I am caught in a scam

Embarrassing. A science teacher who preaches research and looking for truth, caught in a scam because she didn’t do her homework. That would be me.

I recently arranged a household move from New Mexico to Florida. I had never hired a moving company. I decided to give myself the gift of having a professional moving company pack, deliver my goods, and unpack them at the new house. They would need to be stored several months before moving into the new house. I wasn’t sure I could afford it. I listed my information on a website that promised reliable quotes from a variety of moving companies.

The phone number that popped up was for Imperial Freight (aka Imperial Freightlines; hereafter called IF). The representative, Steve, told me that IF was a 5-star rated, nationwide moving company that would use “white glove” treatment to handle all my goods and store them during the necessary months. IF would not only pack my goods for me; they would unpack them and set them up in Florida. He gave me a “binding quote” for the “all-inclusive move”.

These were all lies.

…but I signed up without researching IF, in which case I would have found dozens of negative reviews, with stories similar to mine (which I’ll detail in the following paragraphs). Even more embarrassing, I discovered that the Better Business Bureau gives IF a “D-” rating; yikes! Silly Camilla.

Lie #1: IF is not a moving company. They are a moving broker, although they take pains to avoid telling you this. Moving brokers do not move your goods themselves, and search for quotes from real moving companies after you have signed on. This difference is so important that federal regulations require that brokers disclose this fact from the very first contact with a client. IF did not, and does not, disclose the fact that they are a broker. Thus starts a chain of disastrous results…

Lie #2: IF is not 5-star rated. In fact, as mentioned above, they have dozens of 1-star reviews and are rated D- by the Better Business Bureau.

Lie #3: IF does not, and cannot, offer “binding rates” although they claim on the phone, and on their contract, to do so. Who knows how they come up with the rate they offer on the phone. At any rate, the prices are low-balled; then very close to the actual moving date, IF more than doubles the prices without explanation. This doubling applies not only to the moving, packing, and labor – but also to the monthly storage rates. The timing of the rate increase is too close to the actual move date to give a client time to shop for another company, and IF refuses to give you back your initial sizeable deposit if you do.

Lie #4: IF is not an all-inclusive mover. As noted, they aren’t even the moving company that eventually shows up to move your goods. In my case, the actual movers were Western Van Lines. They quoted me yet higher rates for labor and storage once they were at my house (similar to other reviewers). When I asked how this could be, Western Van Lines told me that IF had no authority to quote rates for Western Van Lines and I could take it or leave it. Chillingly, Western Van Lines told me they weren’t really in the storage business and recommended that I have them move my goods to a cheaper storage facility closer to my new home in Florida and then hire another company to move my goods into my Florida home. This would, of course, entail further costs. So the bit about “all inclusive moving, start to finish” is just a simple lie.

Lie #5: White Glove Company. Well, you can guess. Western Van Lines offered me their standard insurance, which covers goods based upon weight. That would mean that a valuable stained glass lamp would be worth about $5 if damaged, since the replacement value is something like $1/pound.

All the above things happened to me personally. I was astounded when IF doubled my original “binding quote” within days of the move date, at which time I was obligated to be out of my house. When I asked for an explanation, the representative Kyle told me that my inventory had changed. Yet, we both had the original inventory in front of us, and nothing had been added. When I argued with him, he grew exasperated, saying, “You’ve got to commit now or lose your moving date. I have lots of phone calls to make; I can’t spend any more time with you.”

I had to proceed, but I contacted IF about my concerns. The IF phone rep, Britney, could offer no explanation. Weirdly, she told me to phone them directly once the movers arrived if the prices were again raised. She said IF would help out. Well, this was prescient; because the rates were again doubled for labor and storage. I phoned IF and their office was closed and there was no return phone call.

The next day, I called IF and complained to Britney. She put me on hold and said her supervisors had determined there was no merit to my case. I could appeal by emailing support (no phone number or name), which I did. That email was never responded to.

My goods are now somewhere – Western Van Lines won’t tell me where – and I still owe a final payment plus upcoming high monthly storage charges.

What are my recourses?

Ha! I have described my case in full, plus documentation, to the attorneys general in both New Mexico and Florida. I subsequently copied and mailed dozens of complaints plus the BBB rating to both AGs. There has been no meaningful action from either department. The NM AG said they would send an email to IF, but I haven’t heard back. The FL AG referred my case to another department, which supposedly attempts a mediation. But that second department said they have yet to receive a copy of my complaint from the AG.

I contacted several private law firms for advice, and none of them would talk to me except one lawyer in NM who said he wouldn’t take my case, adding “there are so many complaints against moving companies!”

I have reviewed IF on every site I can think of. I have reached out to other reviewers asking them to join me in pursuing IF but have received no responses except from one lady who said she had a similar experience but thought it was pointless to pursue.

I am investigating a small claims case but imagine it will difficult to serve papers on IF, and to recover money even if I win the case.

Why would I post my complaint on my science website? I am hoping to gain a bigger audience, frankly. I don’t have much of a social media presence and hope that “tagging” IF and Western Van Lines will allow others to see how IF operates; plus I hope others will contact me.

Plus, my failure to do due diligence can be a lesson for anyone hearing news stories. Before accepting statements as fact, do your research.

IF is headquartered in Lauderhill, Florida. There is another company with a similar name in another town in Florida. IF website: https://imperialfreightlines.com/

Hope to hear from you!