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Q: Overcharged by movers, what to do? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Overcharged by movers, what to do?
Category: Reference, Education and News > Consumer Information
Asked by: nelsonm-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 21 Jul 2002 09:27 PDT
Expires: 20 Aug 2002 09:27 PDT
Question ID: 43423
I recently arranged to move some furniture from Florida to California.
I was not able to be in Florida so a family member handled that end of
the move. I called for several non-binding estimates, got a reasonable
estimate from a Florida-based company, and the stuff was loaded. This
estimate was based on cubic feet, not weight, and was based on a
description of the items rather than an in-person inspection. The
company does have a DOT registration number.

I found out after the movers loaded the stuff that they are charging
almost double the estimate. Part of that overcharge is because there
is more stuff than was estimated; I understand that. But the charge /
cubic foot was higher than the quote, and they also tacked on an
exorbitant charge for packing materials.

The movers are going to arrive any day now and expect cash before
unloading the truck. What should I do to both get my stuff delivered
and protect myself from an overcharge?

I read somewhere that one only has to pay 10% over the estimate at
time of delivery. Is that true for me, in particular for this
non-binding estimate?

Should I just pay what it takes to get the truck unloaded and later
dispute the charge, or do I need to make the dispute at time of
delivery to protect my rights?

Clarification of Question by nelsonm-ga on 21 Jul 2002 09:53 PDT
I found one useful resource online:
Subject: Re: Overcharged by movers, what to do?
Answered By: journalist-ga on 21 Jul 2002 13:45 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Greetings!  As they say in Great Britian, this situation is a bit of a
sticky wicket.  First of all, I am interpreting your reference to
"non-binding estimate" as one that is not in writing.  If indeed you
do have an estimate in writing (including the per-cubic-fot quote)
then I would wager a lawyer would probably consider taking a case in
your behalf against the movers.  And, yes, I would definitely make the
dispute known at the time of delivery.  I would be very gracious to
the drivers and tell them you had a matter to discuss with the owner
of the company before they unloaded.  Serve them some iced tea and sit
them down on the porch and make you phone call inside.  That would be
the time to review with management all the things you may have

With no quote on paper in hand, you are in a bit of a bind: if you
don't pay for the furniture to be unloaded, they hold your furniture
hostage and if you pay for the unloading, they hold some of your money
(extra fees) hostage.  But with a little careful  research on your
own, you may be able to come to an amicable agreement with the Florida

First of all, I think that when the movers arrived and saw the items,
they should have immediately called their supervisor and told him/her
that it was different than they had been told (more space, extra
packing materials, etc). In my estimation, a reputable mover would
train their employees to be on the ball so that no customer service
issue would be unnecessaily created.  Had that occurred, then the
person handling the moving could have told them to wait while he/she
contacted you to see if you still wanted to use their service, or to
find out if it was okay to add the extra packing things.  When
speaking with the company in Florida (and your moving helper), I think
you should ascertain if this was done.  If not, I would discuss what
type of discount they were willing to give you because they did not
accurately inform you of the difference BEFORE they took it upon
themselves to load and pack anyway.

Second, there you are all the way out in California and they are far
away in Florida.  However, since the payment of the cash for the
furniture will take place in California, I believe you should phone a
legal clinic and inquire if payment in California would constitute a
lawsuit in California.  Do you see where I'm going?  If this Florida
company had to show up in California to settle a dispute, they may be
more willing to reduce your cost to be in line with the original
agreement.  So I would check on this angle.  I could not locate a
specific law online regarding this (I think because it is so
specified) so I would encourage you to check it out in California. 
And, if you do pay cash, do NOT pay until you are presented with a
complete bill with line items descriptions, and make sure if they
charged you for "moving blankets" or anything like that, that you keep
the items for which you are charged.

The old adage "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" is
very true, so when speaking with the Florida company, do your best not
to accuse or be angry.  Approach the problem as an "honest mistake" or
an "honest misunderstanding".  Let the Florida company know you do not
question their ethics, just their bill to you.  Let them know, in no
uncertain terms, that you have great trust the matter will be resolved
to both your and their liking, and if you had thought to recommend
their services to someone else recently, let them know that, too.

