How to avoid unexpected moving charges

Everyone has heard stories about other peoples moving disasters or how other people have felt scammed by moving companies. The big question most people have is: “How do I avoid that happening to me?” The quick answer is: use a company who is reputable, understand the service you are contracting, have realistic expectations and make sure you have good communication with the moving company you choose to use. Using an unknown or inexperienced company can lead to many unknown problems. If you surprise your mover, it really should be no surprise to you that the mover would want to change the quote to deal with the new surprise they just encountered or became aware of. We are going to run through some of the most common “unexpected moving charges” that people run into below and how to help you avoid them from becoming unexpected.

Realistic moving expectations

While you may not be a mover yourself or have much experience with moving, like anything you purchase, you have to understand the basics about what you are buying. Most surprises are due to consumer ignorance or lack of understanding how the moving service works that they are ordering. Customers have their own ideas of how moving should work, and expect that moving companies should operate that way they think, instead of the way the industry really works. I would hazard a very educated guess and can tell you from firsthand experience, that most arguments between moving companies and customers like yourself are due to this. A good number of customer surprise arguments, are customers telling moving companies that the industry standard or the companies policy is wrong and should be done differently because they do not agree with it. Remember: nobody is asking whether you agree with industry standard. As long as you think this way, you are most likely the problem and are the cause of your own surprise. A little education can solve a lot of problems and stop these arguments from ever occurring.

When most moving companies give a quote they are giving it based on the information you are providing. Good information leads to good and accurate moving quotes. Bad or incomplete information leads to bad quotes and surprise charges. The same way you have expectations of your moving company, they have expectations of you, their customers. For a moving company to be considered good, they have to meet your expectations. The same applies to everyone else, to be considered a good customer, means you have to meet their expectations. What most people do not realize, is that most fights between customers and companies are due to the fact that one or both parties are not meeting the expectation. Making sure you are meeting the expectation of a good customer, will get you treated much better and have much better results, then meeting the bad customer expectation. Expectations work both ways and are extremely important.

I like to think of it as if you are like dealing with a police officer. Your ignorance of the law does not excuse the fact that you might have broken it. Having education of what you are requesting and understanding what you are hiring, is very important. Your ignorance of the law could have costly consequences in the form of tickets and jail time. Your ignorance of not understanding the moving service that you are hiring could lead to the similar penalties in the form of: “unexpected moving charges”.

What is the movers expectation of you?

While this varies a little depending on the job you are requesting, here are the most common basic expectations any mover will have of any customer.

  • You are supplying them with ALL the details that they will require for getting you a proper quote. That the information is 100% correct and will not be different when they show up to do the actual work. Better to supply too much information, let them decide what is important, then too little information and be caught with a surprise.
  • All moving quotes are based on unhindered, easy access, assuming paved walkways to and from the truck, and that the object you are moving will easily fit through everywhere without an issue (no tight turns). If there is a tight spot, any steps or uneven walkway, like travelling over grass, make sure the movers know about it beforehand. Not when they arrive, otherwise that constitutes a surprise.
  • Movers expect you to be waiting for them, not the other way around. To immediately start the job as soon as they arrive on site. Time is money! Unless your move is an all day job, they probably have other customers waiting for them behind you. Do not be surprised if they will not wait for you to show up if you are not there, or want to charge you waiting time if you make them wait. You not being there or making them wait is a surprise to them.
  • Make sure you have all the legalities covered for job. For example, legal parking space for the truck(s) to park in at your job site or home. It is not their job to figure out how to make parking work at your place or their responsibility to pay for parking at your delivery. You should have already figured this out prior to their arrival and have a legal plan in place for it. If they get a parking ticket because you did not supply a legal parking spot, that is a surprise.

Most common surprised moving charges

Surprised kid
  • Can you also do this?
  • Time commitment charges
  • Waiting time
  • Dead trip or redelivery charge
  • Storage
  • Legal parking and parking tickets
  • Extra manpower or equipment required
  • Booking at a different time then when you got the quote
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Distance or mileage

Can you also move this?

As a mover, I am always stunned by the number of people that think movers should do additional work that they were not contracted for, for free or some small amount of cash on the side. The movers expectation is that they have clear access to the place they are delivering too, that the spot they are placing the item is already empty and ready to receive it. Most moving companies policy, is that movers are ONLY allowed to touch items on the order. Nothing else! Pretty much ALL moving companies have a policy that if their movers freelance move things for cash on the side at their customer locations, they will most likely get fired, as this is a conflict of interest and an insurance liability for you “the customer”, as the moving company does not insure things not on the order. If you are one of these people, you are surprising the mover and by default setting yourself up for a surprised moving charge. Logically speaking: It’s too late to change anything now, once they arrive, you are now committed to paying whatever that surprise charge might be. This could also be a dead trip charge with a rebook to come back later, once you have done your expected part. Do not want that, then be upfront and honest with the company at time of quote and booking.

