Movers answer questions about their profession
Reese Farrow president
Smooth Moves Inc.
Walter Burrows owner
Burrows Moving Co.
Pete Danz co-owner
Why use professional movers instead of friends and family?
Farrow: “It’s less hassle for you to have three big guys come into the house and move everything. It would take you and your friends or family twice as long. We’re pros, and we know what we need to do to get the job done right. We wrap everything really well, and we have the necessary equipment to get everything from point A to point B without dents and scratches to your items.”
Danz: “People rely on friends and family for as long as they can, then it gets to the point where the pizza and beer don’t really cut it. They find that their friends start bailing out. We’ll do something in two or three hours that would take an average person an entire day.”
How do you charge?
Farrow: “We charge an hourly rate. We may be higher than other movers, but you get what you pay for. Other companies will quote you less and then charge you more because it took longer than expected. We can do an on-site estimate that is binding, meaning we won’t go over our estimated price. Rates vary, but for three movers and one truck, it’s $135 to $150 per hour. The price also depends on the date — [August] is considered a peak time for moving, so it will have the highest rate.”
Burrows: “We’re required to charge an hourly rate, not a flat rate. We’re also required to go out to the home and do an estimate. I always try to estimate a little more time so there aren’t any surprises. Our fees are $36 per hour per man and $36 an hour per truck. Most movers worth anything are going to be within $3 of that rate. We also do packing, and there’s a fixed price per box, plus the paper, tape and other things, so that gets more complicated.”
Danz: “We do an hourly rate, with a minimum of two hours. We add an 8-percent fuel surcharge on certain moves. We hope this is just a temporary measure. We’re more than happy to talk about prices with the customer, but there are so many variables. On the phone, I go room by room to get a sense of what’s there and get an idea if they’re a pack rat and how many rooms they’re moving. In general, we finish what we start unless it’s radically different from what we talked about.”
Have gas prices and the housing market affected your prices and business?
Farrow: “Ninety percent of our moves are local, so we haven’t been hit too hard by gas prices, but the housing market decline has slowed the whole industry. We now run three trucks instead of five. The decline started last July, and we’re about 40 percent slower than one year ago. I think it’s going to stay this way for a couple of years. We’ve added a fuel surcharge for long-distance moves — more than 200 miles out of Watertown, Mass. It basically works out to 40 cents per mile.”
Are you seeing any significant downsizing trends?
Danz: “Actually, it seems like more people are upgrading than downsizing. We get a lot of couples moving in together who are moving from separate apartments into a house. It’s usually good news — people are improving their lives.”
What are some of the most difficult things to move?
Burrows: “The most difficult thing to move is probably a safe. Generally, we don’t charge extra for smaller, non-commercial safes. We do have a surcharge on piano moving because it takes specialized crew and equipment, so those cost more depending on the type of piano and the difficulty of the move.”
Danz: “Armoires. Sometimes getting armoires up these tight staircases is challenging. The most common situation is bigger suburban-type furniture going into smaller, colonial-style Philadelphia homes. Sometimes things just don’t fit. The people usually know that in advance. They’ll have a backup plan, an old apartment with time left on the lease, relatives, friends, something like that. We don’t move pianos.”
If you break something, do you replace the item or reimburse the cost?
Farrow: “As a licensed mover, we carry insurance so the items are covered at 60 cents per pound, per item. We also offer supplemental insurance, which can cost $49 up to $300. You can also purchase mover’s insurance through your homeowner’s insurance. Our insurance covers anything catastrophic — if something would happen to all of your items — and single items, such as dents or scratches. Our most common damage claim is floor lamps. If it’s less than $200, we’ll try to offer a settlement to the customer and would deduct that from the bill.”