My first advice for anyone planning an overseas move is to make preparations well ahead of time, by months. This will enable you to find a good moving company. Because you really need to research several different companies before deciding which is the right one for you. There are some good ones and some really awful ones out there. Some of them are real scam companies, preying on vulnerable customers. After all, you are in a very vulnerable position.
Word-of-mouth reputation is better than anything that the company can say for itself. But, you do have to be careful because some companies may print up false or paid testimonials. If they are members of certain professional organisations, you should try and discover if any complaints had been filed against them and what the final resolution, if any, was. There are certain memberships and licenses that they must hold and you should check to make sure they do hold these. The internet is a very useful tool, so get on it and find out if anyone has complained via the internet. There are forums, such as MovingScam.com and others, where members can discuss issues involving moving and moving companies.
I have since discovered that it is best if the company does a visual inspection of the goods before giving you a quote. However, it is not always a guarantee that services rendered will be the best. I will say that IntlMove did not do a visual inspection. They contract with various companies to do the work for them, therefore, they cannot send a representative out to give a quote, because it might not be the same one to load up. What they do is provide a computer calculator to estimate your weight and volume and they quote from that. The problem with their calculator is that it is not accurate and does not account for real-life items. In addition, IntlMove only quote for volume, not weight. Yet, if you exceed the weight limit, you pay extra. Next time, I would find a company that provides a quote for both. Bear in mind that for international moves, you will probably be given non-binding quotes. That means, that if you exceed weight or volume, you pay the extras. If anyone knows of an international mover that provides binding quotes, I’d really like to hear from them.
Find out what’s included in the quote. Usually, it includes all fees at the point of origin. We were told up front that all destination charges were extra – that included port fees, customs, etc. What we were not told was that fuel charges for the ship were not included – we do not know if we paid a portion of the charges (because I’m sure the ship carried more than one shipment) or the entire fuel charge. I don’t know if you could possibly ask for a receipt of actual fuel charges. What we were also asked to pay from the destination agent was x-ray fees. Because different ports have different policies regarding x-rays or manual examination, I would check with the ports before paying these.
Find out the whole process of payment. We were very uneasy with the way IntlMove did it, but since we were pressed for time by that point, we had no choice. They liked to do everything by email. They sent you a form, an agreement to sign. You had to fax or email a copy of your deposit as well as signing an authorisation form for them to cut a draft from your bank to pay for the move. Then you had to mail them your check. This is in addition to providing a copy of your passport and other personal information. I refused to provide them with my social security number because they were getting too much information that I thought was unnecessary. After they receive your deposit, they ask for the remaining balance before they will call the pick-up agent. They stipulate that the pick-up agent cannot pick up the shipment until they have your check for several days. Yet, then they explain that you and the pick-up agent can negotiate the pick-up date. If you get confused, don’t worry. I don’t think they mean for you to understand.
The pick-up agent takes it to their warehouse and weighs it. Supposedly, moving companies need to inform you of when and where the shipment will be weighed and give you the option of being present. Also, the scales used need to be certified. IntlMove does not do this, and I have been told this only applies to interstate moves, not international moves. If anyone knows differently, let me know. I find it unfair that you cannot witness the weighing because it gives them the freedom to make up a weight and get extra money out of you. A second weighing takes place just before the shipment gets loaded onto the ship. If it is less, they will not inform you (because that means a refund). But, if it is more, you will have to pay another fee. Now, IntlMove did tell us that after we made our payment, we may receive either one or two more bills. The first will be after the first weighing, the second after the second weighing. We got both, of course, though the second bill only contained fuel charges and charges for the supposed additional packing done by the pick-up agent. As I said in the other post, they did not put on any additional packaging (and they defaced legal documents to say that they did).
Now, if you don’t pay the fees like IntlMove want you to, they send you threatening emails saying they will hold your shipment hostage until you pay the ransom. (Never mind that you paid for 30-days warehouse storage in case you needed it.) This is ILLEGAL! If any company ever does that, warning bells should start ringing and you should start making plans to report them. However, since your belongings are in their hands, you will have to pay the ransom and deal with this after you receive your shipment.
I should mention that once you agree to use IntlMove, the person you talked to no longer is involved. You have to deal with Administration, Accounts, and Operations. And, those three don’t always work together, even though my husband suspects it’s all one and the same person.
In future posts, I will address insurance, packing, etc.