Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsburgh?

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Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsburgh?

Postby cambridgepittsburgh » Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:21 pm

I'm moving the contents of a two bedroom apartment from Cambridge, MA to Pittsburgh. I've gotten some quotes, and am trying to decide between two of them. Any advice any of you would care to share would be much appreciated. I also hope my recording my experiences here may be helpful to others in the future.

It's a two bedroom, five room total, apartment. I possibly have less normal furniture than most similar sized moves. For example, no couch or armchairs. On the other hand, there are twelve book cases, and a *lot* of books, CDs, LPs and sheet music. And a 6'1" grand piano. And several pieces of light, but fragile antique furniture, including a grandfather clock. I'm moving in mid-November, though can easily be flexible with dates if I need to. This isn't a company move, I'm paying for it out of my own pocket.

I'm packing nearly everything myself (in fact, I've already got exactly 50 book boxes done!), just leaving the antiques and furniture for the professionals to deal with.

There's no way a van could be driven down and parked on the street in Cambridge where I currently live. A smaller truck will have to be used on at least this end.

I did consider moving the piano separately, but in the end have decided to trust the normal movers with it (cf. ... ght=#44589). I remain a bit nervous about this, but it will be so much easier (and cheaper) this way. I will be sure to report on how it all turns out.

While I obviously don't want to spend more than is really necessary (for example, I'm doing most of the packing myself), getting the absolute minimum cost isn't my primary goal -- my biggest concern is simply maximizing the chances that all my belongings arrive safely. I'd gladly pay an extra $500 for peace of mind.

I ended up getting three quotes, as follows.

1) ABC Moving and Storage

100 Adams Road, Clinton, Massachusetts, 800-723-5900; and 12 Bockes Road, Hudson, New Hampshire, 800-633-6000 (also two other locations in New England).

They are an Allied agent. The don't have their own DOT number, only Allied's. The sales rep is Lenny Stone, out of the Clinton office. The Clinton office is relatively new, and in the 18 months the Better Business Bureau has been keeping score, has had no complaints. The Hudson office (their main one, I think) has what looks to me like normal levels of complaints, all closed, and gets a satisfactory rating.

I was unable to find them mentioned in any posts in

The sales rep was most helpful, informed and professional. He was careful to go line by line through the estimate, and explain possible gotchas. He did leave the Rights and Responsibilities thing. He also gave me a wide choice of insurance, with both different caps and different deductibles. The estimate is based on what I chose, $75,000 with the maximum deductible of $500; my understanding is that I can change this easily up until just before the move.

He said that while normally for moves over 500 miles they would do a shuttle to a van, for Pittsburgh, at about 600 miles, is only a little further, and this being a slow time of year, they would use a single truck of their own for the whole trip. Two of their own employees would go from here (either the Clinton or Hudson office), and they would pick up at least one more from Ryan Moving and Storage in Pittsburgh (which firm I've not yet researched; oops). I do much prefer the notion of the single truck, as that seems to minimize the handling, and possibilities of damage, to my belongings; as well as reducing the number of different firms involved.

In discussing the fragile furniture, he advised that crating it would be horribly expensive, and recommended that they have boxes most of it could fit into. He recommended that with lots of bubble wrap.

He gave me a binding quote. I asked about a not to exceed, which he said they didn't like to do. My impression was I could have pushed him to do so, albeit at a higher estimate. I didn't bother.

The numbers are

8400 pounds
60% discount

The fuel surcharge is 18%, but will go up to 21% on the 15th of October, and so the estimate will go up accordingly if I've not made a deal with them by then. The fuel surcharge is subject to the discount, so the increase is really only 1.2%, not the full 3%.

2) Gentle Giant Moving Company

29 Harding Street, Somerville, Massachusetts, 617-661-3333.

Their DOT number is 373544 and their MC number is 218762. They are a local firm, mostly doing intrastate moves. The sales rep I officially dealt with was Tom Anderson, though in the end someone else prepared the estimate. For reasons that will become apparent below I've already decided not to use them. However I'm going to include a fair bit of information about them just in case it's helpful to others in the future researching them.