Time commitment charge

There are a lot of customers out there that think moving companies should work around their schedule and be there at a specific time that suits them. After all, don’t they value and want your business? While that is fine in principle, it is unrealistic and not how the moving industry works. Moving industry is based on time equals money/cost. If you are one of many stops they are doing in a given day, the moving company is going to want to route their day in the most efficient way possible to reduce drive time between stops. As soon as you put any time stipulation on when they can come to you, you are costing the moving company additional dollars in either inefficient routing, back tracking time or having to take less delivery work that day due to the extra time they are wasting meeting your time restriction. Moving/delivery companies usually base their rates on access and scheduling that works best for them, not you. It is fine if you want to give a restriction, just do not be surprised if it comes at a higher cost/rate.

Owl Clock

Waiting time

waiting lady

Movers have the expectation that when they arrive, they can begin the work they were hired to do immediately. Not wait for you to arrive, finish your zoom meeting, wait while you do things (like clear the path for them) that should have been done prior to arrival, etc. In the moving industry, time is money, if you make a delivery person or mover wait for ANYTHING, whether it was your fault or not, it could mean that you are going to get surprised with additional waiting time charge. Or even worst yet, them leaving and having to reschedule to come back at another time at your expense. If you want to avoid this situation, make sure you are ready to go as soon as they arrive. Moving Industry expectation is that you are waiting on them, not them on you.

Dead trip or redelivery charge

We noted in the previous item that you should never make a mover wait. What some customers seem to forget or do not realize, is that their actions could have very expensive consequences. If the mover cannot do the move or delivery when they arrive for whatever reason (Note: who’s fault does not matter here: your, theirs or some other third party is irrelevant in the moving industry), there is going to be a charge for them to come back and any associated costs with it, like storage or second delivery charge. After all, time is money in the moving industry, so extra time to go and come back should obviously mean that the moving company will want additional money to cover the unexpected time to perform this. What should be obvious to everyone, is that this was not built into the original quote and while you might consider it a surprise, it is not. This charge is usually the source of a lot peoples moving disaster stories. I cannot stress this enough, do not put any mover into a redelivery situation, it will always cost you (the consumer), more money and the mover is totally within their rights to ask for this. This does not make them a bad mover or disreputable. It is actually a realistic moving expectation that a lot of consumers are totally ignorant too, but if you really think about it, makes perfect sense. I should also note here, for those that are in total disagreement, that this is 100% government approved (actual law) and all movers are legally allowed to charge you when this occurs, all costs and expenses associated with a redelivery, including storage charges. Anyone who thinks otherwise is legally in the wrong.

Moving storage charges

If you cannot take your delivery, not only does it cost more for delivery, but there is an extremely high chance you could also be hit up for storage until it gets redelivered and an entire second move. This is common practice in household moving and there is a legal law that states this is an acceptable practice and industry standard set by the government. Let me be clear, the government has already deemed this as a totally acceptable practice, after all someone has to pay for the storage space you stuff gets held in and the move to and from it. The government has determined ahead of time, that this will be the consumer. For movers doing deliveries, a standard delivery truck is most likely to be 99% committed to doing other deliveries after yours, so waiting for you may not be an option. Most of the big box stores have policies in place that demand a maximum of 5-15 minutes grace depending on the store (never heard longer than 15) and then their movers are out of there, no questions asked, your fault or problem, not theirs. This is a big deal in the household moving industry, especially when people do not have keys for their new homes. So, make sure you are on top of it and leave yourself wiggle room with your mover to not get caught in this situation. For those that are not sure when they will get the keys to their new home, talk to the mover beforehand and have a plan B in place. Otherwise you might not like the plan they force you into. Understanding this expectation is really important.

This is a hot topic for some people, and it might offend some of you to read this. My apologies for those that will be offended, you do not have to agree with what is said, but hopefully you will be better educated after reading this and have a better prospective of the moving industry expectations are when this happens to you.

