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Paying for the Move
Getting your Money's Worth

by Ed Katz

Hiring a moving company and controlling the move has become so full of pitfalls that companies such as Trammell Crow have begun looking for help.

“Tremendous overcapacity in the moving industry has forced many movers to slash costs by subcontracting labor. Trammell Crow, for instance, wanted their project managers to learn how to buy move services to help their customers avoid poor quality service,” said BOMA Member Ed Katz, who heads up the International Office Moving Institute (IOMI®).

According to Katz, such fast and cheap moves are characterized by a failure to bubble-wrap sensitive computers, rearrange furniture (at the customer’s request) at the end of the move, or install extensive building protection for walls, doors, floors, and elevators.

After a stint with IOMI, Trammell Crow’s corp of project managers now look for moving companies to partner with that meet uniform service standards.

“Their project managers have a measuring stick with which to evaluate move services before making recommendation to Trammell Crow customers,” said Katz.

The following guidelines will help you avoid becoming a “moving target” by reducing your chances of a moving service failure.

Finding a reputable mover

Instead of playing "Russian roulette" by relying on the telephone book, ask fellow BOMA members to recommend reputable movers or select from our list of Certified Office Movers®, which have successfully completed IOMI® training. IOMI graduates learn to estimate accurately so jobs finish on time for the price quoted plus they are schooled in the latest techniques for minimizing the risk of damage to furniture, computers, and real property.

Don’t ask for references

Rather than accept references that can be selectively supplied, and to get a true picture of a mover’s performance, ask bidders to supply contacting information for the last five companies they have moved. Call each contact and ask these questions:

1. When did the move occur? (Hint: You’re verifying that it’s recent.)

2. Did the mover protect your furniture, contents, electronic equipment, and office building, or was there a lot of damage? (Hint: If there was damage, did the mover settle the claims in a timely manner under his liability?

After the move is a lousy time to learn about moving insurance. If you’re paying for the move and your tenant’s furniture and computers are damaged and not fully covered by the mover’s insurance, expect your office to become the complaint department.

Most movers’ standard coverage limits their liability for furniture and computers. You may discover your tenant is under insured only after major damage occurs. The safest approach is to pay a little more and buy replacement value insurance from your mover. However, it’s no substitute for a good move. The wait for replacement authorization from the insurance company, which typically has 60 to 90 days to settle a claims, can jeopardize your tenant’s business.

Additional insurance for real property damage is not necessary. All movers are 100 percent liable for damage they cause to items such as carpet, tile, doors, walls, and elevators. What’s not covered, however, is the time spent trying to get someone to fix a door or repair torn wallpaper or polish out the scratches on your elevator.

3. Did the mover minimize downtime (the nonproductive time spent packing and unpacking before and after the move)?

Movers using Space Gobblers™ eliminate the packing and unpacking of desks, credenzas, and flat file cabinets. One with a Spider Crane® allows customers to avoid downtime by moving the contents
in the furniture instead of moving the contents and the furniture, which can reduce downtime by as much as 90 percent.

No Spider Crane® or Space Gobblers™? Downtime can still be reduced using Tyga Boxes™, which replace conventional cardboard moving cartons with a pre-built plastic crate system. Tenants still have to pack and unpack furniture contents but save time by avoiding having to build moving cartons at the origin and then break them down at the destination. Also, since Tyga Boxes™ arrive more in the order in which they were packed than convention moving cartons, unpacking is quicker. According to Martin Spindel, president of Tyga Box™, customers using his system report downtime reductions between 20 and 30 percent.

4. Did the mover finish the job on time for the price quoted?

Movers tend to overpromise by scheduling more business then they have resources to satisfactorily perform. Ask bidders to list the number of four-wheel dollies and other pieces of handling equipment they will need to complete your job by the date promised. Some moving companies may try to satisfy this request by supplying a list of equipment they own, which is worthless information. No matter how much they possess, it won’t be enough if they overbook. Before you award the contract, ask the winning bidder to guarantee in writing that he’ll furnish the amount stated as being required in your proposal.

Demand a Scope of Services

Be skeptical of movers submitting only a cost estimate without a detailed Scope of Services. Estimates should spell out specific responsibilities for both your tenant and the mover. Bid packages containing only fancy brochures and a price without specifics for your job often lead to change orders during the move, and a guaranteed price evaporates if your tenant signs change orders.

As the landlord, when you pay for a move, your tenant typically should be responsible for packing and unpacking furniture contents. The Scope of Services should identify who will be responsible for packing the supply room, file room, library, and other common areas in addition to easily overlooked items such as plants, paintings, pictures, lamps and bric-a-brac. Turnkey relocations, where the mover handles packing, unpacking, hanging paintings, and other details, are atypical and can add 50 percent to the cost of the move, To hold down costs, it’s reasonable to expect the tenant to take care of such items.

Before you award the contract, ask the winning bidder to guarantee in writing that he will follow the Scope of Services, and make sure the mover understands the ground rules before introducing him to your tenant.

And what about your building

Be skeptical of bidders who fail to detail exactly how they plan to protect your building. A detailed Scope of Services should address building protection with a line item for floors, walls, doors, and elevators.

Movers dedicated to building protection use Masonite® or Pathrite® for carpeting and a resilient cardboard called Koroflex on walls of main traffic arteries. Mat-A-Doors® protect main entrance doors, lobby-side elevator entrances, and passenger cab interiors. Expect to find bumper pads or plastic corner guards listed to protect door jambs.

Taking steps to screen potential movers will smooth out the move process for everyone. Reputable ones become easier to spot, your tenant's experience will be much more pleasant, and requiring specific measures to protect your building will relieve you of the expense and hassle of repairs.

Ed Katz, founder and former owner of Peachtree Movers in Atlanta, has been called the guru of office moving. He's a member of BOMA/Atlanta and can be reached at 1-800-464-8688 or EdKatz@officemoves.com.