Originally written for the Times-Standard, May 30, 2017
Humboldt Moving and Storage (HMS) has been a family business since 1964, started by Michael Gierek whose brother, John Gierek, Sr., took on the business when Michael died in 1968. The current owner, John, Jr., joined the company in 1990.
The business has changed over the years and the vast majority is provision of long distance moves for out of the area movers. It is increasingly difficult to find people who are willing to do the physical work and able to pass a background check and drug test.
When you call a mover, the biggest shock is probably the hourly cost of the move. Worker’s compensation rates are very high and the many regulations require significant management oversight to meet the laws. Equipment costs are high due to state requirements for fleet replacement. Truck engines require expensive maintenance.
“All this explains why we have gone from five major moving companies in our area to just us,” Gierek says.
HMS employees are well trained before they are put on a job. They start with video training, followed by on-the-job training. This is followed with online and then more on-the-job training. “It usually takes two years to qualify as a driver with the company” Gierek says.
People may try to save money by hiring someone through Craigslist, especially for local moves, but this can backfire. They might book a move with someone they’ve never heard of before. Sometimes the mover never shows after taking a “moving deposit.” According to Gierek, it is illegal to move someone in California without being licensed by the Public Utilities Commission.
“These “no-shows” are tough situations for us. The panicked customer calls and we do our best to get them into our schedule, but they are out the deposit they gave on the internet. While a licensed and insured mover costs more, we also operate legally and have the training and insurance,” says Gierek.
According to a May 2017 AARP Bulletin article, moving scams are a real thing. Tips:
Say no to low ball bids. After they fill the truck, they may hold your stuff until you pay more.
Clues to a Ruse. Say no to any outfit that bids your job without seeing it. A demand for upfront cash and large deposits, or saying they will determine charges after loading are red flags.
Identify theft. Transport sensitive documents, including passports, birth certificates, insurance papers, deeds, wills, etc., in your own vehicle. If you can’t personally transport your computers, make sure you have extremely strong passwords. Shred documents showing your social security number, date of birth, or account numbers.
Know the paperwork. Keep a copy of everything you sign, especially the bill of lading, which is the legal document that acknowledges the mover has your stuff.
According to Gierek, the biggest challenge customers face during a move is lack of preparation.
“Moving is stressful and people slow down as they go through their stuff. There are memories and tough decisions about whether to keep it, throw it away, or try to sell it. If we arrive and things aren’t ready it costs more.”
Gierek appreciates that a Senior Move Manager can prepare customers for the move. “Having someone help customers make decisions about what stays or goes, coordinating the details, and offering counseling and reassurance, helps the process go very smoothly. Everyone knows what to expect and customers tend to be very prepared.”
Despite the challenges, Gierek says they have been fortunate to meet many really nice people. This opportunity remains his favorite part of the job.
His last bit of advice? Start planning early, especially in the summer. With school out, more people are moving and his crews are often booked a month in advance. Did he also recommend calling a Senior Move Manager? Of course he did.