ALEXANDRIA, Va., (WUSA) -- "Welcome to our oh so humble abode, 780 square feet of empty bliss," Jay Alan Wieranga says.
A new job opportunity brought Jay to this Alexandria apartment. He hired All United Van Lines, which is not affiliated with United Van Lines, to move his possessions here from California.
He says, "They were great up until the time they came to pick up the stuff, and from that point on it's been nothing but a nightmare."
Jay says his nightmare started in July of last year. All United Van Lines promised to deliver his goods in early August. By the end of September his apartment was still empty.
"You start calling everyday and going, 'Uh, hello, have you left yet? Do you have our stuff?'", he says.
Jay says All United Van Lines offered the cheapest estimate over the phone, a binding quote for a little over $1200, to move him across the country.
Jay says he received a new invoice on his moving day with extra charges that totaled $4,099.81.
"Yeah, it was a little sticker shock," he says.
Even more shocking, the fact that for months he couldn't get a clear answer to what happened to all his stuff.
"So you took our stuff to Utah then back to California then New Mexico and the truck broke down, and now you took it back," a company employee told him over the phone.
"They're a problematic mover to begin with," Edward Johnson says.
The Better Business Bureau's president and CEO says if Jay had done a little homework before he got that estimate, he might have made a different decision.
Johnson says, "They have an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. They've had 31 complaints, and 80 percent of those complaints the company didn't even respond to."
But the company will have to respond to the Federal Motor Carrier Administration. The agency is investigating complaints against All United Van Lines. They could even fine them. But the victims will not see any of that money. It goes to a general Treasury fund.
That's why it is so important to protect yourself before the mover loads up their truck, starting with a check of the company's record.
By mid Fall, some 80 days after his ordeal began, the truck arrived. But All United Van Lines' employees would not even begin to unload his belongings until he paid them an additional $1,815.81 in cash.
"I feel like I just had to pay ransom to get my stuff back," Jay Alan Wieranga says.
In all, more than double the original binding quote.
He says, "I would like to see the company shut down."
We tried contacting All United Van Lines, again, not related to United Van Lines which is a different company. All of the numbers we were able to track down are disconnected.
Jay hopes people learn from his mistakes.
How To Find A Reputible Company
Before you turn over your possessions and your money, plan ahead.
Don't wait until the last minute to find a mover.
Get at least three estimates to compare.
And, make sure the estimate is on sight, not simply over the phone.
Also, the BBB's Edward Johnson offers the following tips on how you can avoid relocation consternation.
Check the mover's reliability report with the BBB at www.mybbb.org. Do they have a satisfactory rating? Are they accountable to BBB membership standards?
Obtain a number of written bids based on onsite inspections. Phone and Internet estimates are not always reliable. Ask if the estimate is binding and be certain to inquire about the various trade names used by the mover. Oftentimes, a single company advertises under various names in the phone book. Therefore, you may unknowingly be shopping the same company.
Ask the mover if they have a customer check list to help coordinate and organize all of the details. Also, find out if they are the actual mover or a broker who is hiring the mover for you. If they are only the broker, issues of liability should be defined.
Inquire about any and all miscellaneous charges for stairs, long driveways, hallways, elevators, etc., and do not make your decision based on price alone. Reliability and customer service are equally as important.
Check for terms of liability, make certain they are explained in advance, ensure you understand the Bill of Lading and confirm how payments ar to be made. Verify your insurance for coverage in case of damages and strongly consider the "excess valuation insurance" offered by the mover that is over and above the normal coverage.