7 Tips to Avoid Being Taken for a Ride on Your Next Move
You’ve driven beside their gleaming white and green trucks traversing the state for years. What you may not know is that Movemaster’s Denver is planted in the heart of Colorado at 745 Lipan Street in Denver, and has been a trusted moving company to homeowners, galleries, and showrooms since 1981.
Recently I was given an opportunity to sit down with the professionals at Movemasters to learn more the moving industry, how it works, how it doesn’t, and find out what every Coloradan hiring a moving company needs to know before they ever even think about signing a contract. As an unexpected bonus I also became privy to a story of hard work, growth, determination, opportunities seized, and Denver entrepreneurism at its best.
Tim Beckman and Dan Gilbertson joined Movemasters in the 1990s and each worked as crew members. They worked for decades together, learned the industry inside and out, and safely moved tons of household goods including Davey Crockett's for real rifle, a Rembrandt painting, even an 8-foot multi-armed cactus! After working their way up and through the ranks the two teamed up with a vision, made a plan, and in 2014 bought the company they had worked for, together. Since, their company has since grown to a fleet of 15 of trucks, 85 team members, and now employs 8 professionally-trained Crew Leads.
I parked at Movemasters’ loading dock and was immediately and enthusiastically greeted by a young staff member wearing a green polo shirt who walked me up the stairs and into Movemasters Headquarters.
The Management Office has an open floor plan with warm lighting, comfortable chairs a person can’t help but sink into, and a jovial management team that clearly enjoys their work – and working together. There I met with Tim Beckman (Owner), Damian Riley (General Manager), Christian Wallis (Operations Manager), and Steve Kelly (Assistant Manager). I asked a whole lot of questions and (as Movemasters has done for more than 30 years), the team dutifully delivered.
Thanks for meeting with me today. What is the most important thing people need to know before hiring a moving company in Colorado?
The difference between a Broker and a Mover. Brokers aren’t Movers at all. Brokers don’t own moving trucks and don’t employ moving crews. Brokers are sales teams who buy multiple IP addresses in major cities. When consumers do an internet search a long list of their sites show up at the top of the page. Broker websites are intentionally designed to look and feel local, but they're not. Most operate from call centers located elsewhere in the country.
When you choose a Broker to arrange your move, the Broker farms your request to multiple local companies. One local company wins the bid, then it provides a truck and staff to conduct your move later. Predictably, lowest bid wins. It’s a great deal for the Broker because it maximizes their profit margin, but the model can come at a very high price to consumers.
Moving companies are required to meet a long list of important regulations and be insured with general liability, workers compensation, and transportation coverage. Some Movers are inadequately or totally uninsured, putting your move (and you!) at risk. It’s also common for some Movers to rely on untrained and unvetted day-laborers. It's a lot cheaper than hiring, training, and insuring a professional crew to pack and transport your goods.
But that’s not all. When a Broker accepts your job and for whatever reason is unable to sell it (no availability, limited resources, fly-by-night companies suddenly shutting their doors) consumers can — and do! — find themselves stuck without a Mover on moving day with no warning.
The kicker? Brokers assume zero responsibility for the workers you invite into your home, entrust your belongings, or even your move itself! Brokers simply profit big from owning a list of URLs. They bank on the fact that a large percentage of Coloradans will choose their link from their smart phone thinking that hiring a mover will be as easy as ordering a pizza.
This isn’t a pizza. You’re literally entrusting the care and transport of all your belongings to a company and crew you need to know – and you need to know you can trust.
How can consumers protect themselves?
1) Research the company before signing a contract: Drill into each company’s website. Any Mover you hire should have a verifiable local address. Then check multiple review sites. HomeAdvisor.com, AngiesList.com, and the Better Business Bureau all provide verified review information you can trust. Non-verified review sites like Yelp and NextDoor are not dependable, ripe for exploitation, and can have disingenuous reviews, both positive and negative.
2) Pick up the phone: The Mover’s telephone should be answered with the actual company name not a generic “Movers” or “Moving Company.” When you reach a staff member ask for verification of all insurance they carry. If the person hedges or give excuses as to why they can’t provide basic information, consider it a huge red flag.
3) Verify the company's permit status with the State: Ask for the moving company’s DORA PUC permit number, then visit Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agency Public Utilities Commission. Enter the permit number given. The query should return the exact name of the company you are vetting, along with a status of ACTIVE.
