Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seattle

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rwreynard
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:01 pm

Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seattle

Postby rwreynard » Wed Nov 16, 2005 12:45 am

My move started back in August but even now into November it's still not over.

I did lots of research (mostly here - it is a great resource) and thought I did all the right things (got a GNTE quote and everything) so I really thought I had it all figured out. I chose University & Atlas because they came so highly recommended. I'm really bitterly regretting that decision now.

I want to say right off the bat that University (Van Lines) was not the problem. The problem is you have NO CONTROL over which agent actually trucks your stuff cross country. I kind of assumed they'd be good and that I didn't have anything to worry about but they were extremely poor.

I had a bunch of stuff broken, property damage, it was just miserable. I still have one extremely valuable and personal box of belongings missing.

I just didn't realize how much of the move was out of my hands.

I moved with Allied before and it was fine. I moved my MC from NYC to Seattle with Allied and it was fine. My household move with Atlas continues to be atrocious.

Could it happen to anyone with any of the major vanlines? Sure. All I know is I've had 2 good experiences with Allied and a lousy one with Atlas so next time I know who I'm going with (though if I'm really smart I'll sell everything and move myself!!).

Just don't kid yourself that if you do all the 'right things' the move will go smoothly... especially if you're city to city and need shuttles... every time your stuff is on and off a truck there's a chance it'll get broken. And even the top guys hire day labor to help them load and deliver your stuff. How good is the day labor??? Er... guess.

Be realistic and hope for the best... but if you have delicate, precious stuff do yourself a HUGE favor and move it yourself.

Rachel

Diane
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Location: Los Angeles

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby Diane » Wed Nov 16, 2005 11:11 am

Good advice. I agree that it's best to move yourself in a rental van if you can. Then you will have control of your whole move and if things get damaged or stolen at least you will know who to blame--yourself.

If you can't move yourself in a van, in my opinion the next best thing is to move with a freight company like Broadway Express or ABF. You will still control a very large part of the move--everything except the actual transport--and the goods will almost never be transferred once you put them on the trailer. ABF is bare-bones, but BE uses air-ride trailers, many of which are indistinguishable from the household trailers that the full-service moving companies use. You can also hire the BE driver to help you load.

If you don't want to arrange for loading and unloading a freight company trailer, then you are looking at hiring a full-service moving company. Here is where things get somewhat risky if you have a long-distance move like Rachel's. Very few such companies will actually move your things cross-country using their own truck and driver. Even fewer will pick your things up in the same truck that they will deliver them in. And as Rachel says, every transfer increases the possibility of damage and loss.

Some companies that will move your things cross-country using their own trucks and drivers are Delancey Street Moving and Moovers, Inc. Even those companies will usually bring your goods to their storage facilities to wait for the truck to fill out with a full load, since it's not economically feasible for them to send a half-empty truck across the country. Both Delancey and Moovers have excellent reviews here. If a shuttle is needed at destination, they use low-cost rental vans and they usually send a trained helper cross-country with the driver to help unload.

Other companies that send their own trucks and drivers cross-country and have good reviews here are JK Moving in Sterling, VA, and South Hills Movers in Pittsburgh. I think those companies often send helpers with the drivers as well. South Hills is very expensive, however. Again, these companies will usually bring your goods to their storage facilities to wait for the truck to fill out with a full load. (A full load in a semi-trailer is about 25,000 pounds of goods.)

One thing that Delancey, Moovers, JK, and South Hills have in common is that they are independent companies not associated with any van line. They cannot rely on road drivers secured through a van line to move the shipments that they book. They have to manage the entire move by themselves. Also, if one of their trucks breaks down en route, they have to deal with it themselves, whereas if a company is affiliated with a van line the van line will extend credit for the repair and in some cases arrange for a new truck. Therefore, independent companies that successfully move people cross-country have to have a certain degree of financial stability.

Some independent companies like Big John's and Moishe's that move people cross-country using their own trucks and drivers take 50% advance deposits from customers to give themselves a financial cushion to cover the move. The reviews of these companies posted here are generally less favorable than the reviews of Delancey, Moovers, JK, and South Hills. Judging from the reviews, I do not think that they usually send helpers with the drivers. If you go with an independent company for a move like this, you want to be very sure of the ethics of the people running the company, and that's hard to judge.

