Why is the Estimate Game so deceiving that it can lead you straight into the hands of the scam artists? The scam artists know exactly how to con you; they make a very appealing offer, and once you take the bait, you are immediately caught up in the scam. We really don’t understand it, why aren’t customers doing their research? We understand the power of the $$$ and the saving customers see on “fictional paper”. We even know that some customers are inexperienced in moving, but still, if someone came to you and offered you a brand new Mercedes for the price of a Cavalier you would say “Yeah right, this is a scam”. How is this any different when receiving a ridiculously low Binding Estimate* for your move?
Today in the moving industry, we have three types of estimates that most companies are using: Non-Binding, Binding and Not to Exceed. Each estimate has pros and cons, and while one estimate might be good for one customer, it may not be the case for another customer. Every customer should understand the differences in the estimates and make up their own mind. The point that a lot of people are missing, and I personally spend countless hours explaining to customers, is that “If it is not in writing after a complete walk-through in your house, it is not an estimate”!
There is a transportation attorney who stands behind most of the scam companies, and over 90% of these companies are using the paperwork he designed and provides for them. This attorney comes up with a great idea to get confuse customers – Binding Estimate via email. Furthermore, to make this scam appear legitimate, companies are taking an amount from the move cost and putting it as a separate charge on the estimate so the customers think they are paying extra for the Binding Estimate*.
We offer to meet or beat other in-home estimates and customers are constantly telling us “I know I have a Binding Estimate” but this is not the case, it’s a joke and the scam companies are the only ones laughing. Remember, if the price is not in writing after a walk-through, it is not an estimate. You ask yourself, why don’t I have a Binding Estimate, it says that in my email? How can they promise a Binding Estimate and go back on their word?
The answer is very simple, there is one sentence allows them to scam you and it reads “Based off the information you provided”. When you speak to the sales person over the phone and provide them with a list of items, the salesperson will approximate the number of boxes on the move. Some unlucky customers will fall prey to companies using the “number of rooms” method which is even more inaccurate. The salespeople know a customer will never be able to provide a complete list of the exact items and number of boxes being moved (this is even difficult for an experienced estimator doing the walk-through). The salesperson will email you a Binding Estimate with a list of items and boxes (you provided) knowing that on the day of the move you will have many more items.
On move day the movers arrive and the customer hears “you have a lot more items/boxes, you must sign a change of order” then they see the huge increase in charges. It’s too late, the customer realizes their mistake but tickets have already been purchased, suitcases packed and everyone is ready to leave town for their new home. The customer has no choice but to pay the outrageous charges.
* There is no such thing as a Binding Estimate via email. If you do not receive an in-home estimate, a walk-through, an onsite survey, or visual estimate you should be ready to pay a lot more on the day of the move if you have booked with one of the scam companies. Legitimate, legal companies will use a certified weight scale and will inform the customer in advance that getting prices over the phone is just an approximate of what the price will be ONLY if the actual weight is the same as estimated over the phone. Under no circumstances should this be considered an estimate for the move, only a price for a specific weight.
The Estimate Game is so big, day in and day out we talk to customers who say “they gave me a Binding Estimate, they emailed it to me”. Our first question is “did they come to your house and see your items?” The answer is always “no, but my email says Binding Estimate”. The only way I can think of to help consumers avoid the scam companies is by educating them.
In my next blog, I will explain why you should never sign a blank “Change of Order” or “Revised written Estimate” which is how the scam companies deceive you, causing you to pay A LOT more. I will also have a blog that will explain why a customer should never use a company that charges by cubic feet. You should always be charged by weight.