Getting Parking Ticket

It is your responsibility to provide legal parking options for the delivery truck when they come to your home or business. This is a realistic expectation. The mover does not know the parking situation for every home or business in the city and nor should they. If parking is an issue by your home or business, please make sure they have specific directions on where best to park before they arrive, not when they arrive. If they arrive and cannot see an obvious legal parking option for the vehicle, they have the right to leave at your expense, which ends up costing you a lot more money for your delivery. For those that say: “Why did they not call me first?” There are laws against cell phone usage and driving. The driver should not be talking and driving, especially in busy neighbourhoods. His focus is suppose to be on safe driving of the vehicle.

True story: I was heading to an apartment building in downtown Toronto, right by the Eaton centre that I knew was going to be a problem to find parking for. I wasn’t given any special parking instructions on the order, so I went out of my way to called the customer before heading there and asked them where the legal parking/loading area was for their building. They told me to pull up in front of the building and they would meet me there on the sidewalk, as it was a very simple, quick delivery. Turns out the spot they directed to me was not a legal parking or stopping spot for that matter. Taking a chance, not seeing any parking enforcement around, and based on customer directions, I pulled up to where they said. I saw them there and we had the item off the truck in less than 60 seconds. It was a small item so I had my partner run it in while I stayed with the truck. As I reentered the cab of the truck to wait, I then saw parking enforcement ticketing the vehicle in front of me, no idea where they appeared from. I asked them if it was ok for me to wait or if I should drive around the block while waiting for my partner to return. Parking enforcer, said it is a no stopping zone, you stopped, here’s your ticket. To this day, I have no idea if there was a legal parking area for that building, it definitely was not obvious when I pulled up to the building. What makes matters worst: There are many places out there with no legal parking options. I actually talked to a city official about this once. Their answer: the home owner bought the place knowing the parking situation, it is their problem, not the cities. Parking enforcement does not care what your reason(s) are, it is considered a cost of you being there.

That said, there on a number of streets, buildings and locations, where they is no legal parking options: Period! Unfortunately, as mentioned, the city does not care about your parking problem and that is just considered a cost of you living or working there. For those of you that live and work at these places, you know who you are. There are no good legal parking options and the few that might be available are generally never available to anyone when needed, so the driver may be forced to take a risk on your behalf to make your delivery. 99% of the time, getting the ticket is your cheapest option, because waiting time and redelivery charges are usually much higher then paying a parking ticket. The only question is who is paying the parking ticket. The quote that you receive from ANY moving company, NEVER includes parking expenses like this in their quote because they have no idea that it needs to be included in your cost of delivery, nor do they know what the ticket cost will actually be till they get it as it varies from municipality to municipality.

For those that are honest, and upfront, that let the mover know about the parking problems associated with their particular location. When discussed prior to delivery, the conversation ALWAYS goes like this:

  • Customer: There is no legal parking at my place, their best option is going to be to park over here. Or there is no parking anywhere, you’ll just have to figure out best option when you arrive.
  • Moving Company: You understand that you are responsible for any tickets received when we take this chance for you? Hopefully we do not get one, but in case we do, you are paying it.
  • Customer: I understand, there is not any other good parking options available.

Moving company can either refuse to do pickup or delivery when they see no legal parking options, which is their legal right. This will immediately cost you a dead trip/redelivery charge. During the quotation process: They could add a charge for worst case possible ticket situation regardless of whether a ticket was issued during the quoting process, but that is not in your best interest. Movers are assuming that you are a good customer, not a bad one. Movers taking a chance for you on whether you will get a parking ticket is usually your cheapest option. So be fair: Don’t blame the moving company when they want to be reimbursed for your parking problems at your home or job site. If you do blame them, do not be surprised that they treat you like a bad customer, because you are no longer meeting the industry standard criteria of a good customer.

So to answer the original question: It is the customers responsibility to always cover these expenses.

For those of you that still do not understand this, wish to fight with the mover/delivery person over this saying the ticket is not your problem. You are basically saying: “You eat it, sucks to be you, you choose to park there”. This will move you from the good customer to the bad customer category in a heart beat. You have just told a good reputable mover, who did a good job for you in every other way, that in good faith, was going out of their way to try to help you out of a bad situation that was not their fault, to basically do your do your job at a loss or at best case, hopefully break-even. Movers do not do your work to lose money, nobody does. At least not on purpose. People that think this way, are the main reasons why some movers black list certain areas and streets, charge higher premiums for certain areas and/or worst yet for everyone, jack up the base cost of the service even more then what it currently is, to absorb these surprises to them from bad customers. If you wonder why a mover may refuse to come to your home or not take a chance on your parking problem situation, it tells you that they’ve meet too many bad customers lately and/or in your area. They are now trying to protect themselves from what could be another bad customer. At the end of the day, we all agree that getting parking tickets: suck! It is about being fair, not just to you, but to everyone out there. Unfortunately that means that you the customer need pay ALL the expenses (like parking tickets) associated in making your move happen. After all it is a cost of your particular job and as an industry, we are not trying to pass your surprise costs onto everyone else that wants this particular service.