They have been mentioned several times in, with some questions raised. I have got answers (or purported answers) to some of those questions:

- I think there is some confusion as there are at least three "Gentle Giants" out there. There's this one in Somerville which is the one most folks are concerned with. There's one in LA that's an agent for Atlas Van Lines. And there is (or maybe it's was) one in Brooklyn called ABC Gentle Giant that appears to be a scammer. It appears the Somerville guys actually went to arbitration to get the Brooklyn guys internet domain name taken away from them as it was just an attempt to poach the Somerville guys' business.

- The Gentle Giant guys in Somerville say they are agents for Rainier Transportation Systems, but no one seems to be able to find out anything about Rainier. When I asked about them, Tom Anderson said that they really only use Ranier internationally. My move would be handled entirely by Gentle Giant. I'm still a bit puzzled about how, they'd handle a, say, 1200 mile move, but didn't pursue it.

I got a quote from them because I'd heard so many good things about them locally, including from a friend who recently used them to move to Michigan. I gotta say, though, my own experiences have left me underwhelmed by them.

The Better Business Bureau has what I would guess to be a normal number of complaints, attended to promptly, and gets a satisfactory rating.

For my move they would do it all themselves, using their own truck the whole way, and taking their own employees to Pittsburgh (they do also have an office in White Plains, but even that's got to be over 300 miles from Pittsburgh, so this surprised me).

They also didn't want to do an in-home estimate. In talking with Tom on the phone he said that they would instead like me to email them a detailed inventory. This set off alarm bells, but I did it that night.

And heard nothing. So I sent them an inquiring email. And heard nothing. So I called the phone number I'd gotten with the emailed paperwork from Tom explaining what they'd like in the inventory; surprisingly I got someone else's voice mail, but left a message for Tom. But still no call back. I gave them one more chance, and sent a fairly blistering email to their customer support department, who got right back to me, apologized profusely, said all the right things, and promised that they already had someone working on an estimate that I should get shortly. Within an hour someone else (Matt Lowry) called me, made excuses about Tom being on vacation, and said he was emailing an estimate to me. He said Tom would remain the actual sales rep, thoguh. I received the estimate a few minutes later.

There's a slight apples and oranges here as I had them do it without the piano and grandfather clock, which I'd originally considered shipping separately. Since I'm not going to use them, I didn't have them redo it with them. Of course, since they came in highest anyway, the apples and oranges effect really doesn't matter!

It's a rather startlingly spare estimate. Nothing is broken out, not even a discount from the tariff. While it's got a lot of zeros for various possible extra things that aren't relevant to me, in the end all it really says is

7,650 pounds
and insurance, which they say is covered to a valuation of $40,000. They never discussed insurance with me.

Indeed, they discussed very little with me. (Oh, and no Rights and Responsibilities, either, but since they didn't come visiting I guess that's not surprising.)

I don't think they're scammers or anything, just disorganized for interstate moves. Or maybe it's arrogant. But whatever it is, I'll certainly never use them for anything, other than to buy boxes from (they do a decently priced box business around here -- even with that they made an error on a delivery this past Saturday, but fixed it promptly).

3) Humboldt Storage and Moving Company

100 New Boston Drive, Canton, Massachusetts, 781-821-8777 (some bits of public record instead show them in Milton, MA -- in 1999 they moved to a newly built facility in Canton, ostensibly because of growth of their business). They've been in business 100 years, having started out as an ice hauling business in Boston, and are now run by the grandson of the founder.

DOT # 363405, MC # 87541. They are an agent for United Van Lines.

The Better Business Bureau doesn't seem to keep score for Humboldt, aggregating any complaints against them into United Van Lines.

The sales rep was Chris Clark. Again he impressed me with being straightforward, a clear communicator, knowledgeable and professional. He initially stated they'd need to do a shuttle thing, but when I mentioned that others had given me an estimate for doing it in a single truck, he said they could probably do that, and that it would be cheaper, too. He would need to confirm exact dates with the folks that schedule the trucks before giving me a firm commitment on that, but since my dates are flexible he was confident it could be made to work, and that on reflection he thought it was a better way to go. He did say it was only because (a) it is only a little over 500 miles, and (b) it's a slow time of year for them. This seems to correspond closely to what I was told by ABC.

He said crating the grandfather clock would be $300+ and also recommended a better way to go would be large boxes they have plus lots of padding.

Chris also went carefully through the estimate. He didn't ask me about a valuation before plugging one in, but did bring it up and discuss it afterwards. The valuation he plugged in was $60,000, with no deductible. I was also pleased that he was careful to point out that since I was packing most things, the insurance wouldn't cover breakage of anything I'd packed. And he did supply the Rights and Responsibilities thing.