When the truck arrives, ascertain the exact number of cubic feet of
your goods before the items are unloaded taking a photograph, if
possible, of the goods stacked inside.  If they are spread out, ask
why the extra srpead? Make sure the cubic feet total matches the bill
with which you are presented, the line item bill, and politely ask the
movers to point out each packing crate/box and material that they
provided for your move.  Make sure these totals match the bills as
well.  Also, keep in mind that the movers may represent the company,
but they are just hired hands in most cases, so don't become upset
with them over the bill (because they are basically "grunts" and can't
do anything about office policy).  In fact, treat all parties with
respect and honor, because in most cases we give what we get.

Now, if this was me, I would get my stuff.  However, I might choose to
examine carefully (along with the movers) each item that is breakable
to make sure there are no problems on that end.  If there were and the
movers didn't see it, then you would have additional problems with
recovering money for damaged goods.  The Florida company might even
claim you were being untruthful about what was broken because of your
problem with the fluctuating estimate.  Keep the drivers happy: have
lunch and beverages for them during this process.  They are there to
serve you and you are paying for their service so extract from it all
you can legally and morally.

As far as the regulations for registration, I discovered the folowing
which may give you education on if the company is operating legally
(this is from the site listed below "FAQs on Trucking/Commercial Motor
Carriers "):

"What is the International Registration Plan (IRP) and what are the
The International Registration Plan (IRP) is a reciprocal agreement
that authorizes the proportional registration among the states of
commercial motor vehicles. This means if a truck is operated in
multiple states, the owner must annually report mileage driven in each
state and taxes are paid proportionately based on the mileage driven.
The good news is the owner may pay those taxes in one state— referred
to as the base state. Owners are required to register under IRP if :
the vehicle is over 26,000 GVW; 
or has three or more axles, regardless of weight; 
or is a power unit and trailer whose combined GVW is in excess of
26,000 pounds,
and your truck is part of a declared fleet that operates in Florida
and at least one other IRP jurisdiction.
Further information regarding the International Registration Plan can
be obtained from the IRP, Inc., website at

"What vehicles are exempt from IRP registration?"
government owned vehicles; 
city pick-up or delivery vehicles; 
buses used for chartered parties; 
recreational vehicles (a vehicle used for personal pleasure or
vehicles operating with restricted license plates; and 
vehicles operating intrastate miles only

These numbers may be of interest to you as well:

"I am planning to go into the trucking business in Florida and I am
worried about the records I will need to keep. Who can I contact that
can help me?"
You may contact the Bureau of Motor Carrier Services Auditing Section
at the following locations and telephone numbers in Florida:
Tallahassee	850/487-0117	
Jacksonville	850/448-4351	
Ocala	352/620-3993	
Tampa	813/975-7095	
Palmetto	941/723-4534	
Winter Park	407/623-1124	
Plantation	954/327-6345	

Since your question basically dealt with "Should I just pay what it
takes to get the truck unloaded and later dispute the charge, or do I
need to make the dispute at time of delivery to protect my rights?"
that is what I have addressed, but I'll be happy to clarify anything I
can for you.  In the matter of the 10% above estimate payment, I could
not locate a specific rule, but Florida (or Califormia, depending on
what state would have jurisdiction) may be able to answer that.

Questions for Florida DOT may be emailed to
and the Florida Division of Consumer Services (FDCS) is located at with email as - other FDCS info below:

Consumer Services Hotline: 
1-800-435-7352 (Florida only)
1-800-352-9832 (Spanish)
Out of Florida: (850) 488-2221
Complaint Faxes to (850) 410-3801

I hope my research and assistance proves valuable to you with this
problem.  Should you need any clarification, please ask.  Above all,
remember to catch those flies with honey.  ; )


"search florida DOT law"

ITS Index

My Florida

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

FAQs on Trucking/Commercial Motor Carriers (Florida DOT page)

Request for Answer Clarification by nelsonm-ga on 21 Jul 2002 14:39 PDT
Thank you for your help, Journalist. But I'm afraid your answer is
long on good advice for living and short on legal specifics. I would
be happier if I could get specific information on jurisdiction
(California or Florida) or my rights (particularly with respect to the
10% over estimate thing. Are you able to find any detailed information
like that?

One clarification on my part - I do have a written estimate, but it is
not a binding written estimate. There's a clear distinction with
movers in the US.