Extra manpower or equipment required

The quote you are given for any job is based on a certain equipment being used and specific amount of manpower provided. I should note, that this can be very different from company to company. All moving companies are definitely NOT equal and part of the reason why quotes vary between companies is that they might be providing better equipment and more experienced manpower than other companies you are receiving quotes from. Most quotes you receive from moving companies are not apples to apples comparisons.

Let me be very clear here, with the moving industry, NO initial quotation is firm in stone, especially one done by phone or email. The quote is based on information provided and an expectation of your job flowing a particular way. As long as everything flows that way and expectations are met, the quote does not change unless you are working with a disreputable mover, in which I cannot help you. As soon as flow and expectation change, so does the quote you were originally given; to adjust to this new information. This should not be a surprise, as some people make it out to be. I can tell you that 50% or more of people that call in for quotes, do not have all the information movers need to make an accurate quote, so quotes are always a best guess based on current information provided and the way they “interpret” the information from you. For example, every year we get a few people who has no idea what piano they own, but they still want a quote for moving it and when we arrive at there home we see a grand piano instead of an upright piano. Over 50% of people out there asking for quotes have absolutely no idea how many stairs they walk up at their front door every day. We’ve had lots of people tell us there are no stairs at their home, yet when we arrive there is a flight of stairs involved moving from one level to another. Or when the movers arrive, they have to drag it over grass or up a hill to avoid the flight of stairs, which is the same amount of work, but technically there were no stairs on the hill. These are a few examples of bad information that lead to bad quotes. FYI – For those wondering, we do charge the same for going over grass as going up/down a flight of stairs, so do not try and hide behind that misdirection. The movers might need an extra person, a more experienced crew leader or a special piece of equipment to get over this surprise obstacle you just handed to the movers, like grass or uneven terrain. Another example, is you can look at two pianos that for all intent and purposes look exactly the same, but one could be 200-300 pounds heavier due to heavier materials the manufacture used or a player system installed in the piano that you failed to mention. Important details.

Some would argue that the mover should have asked more questions upfront and/or to ask every possible question out there that rarely ever occurs. These are considered the exception to the rule, but it just happened to on your move and they won’t know till they physically arrive. The questions asked upfront, were based on the information provided, if there was no red flags to steer the conversation that way, it is not the movers fault or problem that the conversation flowed the way it did based on your responses to their questions. Sometimes things get lost in translation, again not anyone’s fault, it just happens. When it does, things do get requoted accordingly which is a reasonable expectation. The moving industry is sorry if you do not like the adjustment that you were surprised with, but they were probably not impressed that you missed this crucial piece of information. If you are dealing with a reputable mover, it will be a fair adjustment and you need to remember that all movers are totally within their rights to do so.

Side note: When customers get all upset and verbally take it out on the movers. In Ontario, this is now a crime that you are committing, as you might unintentionally create a violent workplace for them. Every reputable mover, trains their staff to remove themselves from hostile situations before they escalate out of control and deal with the consequences later, which is part of the reason you hear about movers walking away. A major consequence is you not getting your item moved that day and no one interested in solving your problem due to the way you treated them. If your movers just walked out your door, 9 out of 10 times it was due to how they were being treated by you the customer. The other tenth, is usually the fact that there is nothing more that they can do right now and it has to be rescheduled when the surprise is dealt with. The expectation is everyone deserves to be treated with respect, reputable movers do not change moving quotes unless there is a good reason, just because you do not agree with it, does not change how the industry works. We also need to state here that Ministry of Labour DEMANDS things be done as safe as possible, so does Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. If your mover is telling you that something is not safe or could be done more safely, needs to be rescheduled and will end up costing you more. You need to listen to the expert advise being given, after all, isn’t that why you hired the professionals in the first place. To be extra clear: Ministry of Labour and WSIB does not care if it costs you more money to get your job done, it cares that everyone does everything possible to keep everyone safe. Last thing you want is for something to go wrong and for you to be accused of creating an unsafe workplace.

Booking at a different time then when you got a quote.

This one is more about advice on how to book an order and having realistic expectations of the person you are giving the information too. There are two ways people quote and book things.

  1. Get a quote and book the order on the spot.
  2. Get a quote and book it at some point in the future. Could be days, weeks or months later.