He produced a non-binding estimate. When I asked about a not to exceed, he indicated he could do that, though it would be for a 10% higher weight, and that other aspects would be correspondingly higher, too.

The numbers are

10,200 pounds
62% discount
(the fuel surcharge is already 21% and won't go up on the 15th)

Anyway, having ruled out Gentle Giant, I'm trying to decide between ABC and Humbodt. The bottom line on either is almost the same, and, at least based on the sales guys, I feel comfortable with either company. The binding estimate from ABC is a tiny bit lower and shouldn't go up other than the fuel surcharge, so I guess it has a slight edge. But it's close enough any further thoughts any of you have could easily sway me the other way, if appropriate.

Anyway, any advice any of you would care to give would be most appreciated.

Also, a question about fuel surcharges: I'd originally thought this was a tariff issue, set independently of the firm in question. But from the sales rep for Humboldt I got the impression it was instead set by the individual van lines and so on. Which is it?

Whatever my decision in the end I will be sure to report back on my experiences when it's all over.

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Re: Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsbu

Postby Diane » Wed Oct 12, 2005 12:34 pm

This is very valuable information, and I thank you for posting it. Regarding Gentle Giant and Rainier, I seem to recall someone saying that they use Rainier for long-distance moves and the shipment goes by rail (?). If so, this would be very undesirable. Not sure about this--maybe someone will come on to correct my recollection. Anyway, they sound so disorganized that in my opinion no one should use them for an interstate as opposed to local move.

Now, as to ABC (Allied) vs. Humboldt (United). I agree with you that not much has been said about ABC here, while Humboldt has been praised by industry people. However, ABC's Binding or TPG estimate sounds good to me as opposed to Humboldt's Nonbinding estimate. See whether you can get ABC to add a Guaranteed Rate Reduction clause, which means that it would be like a GNTE, and compare the amount of the quotes. As you say, a TPG with GRR might be somewhat higher. In any case, I think a TPG estimate is better than a Nonbinding.

My main question has to do with the shuttle at origin. You say that there is no way that a tractor-trailer could get down your street in Cambridge. Then what kind of truck is ABC proposing to use to drive your things to Pittsburgh? Is it going to use a smaller (straight) truck? Just be sure that you are clear about this. The fact that the Humboldt rep suddenly agreed that eliminating a shuttle "could be made to work" strikes me as rather vague and possibly an empty promise, although I'm sure he's a nice guy.

Regarding the fuel surcharge, I'm not an expert, but recent discussions on this board have led me to believe that every van line sets its own policy based on fuel costs that are published every month. If the charges are going to go up with ABC on the 15th that would be reason in my mind to book before then.


Re: Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsbu

Postby anne002 » Wed Oct 12, 2005 2:37 pm

My driver said he would not go in cambridge with his tractor trailer
basically (his truck is 78 ft, 53 for the back). So be careful when someone says no shuttle. It does not matter what the agent says, if the driver can't get in you have to pay the shuttle.

Also, cambridge requires 4 business days notice to post for moving vans. Mayflower's driver called me saturday, for a thursday download, which was tooooooooooo late. I had to accept a shuttle just because of that. So make sure you know when the truck is coming early enough to get your permit. We heard about the pick up date 3 days before for example!!!! That seems to be how the industry works, which is in conflict with how the city works.

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Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Re: Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsbu

Postby cambridgepittsburgh » Wed Oct 12, 2005 3:16 pm

Thanks! In fact both ABC and Humboldt said they can't get a tractor trailer in. They are both proposing to use a smaller truck, and dedicate it to my move, and both ABC and Humboldt referred to it as a "straight truck."

Sorry I wasn't clearer.

Regading the Humbolt guy sounding "vague," I'm sorry that I gave that impression. A poor choice of words on my part. He was very clear that he would have to confirm with others exactly when that could or could not be done, and would want to do that before we finalized any agreement. I certainly felt as if he was being clear and upfront with me about it all.


Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 11:40 am
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Re: Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsbu

Postby cambridgepittsburgh » Wed Oct 12, 2005 3:35 pm

Regarding Gentle Giant, Ranier, and trains:

I, too, remember seeing something in an earlier post about Ranier being a train company. Unfortunately I can't find the old post. However, my memory is simply that someone discovered Ranier "is a train company," and not that anyone actually had any discussions or experiences about stuff moving by train from Gentle Giant. Doesn't mean that's not what happens, and indeed you and I may have seen different posts.