Getting back to Rachel's point, it's good that she posted this because many people moving long-distance have no idea that when they book with a full-service moving company they are often selecting only the booking agent. Further, the booking agent has virtually no control over the move once the van line dispatcher assigns it to a road driver and truck provided by another agent. All companies have good moves and bad moves. Most industry pros would agree that while the booking agent is extremely important, the performance of the assigned driver and helpers can make or break a move.

The best companies, like University, will try their best to make sure that the road driver assigned by the van line does a good job. For example, Bill Quigley at University told me that he makes a point of talking with the road drivers when they come to University's warehouse to pick up the goods. He said that he tells them, "This is my customer" and a little about the move to try to personalize the situation for the drivers. He said that he doesn't want the driver to view the shipment as just "a load" but as someone's property that he and the customer care about.

Things posted here show that the owner of University Van Lines has also gone to bat for the customer when things have gone wrong, advising the customer to go to arbitration and so on. And the owner can ask the van line dispatcher not to assign any more shipments to a driver who did a bad job. But there is only a limited amount that can be done in cases like this. The fact is that the van line system is based on a series of documented hand-offs of responsibility for the customer's goods. Unlike the situation with a rental van, no one person is responsible for the move from start to finish. Usually the people who drive for major van lines perform well, but unfortunately there are exceptions as in Rachel's case, for which I am very sorry.

shrano
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:48 pm
Location: brooklyn, ny ---> LA soon

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby shrano » Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:00 am

Oh my - I am completely freaked out now!!! :shock:

Monday, University came and packed all my stuff. Yesterday they picked it all up. It's going into their facility in NJ until they ship it out to me in Cali to arrive around the 28th. I'm driving out and won't be their any earlier, so we had no choice...I was told that the driver that picked my stuff up in NY will be the same person that drops it off in Cali.

So, the above horror story has me really worried and concerned...did they pack all your stuff or did u do the packing? Not that that should make a difference for loss and other damage.

well, either way, i will report back on my experience. Thus far I have dealt with Scott Micalizzi and Jim, the owner (?), who is dealing with my corporate relocation company. I chose not to use the movers the relo company suggested because they were very unresponsive to my timeliness needs. I SOOOOOO hope I don't regret this! I went with University solely on all the great info on here. :(

Diane
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Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 12:18 am
Location: Los Angeles

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby Diane » Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:50 am

shrano wrote:I was told that the driver that picked my stuff up in NY will be the same person that drops it off in Cali. . . . I SOOOOOO hope I don't regret this! I went with University solely on all the great info on here. :(

You are NOT going to regret it. The driver who picked your stuff up from your residence in NYC will not be the same person dropping it off in CA, because University's drivers don't go that far (you must have misunderstood), but you will have a good driver from Atlas Van Lines and all will be well. Calm. Calm. And yes, Jim Quigley is the owner.

rwreynard
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:01 pm

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby rwreynard » Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:59 am

Shrano - I don't want to freak you out and sorry for that.

Atlas has been around a long time and I'm sure that most of the time these things don't happen.

There's a really good chance that your stuff'll be fine.

Good luck to you - enjoy the drive across, I loved it.

And it's only stuff... sometimes valuable, precious stuff which SUCKS but it is only stuff. I kept thinking about those poor folks in New Orleans who literally lost everything but the wet clothes they were standing in... my loss is trivial compared to that.

The reason for my post was to illustrate how easy it is to think that everything'll be fine if YOU do all the right things... but sadly, a lot is just out of your hands.

Hope for the best. What else can ya do? :-)

Oh and it wasn't the packing that was the problem... just poor care of furniture loading and unloading. (Not University). Like I said before, city to city moves with shuttles and storage require A LOT of loading and unloading and that's the weak link.