Clarification of Answer by journalist-ga on 21 Jul 2002 15:40 PDT
Thanks for the clarification.  I'll drill down some more and see what
I can find.  Thanks for your patience and kind words.

Clarification of Answer by journalist-ga on 21 Jul 2002 15:52 PDT
Hello again - below are additional clarifications I need:

Did your famlily member/helper authorize the use of the extra packing
Do you know the itemized cost of each packing material and

Is there any way to verify the cubic feet? (Sometimes a few households
will be moved at once and the truck packed like a sardine can so they
might sometimes estimate cubic feet as well - if the items arrive
stacked in a little block, then you could easily determine cubic feet
but if it's spread out you would have to require them to stack it or
individually measure it to verify total cubic feet.)

Can you verify with them why the price suddenly jumped in the cubic

Knowing the answers to these questions will be of assistance to my
continued research.  Thanks.

Clarification of Answer by journalist-ga on 21 Jul 2002 16:34 PDT
Greetings again.  I may not need that requested info as I have found
what seems to be everything in favor of the moving company.  I took a
different tact and searched for moving company lawsuits in Florida.  I
discovered this from

"If you live in Florida, the Attorney General's office is starting to
go after scam moving companies under RICO for racketeering, which is
what they're doing with this extortion. RICO requires a pattern of
corruption though -- the AG must prove that they've done this to many
people -- so you need to file a complaint with your local Attorney
General's office of consumer complaints as well as with the FMCSA,
along with a note to your local AG that Florida is now using RICO
against corrupt moving companies and why don't they do that too? But
again, the AG's office won't get your goods back. You'll have to file
a lawsuit, and even then you'll likely lose..."

The site had other information including a list of companies about
which people have complained.  Apparently, this overcharging tactic is
frequently used by unethical movers but at least it is something about
which you may contact the Florida Attorney General's office:

Office of Attorney General Bob Butterworth
State of Florida
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Main office telephone numbers 
Voice: 850-487-1963
Fax: 850-487-2564

I also discovered through another search phrase the Florida Movers and
Warehousemen's Association.  It is possible they might be able to
assist you or at least tell you if the company you used is a member in
good standing of their organization:

Florida Movers and Warehousemen's Association 
PO Box 14629 Tallahassee, FL 32317 
Phone: 850-222-6000 Fax: 850-222-6002  
I also discovered a question about damages to items moved, which
hopefully will NOT come in handy:

Q: The moving company I hired damaged my antique furniture and now
refuses to pay. What can I do?

A: Review the moving company’s policy on damaged goods. What does the
contract say? How much moving insurance did you buy? What does the
inventory list of damaged goods say? Find out if the company has an
appeals process.  If you moved across state lines, the company is
required by law to provide information about arbitration services. The
American Movers Conference also offers a dispute settlement program to
keep problems involving damaged goods out of court. The American
Arbitration Association mediates the disputes as an independent third

Until this question, I had no idea that moving company scamming was
prevalent in the industry.  It appears from the experiences of others
that the 10% rule is a dead issue and that a "non-binding estimate" is
basicvally worthless.  It appears as if you may choose to pay the
inflated cost to get your things and then file with the Florida
Attorney General for any recourse.  I hope this additional information
will prove to be of assistance, and I certainly hope the matter is
resolved in your favor.


"Florida moving company lawsuit" on Google

Resource Center for Relocation

"Why will I lose my lawsuit?"

"Help! They're not obeying the 110% rule!" main site page

"florida attorney general"

Florida Attourney General

"legal action moving company fraud florida" [note: substituting
"california" did not produce a desired result]

Florida Movers and Warehousemen's Association

damaged antiques question

"american arbitration association"

American Arbitration Association

Clarification of Answer by journalist-ga on 24 Jul 2002 18:48 PDT
Dear NelsonM:

Thank you for the compliment you pay my reasearch with your five-star
rating.  I hope this moving situation of yours does not result in you
paying an overcharge but it does appear that Florida (indeed, many
spots in the US) may contain a few "questionable" moving companies: I
hope the one you chose doesn't turn out to be of that type.  If I may
ever be of service to you in future research, please feel free to
request my services.

