A little over a year ago, I was given the opportunity to work for DotNetNuke Corporation. This was an amazing opportunity, which I announced in my usual over-obsessive way in a previous blog entry. This opportunity meant many things, but the most overwhelming thing was that we had to move from Orlando, FL to San Francisco, CA. That’s right. We had to move from one side of the country to the opposite side. Enter all of the moving companies…
The process of finding and choosing a moving company is far from enjoyable. In fact, it’s really a very stressful thing to do. You are trying to find someone that you can trust to take all of your most beloved belongings – many of which cannot be replaced – and move them from one location to another. This isn’t too big of a deal when it’s a local move. However, we found out the hard way that moving nearly 3,000 miles is a whole different proposition.
We made the mistake of filling out a couple of forms to get more information from more than one moving site. Whenever you do that in the US, this puts you on legal spamming list. Ugh.
Anyhow, during our online and offline research, we short-listed 3 moving companies. One of them was Allied. This short list was based on the pricing, detail in quote, reputation online and off (ratings, Better Business Bureau, etc.), and the presentation of the sales person that showed up. We even pinged our friends on Twitter and Facebook for additional insight and opinions. In fact, one had a great experience moving from Australia to New Jersey.
In the end, Allied came out on top. We chose them in May of 2010. Their local affiliate was Coleman American Moving Services. Their online reputation and sales presentation prevailed, and their quote was highly competitive with the other quotes we received. The thing that sold Kim was that Ron Williams (the sales rep) told us that he would be with us every step of the way to make sure our move was perfect. As you will see below, this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Due to the availability of our new home in California and the timing of my start date, school, and more, we had to move out 30 days before we could move in to our new place. This meant that Allied had to pack us up and move us out, only to put our things in storage for at least 2 weeks. Then, they would transport out things from Florida to California.
However, an unexpected delay in our home availability would mean that our things will need to be moved into our own storage unit in California before we could actually move into our new home. We would find this out later.
We opted to have the movers pack our house for us. This was mainly because I wanted to trust an expert mover to pack our stuff. After all, this is what they do every day. I would expect them to know how to pack our things to sustain such a long move.
Our packer arrived around 8 AM in an unmarked white van on June 11, 2010.
At the time, I saw some packing techniques that I thought were quite creative. For example, they used our blankets, pillows, and comforters to seeming pack some of our more fragile items. I thought this was ingenious! I later found out from the guys that unpacked us that this is not the way to do things. In fact, it is frowned upon.
They sent a single person to pack our entire house for us. It was nothing short of impressive to see this one guy pack our entire house in a matter of 6 hours or so. This should have been a red flag though. I know this now.
The actual movers showed up later in the day. They began moving out the packed boxes and furniture. They moved all of our belongings the same way that we moved them in – which is to say that everything except for the dining room table was moved out in one piece. It all left our home and was packed into the moving truck fully assembled.
Everything in the move was supposed to be marked with moving stickers before moving out the door. However, many things didn’t have a sticker before moving out, and the both the packers and movers had their own type of stickers with a different number range. This made trying to keep track of who was moving what nearly impossible. It was confusing to say the least.
I only mention the way our things were removed, because we would later find out that this was all done wrong! All of our furniture is supposed to be and would be disassembled. However, the process of breaking down our furniture was supposed to happen in front of us, before it was loaded onto the truck. Instead, it was broken down at their warehouse nearly 2 hours away. more on this later.
Amazingly, they were able to pack and move all of our things in a single day! This is where the ability for Allied to impress us ended. We didn’t know that for another few weeks though.
It would not be long before I would fly out to California while the family prepared to join me in about 6 months.
Our things were scheduled to arrive in California on July 8-9, 2010. Unfortunately, we were notified on July 5, 2010 that “something happened in Texas” and our delivery would be delayed. We contacted Ron Williams on 7/5, 7/6, 7/15, and 7/16 to get more information about what happened. Ron Williams didn’t contact us back until July 18, 2010. The truck was still delayed in Texas, two weeks later!