Hopefully you'll be fine :-)

rwreynard
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:01 pm

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby rwreynard » Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:34 pm

Hey Shrano

One thing I do think would be worth doing is calling University to make sure they are going to supervise the pick up from their storage facility. A valuable piece of furniture of mine I know got damaged because the agent was sloppy moving it out of storage (he told me that's when it got broken). Perhaps if University was overseeing it more closely they'd have taken more care. Who knows. Couldn't hurt.

Good luck!
Rachel

shrano
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:48 pm
Location: brooklyn, ny ---> LA soon

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby shrano » Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:16 pm

I spoke with Scott and clarified that yes, the same driver that is picking our stuff up will be the same person in California - he said it is rare for them to switch drivers. In our case, it will be the same person. The storage facility is at their facility, so it is University staff movers moving our stuff on and off the truck in NYC (well, NJ). So, I feel like it should all be ok.

deep breaths...deep breaths. ;)

thanks for the info though!

-sharon

rwreynard
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:01 pm

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby rwreynard » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:30 pm

I had one Atlas/University driver pick my stuff up in NYC and take it to the University storage facility in NJ.

Another Atlas agent (the agent who trucked it across, I guess I mean the driver) picked it up from NJ storage and drove it to Seattle. I never saw these people until they got here.

I was told by University that it was typical for a completely different driver to shuttle and then truck across.

I guess it's an issue of timing, I had a delay, maybe that was it.

Diane
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Location: Los Angeles

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby Diane » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:57 pm

It's very confusing about the drivers. People don't understand the way things typically work with smaller companies like University and I'm just beginning to understand it myself.

I'm leaving out some details, but basically there are two kinds of drivers: the local drivers and the "road" drivers (variously called over-the-road drivers, long-distance drivers, etc.).

The local drivers all work for local companies (agents) like University. They are the ones who do local in-state moves and shuttle things from the customer's residence to University's warehouse/storage facility and vice versa. The things are brought to the warehouse to wait for the arrival of a road driver dispatched by Atlas Van Lines or to wait for there to be enough goods to fill a University truck if it's a fairly short run, for example to FL.

The road drivers transport loads from one state to another. They MAY work for the local agents like University but often they work for another agent of the same van line. This is especially likely to be true on cross-country moves. For example, a University road driver may drive a load from NJ to FL, but an Atlas Van Lines road driver will probably drive a load from NJ to Seattle. Reason: it would not be cost-effective for University to send its own truck and driver that far and the drivers also don't want to go that far.

I think this is more or less right but I hope someone will correct me if I'm wrong. In any case, it seems as if it was the Atlas Van Lines road driver who damaged Rachel's furniture when he moved it out of University's warehouse into his truck.

Fred0844

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby Fred0844 » Fri Nov 18, 2005 4:45 am

Rachel. If you moved twice with Allied and had good experiences, why did you choose Atlas?

Diane
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Location: Los Angeles

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby Diane » Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:10 am

rwreynard wrote:I chose University & Atlas because they came so highly recommended. I'm really bitterly regretting that decision now.

You can imagine how I feel about this, even though the reviews really praise only University and not Atlas. I think the same thing could have happened with Allied. Lots of times it is the luck of the draw. The origin agent can do only so much; then it's in the hands of the road driver and helpers.

rwreynard
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:01 pm

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby rwreynard » Fri Nov 18, 2005 4:44 pm

Hi Fred

I probably would have gone with Allied because it's who I knew. But I'd only done an international move and a vehicle move and I got the impression from this forum that cross country is VERY different.

So it sounded like the big vanlines were very similar and obviously people had had good experience with University + Atlas so that seemed like a good idea.

Like I said, would it have been any different with Allied, who knows? Maybe, maybe not, impossible to say. All I know is it wasn't a good move with Atlas so I personally wouldn't choose them again.

Rachel

Diane
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Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 12:18 am
Location: Los Angeles

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby Diane » Tue Nov 22, 2005 2:41 pm

shrano wrote:I spoke with Scott and clarified that yes, the same driver that is picking our stuff up will be the same person in California - he said it is rare for them to switch drivers. In our case, it will be the same person.

