Well, it looks like the contract negotiations are coming to a close and an offer is on the table. We’re going into another wholesale move – meaning, everything we own is being boxed, moved, and unboxed. That’s okay. I think I have the system down by now. The good part is that the move is corporate sponsored, so all I have to do is babysit a bunch of sweaty men who smell like cigarettes and stale coffee. So, I said that we have the system down by now. What exactly does that mean? Here’s some advice for dealing with movers.
The number one thing that I’ve learned in being moved – which is by NO way anything like moving YOURSELF – is that you have to get to know your team. Think of it this way: These guys are going to be fondling EVERYTHING that you’ve owned, kept, considered valuable and treasured and nobody likes trusting intimate fondling to a stranger or, worse yet, an angry stranger. Treat them like houseguests. Invite them in and immediately ask them if they want a drink or some fresh, hot coffee. I always let them know that while they’re at my house, they are going to be fed. These guys live out of their trucks for most of the time they’re working and always appreciate a meal being handled for them. The other thing is that they don’t make a ton of money and they know that you’re paying a LOT more than they’ll ever see. As I’m sure all of us have experienced in our lives, that starts a worker out pissed off. If they feel like your guest and friend (you actually should TRY to genuinely be friendly, not just act it – they think that it patronizing, because it is). Obviously, cooking a 5-course, home-cooked meal isn’t really practical because, you know, they’re putting your shit in boxes, but it’s really easy to call in a pizza, run to the sandwich shop, or call in some Chinese food. Why would I feed these guys? I know, it’s disingenuous to give to people with your reciprocation in mind. You really have to do it for them, but there are a few things that you will probably get from them. First of all, you’ll probably be removing a burden from them. Yes, they bring their lunch sometimes, and after moving thousands of pounds of boxes, moving around, and being on their feet all day, that’s just “another thing” that has to be handled when they go home (back to the sterile hotel or back to the sleeper in the truck). Another benefit is that they will probably feel that they should take less time on break and more time working. I’ve never noticed guys taking long breaks when they’re happy. It helps if you eat with them. Hang out, it definitely won’t kill you. I’ve met some of the most pleasant people ever doing this, and at first sight, I would have taken them for a serial killer. People who “don’t look like you” are sometimes a little scary. NO, that wasn’t racist, I mean [for me] people who have tons of tattoos and have more hair than a gorilla – that type of “don’t look like you.”
Every time I’ve been moved, I feel like I’m just standing around. Believe me, they feel like that too. You’re in the way. You can do one of two things: do some work or stay out of their way. There’s a few things that are, for me, no brainers. The first one is to make sure that each packer has the drink that they need/want. Often, these guys are shy and will not tell you. Tell them that you’ll ask the other guys on the team if they don’t just tell you. Usually, they think that’s pretty clever, it gets a laugh, and then they tell you. Another thing to do is to make sure that garbage is getting collected and removed. If the movers are sloppy – they usually clean up after themselves at the end of the job – clean as they go. Usually, after a mover finishes up a room, I’ll go through and collect all of the empty tape rolls and pieces of paper and trash on the floors. Most movers will have a “garbage box” that they take off-site with them, so use that. You’ll have PLENTY of trash for the local garbage pickup to take. Don’t fill your bins with mover trash! If you see drink cans, cups, plates, anything, just trash it. When they go back to clean later, they’ll really appreciate the break. Remember though, stay out of their way. Don’t make them stop to let you work. Nobody wants that. Do it while they’re on break, fetching more empty boxes, smoking a cigarette, anything, but stay out of their way! I can’t emphasize that enough! When you’re not finding things to do, go have your mint julep. Let them know where you’ll be so they don’t have to “find you” when they need something or have a question, and stay available. That means not to get on a long, animated phone call with Aunt Tizzie. If they see you on the phone, they won’t bother you as easily. If you plan on being a social butterfly on the phone, then make sure you’re very clear with them that you are interruptible at ANY time and that they shouldn’t be shy. Make sure they know that their job is more important today than any of your things. They will appreciate the respect.
