Hi Caitlin, coincidence of timing, I just wrote up a really long (sorry) moving report that I hope will be helpful to you in making your decision.
And for anyone with questions, please do feel free to PM me with any questions, I get emailed when that happens, and am happy to answer wherever possible.
Bottom line for anyone who doesn't want to read through all of this, I do not recommend Suddath. We don't have our stuff yet, and are 'negotiating' (when they can bother to return our calls or emails) over some final charges added on after a final bill, which was the last straw in a pretty stressful and unpleasant move.
I’d like to post an update on our moving experience with Suddath. Just for reference, our items were collected on July 16 by McCollister’s, the local agent. Their team was on time, very professional, and very quick. As we don’t have our goods yet we don’t know whether anything was damaged or broken, but it seemed like they were doing a good job and I would certainly recommend them to others in Chicago.
We picked Suddath because they have a good reputation here and Michael Renzella was extremely helpful, knowledgeable and patient. He answered all of our questions quickly and really seemed experienced with this kind of move. Of course, once the contract is signed, you’re then working with other people, which I guess is one of the challenges of selecting a company based on their sales staff.
Problems with Suddath began before the pickup. I know many people just sign insurance documents without reading all the fine print, but we don’t. Unfortunately, the insurance document that was sent was incomprehensible-- it appeared to be stitched up from multiple other contracts (as could been seen in the repeated numbering), and was a hard to read photocopy with some text missing.
When we sent our moving coordinator specific questions about this document in an effort to make some sense of it, we received irrelevant replies that did not address the questions. We pointed this out, and received further incorrect replies, before we were finally able to speak to someone who was actually familiar with the document that had been sent out. Which took almost two weeks of international calls and emails.
Despite having raised these points two weeks before the move, we still had problems with the insurance, which weren’t actually resolved until we were finally able to reach our move coordinator after repeated calls (within normal business hours) and emails on the morning of the move. This was really stressful, to be honest, and totally unnecessary since it would have been answered with one single returned call on the day before.
When we signed the contract, we were told (in writing, on email) that "our next Groupage should be leaving end of July which would put your delivery around the 1st to 2nd week of September." Anecdotally, we were told this was a common shipment line and usually took 6 weeks or so.
The signed contract had an estimate of 5-11 weeks. On August 4th, our moving coordinator told us that: "your goods are scheduled to sail on Aug. 21st 2011 and are estimated to arrive on Sept. 5th 2011." So we lost a month from the original quote, but figured it was fair enough, that would have worked perfectly for us.
We emailed our move coordinator on August 30th to check that the ship was still scheduled to dock on the 5th. We had communicated several times by email between the 21st and the 30th, and she had not mentioned any difficulties. On the 31st she replied saying that: "The steamship line advised that the manifest was over-logged and that this shipment would not make it on that vessel. " (AKA—“your stuff missed the boat”)
When we spoke to her by phone it transpired that she had only discovered this because we had pressed the point; I was left with the impression that had I not contacted her we would not have found this out for another week or more. Also at this point, she mentioned that she was changing departments soon and was handing us over to her supervisor. As we were literally flying to the UK that day, we really wanted to speak to this person just to check in. We called a number of times and never once got a call back, which was pretty unbelievable.
He did email once during the day to say: "I am very sorry you were not notified about the vessel scheduled in time and rest assure that we are working together with the steamship line to secure room in the next vessel available. We estimated the transit time to be between 5 to 11 weeks and we did not guarantee the transit time as we are subject to change to the steamship line discretion."
They didn’t manage to get us onto another boat until September 18, 4 weeks after the original sailing. And the supervisor couldn’t bother to phone us back once to answer our questions.
Now we’re in the fun situation of dealing with final charges. After our items were collected, we emailed the move coordinator when we would know the final charges would be. On July 21st, she replied saying: "We are just waiting for the UK agent to re-confirm her final charges and we will let you know as soon as we have that." On July 26th, she sent an email "I have looked over your final paperwork and I have the final charges for you on your shipment. "
So, at this point she had re-confirmed the final charges with the UK agent, looked at our final paperwork and given us the final charges. She confirmed on the phone on August 31st that these were our final charges. Nowhere in any of these emails is there any mention of any exclusions or further charges; neither is there any itemization of charges that would have made it possible for me to deduce that there were any errors in her calculations.
And now the local agent is asking for £50 because we’re on the 3rd floor. I don’t blame the local agent at all, this is perfectly normal and they had nothing to do with this. What I resent is that our move coordinator was supposed to have figured out all the final charges from the local agent, and indeed assured us that it was the absolute final bill unless something went wrong at Customs and items needed to be stored there for an unusually long time. We paid the bill immediately without question, even though it wasn’t written up or itimized at all. And now they want more money, which seems like classic fly-by-night mover behaviour, which wasn’t what I expected from a name brand like Suddath.
I have to say that I have been overall very disappointed with Suddath. They were pretty much dead in the middle on costs, and we picked them based on positive reviews here and so basically so we didn’t have to spend a ton of time worrying and chasing things up ourselves. Instead, we really have had to do a lot of work that shouldn’t have been required. It totally blows my mind that our ‘dedicated moving coordinator’ literally didn’t know our stuff had missed the boat until we explicitly asked about it a week after it was supposed to have sailed. She wasn’t helpful at all and caused a lot of stress because she didn’t return calls or emails, and didn’t understand a lot of things.
The most frustrating thing was the lack of communication. We would have to email or phone repeatedly to get even a simple answer. We both work full time, so this was a burden neither of us really needed. A pretty large percentage of the time, when we did get an answer, it was incorrect or referring to someone else’s move. Even when we elevated it from our move coordinator to her supervisor, it was just as bad if not worse. It doesn’t take a lot of time to return a phone call, and it would have saved us a ton of anxiety.
Maybe it was just bad luck that we got a dud coordinator, since I get the sense she’s been moved along to a different area. However, at the moment, I do not think that Suddath should be a MovingScam recommended international mover. They did not meet our expectations, they did not offer good customer service, and we still don’t have our stuff and it’s now October. I’ve moved a lot over the last five years, and this site has been an absolute godsend. I’ve had 3 really good cross-country or international moves in that period, and this has been a really stressful process. I wouldn’t recommend Suddath to a friend, and I wouldn’t recommend them here.