Sharon, I owe you an apology. You are correct. In your case the Atlas Van Lines long-distance driver will be able to make a direct pickup from your residence and will also deliver the shipment to you in CA. I had forgotten about this possibility, which is somewhat unusual but great when it happens. I'm told that it's most likely to happen during the slow season (i.e. now). When things get busy during the summer, the agent, like University, is more likely to be asked to "cover" the load, moverspeak for bringing it to the warehouse for pickup there by the van line driver. If the van line driver is going to be able to do a direct pickup, the van line normally notifies the origin agent (like University) a couple of days prior.

rwreynard
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:01 pm

Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby rwreynard » Tue Nov 22, 2005 10:23 pm

Wow - that's really lucky. I didn't know that ever happened. I think if that'd been the case for me I wouldn't have had any problems.

Anyway, my lost box with precious paintings has finally found its way to me, only 2 months later, so I, at least, have all my stuff now. Not all of it in 1 piece and working, but oh well. I only paid $8500 to move a 1 bed apt, obviously that wasn't enough to ensure reasonable care :-( - I feel robbed.

The company who moved me across (picked up from University and trucked it over and unloaded it) was Security Storage Company out of Charlotte, NC. I don't recommend these guys, either locally or long distance - carelessness is carelessness. So if they're on your short list, I would recommend taking them off.

And if you're moving with University and there's any way of finding out who's picking your stuff up, if it's these guys, ask Atlas/University to be put on the next truck.

Rachel

Diane
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Re: Miserable Experience with Atlas moving from NYC to Seatt

Postby Diane » Wed Nov 23, 2005 2:22 am

Rachel,

Again, I am so sorry that this happened to you. At least you got your paintings back, and for that I'm grateful. You are being remarkably restrained in your response to what happened. If I had paid as much as you did and it had happened to me, I would be very upset too.

I don't mean to make things worse by saying this at this juncture, but for people reading this in the future I want to point out that the freight company Broadway Express could have moved your shipment for $2400-$2800 (depending on whether you had 7 or 10 linear feet) rather than the $8500 that you paid and it would have arrived within 14 days and probably without damage, judging from the reviews on the sticky at the top of the messageboard.

You would have had to pay the driver and helpers for loading and unloading labor on top of the transportation cost, maybe another $400-$500, but the trailer would have been well equipped with pads, a ramp, and dollies and most likely it would have been indistinguishable from a trailer used by a full-service moving company. Almost certainly the goods would never have left the trailer once they were loaded onto it.

So, for cost-conscious people who want to retain control of their goods, there is an option besides using a rental van. They can go with Broadway Express and probably avoid a shuttle even in NYC. If they DO need a shuttle, Broadway Express uses inexpensive U-Haul type vans costing maybe around $100 tops rather than imposing the high shuttle fees typical of major van lines. The hurdle that people have to get over is the thought that they would have to arrange for loading and unloading labor, which seems daunting at first.

But I assure people reading this that it is NOT daunting or difficult. I did it myself, and we can refer you to people in almost every location who can load and unload the trailer for you. It's similar to acting as your own contractor when remodeling a home. If you have the courage to take the leap and go for it, you can save a lot of money and get superior results as well.

Some disadvantages of using Broadway Express as opposed to a full-service mover:

1. You can't get any coverage for breakage, scratches, and dents because you and your helpers will be the ones loading and unloading your things. The only way you can be covered for this type of happening is if you use a specific professional loading/unloading service approved by a company like Baker International, and by the time you pay for such a service a lot of your cost savings with BE will have been eroded.

2. BE is usually not the best choice if you require storage in transit. The company will occasionally store things for people in its warehouse in Effingham, IL, but they don't like to do it because of liability issues. If you rent the full trailer they are more likely to do it because they can store the trailer in their warehouse without ever unloading it.

3. With BE you do a lot of work--you have to really think about things and it can be stressful coordinating your loading and unloading labor with the arrival of the BE truck. With a full-service mover you don't have to worry about any of that.

4. With BE you are potentially exposing yourself to injury and also to liability if someone you hire gets hurt loading or unloading your things. To minimize your risk you should ideally hire helpers who are covered by workers' comp and insurance, for example employees of a local moving company or LaborReady.com, rather than people found on Craigslist or similar.


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