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Are You Rooting Out Your Industry’s Rogue Element?

By Tim Helenthal
President & COO

It’s often said: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” People usually mean the phrase as compliment.

But the entire quote reads—courtesy of noted Brit wit Oscar Wilde—“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

I’m not saying we at National Van Lines qualify as “great.” (I do, however, like to think we’re pretty darn good at what we do. Have been for 90 years.)

It also would be overly generous (and highly inaccurate) to paint our industry’s copyists as merely “mediocre.” In fact, much of the time, they’re downright rotten—and frequently criminal.

Incessant struggle

It seems we’re waging this eternal struggle to protect our industry’s reputation that, through no fault of our own, gets tarnished and blemished by those operating on the fringes (aka rogue movers).

Think of it as akin to judging the cruise-line industry by the dastardly actions of pirates on the high seas. Or disregarding the craftsmanship involved in creating a fine Coach purse because cheap knock-offs persist. Maybe even holding the Chicago Cubs to the same lofty standards as the St. Louis Cardinals. (Are my downstate Illinois roots showing again? I take back that last jab.)

While not unique to the moving-and-storage industry, this concept of counterfeit counterparts poses a constant irritant … to consumers, to respectable moving companies and to the entire relocation industry.

Countering counterfeiters

The U.S. Department of the Treasury, to my recollection, never has been particularly fond of counterfeiters. Yet the feds arrived way-late to the party when it came to protecting the legal tender—at the source.

Europeans sprinted eons ahead of us in protecting their currencies. We still were paying in easy-to-copy green-and-beige notes while the French, Germans, Brits and others introduced a rainbow of counterfeit-countering hues on their francs, marks and pounds.

Similarly to those who protect national economies, the relocation industry must remain forever vigilant in safeguarding our industry’s standing. Were we to simply take our lumps from the rogue movers, we’d little by little allow the erosion of a proud industry comprised of many small family-owned businesses. Google-search “van lines” or “local moving” companies and it’s not uncommon to find many multi-generational companies nearing or celebrating centennials.

To permit criminals to ride our coattails would be a crime.

Rogue rage

Informing the public about the peril these imposters pose represents one of our key reputation-advancement efforts. Notice I didn’t say, “reputation management.” (Learn more about the distinction between “management” and “advancement” by reading my LinkedIn article, Don’t Just Manage Your Reputation … Advance It.)

We work hard explaining to consumers the practices of ethical movers and the chicanery the bogus organizations practice … all the while expanding our ethical business.

Floor four, please

Here’s our elevator-pitch version (the detailed version can be found on the official online National Van Lines Moving Guide blog collection.)

  • No roots: Beware telltale signs an organization lacks permanence. These include no-name vehicles or rented trucks, websites missing a physical business address or generic phone-call replies not mentioning a company name. Another trick? Frequently changing business names.
  • Rush job: Generating an accurate moving quote requires attention to detail. Watch out for zoom-through-your-rooms estimators who can’t be bothered to examine cabinet contents or open closet doors. Your mover should ask questions, such as whether you’re planning to slim down your pre-move inventory via food donations or a garage sale. Also, be on-guard for mover companies claiming they can provide accurate phone-only estimates.
  • Pay me now: Reputable movers shouldn’t insist on an up-front deposit. Moving-industry practice is to ask for payment at delivery. Regard as suspect a relocation company demanding a deposit.

Scammer tactics

  • Scammer tactics: Raise an eyebrow at interstate movers whose bids fall far below others. This lowball tactic might omit a key component that could bring the final price in line with (or exceed) the competition. Obtaining at least three estimates lets you accurately analyze rates and services. Insist on written estimates.
  • Fuzzy affiliations: This age of instant online access makes vetting more convenient than ever. Ensure a mover is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the U.S. trucking industry. Plus, a mover must have a U.S. Department of Transportation number.
  • Rotten reviews: Check a mover’s Better Business Bureau rating. Yelp or Google review sites offer insight into company performance and how an interstate moving company handles unforeseen circumstances. Is a company receiving a barrage of negative reviews? Beware. Also, since online reviews can be faked, take with a grain of salt an avalanche of over-the-top perfect reviews.

The lines are now open

What are your thoughts on rogues? Do have insincere flatterers trying to profit from your good name? What measures have you effected to curb their actions? No doubt this cuts across industries. Are you now wrestling with a situation? Let’s talk.

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