If you see a different company’s name listed on the Permit Number they gave to you, or find the company’s permit status appears in red as INACTIVE, TRANSFERRED, CANCELLED, SUSPENDED or REVOKED, do not do business with that Mover.
4) Require an on-site estimate: In Colorado, Movers are required to provide consumers a written estimate and a written contract and are bound to meet it. Getting an on-site estimate is preferable, and in most cases necessary for the Mover to have adequate information to draft an accurate estimate. An on-site estimate should weed out lowball offers dangled to snag your job, as well as the unpleasant games that follow. Importantly, it also lets you meet your Mover face-to-face giving you an opportunity to assess their professionalism! Get at least 3 estimates if you can.
5) Know the 110% Rule: Under narrow circumstances a Mover can charge an additional 10% over their written estimate, but no more than that. That’s why it’s in your best interest to get a reliable on-site estimate, up front. The time is well spent and can save you lots of money and headaches.
6) Understand your contract, how things add up (or don’t): Your contract will have a lot of things to consider. Movers provide differing service levels (moving only, pack/move, pack/move/unpack). Some companies charge crew time from the time the team leaves the Mover’s warehouse; others start charging when the moving crew arrives at your door. Some Movers charge full hourly rates, others bill more accurately in 15-minute increments.
Every move is totally unique so there is no “average charge” to a given move, but established and reputable movers have consistent and reliable pricing across the state. Low-ball offers should be scrutinized very carefully. Estimates that sound too good to be true? Are.
7) Watch out for a few final red flags: On moving day, if your Mover claims, “You’ve got more stuff than we estimated!” require the company provide a revised written estimate that you both sign. The new estimate should list the additional items and/or services, and the price to which you both agree. Get a copy of the revised estimate before the team begins packing or loading.
Other red flags include demanding cash or a large deposit before your move, asking you to sign blank or incomplete documents, refusing to provide a written estimate at all, or suggesting that charges will be determine charges after loading your stuff.
Last words of advice when selecting a Mover in Colorado?
Don’t be hurried, don’t be pressured, and do make patient and informed choice. Moving is a stressful time already. When you hire a Mover you’re spending a lot money and putting enormous trust into a team to get you, your family, and your possessions to a new home in tact, on-time, without hassle, risk, or exploitation … all which can unfortunately happen.
MOVEMASTERS’ PHILOSOPHY (And how to get a 5% discount on YOUR NEXT MOVE...)
Tim and Dan are focused on more than the bottom line. As Denverites who successfully transformed their professional lives, they are now each committed to creating a working environment of opportunity to their growing team of professionals.
That truth became clear to me during our interview as I got to know Damien (5-year Movemaster employee and former wedding events manager), Christian (5-year employee with a professional history in retail and website design), and Steve (the newest member to Movemaster’s management team who is a former biochemistry major who realized that despite his love of science, he was simply unsuited to spend years at a desk inside a lab).
Here lives a thriving team with tangible, positive chemistry and an impressive work ethic.
I asked, “How?”
Damien spoke first, crediting Tim and Dan and the opportunities provided at Movemasters, but it quickly became clear that a coach by the name of Jay Madden made an impression on many here too. Mr. Madden is a Football coach at Pamona Highschool in Arvada. All three of these young managers were former protégés and benefit from knowing and trusting one another other through sport.
Dan and Tim demand excellence from themselves and their teams as well. This ethos creates a positively infectious environment where hard work and shared vision make even the toughest days fulfilling, and creates a team environment that motivates itself.
I found myself impressed as to how such demanding work could be done with such comradery when Tim spontaneously added, “The very best days at Movemasters are the days we give pay raises.”
I believe him.
Thank You Movemasters! Enormous thanks to Tim, Dan, and the entire Movemasters team for becoming my newest referral partner. I couldn’t be prouder or more excited to announce that clients who buy or sell with SCHWINGSTATE get a real 5% discount on their move!
The Better Business Bureau has awarded Movemasters an A+ rating and its Gold Star Award 11 times signifying the company hasn’t received a single complaint in 3 consecutive years. Movemasters has also been inducted into Westword’s Hall of Fame for being a “Best of Denver” Mover more than five times.
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Michelle Schwinghammer is a REALTOR®, Notary Public, and Certified Negotiation Expert® who encourages buyers and sellers to envision, plan, and create the future they want; supports local businesses, artists, and organizations that improve lives in Colorado; and provides real estate expertise and reliability to people navigating Colorado's residential real estate market. Learn more here. Referrals appreciated.
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