In early December 2012 I started packing up my belongings at my house in Indianapolis, Indiana. I neatly tucked glassware and dishes into boxes lined with packing paper. I placed valuable and sentimental items inside bubble wrap, and stuffed things with newspaper where possible. I lovingly labeled boxes “This side up!” and double-taped boxes to ensure their safety and comfort for their journey to New Haven, Connecticut.
Then Atlas VanLines showed up.
In Indianapolis I had 42 boxes worth of stuff, 3 garbage bags filled with clothes, and a few “loose” items like a TV stand, bookshelves, a sofa bed, etc. The movers I hired were under the name “Guardian Relocation” for at least as long as they were in Indianapolis. The two guys that showed up were pretty nice and courteous, even going so far as bringing in scrap pieces of cardboard to tape down to my floors so they wouldn’t trample in water from the rain coming down outside. My agent, Chris, even stopped by a few days prior with some extra boxes that came in handy. Those guys, they were alright. I like those guys.
Guardian tucked away my stuff on a truck on the morning of December 20, 2012. It was a Thursday, and they showed up half an hour into their 2-hour window. They were done and loaded up in about 2 hours. I flew out of Indianapolis the next day on Friday, December 21, 2012 to New Haven. Upon landing, I bought an air mattress and had just a scant few things I managed to pack into a car I brought over the weekend prior.
Guardian, for all their good work, told me my stuff would arrive “in 2 to 14 days”. I was told this by Chris, my agent, and by the movers on moving day. The movers, for their part, thought it might go pretty quick as drivers might want to cash in on more lucrative holiday pay. This did not happen.
After a week I was frazzled, but not angry. After two weeks I was getting miffed. After we started approaching the three week mark I was pissed.
From what I can gather, once Guardian left my house in Indianapolis the truck went about 7 miles down Washington Street, parked, and sat there until December 31, 2012 — 10 days after leaving my house (I’m being generous by not counting loading day as a “day”). It sat through a blizzard of epic proportions and in sub-zero wind chills.
From there, Guardian turned things over to their interstate-transport parent, Atlas VanLines on the 31st. Atlas took my stuff and placed them on another truck for the haul across the eastern third of the country.
After a few more days, I started calling Lynn from Atlas’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Lynn was sympathetic and did her part in checking on my stuff between her multiple stretches of vacation days, but wasn’t finding it easy to pinpoint even in what state my stuff was in. My entire world of cups, plates, flatware, knives, furniture, books, entertainment, computer equipment (save my laptop and iPad, which I had with me), lamps, bicycles, clothes, canned goods, and more were all on that truck. At one point when asked how I was doing, I said, “Well Lynn, you can live this little dream by taking your entire desk and throwing it out the nearest window, then try to do some actual work.”
In the year of our Lord, 2013, Atlas VanLines has not discovered a way to track their trucks, locate their equipment, or contact their drivers. If only there were some sort of radio technology, or perhaps a network of towers spanning the country that could connect a woman in Columbus, Ohio to a guy in a truck in, let’s assume Idaho. Because at this point I sorta think the truck drove in reverse, backwards across the country for a while.
The truck, of course, did not drive backwards across the country. I later learned the truck was actually being pulled by two guys on horseback Oregon Trail-style. They would have to stop and shoot buffalo for meals and bury some of their party along the way. Which makes sense, because from when they left to when they arrived the movers were an entirely different group of people.
Two days before my stuff would arrive I got a call from the driver who explained he was in Baltimore, Maryland, and would be driving past me in Connecticut to deliver items on two smaller jobs “That would take 15 minutes each”, in and around Boston. One questions why someone would pay movers to do what would take 15 minutes.
Atlas moved my stuff from the second truck to the third truck in Baltimore. Upon hearing my concern they may not be able to find adequate parking near my building in New Haven (despite my efforts to get a delivery estimate so I could contact the local parking authority to block off meters just for them in advance), they moved my stuff from this third truck to a smaller fourth truck.
In this process practically every box was turned upside down, sideways, shaken, stirred, or in the case of at least three boxes dropped or smashed by heavier items. Some things, like my toaster, actually arrived with fingerprints on the side that aren’t even mine. Which leads me to believe based off that and the fact the boxes were in such bad shape that the movers had manhandled my entire world of possessions to the point that some of the boxes collapsed or fell apart, spilling their contents onto the floor, and required some amount of re-packaging. Mind you, the two boxes that were most noticeably damaged were U-Haul moving boxes, which aren’t exactly flimsy.
