Here's a post-move recap and review of our experience in case it helps some else.
The packers showed up when promised (Thursday morning), worked diligently and appeared to be capable -- no complaints. Then at 5:00 pm, an agent for Valley calls and says the driver had to cancel for Friday (the next morning), but that they had found a replacement driver who could pick up the following morning (Saturday) between 8:00 and 9:00 am. Of course, at 5:00 pm on the day before the move, there's nothing my mother can think of to do about it, so she reluctantly agreed. I immediately call back to discuss other options -- but it's 5:02 pm and nobody answers the phone. Since we had nonrefundable plane tickets leaving Saturday morning, the mover's delay meant we could not be there to supervise the loading. I discussed my concerns with the agent when she called back on Friday afternoon. She was apologetic but noncommittal - not her fault, nothing she could do, etc. We arrange to have a neighbor sign the loading papers.
So we spent all day Friday sticky-noting every single item indicating whether it was to stay or go. Saturday morning at 10:00 just before getting on the plane we call neighbor to confirm that the movers showed up -- They hadn't. So we have a very nervous flight. The truck does show up on Saturday around noon and a crew loads the truck leaving an inventory with Mom's elderly former neighbor, who forwarded it to us.
1) Every single item of furniture was described as soiled, worn, damaged and/or scratched. Now, these items aren't new, but they're not exactly 'trash-heap' either, and I don't feel those descriptions are accurate. With damage notes like those, the movers could trash everything she owns and there would be no way to substantiate a claim for damages. (We're NOT lawsuit-happy -- just concerned.)
2) Several items that were sticky-noted to be packed and located in a room clearly-labled "Pack Everything!" were not listed in the inventory and were not loaded. Of course, had we been there to supervise, we would have assured they got loaded. A few other items were loaded by mistake. Fortunately, the not-loaded items are inexpensive to replace.
3) A call to the national company reveals that 6 days later, the truck is still in their California warehouse with no driver assigned, so now even the last day of their delivery window appears questionable. They've offered to put Mom up in a mid-priced hotel if they miss their delivery time, but that's not really the point... She has important papers in that truck and wants her stuff! (They ask where Mom is staying - I admit she's staying with us. Tactical error on my part! No hotel bill, so no financial incentive to move Mom up the priority list...)
In the weeks since my original post, we have followed up with North American every few days, and all they were able to tell us was "waiting for driver to be assigned" -- day after day, week after week. Our 5-day estimated delivery window came and went. North American corporate responded promptly and politely to our numerous follow-up calls, but weren't able to give us any useful information. Earlier calls directly to Valley were returned in 24-36 hours with instructions to call North American corporate for further information or to check a certain web site. The web address Valley gave us was wrong, but I was able to find the correct one.
It wasn't until 2 weeks AFTER delivery was supposed to have been completed that we got word that a driver 'might' finally have been found and would 'probably' be able to leave CA on the 16th or 17th, 'possibly' arriving here on the 23rd, depending on the driver's other stops. And yesterday, 3 weeks after the start of their estimated delivery date, my mother's furniture was finally delivered.
Website checks over the prior week showed "en route", but no other information as to whether or not the 'possible' delivery on the 23rd would happen. Early in the morning of the 23rd, we got a call from the driver letting us know he was 2 hours away, and that he would be ready to deliver as soon as he found people to help unload. He apologized for not calling earlier, but explained that Valley did not provide him with our phone number until that morning. He also asked where the address was -- a good thing because despite 3 prior corrections with NA, it was still wrong. I gave him directions and three contact phone numbers, none of which he had.
The driver was waiting for us when we got to the building and I showed him the loading dock and Mom's apartment. He explained that he would begin unloading as soon as his helpers showed up, so Mom and I went upstairs to wait. Fortunately, we each had some good books, because it was fully two hours later when he came upstairs with four helpers and the first pieces of furniture. I asked if North American had been able to provide helpers or if he had needed to use day laborers and he told me his helpers were day laborers and that he had ended up with four people because the first two couldn't find the place (huh? - high rise at a Major Intersection) so he called two more. The driver and all four helpers were careful, polite, professional, and spoke good English. (Adequate English is unusual for day labor in Houston.) Unloading proceeded quickly and without any major problems.
There were two small unlabeled items from another shipment that did not belong to us, which we promptly returned, and one box (containing items of low monetary value) was missing from our shipment. Halfway through unpacking, nothing appears to have been damaged or broken, and only one box (containing "papers" and labeled as such) was crushed in one corner.
Mom had agreed to a guaranteed charge, had arranged to pay by credit card, and had provided the card information to Valley prior to pickup - so well over a month ago. We'd heard no indication of a problem and knew that the card was good and had sufficient available credit. When the driver called Valley at the conclusion of the move for the approval code, he was informed that the card had been declined. We spoke with Valley and corrected the card's expiration date, and Valley said they would re-call the CC company for approval. Over the next hour and a half, the driver called Valley three times trying to get the code, getting increasingly frustrated.
He apologized for inconveniencing us and mentioned that he had heard about problems with Valley from several different NA drivers, and that several drivers he knew wouldn't agree to take shipments from Valley because they'd had so many frustrations with them. (Makes sense to me now, given how long we had to wait for Valley to get a driver...) He mentioned that the contact at Valley was rude to him and had consistently provided inadequate and inaccurate information, and indicated he would no longer accept work from Valley since they had been nothing but uncooperative and incompetent in all his dealings with them. He did say that this was not at all typical of North American, which was a very good company in general.
I don't know where the line is between Valley's responsibility and North American -- Hopefully someone here can clarify. But I'd have to say I wasn't very impressed with Valley. While the individuals actually doing the physical work were polite, diligent and competent, the people running Valley's office seem to have dropped the ball at every possible opportunity. In short, for a full-priced moving company, I think you could do better.
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