Kathryn Bruns, CPA
A moving story with a very SUCCESSFUL ending
My last moving story concluded with me having to "suck it up, buttercup". I want to now share ANOTHER moving story, where I ALMOST gave up....but I just couldn't let things go, and my effort paid off !
In February 2017, I made a life-changing decision. I left my last corporate (high-paying) job, to follow my heart and pursue self-employment (unknown-paying job). It took me about 13 years to finally do this, I had waited all these years to get all my ducks in a row and ensure the time was right. I also decided, for a number of reasons, that New Jersey was not the place to move forward with this. I had been thinking about North Carolina for quite some time, and eventually settled on this being the state to begin the next chapter of my and my daughter's life.
For the next 4 months, I did all of the things needed for an interstate move, both personally and professionally. On the professional side, there was a lot of work to be done in getting my reciprocal CPA license in NC and begin the process of either buying or creating a tax practice. I also had to do a lot of leveraging of corporate tax knowledge into a transition to to small business and individual tax work. On the personal side, I had to purge over half my belongings. Donate, sell, throw away, etc. Of course, as many of you know, there's a lot more stressful things that need to get done to move to another state. By the time move day came, I was mentally and emotionally fried.
The movers I had hired were what I thought would be the most reputable for an interstate move. I had signed a contract with them that included "replacement value" of anything that got lost or damaged in transit. From my experience with many prior moves, and considering this move would take 5 days to complete, I figured this relatively inexpensive insurance was worth it. Move day came, and off I went on driving myself and my daughter to our new destination in North Carolina.
When the movers arrived at our new home, the move-in process was kind of a blur due to the stress. I pretty much spent the day running around directing people which rooms to put things in and forcing them to rebuild furniture correctly to the way it should be. At the end of the day, there were a seemingly endless amount of boxes that covered every square inch of the new place and obstructed the full view of my furniture. It was time to sign off on the condition and presence of all my things. I had no way of knowing the answer to this, but I was pressured to sign off in order to get the movers to leave. I figured I would have ample time to make any damaged or missing property claim as needed as I unpacked boxes and unblocked furniture.
Over the next two weeks I spent 24-7 unpacking and setting up the our home. I developed a list of everything that was damaged, and it was a big list. I also added items that were missing. I filled out the appropriate claim form with the moving company and spent a lot of time determining and providing proof that replacement value was about $4,000. A claims rep contacted me (let's call her "J"). She sent out an adjuster to review the items listed in my claim. After review, the decision was that I will only be paid about $250. Long story short, the most expensive furniture damage for which I was seeking replacement, was claimed by J to only have to reimburse me for minimal "cosmetic allowance". Hence the fight began. My logical argument: Replacement value means I get an amount of money that enables me to buy a new item. J's logical argument: No.
I tried my best to reason with J, but it became clear that she was enjoying the power trip of ripping me off (Aside: take it from someone that lived for years with people that used their power to exploit others. Don't waste any of your energy debating and arguing with emotional vampires, this is what feeds them and keeps them alive). I almost gave up due to the mental and emotional exhaustion of the move. However, I mustered up all of the remaining strength I had to go to battle. Here was my plan of attack:
First, I filed a complaint with the federal agency that oversees moves. I knew that this in and of itself was not helpful; however, one needs to show that they are following all of the correct protocols as part of building a case. Second, I looked at how to sue them in small claims court. My challenge with this was that the moving company's registered agent was in Raleigh, which was over a four hour drive from where I lived. Being a single mother to a child, I would not be able to get to Raleigh for a court case on a weekday. I did some research and found out that if the movers had an office in my county, I could name that local office as the second defendant and get a case filed and heard in my county. Third, I found a local agent office of the moving company and I then proceeded to file in my county's small claims court and sued the moving company. The "innocent" local agent was named as the second defendant.
As expected, the local agency owner called me, freaking out about being sued by me. He didn't even know who I was or what the issue is about ! I calmly told him that I had no choice but to name his local agency as one of the defendants so that I could get my case against his parent company tried in my county. I sympathized with his understandable outrage. I kindly suggested that he contact his parent company to demand that they amicably resolve this issue with me out of court, so that he does not have to get dragged into this mess. He angrily said he will sure as %$&* be doing that. I wished him a nice day. Now, before you accuse me of harming an innocent party, here are two facts: 1. I knew he would not suffer any loss in court, he may just have to waste some time there for the day. 2. He should be more selective about the company he chooses to be an agent of. His risky choices aren't my problem, nor am I going to lose $4,000 to mitigate that risk.
So, my plan worked like a charm, and the moving company's headquarters bent over backwards to settle with me out of court, and with a smile. I ended up with approximately $3,500. Was it worth it? All in all, I spent about 12 hours total on the matter, so you do the math. The money, plus knocking J off her little pedestal, made it very worth it to me. Please call Personal Affairs Stewardship LLC if you are being ripped off by a person or a company. Let me use my skills to help you get what you deserve !