The first situation is always the preferred, because everything is fresh in everyone’s mind, no one has to try and remember previous conversations and the order has best chance to be written up properly.

If you are the second person, there is one very important thing you need to remember. The person you are booking with will probably NOT remember part or all of the previous conversations you had with them. That is also assuming it is even the same person when you call back, sometimes you get a totally different person that would have no knowledge of any previous conversations. Time has passed, if you do get the same person, they have talked to other customers in-between and it is unrealistic to think that they should remember everything you have talked about in the past. Just because you remember everything you have done or said, does not mean everyone else in the world does. If you are coming back to book the order, it is YOUR responsibility and the moving industries expectation that you will go through EVERYTHING needed for completing your order properly. After all, think about it, how is someone supposed to remember something you said that they have already forgotten about from who knows when, or whenever you last communicated. They cannot and industry standard says that it is not their problem to remember this. No one is asking that you agree with this statement, just telling you how it is.

Some moving companies have quoting software to help track quotes that they have given out, so you do not need to repeat everything when you call back. If they give you a quote number, use it when you book, it will help reduce mistakes and things being missed. You should still double check your information when you actually book.

Some people are hesitant to give out personal information when they get a quote. That is fine, but remember, less details, means less accurate quote. Do not be surprised when the quote changes after they get all your details.

When that missed detail becomes a surprise to movers when they arrive at your doorstep, that could lead to a surprise charge that you are going to have to deal with. To avoid getting caught in this situation, always run through, all the details of your booking to make sure quote matches booking and that everyone is on the same page. Otherwise your quote and booking may not match, which then should not be a surprise anyone when it leads to a surprise charge.

Tips and Gratuities

Tips and gratuities are supposed to be a thank you for good service performed. While our company never demands that you tip our movers, moving is considered a service based industry and it is widely considered good form and industry norm to tip the movers. Just like you would tip your waitress or pizza delivery person. Some people will do this as a flat rate, others a percentage of the bill. At the end of the day, it should totally be up to yourself whether to do or not to do. You should always have the right to decide how much it was worth to you and tip accordingly, otherwise it isn’t really considered a tip or gratuity, but just another tax that we have to pay.

Travel Distance

In the moving world time is money. The more distance the mover has to travel for your move, the more your move is going to cost. Changing the destination, will most likely always change your quote.

There are two distance factors that go into this calculation:

  1. The distance between your stops
  2. The distance the mover has to travel to get to and from you

Side note: While getting a mover close to you might seem like the best idea at the time. I would argue that paying a little more to get a better quality mover is actually the smarter move. A damage claim from a less experienced mover can cost you a lot more in time, money and aggrivation, then paying a more qualified company to come out and do it right the first time around.

Other unexpected items

As a basic rule of thumb, you need to remember that any unexpected surprise to the movers is really your problem and your expense to deal with, not theirs. Remember: No mover takes your job to pay to solve your problem. If they are known to be a reputable company, they did not undercut to get your job. They were hired to assist by you, in solving your moving problem at a fair cost/wage. While some people think they are paying a fortune to get things moved, most people do not realize that the moving industry is a fairly tight margin industry and highly competitive. Trucks, fuel, insurance, moving equipment and wages are not cheap these days. If you got a cheaper quote from another company, there is probably a really good reason why that is, unfortunately you probably won’t learn why until it is too late.

Our best advise for you:

To avoid unexpected moving charges for whatever you are getting moved, no matter who you use or where you are getting it done.

  • Get educated on the service you would like done. Find out who is good at it in your area.
  • Make sure you paint the most complete picture of what you would like done. Do not leave anything out, all movers hate surprises, just like you do for unexpected charges.
  • Do NOT sugar coat it and make the move sound easier then what it really is. If anything make it sound worst so they take it more serious and review in closer detail before giving you a quote.
  • We are in the digital age, take some pictures and send them in with your request. While a picture does not show everything, it does show 1000 words and might show the mover a red flag that you were oblivious too. Something that could now be caught and addressed beforehand.
  • Have realistic expectations and understand what is really included in the quote you received.
  • Movers are not mind readers, do not assume they can read your mind or will automatically know your expectations. Speak up! Make sure you are always on the same page.
  • Never assume that it is included in your move, especially items like moving insurance or extra things that you never discussed with them. Just because the moving company is insured, does not mean that you are fully insured with them. Just because you think it should be included, does not mean they do.

We hope you found this of value. That it opened your eyes to the moving industry, how it operates and saves you getting surprised by unexpected moving charges on your move.

Good luck with organizing your move.