Ron Williams replied to us on 7/18 in ALL CAPS that the shipment was scheduled to arrive in the next two days, and if we wanted to, place a claim on their website.
Over the phone, Ron Williams told me that the driver hit a cow in Texas. Hopefully, you’re as dumbfounded as I am… How do you hit a cow on the Interstate? I mean, it’s not uncommon for a cow to find their way onto any road, but how do you not see them? It’s not like a single cow is going to sprint in front of a truck. Anyway…
During this time I was also given the number for the driver of the truck, John Stalmach. He didn’t speak English very well. He wasn’t easy to get ahold of either. Whenever I did get to speak to him, his standard answer was “two days” when I asked when he would arrive with our things. He had also indicated that he returned to Jacksonville, FL to complete the repairs on his truck. That’s nearly backtracking the original distance he traveled.
We had bought a storage unit that was empty this entire time, with nearly no information from Allied/Coleman American. I was living with the clothes I could pack into a single suitcase this entire time, which is about a weeks worth of clothing – maybe less.
To Coleman American’s credit, their Regional Vice President, Martin Vah, did respond to one of our attempts of contact. He offered to reimburse us for the days that the storage unit was empty. However, it took two reminders and a forward of his original e-mail to help him “remember” this.
The delivery finally arrived on July 19, 2010. Not only was John Stalbach weeks late to the storage unit, I guess being an hour late that morning wasn’t a big deal to him. We then had to wait another hour or more for his “helpers” to arrive and unload the truck for him. He appeared to be Russian from the best I could tell from his broken English, and arrived with a petite young woman as his co-driver. It was his wife. She was Vietnamese and also spoke nearly no English. John had a strong limp, indicating that he probably had bad knees, so the unloading was performed by the helpers and his wife.
On a side note, the fact that his co-driver was his wife made me even more suspicious as to how John Stalbach was unable to see a cow in the road while driving…
I would love to tell you that the unload went pretty smooth. However, I immediately noticed that a piece of the furniture wasn’t ours. While it was a beautiful desk, I asked John Stalbach to take it back. I was certain someone else would miss it. He spent nearly ten minutes trying to convince me that I should keep it anyway. I also noticed that there appeared to be too many pieces to our dining room table. I would later find out when we put it back together that we were given our base to the table, and also someone else’s base to a similar table! (Later, while unpacking, we would also find pieces to more tables that weren’t ours.)
When we complained about this later, we were told that our things were put into a warehouse next to someone else’s things where the furniture was disassembled and repacked. This was the reason for having too many pieces and missing pieces ourselves.
Some of the last pieces of furniture to be unloaded were completely disassembled. This was the first time that I was seeing our furniture literally bundled and wrapped in many pieces. Until this moment, I had no idea that our furniture was going to be disassembled. The initial reaction was shock. I asked John Stalbach to put our things together. After all, I didn’t take these things apart, and certainly wouldn’t have to the point to where the pieces could be wrapped and bundled.
John Stalbach refused to put the furniture back together. He said he didn’t take it apart and wouldn’t know how to put it back together, and he would have to charge me extra for it. This pissed me off immensely.
While they were moving things, I called their office to find out why our furniture was disassembled to such a degree. I was assured that this was a standard practice, but it was supposed to happen and be explained in front of us when our house was packed. Further, the driver was responsible for having it put back together. I got off of the phone and immediately told John Stalbach to put our furniture together. He complained and called the office. I guess he also didn’t know he was responsible for this.
A true gentleman, John Stalbach had his wife put together our son’s bunk bed set by herself. Until it was put back together, it was taken apart to the point where it was literally several bundles of wood sticks, either taped or wrapped together. There was a broken slat from the move that she tried to glue and screw together. It was a train wreck. She did such a poor job of doing this, I allowed them to leave without attempting to put together any other furniture.
