate delivery. Thats the real scam and its againest companies who these criminal shippers,not at all unlike fly by night criminal movers, who have no intention of ever paying the balance owed.

I hope people moving follow my steps and advice if they do their estimate will be accurate and the 110% will not even be an issue.

The ideal is 100% of the estimate not 110%.

Make a list of everything that you are moving and be sure that list matchs the list that was provided by your estimator.

If it does your estimate will be accurate.
If it doesnt and you do not notify the moving company of the additions than you only have yourself to blame.

Of course this will only work with a legitimate company, Atlas , Allied, United, Mayflower, North American or a highly reccomended independent.

Best of luck to everyone moving I will help anyone even if you were foolish enough not to follow my advice.

Feel free to contact me


Postby AIC » Thu Mar 20, 2003 11:51 am

Edward D : Thanks for your input. You've continued to come back with your postings and speak your piece despite a sometimes unfriendly environment. Gotta respect that.

Harry: Again, the purpose of the 110% rule is to protect consumers, not the moving company. It does not matter who was "at fault" for the surprise charges. If your argument is that "Some shippers cheat the van line and we know those shippers won't pay the balance after we release their goods upon payment of 110%, so that's why the van line is justified in breaking the 110% rule now and then" -- you are way off base.

Regarding your statement that "The Van Lines will side the the consumer in 99.9% of the time" -- I would be interested in some data (Annual Performance Report, maybe?) -- to back up this extravagant claim. I simply don't believe it.

Harry O'Brien
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2003 5:18 pm
Location: New York

Postby Harry O'Brien » Thu Mar 20, 2003 12:11 pm


I don't think you understand my position.
My position is that if the customer wants an accurate quote, when dealing with a legitimate mover, then that said customer needs to provide accurate information as to what they would like to ship and what the delivery conditions are at destination on an interstate move.

By your own admission you had a "Not to exceed" binding estimate.
On this type of estimate the 110% does not apply and the van line is only supposed to collect the exact amount of the estimate, unless "you" change the conditions of the contract as you did by not choosing to move to a development that allows acess for an interstate tractor trailer.

One phone call to the building manager by you asking this question you would have known this upfront and the moving company and driver would not have had this surprise.

The key my friends to a trouble free move is to select a name brand company and provide that company with accurate information.

If you fail to do this no company proving any type of service will satisfy you.

It makes me think of the quote written about computers:

" Garbage in - Garbage out"

in other words

"Provide accurate information as to what you are shipping , want professionally packed and your destination conditions and you will have an accurate quote very close to 100% of your estimate."

Next time you move AIC follow this and I know you will have a better exp.

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