I recently hired Wheaton Van Lines through Flatbush Moving for a move from New York to Chicago. Dominic Liantonio came to my apartment and did an estimate. I received a non-binding estimate from him for the move.
After receiving my estimate, I discovered MovingScam.org, where I learned that a binding estimate was preferable, and also read positive reviews of Flatbush. I called Flatbush and asked if my non-binding estimate could be converted to a binding estimate. It was Early July, and John Liantonio told me that they could not do that because their August was getting too full. He added that if I wanted one it would require another visit, and by the time they could send someone to see me their August would be booked. He added that August was the busiest moving month. If I didn't leave a deposit with Flatbush that day I'd probably lose my spot with Flatbush and would have a hard time finding any other available movers.
I was definitely being pressured and felt strong-armed, but I was also preparing for a wedding and did not have time to solicit other bids. Due to the positive reviews of Flatbush on MovingScam.org. I decided to accept the non-binding estimate, although I felt like I was being pushed into it. I would come to regret this decision.
I should pause to review what for me was an important part of the Flatbush sales pitch: According to Dominic, a big part of their value proposition was the accuracy of estimates: Dominic had shown me a chart ranking moving companies by estimating accuracy, in which Wheaton was ranked number 2. He added that he personally had decades of experience doing estimations and as a third-generation mover he knew what he was doing.
Once they had my deposit, their tone on the telephone sure changed fast - not as friendly. To make my review fair, I should say that the movers came and loaded the truck were superb – very professional and prompt. They not only did a great job loading the truck, but also kept my landlord calm and inflicted no damage on the stairwell (which was very tight).
And then the waiting started. We were given a nine day window for our stuff to arrive. Before Flatbush had our deposit Dominic told me that they usually come within three to five business days. After they had our deposit, John bluntly told me the movers could come anytime within that window and there was nothing he could do about it. Their demeanor went from "It'll be fine" to "Not my problem"
Well, the movers came after ten days (one day past our estimate). And when they did, the final bill was 35% higher than the original estimate!!! This was a surprise, since there were some heavy things factored into our estimate that we later decided not to move!
The truck driver would not unload unless I paid the full amount. I had fortunately read my moving rights and countered that I would only pay 110% of my estimate. The driver said he didn’t know that law and couldn’t reach his dispatcher. I called Flatbush but they would not put me through to John or Dominic – they would only take messages (incidentally, none of my calls to Flatbush since the arrival have been returned).
I called Wheaton and insisted that they phone the driver’s dispatcher and tell him to release my stuff for 110%. It took almost an hour to resolve the issue. The driver told me he was not familiar with that law and had never had to deal with it before. I must credit Wheaton with supplying me with the “your rights when moving” pamphlet – my impression is that they do want their customers to know their rights.
After speaking with the dispatcher, the driver would not put my initial deposit towards the 110% of my estimate. The booklet of moving rights was unclear on whether a deposit can be applied to the 110% charge. In the end I had to pay a total of about 120% of my estimate to get my stuff.
Since Flatbush had not returned my calls I decided to deal with Wheaton once we’d unloaded. I called Wheaton and spoke with David Allen in their billing department, who was easy to reach. I explained that the final bill was way off the estimate, that Flatbush had not returned my calls, and that as a minimum I wanted an explanation as to why my estimate was so far off. He was very helpful and promised to look into it right away.
To Wheaton’s credit, they got back to me the next morning (I’d called in the afternoon). Appraently, Dominic had estimated that we’d have 25 boxes worth of stuff. We actually had 114 boxes of stuff - and had given away about 15 boxes worth of clothes, books, etc. and did not move an Air Conditioner I had included in our original estimate.
The official conclusion from Flatbush was that it was either a bad estimate, or I had added several boxes worth of items to our load.
It would be no more difficult to prove I didn’t add 99 boxes worth of items than it would be to prove that Flatbush lowballed me. I am curious if there is a precedent for this in arbitration, but have not found any information thus far. The remaining amount is small in dollar terms, and I’m coming to grips with the fact that I’ll probably have to suck it up and pay it.
Considering we actually moved less than we had originally estimated I can only conclude that I got lowballed by Flatbush. My lessons from this experience are:
1.)Give yourself the time you need to comfortably get a binding GNTE estimate. If you are short on time (and remember, things get busy before a move) you will be more likely to commit to a bad deal. If someone refuses to give you one, walk away. This was probably my biggest mistake.
2.)Just because a mover has some good reviews on MovingScam.org, it does not mean that they won't try to screw you! What happened to me was not illegal, but it was not, in my opinion, ethical.
3.)As for Flatbush, I would definitely not recommend them as an agent based on my experience.
4.) Regarding Wheaton: In all fairness, my problem is with Flatbush and should not reflect on Wheaton. I would have preferred that they came sooner, but they offered to pay for meals and hotel rooms after the delivery window. They seem to be fair and good at what they do, and the support I’ve received since moving has been excellent. My only problem with Wheaton is that they use Flatbush as an agent.
As for Flatbush, I know that John Liantonio reads and posts to this board. I have left two messages at Flatbush and I know that was called by a Wheaton employee about my move. Any of those things should have prompted him to call me. But I have not heard a word from him since our move. This is not good customer service.
John may post a retort or explanation on this board. If he does, just remember when you read it that if he had returned my calls, he wouldn't need to explain himself here.
I have decided to suck it up and pay the balance, but wanted to provide a detailed description of my experience so other customers can make informed decisions on who they move with and which agent they use.
While I am wary of Flatbush, I would still probably recommend Wheaton, with the caveat that if you book them through an agent you should get a GTNE from a mover other than Flatbush.
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