ALERT - avoid Michael's Moving and Storage (Allston, MA)

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Greg M
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:06 pm
Location: San Francisco

ALERT - avoid Michael's Moving and Storage (Allston, MA)

Postby Greg M » Wed Feb 07, 2007 7:54 pm

In June of 2003 my wife and I moved from Boston MA to San Francisco. We really had no idea how to search for a moving company—in fact, looking back on it we were amazingly naïve about the moving industry. I did an internet search, I believe using the website 123movers.com and came up with two movers: Michael’s Moving and Storage and Vivo Van Lines. I asked for quotes from both of these movers as well as the national brand names, Mayflower, Atlas, and I believe Allied. The latter three came up with a figure of nearly $10,000 to move a two bedroom apartment. I am a scholar and I have numerous books so I understood that the weight of my belongings would greatly exceed the average two bedroom apartment. But, in 1999 my mother and father-in-law moved a four bedroom home and 4 door car from San Diego CA, to the country of Montenegro in the former Yugoslavia for the same amount that the national lines were quoting us. We couldn’t believe that these were accurate estimates.

On the other hand, Michael’s Moving and Storage and Vivo Vanlines came in far below that—roughly $6000. Based on my in-laws move, we felt that these were the more accurate number for our move and after much consideration we decided on Michaels largely because I was much more comfortable with Michael’s agent, Ari than the agent for Vivo. The Vivo agent went nuts and began to give me harassing phone calls telling me how foolish I am, how Michael’s was a terrible company, etc. I realized then just how close I had come to making a disastrous decision—Vivo’s blacklist is well deserved! I worked out the final binding agreement with Michael’s at the $6000 figure and was told that it was absolutely binding, no changes could be made. Michael’s and Vivo gave me estimates based on cubic feet and unfortunately I don’t remember what the weight estimates the other companies gave me but we certainly didn’t have 10,000 lbs worth of belongings.

Everything seemed to go very smoothly with Michael’s, we arranged the time of the move, they came and packed all our belongings, and the next day we began the move. I then realized that there were going to be problems as one of the drivers commented to me that the move was going to cost much more than what I had been quoted. I said, “excuse me—the offer I received from Michael’s is binding.” When they finished moving everything onto the truck they gave me the final costing and it came out to $1500 more than the “binding” agreement. Well, I nearly hit the roof. I spoke with Ari and asked him what the hell was going on—pointing out that he said we had a binding agreement. His response was that it was binding based on what he saw the day he visited my apartment. I asked what did he mean by that and he replied that I may have moved some furniture into the apartment after he gave his estimate. Well, I nearly blew a gasket and challenged him to come to my apartment and point out what was there now that wasn’t there when he gave his estimate. He of course couldn’t do that.

But Ari was not the real problem—it was his manager, Nir, who was absurdly rude and obnoxious. The mover was in constant communication with Nir and Nir made it clear that the truck would not move until I agreed to the new price. When I asked to speak with him directly he refused—I was only to speak with the agent. I then spoke with my wife and she was enraged but we had a tight schedule and all our belongings were on the truck. I said we just have to bite the bullet—we really had no other choice. But I was determined to make sure that there would be no hiccups on the delivery. I insisted that Ari provide me with a written statement that the charges as we now agreed would be the final charges for the move, that there would be no surprise add-ons. I received the letter signed by the owner, so I thought that would solve any future problems.

Then came the delivery in San Francisco. We get a call from the driver telling me that he needed to deliver a day before we had scheduled with my building, a San Francisco high-rise downtown. I told the driver that Ari had made the arrangements with the building for a specific date and time that couldn’t be changed. This made me feel very queezy so I asked my Uncle who was a high-ranking official with the department of transportation to come with us for the delivery. (He had himself had just moved from Washington DC to SF). We were supposed to meet the driver at 11 AM but of course he arrived at 9 AM asking where we were (which was in Novato, 45 minutes north of SF). The driver also told me over the phone that Nir was adding several additional charges--I had to do all I could to contain my fury.

We get the building and I immediately show the driver the letter from Michael the owner. Well, Nir, who was on the line with the driver, dismissed the letter out of hand and demanded that we pay an extra $500 for the days delay in the truck and additional $400 because there was a long ramp to move the goods—it was only a 20 ft ramp. I forget how but my wife was first to speak with Nir—I think I was arguing with the driver. I came out to the street and I saw my wife to be visibly upset arguing on the phone with this guy—she was shaking with anger. She told me that he threatened her that they control all of our belongings and he would order the drive to leave unless we agreed to all his terms. When my wife told me this I lost it—I grabbed the phone from her hands and started screaming at the guy “how dare you speak to my wife like that!” We yelled at each other back and forth. Then my Uncle entered the fray. He took the phone from me and introduced himself giving his credentials and phone numbers to confirm this (he had already showed his DOT ID to the driver). He then said “As a representative of the DOT I am ordering you to have your drive show me his truck drivers permit.” That caused a bit of stir and they were trying to delay this. The now visibly nervous driver finally had to show his license and it turned out he only had provisional license that had expired. He knew he was now in trouble (I had been threatening him with the police if he even thought of driving off as Nir was threatening—my uncle was also friends with the SF chief of police.) But, I also wanted to extend a bit of a carrot to him and offered to pay him a couple hundred dollars on the side to get things moving. Finally, his nerves caught up with him and he accepted and we began to move in and were done in a couple of hours.

Altogether we ended up paying an additional $1700 to the “binding” agreement, and very nearly had to pay $2600 additional. The worst thing was that had Michael’s quoted me a figure of $7700 I likely would have gone with it anyway as it was still significantly lower than what the other national firms were quoting us. Instead, they lied and cheated and insulted us throughout the whole process. We were exhausted with the whole drama. My uncle reported Michael’s to the Federal Motor Carrier and Vehicle Administration and I recounted our story to the director. I haven’t heard if anything came of it, however.

My story isn’t as bad as others—and I can’t even believe that I had seriously considered Vivo--that would have been a catastrophe! But, Michael’s practices merit it at least a warning. I just wish I had found this site back in 2003. I will not be making another move without consulting it first.

Diane
Posts: 15824
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 12:18 am
Location: Los Angeles

Re: My Experience with Michael's Moving and Storage

Postby Diane » Wed Feb 07, 2007 8:27 pm

Thanks for taking the time to write all this, Greg - I'm sure you were reliving the whole nightmare while writing it. Actually this sounds like the classic scam and clearly it would have been much, much worse if your uncle hadn't been there. We've heard rumblings about Michael's (MC #465895) but this is the first actual report that we have of someone's experience with the company. It has been licensed for interstate moves only since January 2004, so if it moved you in 2003 it was doing so illegally. Its BBB report shows 29 complaints over the past 36 months - http://www.bosbbb.org/reports/reliabili ... 0000076976 We should add a warning about it to the Superlist under Boston.
Diane
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