KSL Investigates: Moving Nightmare

Oct 2, 2018, 10:00 PM | Updated: 10:42 pm

Saint George, Utah – Imagine all your belongings in a moving truck, with the movers demanding hundreds or thousands of dollars more to deliver it. It’s a moving nightmare occurring across the country, including to a brand new Utahn. Problem movers are holding goods hostage, raising prices beyond their binding estimates.

When the KSL Investigators first met Sharon Harvie, she lived in a practically empty home.

“I’ve just been rotating those two outfits for several weeks,” said Harvie, pointing at the few clothes in her closet.

For six weeks this summer, Harvie only had notes taped up all over the walls of her new home, imagining where her stuff should be. Where’s her stuff? During our first interview in August, the moving company still had it.

“It just seems like it has been one thing after another from the very beginning,” said Harvie.

Sharon Harvie directs movers unloading her belongings in St. George, UT.

Harvie moved to St. George from Brunswick, Maine in July. She’d planned on moving herself but at the last minute she decided to hire professionals. She had gone online and found what she thought was a moving company called American Moving Partners. They’re actually a broker, meaning they write estimates and hire other moving companies to do the physical work. Harvie didn’t realize that, but American Moving Partners said they could move her for $5,161.19 guaranteed. It sounded good to Harvie.

“I thought about not having to pull my Prius, and drive a moving van with my three dogs and best friend across the country,” said Harvie.

She updated her box count with American Moving Partners a week later. They raised the price to $6,912.20 for a bigger truck. Harvie accepted. Then, on the day of the move, the cost skyrocketed.

“The new cost was going to be $11,238.20,” said Harvie.

Harvie said the moving company J&M Relocation LLC upped the price $4,326 after they loaded the truck. Out of time, with the sale of her Maine home closing the next day, she did what she could.

“I refused to sign the official addendum to the quote, and I signed that was my stuff,” said Harvie.

Her story raised red flags with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

Director Daniel O’Bannon said, “These are the kinds of complaints that concern us.”

O’Bannon said his investigators could look into Harvie’s case as a possible violation of Utah’s contract laws.

“Any time that someone is charged more than what they’ve agreed to that’s a big red flag and that should come to us, could be a violation of the law here,” said O’Bannon.

KSL Investigators found Harvie is not alone. In July, a federal grand jury indicted 12 people and 14 interconnected moving companies for similar issues in Ohio. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Ben Glassman said the companies offered at least 900 victims a binding estimate but did not honor it.

“The movers would show up, they would load all of the household goods into the moving vans, and then they’d bump up the price,” said Glassman.

Movers unload a truck in St. George, UT.

Glassman said that’s against federal law. Movers can’t change a binding estimate once they’ve started loading a truck. Federal budget records from last year show the Federal Motor Carrier Administration receives 3,000 complaints a year about problem movers with 600 complaints about hostage moves. The records also show the agency has only 13 staffers assigned to investigate these claims.

A spokesman with the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General’s office said, “DOT OIG is always pursuing the egregious, bad actors in the motor carrier movers industry.”

The spokesman said the staff focus on companies with a large number of victims, ones that do not have the correct licenses, or operate under multiple names and have multiple locations.

Utah Division of Consumer Protection Director Daniel O’Bannon said, “Don’t ever hesitate to say stop, something isn’t right here.”

Movers unload a truck six weeks after Harvie expected her belongings to arrive.

KSL Investigators found both companies Harvie used have multiple complaints about estimates and delivery on a federal moving company complaint database.

Harvie was not aware of the database.

“If you would have known this beforehand, would you have hired them?” asked reporter Debbie Dujanovic.

“No, no, absolutely not,” said Harvie.

“Did you feel like your stuff was being held hostage?” asked Dujanovic.

“Yes I did,” said Harvie.

Harvie said the movers J&M Relocation LLC always seemed to have a different answer about her stuff every time she called.

Sharon Harvie finds many of her boxes water-damaged.

“They would say we’re loading today, and it’ll be there by Thursday or Friday. Nope, we’re loading Thursday. We couldn’t get a truck until Thursday, and you’ll have it by Monday. Nope, we’re loading Monday, and it just went on and on like that,” said Harvie.

