For many Americans, moving day is greeted with excitement usually saved for a trip to the dentist or a weeklong visit by your gabby aunt.
But moving doesn't have to be painful. Better yet, it doesn't even have to be as expensive as you think, according to a former moving company consultant who has written a book entitled, "Moving? Don't Be Taken for an Expensive Ride" (Transportation Publishing Co., Mission Viejo, $12.95).
People typically pay more than necessary, because they don't know what questions to ask and because moving company sales people don't volunteer the information, according to Henry Costantino, who resigned a month ago after six years as a consultant for two major moving companies.
"I realized from dealing with consumers, from being on the other side of the kitchen table, that they knew very little about what was going on in the industry and that they had to rely on me and other sales reps for their information," he said.
"That information was always provided in responses, mostly to questions they had. Since most consumers don't know what questions to ask, the information they got was not, shall I say, thorough."
After the moving industry was deregulated in 1980, Costantino said, companies began developing varied services to attract business. And while most of the major companies now tend to offer the same services, customers can generally get a better deal by letting a company know they are shopping around.
"If a salesperson knows someone just left your home and another is on the way in after he leaves," he said, "he automatically gives that person the best price he can and also takes time to explain all these extra services his company offers."
Why not just volunteer the information? "You're taught as a sales rep to provide your service at the highest degree of profitability to the moving company," Costantino said.
"You are also told to explain to consumers whatever services you need to provide them with (to get business). So I was always in a position to tell people what it was they needed to know--and at a price I needed to book the business. That was not necessarily the lowest price I was able to give them."
For example, Costantino said, people can save hundreds of dollars just by packing some of their own boxes. Or, they can save money by negotiating with companies over shipping rates. Contrary to what some consumers may think, those rates are not fixed.
Consumers may not be told about all the available services, he said. For example, some companies offer reimbursement, some as high as $100 to $125 a day, for late delivery or pickup.
"If a person doesn't ask, but if I know their hot button, so to speak, is that guaranteed pickup and delivery is important for them, I'm going to stress that service," Costantino said. "If they don't know about it and don't stress it, then I might not bring it up."
Costantino, who said he arranged moves for 1,000 people in his six years with the two companies, said he wrote the book partly to ease his conscience, though he called the moving industry "generally an honorable business."
But, he said, consumers need to educate themselves. Costantino said he left most people's homes knowing they could have gotten a lower price had they been better informed.
Aside from just common-sense comparison shopping, Costantino said, there are some good questions to ask any moving company representative.
"A good question to ask is if you can be assured that once the truck is loaded, that their company will deliver in the same truck with the same driver at destination," he said. What happens, Costantino said, is that shipments are unloaded and reloaded. "The more times a shipment is moved, the more likelihood there is of damage and the more likelihood there is of (having trouble) collecting on a claim," because each driver will say the other did it.
So, he said, "Make sure the company loading the shipment on the truck is the same one ringing your doorbell at the destination."