September 4, 2009 10:30:00 AM
If you run an Internet search for "the most stressful things in life," the list varies from source to source.
Most often among the top three? ... Moving.
A lot can go wrong while changing residences, regardless of the distance. And when you put someone else in charge of your belongings, the stress can be massive.
Scott Gault, a sales manager with United Van Lines in Columbus, one of several moving businesses under the umbrella of Columbus Warehouse and Storage, is well acquainted with the stress of moving. But after 36 years in the moving business, he sees it from the business side.
Columbus has its fair share of comings and goings. Between Columbus Air Force Base and Mississippi University for Women, local movers, whether full-service or do-it-yourself, stay busy.
Gault has had a hand in enough of those transitions that he''s developed a rapport with customers. Whether they''re apprehensive, frazzled or on the edge of panic, he has the answers to calm their nerves.
The majority of inquiries from customers, he says, revolve around prices. Gault has seen customers get burned booking movers online, and he has a couple simple rules to help find the right movers for the job.
Gault''s first rule is to get five estimates for a major moving job. If you''re moving cross-country, he says it''s vital to compare rates and make sure you''re comparing apples to apples when it comes to services.
"You want somebody from the company to come look (at what you''ll be moving) and give you a guaranteed price in writing," he said.
United charges based on the weight of the cumulative load to be moved and the distance it will travel. The rule of thumb is every cubic foot of the load equals around 7 pounds. The contents of a one-bedroom apartment generally weigh between 3,000-5,000 pounds.
With that in mind, Gault, who began boxing for Columbus Warehouse in 1973, says he can visit a house and estimate just by looking around how much a move will weigh.
"Usually, I''m pretty close. If (the estimate) is off any, it''s not much," he says.
From that estimate, Gault will give the client a guaranteed price based on the weight. If the load turns out to be lighter than expected, the price will go down. If it turns out to be heavier, the original price remains locked in.
Gault''s second rule is to never give a deposit before you''ve done your homework. And definitely don''t give a deposit over the Internet.
When it comes time to pack, clients can choose to pack their own belongings or have a full-service company do it for them. If you choose the former, Gault offers these suggestions:
n Use small and medium-sized boxes.
n Pack the boxes full. Half-full boxes crush.
n Label the side of each box with your name and what room it goes in.
n Wrap delicate items in paper or padding.
If you decide to let the movers pack your stuff, make sure they take a thorough inventory and put numbered stickers on everything, he offered. They''ll hand you the list when you arrive at your new place and let you check everything off as it''s unpacked.
Movers offer two damage protection plans. The first, release value, limits what the movers can be held liable for. The second, full-value, will pay for any damage incurred during the move.
Gault says the moving trucks have heavy padding inside and the movers generally aren''t clumsy, "but scratches happen."
If there''s an item you simply can''t bare to risk being damaged by the movers, as was the case with one Columbus woman and her autographed picture of Jimmy Stewart and Harvey the Rabbit, just keep it with you.
Pick-up and delivery dates should be agreed upon to prior to the move. United''s policy is to pay the customer $125 for every day the truck is late, Gault said.
These types of specifics and policies should be discussed between client and mover before any money changes hands, he added.