She called so many times,

“I had to pay an overage fee on my cell phone,” said Harvie.

Finally, the movers arrived on Labor Day, and Harvie’s heart sank. Much of her furniture was water damaged with mildew and stains.

“Everything’s been sitting in water,” said Harvey as she watched the movers unload.

One soaked box held water damaged photos and letters from her late husband.

Through tears, Harvie said, “These people have absolutely no respect, none whatsoever.”

The water-damaged box contained photos and letters from Harvie’s late husband.

She gave KSL Investigators a tour after she unpacked.

Harvie said, “Every (book)shelf that I owned was destroyed by water.”

Pointing out a dresser in her bedroom, “The whole bottom and inside the drawers were all mildewed.”

Neither company agreed to an interview with the KSL Investigators.

Broker American Moving Partners sent us this statement:

American Moving Partners is a household goods moving broker licensed by the Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. As brokers, it is our job to connect customers with safe and reputable carriers to transport their property. As brokers, American Moving Partners does not actually perform the move and thus relies on a carefully chosen network of licensed moving companies to safely transport our customers’ belongings.

We understand the great responsibility we accept when arranging the transportation of someone’s valuables. Therefore, if a move goes badly, we take every action necessary to rectify the issue for our customer and to prevent problems for any of our future jobs.

In the case of Ms. Harvie’s move, we have taken every step possible to assist her in resolving the issues that occurred. This included a full refund of the deposit paid to us as well as our continued assistance in her claims of damages against the carrier. Internally, we have ceased all business with this carrier except for our contact in regards to Ms. Harvie’s damaged items. We will continue to help this customer until she is pleased with the outcome and have used this experience as a lesson to help us prevent anything like this happening ever again.

Harvie said J&M Relocation LLC agreed to cut their total upcharge down by $1,400, but she wants the rest of the increase, $2,954.80 refunded. J&M Relocation LLC did not respond to our phone and email messages.

Dujanovic asked Harvie, “If you ever move again, will you rent a U-Haul?”

Harvie quipped, “I’ll have the world’s biggest yard sale and start over.”

What else can you do to protect yourself?

  • Do your homework. Check the BBB’s complaints, we found both of these companies have F ratings:
  • Consider hiring a mover friends have used or check the American Moving and Storage Association’s ProMover list. The trade group vets movers who want to be on it.
  • Also, to ensure an accurate estimate, have the movers come to your home. If that’s not possible, see if they can do a virtual walkthrough using the video camera on your cell phone. Avoid estimates provided sight unseen over the Internet, if possible.
KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Delric Ellington and Kael Ellington talk about a stray bullet that entered their Salt Lake City hom...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

Amid increase in youth shooting deaths, Utah pediatricians push for tougher gun laws

The number of Utah children and teens killed by gunfire reached a record high in 2020, in part because of a spike in homicides. Two Utah pediatricians are calling on the state to pass what they see as solutions to the troubling trend.
2 days ago
Albee Bostrom and Sissy McDade turned their love of thrift store shopping into a business: Thrift H...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Second-hand shopping, selling surge as Utahns try to beat rising prices

Data shared with the KSL investigators shows Utahns are trying to bring in more money and reduce spending as they try to bust inflation.
2 days ago
Bry Hansen visits his son's grave in South Jordan. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

The number of Utah kids and teens dying by gunfire hit a record high in 2020

The state hit a devastating milestone in 2020, recording the highest-ever number of shooting deaths among Utahns 18 and younger.
2 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: What can you do if you pay someone to do work but they disappear with your money?

Imagine paying a deposit only to have them take your money and ghost you.
4 days ago
Photo illustration (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Your credit card can up your interest rate without telling you

If your credit card company raises your interest rate even just a little bit, it could have a significant impact on how long it takes you to get out of debt. A relatively new law means your credit card company can do just that and they do not even have to give you the heads up.
5 days ago
UDOT says it spend over $1.5 million on fixing potholes in the last fiscal year, FY 2022....
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Submitting a claim to the government for pothole damage? Good luck with that

A pothole can do serious and expensive damage to your car. But as Get Gephardt found, if you hit a bad spot on a Utah road, don’t expect the city or state to rush to pay for your repairs.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
KSL Investigates: Moving Nightmare