Working with Movers

Working with movers can be a little intimidating if you've never done so before.  You may feel uncomfortable having strangers in your home handling all your belongings, opening all your drawers, and rifling through everything you own.  What’s more, they work quickly (at least they should) which means your home will swiftly transform from a place you know and love to a maze of cardboard boxes littered with bits of torn packing paper and empty tape rolls, the sight of which can be disconcerting.  

Rest assured that everything will work out well.  We have moved 16 times and we have only ever had minimal damage to our belongings.  As a military family, we know hundreds of people who have collectively moved thousands of times.  Not all have been as fortunate as us.  That said, the vast majority of movers are very professional and respectful.   It is in their interest to be so. 

To ensure a worry free move day, consider the following tips learned through experience when working with movers.

Be There

When working with movers, plan to be at their disposal all day.  A responsible adult needs to be present at all times to answer questions, keep an eye on the proceedings and sign the paperwork at the end of the day. 

Enlist help working with movers

Once you get to your new location, working with movers will take on new meaning as they will literally put you to work - marking the inventory.  I highly recommend you have a second adult or responsible teenager present to help you.

One person will be required to remain near the truck to cross items off the inventory as they are removed.  This person should be attentive and meticulous.  Any item not checked off on the inventory once the truck is empty has to be located.  That can mean searching for some time for box #242 which could be anywhere among the multitude of piles now cluttering your new home.  It is most likely at the bottom of a pile with the numbered side of the box facing a wall and several other piles of stuff in front of it, making it extremely difficult to locate.  Avoid this scenario if possible by being very thorough when it comes to identifying and accounting for every item that comes off the truck.  

It is extremely helpful to have a second person, preferably the person who will be doing most of the unpacking, free to show movers where you would like things placed.  That way, the person marking the inventory doesn't get distracted by a question and accidentally miss something which will have to be accounted for later.  Your designated rover can expect to do a lot of running around as there will no doubt be multiple workers unloading simultaneously and only one of you to direct them. 

inventory tip

I can guarantee you your boxes will not come off the truck in the order they are listed on the inventory. To prevent constant the need for flipping back and forth between pages as items are unloaded, grab a piece of cardboard and tape the pages of your inventory in order across the surface so that you can see all the pages at once. I learned this ingenious tip from the driver on one of our recent moves. This method not only saves time; it also reduces the likelihood that an item will be overlooked.

Start things off right

Greet your movers when they arrive.  Learn their names and make sure they know what you want them to call you.  Make them feel welcome. 

Label rooms

Labeling rooms is very helpful when working with movers.  Tape a paper sign to the door or wall of each room to assist your movers with labeling boxes (when moving out) and with placing items in the right rooms (when moving in). 

Choose labels that make sense to you.  Instead of the generic designation of ‘child’s room’ , you may want to label your kids’ rooms according to gender and age.  For instance, your oldest son’s room would be ‘Boy’s Room 1’ and so forth. 

Make sure the movers know what you mean when you say ‘den’ or ‘sewing room’ or ‘play room’ by labeling these rooms appropriately.    

Provide drinks

An important aspect of working with movers is anticipating their needs.  Moving is hard, thirsty work even when it’s cold outside.  Have a supply of juice or soda on hand and make sure they know where they can help themselves to drinking water. 

Feed them

Providing lunch is certainly not required when working with movers, but I highly recommend it for a couple of reasons. 

First of all, it will help to put you on good terms with them and that is always a plus.  In addition, feeding them on site saves the time involved in closing up the truck and reopening it when they return.  It will also save your movers the headache of having to drive their cumbersome vehicle through crowded city streets in search of lunch. 

Lunch doesn't have to be fancy.  You can order pizza, send someone out for fried chicken, or just set out sandwich fixings, fresh fruit and veggies, and some chips.  The latter is a good way to use up condiments in your refrigerator and in my experience is very much appreciated. 

Designate a bathroom for their use

As you show the movers around at the beginning of the day, make sure they know that they are free to use the bathroom as needed and which bathroom (if you have more than one) you prefer them to use.  This will save them the hassle of having to find you every time one of them needs to use the restroom. 

Consider temperature control

We have moved in some extreme weather conditions.  We moved to Vermont in December and we left in February.  In both cases there was snow on the ground and the temperature was well below freezing.  We moved to both Israel and the United Arab Emirates at the peak of the summer heat and humidity.  

Working with movers often requires the door to your home to be open for most of the day.  For this reason, if it’s very cold, you may want to consider a portable heater; if it’s hot consider one or more fans.

Stay out of their way

Children and pets are important considerations when working with movers.  If possible, kids (especially very young ones) and pets should be kept busy so as not to get in the way of the movers.  Ideally, kids can play at the home of a friend or relative which is more fun for them and much easier for you.  Pets can also be housed off site for the day or locked in a fenced area of the yard away from where the work is being done. 

Keep trash separate

You will most likely want the movers to pack your trash can(s), so you will need to set out a trash bag separate from the can for collecting garbage.  Use a marker to write on it in bold letters: TRASH – DO NOT PACK. 

I have never actually had trash packed, nor do I think it is likely to happen.  Movers are not stupid.  When in doubt about what should be packed, they will ask questions.  It’s best to be safe, however, and also identify for everyone (including your family who will keep tossing things in the can out of habit) where trash is to be placed. 

Read carefully

Take the time to thoroughly look over your inventory before you sign it.  Your signature indicates your agreement with everything on that list, so if there is something you don’t agree with (such as the condition of a particular item), don’t sign it until you have clarified and achieved satisfaction.  At the very least (in the case of discrepancies) your signature should be accompanied by a note (initialed by you) indicating your disagreement.

Note: Working with movers means you can't just sit around and passively watch the proceedings. Ask to see the inventory as it's being produced.  You want your inventory to be as detailed as possible in the event that something is lost, stolen, or damaged.  Sometimes movers list boxes on the inventory by writing 1.5 CPU (which simply indicates the carton size).  Better to have them write a brief description of the contents such as  ‘china’, ‘hand tools’ or ‘DVDs x 36’ indicating the exact number of DVDs contained in the box.   

When it comes to electronics or other expensive or highly valued items, make sure they are listed accurately.  In the case of electronics, both the box containing the item and the inventory should state the brand, the type of item, and the serial number.  For instance: Sony DVD player #XXXXX.  In the case of other valuable items, labels should be descriptive such as ‘antique sewing table’, ‘crystal’ or ‘Hummel figurine collection’. 

Be polite but firm when making requests or stating concerns.  

A tale of Too Little Information

When we moved from Jordan, the inventory for our shipment was written in Arabic.  This was a problem.  The driver (who is also the crew chief and the one responsible for the inventory) hastily ‘translated’ the inventory into English when he was finished with it.  His English, while decent, was limited.  Virtually everything with four legs that wasn't a chair was listed as a table.  We had about 20 tables on our inventory but there was a disturbing lack of dressers, night stands, and other case goods.  Be sure your inventory is an accurate reflection of your shipment.  J

Send feedback

Once your experience of working with movers is complete, be sure to provide them with feedback. If you are happy with the service you receive, let the movers on site know and pass your praise along to their superiors in the form of a letter, email or phone call of appreciation to the carrier. 

Of course, you should also report any dissatisfaction. When you provide feedback (whether positive or negative) you help other customers who come after you to have a positive experience. 

Don’t let working with movers intimidate you.  Implement these tips to ensure a worry-free move experience.


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