In addition to the unloving treatment of my possessions, the amount of time things sat in a very cold truck further weakened items, one of which was very personal to me. One of the few remaining memories I have with my mom was going to the River Falls Mall in Clarksville, Indiana with my grandmother. At a small booth in the center of the mall was an artistic sand making booth, where you could pour various colors of sand into small jars and make neat little designs. Mom and I made one together, and my grandma made one, too. My grandma’s is sitting on a shelf in her living room. The one mom and I made has sat on one of my shelves for at least 13 or 14 years now. Having sat in the cold for so long, it weakened the glue that seals the top of the jar and caused it to fall out, spilling about 20% of its contents. I’ve never been so disgusted with a group of people in my life until that point.
For their part, they recommend taking some things some other way, particularly in cold or hot weather months. Which sorta defeats the entire point of moving because if I had to move all the things they rattled off that get upset by extreme temperatures, like TVs or any electronics, glassware, etc., why would I hire movers? At that point I’d just be moving all my stuff myself. Plus, that would narrow the appropriate time to move across the country to about one weekend in March.
Upon arriving in front of my building, 90 minutes later than expected and promised, and after 19 days, which is 5 days longer than I was told, the movers showed up. It turns out, “2 to 14 days” doesn’t mean weekends, or holidays. Because, you know, Sunday isn’t really a day, because Jesus. They probably don’t even count Canadian holidays, like Boxing Day.
The drivers started unloading things and in the back of this smaller truck I could see my two $1,500 bikes sitting on top of piles of stuff, laid over, chain-side-down, which true to form, means my chains and gears were about to fall off. I even included these items on the “High Value Items” form so they could be given “special care and attention”, which judging by the comments of one of the movers, they “hadn’t really noticed those items.”
Upon unloading items into my building, they looked to me to provide them with screwdrivers and hardware to reassemble things like my sofa bed, or the small stand the TV screws into. This meant I had to rummage through boxes finding these items, and after half a god damned month I mostly forgot where things were.
At one point, the driver unloading items from the truck complained about the building’s small elevator, as if I have any control over that. “Hmm, I dunno honey, maybe we should look somewhere else, this place is in a great location, has a fair price, and is in a good school district, but it has a small service elevator and it might make the movers sad.” – Said no one ever.
If that weren’t enough, the driver made the remark, “No offense, but you’re kinda costing me money today.” This came up when I asked if that was a smaller truck they had loaded my things onto so they could navigate town easier, which evidently means they had to rent a smaller truck. I mean, who would expect a moving company to have access to varying sizes of trucks? What is this, Communist China? I wanted to reply, “Well, sorry, but you’ve kinda cost me 19 days of my life and a shit ton of my money, too.” But I didn’t, because I was afraid they’d go smash something else.
So naturally, they went and smashed something else. They brought up my TV stand, sat it down, and said, “I dunno what happened, it was just like that.” It was sitting in three distinct pieces, having splintered as though many many pounds of weight had been placed on it. Really? “It was just like that?” AS IF IT WAS LIKE THAT IN INDIANAPOLIS? Of course they know what happened to it, they weren’t careful, they threw it around, and it broke. Of course, that item isn’t covered under their insurance policy because it doesn’t cover “some wood products”, of which this is. Because, you know, movers are really only there to help you move pillows, towels, toilet paper and your dreams. One mover asked, “So what do you want us to do?” regarding the stand, as if I somehow still would want a pile of splinters, I said, “You can take it.” To which this warranted a comment about how this would cost them money. As if I just woke up one morning and magically shat a TV stand onto my living room floor for absolutely nothing and could do so again without incurring any cost myself.
After complaining about everything from the elevator to the weather to the fact they were spending money on a smaller truck and that they didn’t even bring their own tools, they finally left.
I lost my TV stand, my toaster was manhandled like a gun control bill on the floor of the House of Representatives, I had two broken plates, every box labeled “This side up” was upside down, — and I do mean every box, my bikes weren’t considered with any special care, and my aforementioned souvenir from my childhood, which I packed in bubble wrap, was in a box so heavily jostled in became unwrapped and fell apart.
At no point since has Guardian or Atlas VanLines called to ask me how my move went or how they could improve their experience (like, I dunno, giving a more accurate indication that by “day” they mean “a Plutonian day”, or that they could come by to get all these damn boxes they brought me to begin with). Lynn, the rep in Columbus, Ohio, called me while the movers were actually unloading my stuff to genuinely ask if the truck had arrived, because again, in 2013 it’s not like we have satellites orbiting the earth in outer fucking space that could remotely tell someone in Ohio where their employees are in, say, Connecticut, two states over in what they must assume is the American equivalent of Siberia.
Guardian was okay. Atlas VanLines sucks harder than Bill Clinton’s intern. Their service is bad, and they should feel bad.