When Betsie Egan arrived, on schedule, to move into her new Pasadena home, she found the door locked, the former owners gone and their furniture inside.
After waiting two hours for them to return, a chagrined Egan asked her $100-an-hour movers to take their van to a warehouse; she went to a hotel overnight.
The owners moved the next day but left a dirty house, so Egan unpacked her belongings and cleaned the 1,600-square-foot residence simultaneously.
'Expected It to Be Simple'
"Having to wait threw everything off," said Egan, a mother of four who studies commercial design at Pasadena City College. "I had expected to be settled in by Sunday. On Monday, I had school and all my other obligations. It made it complicated when I had expected it to be simple."
Her story of unexpected, frustrating delay is not unusual, especially during the summer when moves are most common, according to those who have moved recently or have studied the psychology of moving. They say that something unforeseen is almost bound to happen because the complicated process often requires getting boxes, finding a rental truck or a moving van, packing and unpacking, obtaining telephone and utility service and transporting pets and children long distances to unfamiliar surroundings.
"No matter how organized I am and how much I follow all the rules, not everyone else does," Egan said. "Things could go wrong no matter how well I planned."
Patricia Cooney Nida agreed. The Atlanta consultant has advised corporations and the military for 11 years on the human effects of relocating personnel.
"People who move frequently decide that next time they are going to get so organized that nothing bad is going to happen," Nida said. "If you've got a cute little apartment, you can bag everything before movers get there. But if you've got a big house with a table saw and thousands of cook books, it doesn't work. Somebody still is going to drop a box of china."
Still an Enticing Prospect
Despite the hard work, frustration and pain attached to moving, the American Movers Conference in Alexandria, Va., reports that the prospect still entices most Americans. The moving industry trade association says that 17%-20% of the U.S. population relocates each year. More than 43 million Americans changed residences in the 12 months ending March, 1986, the last year for which figures are available.
About 50% of all moves occur between the last week in May and the first week in October, said Gust Nelson, Western area vice president for North American Van Lines.
By far the largest group of movers, 42%, relocates because of a change in jobs, according to Movers Conference figures. The majority of people, 54.8%, move without rented equipment, while 21% rent trucks or other apparatus and another 21% employ moving companies.
Moving companies are licensed by the federal Interstate Commerce Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, which among other things require carriers to have insurance.
An ICC spokesman said rates vary widely for moves between states.
A Bekins Van Lines spokesman said that a three-bedroom home with goods weighing 10,000 pounds would cost $2,500-$3,000 to move to Denver, $4,200-$4,500 to Chicago and $5,000 to New York. Global Relocation Systems Inc. in Buena Park put the costs at $3,123 to Denver, $5,287 to Chicago and $6,200 to New York. The rates do not include packing, insurance or other services.
PUC official H. K. (Andy) Anderson said his agency allows Los Angeles and Orange County carriers to charge a minimum of $71.50 an hour for two men and a van for moves of 50 miles or less. Longer moves within the state vary with weight and distance, he said.
The Foremost Mistake
Anderson said that "failing to get a written estimate (of moving costs) is one of the foremost mistakes" made by those who move. "The owners should get a written estimate after the mover has come to the residence and seen all the goods and belongings which are going to be moved. We have rules that the mover's final charges can not exceed the written estimate by more than 10%. An oral estimate doesn't qualify.
"The other thing is shopping for price rather than quality. Is it more important to save $100 or to have their belongings get there in perfect shape when they are promised to arrive?"
Anderson said that the quality of the move depends largely on the training and skill of the mover; a good mover will work faster, and ultimately, cheaper, than a lower-priced one.
"They know how to do work faster and with greater quality," he said. "The art of packing, carrying and moving requires skill. . . . The (belongings) have to be fitted into the truck like a jigsaw puzzle with blankets between them to prevent furniture from rubbing. If there is any play, the furniture will shift."
He cautioned that companies are finding it difficult to get good workers on trucks, particularly at this time of year when movers are busy. "The industry is not in position to pay enough to good men," he said.