If you’re paying someone to move you, chances are that you’re doing better than they are, financially. Maybe not, but probably. Another thing about moving is that you start to realize that your life is buried in shit you don’t need or want anymore and that these things have just become invisible parts of your daily surroundings. If you’re going to give/throw stuff away, ask the movers if they want it or know anyone who may want it before you trash it or call your other well-to-do friends if they want it. Once when I was moving, I discovered a bunch of baby stuff in the attic above the garage. I really had forgotten that I had it at all. As they were bringing it down (another thing that they did for free because I was nice to them when they arrived), I noticed it. One of the guys had mentioned that his wife was pregnant for the first time and that they were due soon. This guy totally lit up when I offered him the stuff. He got a co-sleeper crib, 2 strollers, 2 brand new diaper bags, a ton of toys, and a giant pack-n-play with an umbrella attachment. It was easily $1000 of stuff. I thought about putting it in my truck and dropping it off at a second-hand store. I’m glad I talked to the guys when they arrived and had a coffee with them! Wow, the look on his face. I’ll never forget it. In another move, I had several pieces of furniture that I just didn’t want anymore. I asked the guys if they wanted it, but nobody could use it or get it back to where they were living. So, I put everything out on the curb for a couple of days. Some stuff went and some didn’t. At the end of the moveout, I had a GIANT pile of furniture on the curb and the local garbage company didn’t want to take it because the pieces were too big. Shit, I’m getting on a plane in 2 hours and can’t leave a cyclone at the curb. The movers were so relaxed and happy at the end, they said that they would load it on their truck and toss it in the dumpster at the main office. Seriously, being nice to these guys paid off in spades! I wasn’t what I was expecting from them, but sometimes, a little make-nice pays off.
One other thing that I started doing that worked out REALLY well was that they usually move the largest things last. And, if you live in a place where major appliances stay with the house, then you have even more reason to do this. I offer, rather, insist that they do their laundry while they’re working. If it’s a local move, most guys just go home at night, but if they’re traveling, it’s a real pain to have to take care of that stuff AFTER a long day at work. They threw everything in the washer and I dried it and folded it for them. They didn’t know what to say. They were so happy to not have to go to the laundromat. I mean, for me, it was nothing. I do laundry all day anyway.
I’ll cover a couple of questions you might have.
Doesn’t all of this stuff cost a lot of money? The last move that we did cost approximately $35k! I know that most people don’t have 5000+ square feet of house, but an average 3-bedroom, move with packing and no car carrier is about $4-5k. A standard pack crew is only 2-4 people. Chipotle for 4 people is under $50 – that’s on the high side for a meal and almost never provide 3 meals for the crew each day. So, it’s under, way under, $150 a day.
Do I still have to tip? If so, how much do I tip? As nice as it is to take care of your people, food isn’t cash. The food shows your crew that you like and respect them and that they’re welcomed into your home to fondle your valuables. And you do want it to be more of a “fondle” than a roughhousing. These people depend on the tip at the end of a job and you shouldn’t take into account that you “paid them partially in food” when it comes to the tip. The actual amount of the tip varies greatly and there is really no standard tip, but as far as I can see through pretty lazy research is that you tip anywhere between $20 per guy to 5% of the total move cost. I looked at that for my move and I couldn’t stomach upwards of $2k, so I gave $600 total tip. I know!!! It sounds like a LOT of money. I suggest that you budget that money at the beginning of the move. It really is part of the cost of the move. So, the protocol for tipping is that you tip each team member in private, in person. You do not tip the foreman and have him distribute it. I like that idea, because on the last move I did, two of the movers were outstanding and the other two were kind of sloppy and lazy. I gave $200 to the really good guys and I gave $100 to the lazier ones. Fortunately, the two really good ones were a team (they’ve been driving the same truck together for years) and were a little pissed about the other two guys, so I was able to tell them that they got more of a tip and to please not discuss it with the other guys so they didn’t feel shorted. I guess it was slimy, but I didn’t want butthurt, and I certainly felt that the better workers got a better tip. In most of my moves, I had to tip on both sides because the trailer was driven half way to its destination and handed off to another driver to take it to the final destination. It’s pretty standard in long-distance moves.
Do I have to tip the delivery/unload/unpack team? Yes, definitely. The only difference is that I tip them less as they do much less work. I still feed them and take care of them as house guests. In several of my moves, the unpack wasn’t included in the cost, but because I treated the team so nicely, they spent their spare time at the end of the gig unpacking boxes. Trust me, when you have 4 guys unpacking who have NO emotional attachment to the stuff that’s in the boxes, they go really fast. Besides, they take the paper and empty boxes with them. I could write a freaking book on the empty box and paper issue! I’m not getting into it here.
Which, is where I leave this diatribe of my thoughts: what do I get from all of this? After all, you’re paying these guys and people should do their jobs and STFU, right? Sort of, I mean, they’re hired to do a job, period. On the other hand, everyone wants to feel special. I know they get paid, but their pay doesn’t make them special, you do. I guarantee that people who feel like they’re helping a friend are much more likely to do you favors, take extra care with their work, get along with each other, and do a generally better job in every way. Most of the time, the crews will arrive early because they have bagels, coffee, and donuts waiting for them. Yes, I tell them at the end of the first day that breakfast is at “x” and what will they want.