I am writing this column at my desk located in the downstairs office at 5955 Mill Point Court SE, Kentwood, Michigan—Linda’s and my new home. Our move from snowy Connecticut and eastern Pennsylvania to hardly-any-snow-at-all western Michigan took place the week of Jan. 17-21. The weather gods were angry. It snowed in Connecticut Sunday night into Monday morning.
Although we thought we had pre-packed almost 75 percent of our things, we found that the percentage was closer to 40 percent. Plans to load out by Monday evening did not materialize. In fact, the mover and his assistants packed all day Monday and most of Tuesday. We failed to meet the goal of being fully loaded and heading for Vera Cruz/Emmaus, Pa., by Tuesday evening. A mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow on Tuesday produced further delays. The moving van left Brookfield, Conn., around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
In order to get back on schedule, we loaded out of Vera Cruz late Wednesday. The mover arrived at 5 p.m. and finished loading at 9 p.m. The situation was helped by the fact that not everything Linda and I wanted to take was able to fit into the van—more about this later.
After spending the night visiting with Marzela, Izaak, Sofia and Marcelo, the latter three our grandchildren, Linda and I drove from Wyomissing, Pa., to Kentwood on Thursday. All went well until just north of Pittsburgh when we encountered freezing rain and/or light snow. The last two-thirds of the drive was hazardous. We arrived in Kentwood around 9 p.m. and off-loaded Linda’s plants and the valuables (personal papers, jewelry and the customary “I don’t trust the mover to move this” objects).
The mover arrived promptly at 8 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 21. The last items left the van around 4 p.m.. Our home looks more like a warehouse than a place to live. Unless a miracle happens, we will be unpacking boxes for months.
Powell Relocation Services, an Atlas Van Lines affiliate located in Grand Rapids, handled the move. I made the decision to use a Michigan rather than a Connecticut or Pennsylvania relocation company as the primary mover. First, Powell came highly recommended. Second, if problems or issues arose, I wanted to talk face-to-face with the person responsible for resolving them.
Because many of the items being moved were antiques and collectibles, it was essential that I find a relocation specialist that had a reputation for moving these items successfully. There are moving companies who specialize in the transportation of antiques and collectibles. Since Linda and my move was a blend of household and personal goods along with antiques and collectibles, I decided not to pursue that avenue. Sandford Alderfer Moving and Storage, Hatfield, Pa., moved our antiques and furniture pieces from Vera Cruz to Brookfield. Had I not found a firm in Grand Rapids that I trusted, I would have called Sandy Alderfer and asked him to handle the move.
Peter Sanders from Powell Relocation Group and I exchanged telephone conversations and e-mails over a two-month period prior to the move. Since Powell does not have employees based in Connecticut or Pennsylvania, it relies on a local estimator to inspect what the client is planning to move and provide a rough estimate of poundage.
I was at home in Brookfield when the Connecticut estimator arrived. I had planned to spend an hour or longer showing her what was and was not going. She breezed through the house in less than 20 minutes. I sent a list of things from The School, the former Vera Cruz Elementary School (more than 14,000 square feet), which served as our home in Pennsylvania, to the Pennsylvania estimator and made arrangements for him to gain access. His job was harder. Most of the furniture and other items were covered with large plastic sheets. Based on the information supplied by the two estimators to Powell, Peter prepared a rough cost estimate. I told him to add another two thousand dollars to the cost estimate as a safety valve.
The Connecticut estimator was off by 8,000 pounds. After Vera Cruz, Tom Robinson, the mover and van driver, informed me that the weight of the van was more than 25,000 pounds. This made the pre-move cost estimate worthless. Since payment is due prior to unloading, Peter and I were glad we did a conservative estimate.
The Connecticut estimator was extremely cavalier during her visit. “Don’t you want to make detailed notes?” I asked. She assured me that she had a great memory. “But many of the things are antiques,” I offered. She said it did not matter. The first lesson I learned from the move was the lack of professionalism on the part of estimators. What do they care? They get paid. They are not the person who has to deal with an angry customer who finds the final costs exceeded the estimate by thousands of dollars. Fortunately, Linda and I prepared for such an eventuality.
Because of the poor estimate from the Connecticut estimator, Powell sent a van that was not capable of moving everything Linda and I wanted to take to Kentwood. The van was more than seven-eighths full when it left Brookfield. Powell now needs to make a second pick up in Vera Cruz when it has a truck in the Philadelphia area to move the balance of our things.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Although I did a decent job of estimating how much space was available in our new home, the truth is that if we brought everything we planned, it would be a nightmare. In addition to storing things in the garage, we would have had to rent a shed. Almost every inch of space in our Kentwood home is filled. Powell’s next Vera Cruz pickup will be less than half of what remains. Hopefully by the time it happens, we will have unpacked enough boxes to clear space for what is coming. As it turned out, we moved three households—some boxes from Linda’s home in Wyomissing that were never unpacked in Vera Cruz or Brookfield, things from our apartment/home in Vera Cruz that were moved to Brookfield but never unpacked, and the things that made up our household furnishing in Brookfield.
Linda or I packed most of the valuable antiques and collectibles. This was the wrong decision. Although I bought extra insurance for the move, it only covered what the mover packed. Peter and I reached an agreement that if the mover approved our packing, the contents of the box would be insured. However, we packed the antiques and collectibles so that they could be safely moved in the back of Linda’s Lexus or the trunk of my beat up old Buick Park Avenue from Vera Cruz to Brookfield. They were not packed to be stacked as 10 boxes high in a moving van.
Few of the packed boxes passed muster. When we were lucky, only additional paper had to be added to the box in order to increase the box’s ability to bear weight without crushing what was inside. When we were not, the material in the box had to be completely repacked. The second lesson I learned was to have the mover pack the antiques and collectibles and do not give a damn about the cost.
The boxes Linda and I packed had information written on the side or top describing the contents of the box. Boxes packed by moving company employees were only marketed with their room of origin. I have dozens of boxes marked “basement” with no idea what they contain. My plan originally had been to stand by and note what went into each box. It did not happen. There were three teams of packers, and I was in the midst of a four-week Online Faculty Assessment course for Davenport University and determined to meet my column and blog obligations that also were due the week of the move. I still have not found some of my office supplies and the copies of “How to Think Like a Collector” I promote during personal appearances. Lesson number three is never to be involved in anything during a move except for the move itself.
The lessons keep piling up. The saga of Linda’s and my move continues in the next “Rinker on Collectibles” text column.
Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site..
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“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site..
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