Atlantic Plus Moving & Storage Inc. / Deceitful practices
On Dec. 24, 2007, Anthony Lee, Move Consultant for Atlantic Plus Moving & Storage Inc. did an on-site estimate for my move and gave me a binding estimate of cost "guaranteed not to exceed $2819.80." He made a point of telling me that his form had "BINDING ESTIMATE OF COST" at the top and to be sure any other quotes I got from other companies also have that. He explained that the only other potential cost would be if I chose optional insurance. I asked him when I needed to have my belongings loaded in order to get them to NC by Feb. 1. He suggested this was a slow time of year, and that the company might actually send the smaller "shuttle" truck in which it picked up my belongings directly to NC, so they could do it in a span of a few days.
In a letter on company stationary dated Jan. 10, 2008, Mr. Lee again confirmed, in bold lettering, "Total guaranteed not to exceed $2, 819.80." He closed with "If I can be on any further assistance, please don't hesitate to call."
The letter confirmed pickup for Jan. 29, though it mistakenly said "Friday, Jan. 29" when Jan. 29 was actually a Tuesday. I called him the week before the move and asked him to remind me again the best way to make the down payment. He said certified check or credit card would be fine. I said using a credit card would make it easy, so if that was OK, I'd probably do that. I pointed out the error of listing Jan. 29 as Friday, and he expressed that it was simply a mistake and that he was embarrassed by it because he always tries to be extremely accurate. The letter listed the delivery date as Friday, Feb. 1.
On the pickup day, a crew of four men arrived at my house in the morning. They spoke what I believe was Russian to each other. The crew leader spoke to me in English but I had trouble understanding him as he spoke with a thick accent and didn't speak very loud. I know now that I should have paid much closer attention to what he was saying and what I was signing. I thought at the time I would be signing standard paperwork and not renegotiating the deal I thought I had with Mr. Lee.
With the truck almost fully loaded, the crew leader did some calculations and suggested it would cost about $6, 600 for the move. As I balked and insisted I would have to talk to Mr. Lee or someone from the company office, he lowered the price to something in the 5, 000s and then eventually to $4, 987. I left phone messages for Mr. Lee and the office phone number I had on the letter from Mr. Lee, but no one called me back. I finally agreed to be billed $3, 000 on a credit card and settle the final price issue with Tony/the office later. I thought about writing "signed under duress" on the paperwork, but thought to myself that I didn't want to start a dispute that would create a long delay in getting my things to North Carolina; my wife and I would want to get on with our lives. I figured I'd probably have to end up paying $4987 and resigned myself to that.
Unfortunately for me, the fiasco was just beginning. I mistakenly gave the crew leader the check card from my bank account, not knowing it had a limit of $1, 500 that could be put on the card at any one time. The crew leader called me and told me it wasn't going through. I wanted to give him another card to use but it couldn't be done over the phone. I couldn't continue to try to solve the problem that evening because I had to go to work (I officiate high school basketball and had my last two games in NJ that evening).
While I was officiating the games, a woman named Olga from the company left me a phone message saying that since the card hadn't gone through they couldn't release the shipment and it wouldn't arrive by Friday. I called her back in the evening and left a message that I would make arrangements early the next day to solve the problem. I asked that she call me back either that evening or the next morning. I never heard from her again.
The next day, Wednesday, Feb. 30, I again called Mr. Lee seeking help but again got his voice mail and no return call. (As of this writing, I still haven't heard from him.) I also called the number for the company office in Passaic and left a rather desperate message for Olga or someone else to please call me before I head out of town so I can make payment arrangements. I wanted to get a cashier's check from my bank and deliver it to someone. Just before I was about to give up and start the drive to NC, a gentleman named Matt called me back. He said there was probably no one at the office, but that he could take my credit card info over the phone and run it. I gave him the info. and OK for put a $3, 000 charge on it. I went to my bank and withdrew $4, 110 in cash, anticipating a problem, then began the drive to NC.
The next day, Thursday, in the afternoon, someone named Seth called from Atlantic Plus and said they couldn't run the credit card without my signature, ID, etc. I made arrangements to get a cashier's check for $3, 000 and sent it FedEx to their office. Although I paid for fast-as-possible shipping, FedEx missed the target time of 8:30 a.m. Friday -- by about 11 hours. Since no one was available to receive the letter at 7 p.m., it was finally delivered Monday morning.
After tracking the letter on Monday and seeing that it had arrived, I called the company to confirm someone received it. After a couple hours without a response, I tried another number that was on the various paperwork from the company, and lo and behold, Matt answered. He told me they did receive the check and he was planning to call me back with an idea of when to expect delivery, but was waiting to talk to the owner first so he could give me accurate information. He said my belongings were on a truck along with a shipment going to Houston, and he thought my shipment might be delivered Friday. I asked him to please call me back after he talked to the owner and had more definitive information. (As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, I am again waiting.)
On Tuesday, I made no calls to the company and tried not to worry about it.
As of Wednesday, my wife and I are sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor, with one pillow between us, as we have been since Sunday night.
Based on this company's behavior, I can only conclude:
* My belongings were never going to stay on the smaller truck. (In speaking to representatives of other moving companies, I have since learned that that doesn't happen or would be extremely, extremely rare.)
* The behavior of not returning calls; not having anyone available to accept a payment from me on Wed., Jan. 30, before I left town; of waiting until the afternoon on Thursday, Jan. 31, to ask that a cashier's check be sent was all part of a plan to give them an excuse for not making delivery Feb. 1. It also worked to make me feel frustrated, worried, stressed, fearful, suspicious. I'm afraid to make a complaint as that, I fear, might delay my shipment for months.
* For Anthony Lee to never call me back can only be interpreted as deliberate, deceitful behavior, especially after his writing "If I can be on any further assistance, please don't hesitate to call."
* This company, rather than work to ease a customer's concerns during a stressful time, is going out of its way to increase my stress and anxiety. In this day and age when everyone has a cell phone, it is not too much to expect that someone can return a phone call.