A sidenote: The day after I answered your request for clarification, I
assisted a friend in moving.  I had just finished explained to her the
nature of your situation when the movers arrived and guess what?  Her
agreement had been a "non-binding estimate" as well.  The moving
company was a well-recognized national chain and the matter was worked
out to her satisfaction, but we both agreed that "non-binding
estimate" basically means "semi-educated guess."

Good luck and I hope you enjoy your new home.
nelsonm-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Initial answer was a bit vague, but clarification contained the detail I needed.

Subject: Re: Overcharged by movers, what to do?
From: bobthedispatcher-ga on 21 Jul 2002 10:01 PDT
local ordinances in florida

Broward Co Florida

genneral consumer info

State DOT numbers
Subject: Re: Overcharged by movers, what to do?
From: lot-ga on 21 Jul 2002 10:37 PDT
Also check the terms and conditions 'small print' of the firm as reference,
conditions of engagement etc.
Subject: Re: Overcharged by movers, what to do?
From: insideinfo-ga on 23 Jul 2002 02:15 PDT
I have heard of these types of problems from movers. It seems to be a
very common tactic of movers is to hold people and their property at a
vulnerable time. I think I remember seeing a television show on this
on Dateline or something like that. But to get you more solid legal
advice I looked around a bit:

The state of Texas Attorney General has a report on scams and has them
published in a newsletter that is a few years old. You will have to
Adobe Reader installed to view but you can get it free at:

Please search down to the last page. The newsletter is:

Here is the most interesting paragraph:

<<<<< BEGIN PASTE >>>>>>>>>

“Sometimes a moving company will hold your 
possessions hostage by refusing to unload them or 
putting them in storage unless you pay a large fee 
in cash.

If you are moving from one state to another, 
by law you are required to pay no more than 10 
percent above the written estimate, and you have 
30 days to pay any balance on your bill. If the 
moving company refuses to back down contact 
the police.

Always keep complete copies of the 
inventory, estimates, contract and other documents 
related to the move.”

<<<<<< END PASTE >>>>>>

So it seems from that the multi state issue may actually help you. I
would contact the police in your new hometown and see if you could
have them confirm that this is still the law and give them a heads up
on what problems you are expecting. See what they have to say about
what to do if you have problems with final bill. Maybe contact the
Attorney Generals Office in your new state to confirm law and what to
do. Then of course you could get a lawyer.

If problems persist one page suggested contacting the BBB in state
where the moving company is headquartered. This story says they have
mediated for such problems.

Testimony Before House of Representatives,
August 5, 1998

More resources on that site:

Links to Municode which has laws in all of the counties of Florida.

This paragraph sounds promising:

“8. If you have moved on a non-binding estimate, you should have
enough cash or a certified check to pay the estimate cost of your move
plus 10% more at time of delivery.”

From this page:

On that above page is also an agency to contact:

“9. If you have any questions, contact the Interstate Commerce
Commission at 3535 Market Street, Room 16400, Philadelphia, PA 19104,
Attn: Complaint Center (215) 596-4040.”

Some Florida specific resources:

Above is not as promising but says you would have 30 days to pay for
anything over 10%.

I hope this info gives you enough info to help you.

Search Terms on Google:

moving charges scams

moving charges scams 10% estimate

Good Luck!
Subject: Re: Overcharged by movers, what to do?
From: nelsonm-ga on 24 Jul 2002 15:16 PDT
Thanks to the help I got here, I managed to negotiate a more
reasonable price for my move. More than the initial estimate, but less
than the ridiculous price they were charging. Stuff delivered today is
almost all in good shape. I'm glad to be done with the mess.

Things I learned:

This guide is the most useful single resource I found (via
journalist's links)

The 110% over estimate thing is real - if you give them that much
money, they are required to deliver. This was a very useful thing to
know. The manager of the moving company threatened to keep my stuff,
but I stood my ground and knew my rights (thanks to Google Answers)
and got them to come around.

In summertime moving companies are so busy they want to get your stuff
unloaded. So if they threaten to keep your stuff, it's probably a

Finally, the most important thing - only deal with national companies
who have a reputation they want to maintain! These fly by night guys
are not to be trusted. At a minimum, in the future I will only use a
mover that will let me pay by credit card; that way, I have consumer

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