Inerestingly in looking for that old post I did stumble across one discussion of a company called "Ranier Overseas Systems" which was described as "one of the more reputable" international movers. That would jive well with GG having told me they only use them for international moves.

Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 11:40 am
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Re: Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsbu

Postby cambridgepittsburgh » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:22 pm

Well, darn. I promised to get back with my experiences, and never did. At least, not until now. Sorry for the really horrendous delay. In my defense, I did only finish unpacking the last box a month or so ago, and am still figuring out exactly where to put the last few odds and ends....

Anyway, I went with ABC.

At first I was a little nervous about it. When I called to finalize things they seemed to be moving. The sales guy I had originally spoken with was on vacation. He'd warned me he would be, and gave me someone else to speak with. But this new person seemed insufficiently clued in on our discussions. She (a) didn't think a straight truck was possible, and (b) when she sent the final paperwork, it was for a non-binding quote!

However, once the original sales guy was back he did straighten it all out, and the final arrangements were exactly as discussed.

In the end I had them move the piano, and was very happy I did. They really did seem to know what they were doing, but were obviously nervous about it as they didn't do it frequently. They clearly took it as a big responsibility, and worked very hard to make sure there were no problems, which there weren't.

In the end I moved several of the more fragile antiques myself before the real move, but all those I had the movers do they were extra careful with.

They had three guys at each end, the driver and two helpers. They showed up close to when they promised, maybe 45 minutes late, apparantly because traffic was worse than they'd anticipated. Interestingly in talking with them the driver was actually the least experienced of the three -- it was a slow time of year so they had pretty long-term folks helping him, who he clearly looked up to as mentors. The guys at the Cambridge end were all really good.

As promised it was a striaght truck, no one else's stuff on it, no extra handling. I had expected a little delay between the pickup and drop off, but they ended up unload 40 hours after they'd finished loading, which suited me fine, though I can imagine folks in other circumstances finding that too quick.

In the end one of the Cambridge guys went with the driver, and they only picked up one new guy in Pittsburgh. This new guy was clearly less experienced and less competent. Indeed, I doubt he'll stick with the job very long. Sounds pretty typical, where the firm at the delivery end supplies their most junior folks.

In the end there was almost no damage to anything. The only two instances I can remember now were

1) there was a tiny nick to one large, non-valuable bookcase; I never would have even noticed myself, but they took the trouble to point it out to me after they did it

2) one box got turned upside down by the junior guy added at the Pittsburgh end; of course, it was the one I cheated on and packed badly, so I ended up having to replace a couple of lampshades

Insurance wasn't an issue for these items -- I had gone with a high deductable, so I never even considered making a claim.

Come payment time they asked for only exactly what we'd agreed on as the binding estimate. And, contrary to what I'd expected, they didn't even ask for payment until after they'd unloaded.

Anyway, I was personally very happy with ABC, and would gladly use them again. Basically once they were half done unloading (probably once the piano was in!) and I could see how well it went, all the stress and worry I'd been subjecting myself to for a couple of months over moving completely vanished, and I could start enjoy being in Pittsburgh, which I have come to love as much as I did Cambridge.

And while I'm at it, thank you for this site. I'm pretty sure if I hadn't found this site and learned as much as I did from it I'd have ended up with different movers and much less satisfactory experience.

Posts: 12
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Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Re: Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsbu

Postby cambridgepittsburgh » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:35 pm

One other thing I meant to mention and forgot to:

A lesson I took away from this experience was

If you can possibly arrange it, moving is noticibly easier, better and cheaper if you can (a) do it not in the summer, (b) do it mid-month and (c) be reasonably flexible in your own choice of dates.

I'm convinced that's why I was able to have a straight truck; it resulted in more experienced folks actually doing the move; and resulted in a lower cost than I would have had otherwise.

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Re: Any advice on candidate movers from Cambridge to Pittsbu

Postby Diane » Wed Aug 16, 2006 8:32 pm

Thanks for this update and for your good advice. Glad it worked out so well with this Allied Van Lines company.
Check out domestic companies on this thread. Click here for a detailed, authoritative article on international moving.

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