Once John Stalbach had completely unloaded his truck, he and his wife secured all of the doors and equipment they had out. They then attempted to drive out. They way this storage facility is mapped out, I had to input my security code to open the gate for him to drive out. I also needed to stand next to the code box, just in case I needed to re-input the code in the event that the gate might close again. (It closes fast.)
I could immediately tell that John Stalbach wasn’t taking the turn to the gate wide enough. His wife could tell too. She got out of the cab to help guide him out. It wasn’t enough though. I could tell that this trailer was getting closer and closer to me and the security pad. The security pad is protected by some cemented poles. So, when his trailer began to rub against them, they bent inwards a bit and scraped a couple of the locking mechanisms off of this belly storage on the trailer, where the ramps are kept. The whole time I was yelling at him, trying to warn him, but it was too later. As the locks and latches busted off of the trailer, they shot off of the side of the trailer, hitting me in the legs and knees. Luckily, I was wear jeans, and the force of them wasn’t too hard.
John Stalbach picked up the pieces of his truck and tried to rally up his wife and continue drive out, but the owner of the storage facility was there in a split second, with paperwork in-hand. It was hilarious. The driver tried to get away, but couldn’t.
Apparently, the organizational skills of Allied/Coleman American is a company-wide problem. They don’t like getting paid either.
We didn’t even get an invoice for this until July 28, 2010 from Cynthia Rosado. We had to ask for it several times! This is a month and a half after we were packed, and more than a week after delivery, but 20 days after the originally scheduled delivery!
We needed to move into our new home about 1-2 weeks after our things arrived to the storage unit. Except for the painful process of negotiating a quote and service that fit our needs with Paul Swaim of Nor-Cal Moving Services, the move was great this time – especially since the storage unit was literally a 4 minute walk from our new home. This time, we also used an Allied affiliate, but the entire move was uneventful, fun, and actually educational. The movers themselves were dumbfounded at how everything was packed into boxes, packed into the storage unit, and more. They even took the time to show us proper packing techniques using the very same boxes and materials.
This experience really enlightened us to know that we truly had chosen the worst possible company to move us from Florida.
I think it goes without saying that a claim would be on the horizon. I think everyone involved knew this was coming, even if the only thing you knew about was the cow vs. truck accident.
It took us a while to sort through our things and find out exactly what damages had occurred. I originally notified Martin Vah of Coleman American with this list on November 18, 2010, well under their 9-month deadline. Overall, the list would be as follows:
Surprisingly, none of our pictures or dishes were broken during the move.
We first sent an official claim to Coleman American in January. Then insisted on us sending the claim directly to them. It took numerous calls and e-mails to confirm with them that they lost our claim. Finally, in March, we resent the claim to them – after they once again assured us that they are the right place to send it too. It would get it processed faster. Big mistake on our part to believe them twice.
We once again attempted on numerous occasions to find out the status of our claim. On every occasion, we were given a run around of some kind. After nearly 6 months of trying to get answers and actions for the move, they finally will not respond to any of our correspondence or claims.
We continued to get passed off and given the run around for months, until the point of finally being past their contractually obligated date range for a claim to be filed. Now, they are unwilling to discuss this matter in any way.
We did everything in our power to do the right thing before, during, and after the move. Unfortunately, it would seem, that Coleman American and Allied Van Lines do not care for repeat business or recommendations. I even tried to reason with Allied through online channels.
We are now stuck with broken things, things that aren’t ours, and the bill to replace our own items that they broke through their own negligence. While I am sure our move could have been worse in some way, this was to date one of the worst customer service experiences that we have ever had with anyone.
From beginning to end, once we signed with Allied/Coleman American, we had nothing but run around, excuses, accidents, broken items, and our e-mails and phone calls were rarely returned.
I wouldn’t recommend either company to an enemy. Stay away from both companies, no matter the cost.