Review of Sullivan Moving and Storage (California In-State but non-local)

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Review of Sullivan Moving and Storage (California In-State but non-local)

Postby sp » Thu Sep 27, 2007 5:06 pm

I recently completed an intra-state California move from the San Diego area to the Sacramento area (distance of about 500 miles) using Sullivan Moving and Storage (United agents), based in San Diego, California.

Sullivan's web site is:
Sullivan's Cal-PUC # is: T-169142

I chose Sullivan Moving and Storage due to recommendations from this site recommending the company and Chris Lind -- the sales agent -- in particular. I also received an in-person estimate from an Allied agent, but decided against them because of how positive my feelings were about Chris. I also called Delancey Street (Los Angeles) and Moovers, but because neither was able to provide an in-person estimate, nor were they located in the San Diego area, I felt that they would not be as well-equipped to resolve problems at the last minute in case something went wrong (e.g., a mover got sick, the truck broke down, etc....).

My Sullivan sales agent was Chris Lind. My summary judgment of the process is that the experience was mixed, but had a happy ending. Details of the experience follow:

To begin, Chris Lind surveyed my residence in San Diego. In doing so, he was extremely meticulous and at the end gave and gave me a written, binding, not-to-exceed contract. Indeed, he was so thorough in his writeup that I had an extremely accurate estimate of how many boxes and other packing supplies to purchase. Chris also gave me the name of a local, San Diego supplier of boxes and other packing supplies, whom I can highly recommend as well (Whaley's Enterprises / 8910 Activity Rd. #F, San Diego / (858) 578-3945). In summary, Chris was polite, friendly, helpful, and knew his business inside and out, just as I hoped he would be after reading positive reviews on this board. A few days later, when I spoke with Chris, I asked about adding an extra pickup of a couple of pieces of furniture from the Bay Area, before delivering in Sacramento, which Chris added into a revised contract without any problems whatsoever. Thus, the beginning of the experienced gave me a VERY positive and optimistic feeling, exactly as I'd hoped after reading reviews on this site.

The moving experience itself was more mixed. I will begin with the good news, which is that ultimately, all of my possessions were moved -- undamaged. Thus at the end of the day, we received exactly what we were looking for. Indeed, the driver and his crew appeared competent, careful, and courteous. We also tried to take good care of them, and tipped the driver $100 at the start of the move, provided them with over $75 worth of food and water, and at the end of the day, they asked for (and we gave them) an entire crate of water to take with them.

However, the experience also had a number of negative elements. I will begin with the minor ones. For example, during the move-out, the driver had two crew members. One of the crew members was from Sullivan, and the other was hired on an hourly basis. The driver said that he hired this hourly worker because he felt that the workers provided by United were incompetent. The facts of this meant that the driver was under greater pressure to move faster (not a good thing) and also caused me to mistrust Sullivan/United.

Another minor issue was that despite my request that my mattress and box spring be boxed for shipment, the driver claimed that no box was on indicated, and thus none provided. Instead, I had to purchase bags for the mattresses, at my own expense, on the day of the move. But this is a minor issue, and one that was rectified after the fact by Chris Lind, by removing the price from my final bill.

However, there were two major problems with the move:

Key Problem #1: After everything had been loaded on the truck, and everyone had departed, the driver called me and informed me that there were extra costs being added because the pricing had been mis-calculated. Therefore, the move would cost an additional $850. For example, the driver said that there were 4 long carries, rather than 1 or 2. When I asked the driver what the total distance for the "long carries" actually was, which constituted the additional long carries, and he said that it was approximately 350 feet from my door to the truck. When I balked a bit, he said would call me back (which he did) and offered that he would compromise and that I could pay an additional $330 instead of $850, and that he would personally pay the difference of $520 out of his own pocket. There are a number of problems with this situation. First, the notion of the long carries was ridiculous, since there is not a chance that it is over 1 football field between my door and the back of the truck. The long carries had been pre-determined by Chris Lind, and did not change. Thus, the major issue is that since no details of the move itself changed, the notion of adding charges after a not-to-exceed contract was signed was *unquestionably a scam.* Finally, the notion that the driver had to pay the difference of $520 out of his own pocket certainly made me feel extremely nervous as well. I asked myself how the driver might treat my belongings, if he was feeling that he was getting screwed out of money that he was owed.

