News10NBC Investigates: All you need to know to avoid a moving nightmare

News10NBC Investigates: All you need to know to avoid a moving nightmare

The News10NBC Team details breaking News, Traffic and Weather.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It’s springtime. That means we’re headed into moving season. Of all moves in the Unites States, 60% of them happen between May and August. This consumer investigation is a cautionary tale for anyone considering a moving company.

Ally Fortin’s Rochester apartment is the perfect little place, just enough space her and her hedgehog. But, for months her perfect little apartment was empty. That’s because the mover she and her mother entrusted with everything Fortin owned never showed up.

Fortin first sensed there was trouble when a guy and a truck arrived a day late to pack up her apartment in Portland, Oregon.

“One man showed up at my door probably in his 40s, alone,” said Fortin. “And he had dollies with flat tires.”

Fortunately, a family friend was there with tools and a strong back to help the lone mover load the truck. That was on May 28. All of Fortin’s earthly possessions were in that truck. The contract promised delivery within 21 business days, so her stuff was due to arrive by June 28. But July rolled around, and still no truck.

“So, my mom started calling them every single day,” said Fortin.

“I said I need to speak to a manager,” Linda Russo, Fortin’s mother recalled.. “You have to email,” she said she was told. “I emailed 15 times in two weeks, and I got no response.”

Russo had hired a company called Gold Standard Moving and Storage, a moving broker that the BBB has given an F. A year after Fortin’s ordeal, the Florida attorney general took civil action, saying Gold Standard “violated state and federal law by holding themselves out to consumers as movers when in fact they are mere brokers that do not conduct moves.”

That broker had hired Princeton Moving and Storage, a business for which the BBB now posts a warning alerting consumers to a litany of complaints.

“Every time I called Princeton his voicemail was full,” Russo recalled.

But News10NBC’s Deanna Dewberry was able to reach the owner of Princeton Moving and Storage by phone. During a lengthy, at times obscenity-laced tirade, he blamed a former employee who he claimed accepted moving jobs without his knowledge. And he said he knew nothing about the complaints being lodged against his business. When Deanna asked him to provide the name and number of that former employee, he changed his story, saying he had a lot of employees, and he didn’t know who did what.

Then he changed his story again, this time blaming the Broker for “ruining his business.” He then blamed the broker for all the issues.

As for Fortin, by the middle of July she still had no idea where her belongings were, but she is tenacious.

“One of the cops I was talking to told me I was going to have to give up. and I told him I will not. No. That’s not an option for me,” said Fortin.

She and her mother created a Facebook page called Princeton Moving and Storage Champaign, Illinois Complaints Forum. Dozens of victims began posting their own horror stories, among them Cheryl Muller.

“I was moving from Seattle, Washington to Ocean City, Maryland,” said Muller.

When Princeton didn’t arrive with all her belongings on the designated day, July 16th, she says she called the owner of Princeton Moving and Storage repeatedly.

“And he finally, that night, he answered the phone and said, ‘I don’t know where your stuff is,’” Muller recalled.

Everything she owned was lost. So, she and her newfound Facebook friends, Fortin and Russo, along with other victims, began sleuthing, exchanging information, and contacting police departments. And one day, Muller got a call from a police detective.

“He called and he said, ‘There was this truck found in Nebraska,’” Muller recalled.

The driver of the truck had abandoned that big truck filled with household belongings on the side of the road. When Muller got pictures of those belongings, she saw two things that she recognized as hers. She then texted the pictures to Fortin and Russo.

“I was like, ‘Mom, that’s my stuff!’” Fortin recounted. “And we both just started crying and laughing, like, ‘We found it!’”

A family member flew to Nebraska and drove the truck with everything they owned here to Rochester. Muller flew from Maryland to meet them.

“I saw the truck and I just burst out in tears,” said Muller.

“It was crazy,” Russo remembered. “Cheryl and Ally just hugged and cried. It was crazy.”

Remarkably, they both got all their stuff back. While unpacking from a cross-country move is usually grueling, this was a celebration, a very happy ending — two and a half months in the making.

Before hiring a mover, there are five things that we all must do. Here’s Deanna’s Do List:

  1. If you’re moving out of state, make sure your mover is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. On their database, you can see the number of complaints as well as their safety record.
  2. If you’re moving in-state, make sure your mover is registered as a mover with the NYSDOT. You can click here to check their database currently under development. But if you don’t find what you need, you should call them at (518) 457-6512, or e-mail us at nymoving@dot.ny.gov. When checking on a mover please provide their exact name, and if available, NYDOT number. By Law, this number should be listed on their moving truck.
  3. Get your binding or non-binding estimates in writing from at least three different movers.
  4. Carefully read your estimate, bill of lading, inventory, and any other documents before signing them. Never ever sign a blank document. Keep your documents with you during and after the move.
  5. Movers are not liable for the full value of your lost or damaged goods. Make the mover explain the minimum standard liability, and ask about additional protection if needed.

It’s also important to read an informational booklet from the state before moving. Click here to view it.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also provides a wealth of information on their website, Protect Your Move.