Key Problem #2: There was an extra pickup built into the contract. For that extra pickup, the driver arrived alone and without additional manpower help for the extra pickup. So, it was necessary for me and two other family members to help the driver lift, move, setup, and carry the ramps for his truck as well as the extra furniture piece and the out of the house and onto the truck. Not only was this totally unacceptable, it is not clear why *any* charges for the extra pickup should be incurred at all, since my family and I represented 75% of the labor.

One might ask how I responded to all of this. As one can imagine, upon receiving the phone call from the driver, I honestly wasn't feeling all that trustful of anyone, particularly when my entire possessions were on someone else's truck somewhere in California. This is exactly what I'd hoped to avoid by going with Sullivan, after reading such positive reviews on this site. However, it was difficult to know who was complicit in the additional charges, and given that there was extra paperwork *from Sullivan itself*, it seemed to implicate the company rather than the driver. Also, I'd like to point out that it's quite intimidating to think of the idea that there were a bunch of really large guys out there who seemed to think they stood to lose money if I didn't sign paperwork or rocked the boat.

For example, the driver said quite plainly that he was on a strict budget and was hiring the other movers at an hourly rate out of his own pay. Therefore, at the Northern California end, since the driver said that it would add an additional two hours to check off the boxes (and would cost him more as a result), when unloading the boxes, the movers did not "check off" the items as they brought them off the truck. I attempted to do so myself, but found it unfeasible to stand there with a clipboard and do so myself, since the boxes were coming in too quickly. I was asking myself questions like, "Does one risk angering the driver and having him start heaving my stuff off the truck as far as he can, or say nothing and have faith that it will just work out? Is the parent company complicit? Is this normal? What power does the parent company have anyhow?" These sorts of questions all flashed through my head. Indeed, even on the day of the extra pickup, the driver told me about a customer earlier in the day that was a "total asshole" for "screwing him out of his extra money" by refusing to sign something for extra charges. Even for the issue with having to help the driver move the furniture, I asked myself a the time what alternatives that I had. What would the driver do to retaliate if I didn't do as he asked?

Despite all of this, I tipped the driver an additional, $125 at the end of the move-in, in addition to the $100 tip at the beginning move-out (plus food and at both ends). Indeed, for all practical purposes, the move-in went very well, and at that point, I still really didn't know who to blame and who to trust, but decided to side with the driver.

However, simply put, several elements of the move were extremely concerning. A cost increase after my property has been put on the truck was inappropriate, since at that point, I was entirely against a wall, and had no choice to accept until I was reunited with my property. Additionally, given that the driver was in possession of all of my property when I was asked to pay more, it seemed unacceptable to me for him to have to "absorb" over half of the added expenses himself (to a customer, this would seem to create a feeling of ill-will). All-in-all, there were a number of very concerning elements to the move.

But things have ended just fine:

I received an email from Chris Lind about 2-3 weeks after the move-in. At that time, the charges still hadn't appeared on my credit card, which was really what I'd waited to happen before following up on the issues with United. Upon contacting me, Chris was appalled, shocked, and mortified that a driver for his computer had pulled these stunts. There is no question that his contact made me feel substantially better. He explained to me that the driver had been fired, not due to the issue with my move but with one that happened immediately after mine. Chris also restored my bill to his original estimate without the extra $330 (let alone $850 that the driver tried to get) and minus the $77 charges for the non-existent mattress boxes. Thus at the end of the day, I can say that I feel fine about the whole thing because all turned out well. Things weren't broken, I didn't pay more, and the whole thing is finished. I do want to make at least two suggestions for Sullivan, which I also communicated to Chris Lind:

-One future suggestion for Sullivan is to use some kind of bar code or RFID or something very easy to mark the boxes with. The little numbered labels that Sullivan used on my boxes are useful, but are much more time consuming to find and check off on 8 or 9 separate sheets of paper than a bar code would be.

-A second, and much more important suggestion, which will go a long way toward helping to avoid these sorts of issues, is to have much better communication on the day of the move between the customer and the main office. For example, had someone at Sullivan been in contact with me, I imagine that I would not have felt simply like I was "on my own" with the driver. I do have to say that some of the feeling of being bound by the driver's decisions is reinforced by the way that the process with Sullivan currently works. For example, when I spoke with Chris and various other people at Sullivan prior to the move about exactly what the timing would be for move-out, and exactly what the day would be for the extra pick up and move-in, the response was that the "driver decides everything" and is "completely in charge" on the day of the move. So I think it was probably a pretty normal feeling for me to feel like the driver spoke for the company and his word was in line with the company's. Obviously this now appears not to be the case, but in the heat and stress of the move, it's difficult for one to know -- particularly first-time movers like myself.

To conclude, I would like to say that I am pleased with the efforts that Chris Lind made, and I feel positively about him personally. Although my experience with Sullivan was not entirely positive, it was also certainly not entirely negative. Despite some emotional strain, things turned out practically and financially exactly as Chris originally estimated that it would be.

Do I recommend Sullivan Moving and Storage? I would like to say yes, mostly due to my feeling about Chris, but my experience was clearly not one that I would wish upon others (which is why I am posting this). I paid a lot of money to hire a moving company exactly to avoid some physical and emotional strain, and I'd say that I achieved that only partially. So, for a recommendation, I will let majority rule and future people needing to hire movers can make their decision based on how many other experiences like mine that get posted here. For example, Chris Lind told me that Sullivan does not hire long-distance drivers like this all the time, and most of their drivers have been with the company for years and years, and they have very few problems. I can't provide evidence of this, so my recommendation to people who consider Sullivan is to compare my review to that of others and let the collective wisdom rule. Only after reading about the experiences of others can one decide how reputable Sullivan's drivers -- collectively -- are. Given how well Chris Lind seems to do his job, my gut tells me that they're probably good, but only a number of wholly or mostly positive stories posted after mine will support that notion in reality.

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Re: Review of Sullivan Moving and Storage (California In-State but non-loca

Postby Diane » Thu Sep 27, 2007 7:20 pm

Wow . . . I haven't heard of many drivers who acted worse than yours did. No wonder he got fired. Drivers are certainly not supposed to "go into business" for themselves by hiring inferior help (or no help) to save money, by upping the price of the loading to get more money for themselves, etc. etc. He was totally trying to take advantage of you. For him to say that the help available from Sullivan United was "incompetent" is outrageous. And he was lying when he said that the bogus "extra" fees that you didn't want to pay would come out of his own pocket. No way! Thank goodness you finally got Chris Lind involved.

Your post is a model of restraint. Thanks - you have done a real service by telling about all this. Customers should always contact their sales rep if any driver tries to pull nonsense like this on loading day. Probably not all reps will be as helpful as Chris, but I think most would try to get a driver making outrageous demands like this to back down.

I would like to know, from people in the industry, where this driver came from. Was he actually a regular contract driver for Sullivan, or was he some kind of free-lancing maverick that they dug up somewhere? If he was actually sent by Sullivan then it appears that Sullivan bears some of the blame for what happened.

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Re: **Review of Sullivan Moving and Storage (California In-State but non-lo

Postby BigLeeCalif » Thu Sep 27, 2007 10:39 pm

In California, regardless of what a driver tells you, if you receive a written estimate, that is a not-to-exceed estimate. Any additional charges have to be presented to you on a statement of additional services, with THE COST DETAILED. You then have the right not to sign that addendum if you feel the charges are invalid. At that point the driver and agency work the details out.

In your case, the only billable item would have been the extra stop, and since you provided labor that should have been adjusted.

I don't know how Sullivan operates laborwise, but we are agents of the same van line, and we use the same labor for local and interstate jobs. Which means all of our people have been background checked and approved before they ever enter someone's home. And they have been trained before the are sent out.

It always bothers me when a driver bad mouths the company that is putting food on his table.

If you don't like the food, find a better restaurant, but don't bad mouth the current one because you don't like the salad.
Last edited by BigLeeCalif on Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt" Mark Twain

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Re: **Review of Sullivan Moving and Storage (California In-State but non-lo

Postby ArchieWhite » Fri Sep 28, 2007 7:59 am

Sounds like this driver may have been a malcontent.....It's a tough profession, not all can do the job up to the highest standards....We used to have a driver that sounds like this guy, our guy did a good job 88% of the time, but he had occassional issues......He would have a tantrum, quit, and a few months later call us to come back...we did it a couple of times, but finally just said no. Even though we really needed him ( at one time he had 6 trucks on with us) we just couldn't take his baggage, the cost was too high.....I do know that Sullivan is a good company though, this was not their standard procedure.....

Here's another thing I noted from this customers post...He said he wished there had been better communication between him and Sullivan......I can't argue with that, is also possible that when things were'nt going the way they should have, the shipper could have called in and asked for assistance.....It works both ways.

When I was in sales, I would stress to people that A. We are guests in their home, they are in charge....and B. if anytime there was anything they didnt like, or didnt understand, or did not appear proper, to call a time out, and call the office for assistance and clarification.

My point is, if something ain't right, ask the crew to stop, if necessary, and call the office.....You can't always get the salesperson, he/she may be on other calls, ask for the Operations Manager, who is almost always available. The Ops Mgr can work miracles....They are the heart and soul of a moving company.....they get to keep the promises that others make. Nothing happens until the sale is made, but after that happens, the Ops Mgr is the King, the Judge, the Referree, the Umpire, and the miracle worker.

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Re: **Review of Sullivan Moving and Storage (California In-State but non-lo

Postby Diane » Sat Sep 29, 2007 7:40 pm

Good advice, Archie. However, the customer really should not be put in the position of having to call the Ops Manager to settle a dispute with a driver. This particular customer was very generous with giving tips, food, etc. and that's why his/her report is so disturbing. If Sullivan gets any more reviews like this I'm afraid that we'll have to rethink its position on the Superlist.
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Re: Review of Sullivan Moving and Storage (California In-State but non-loca

Postby ChrisL » Mon Oct 01, 2007 4:59 pm

Here is my take on this issue-
I certainly appreciate this customers input. I only wish that I had gotten just one call from him at any time during the process or even after delivery. Yes, I'm sure that all moving companies should be calling all of their customers the day before, the day of, and the day after to see how the service is going- in a perfect world. We do call every customer the day before the move to let them know what time we plan to arrive and we are working on calling every customer on the day of the move as well- even more so after a PR nightmare like this goes down!! Had I even called on the day of the move I would have only learned of the missing mattress cartons (which we could have easily solved). I would have had to call another 3-4 times over 3-4 days to learn of the various problems as they occurred. However, I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses here. There is a phrase bandied about in every moving company in America at one point or another-(No news is good news!) Clearly, that laissez-faire philosophy can be costly!
It is flat out embarrassing to have a driver like this in our employment.
It took exactly 3 trips for us to figure this guy out. The first was perfect, the second had a few small issues, and this was his 3rd and final trip with us. (When he was fired we knew nothing of this portion of his trip)His references were good. We take complete responsibility for hiring him in the first place.
There is no way that anyone at our company would have let any of these charges stand had we been alerted and I am thankful that this customer gave me a chance to rectify the cost issues when he did.
So, we will continue to learn how to improve our service as the days go by through feedback such as this and we plan to make the next post regarding our firm positive from the top down!
Chris Lind

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