I’m Back! And I’ve Brought A Couple of Recent Observations with Me

How they managed to do that with the couch wrapped in plastic is beyond me; but there it is.

Evening Folks! I owe you an apology for my recent unannounced disappearance. For the last few days, I’ve been moving from one apartment to another so my life has been more or less turmoil. Thankfully, I am comfortably situated in my new apartment now and so far, it is everything I had hoped it would be. But in retrospect, I should have posted something letting y’all know prior to the move. I’m still very new to the blogging thing but lesson learned. Anyway, I will resume normal posting (aiming for 3-4 posts per week) immediately. And today, I have a couple of observations from the last few days to point out.

My first observation is that most of the time, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” Since I don’t have a truck right now, since the quotes were surprisingly low, and yes, since I was feeling lazy, I decided to hire a moving company for this move. It will probably be both my first and last time doing that. My hope had been that I would get what was advertised – experienced, hard working movers who would more or less take care of everything from door to door, leaving me doing only the packing and unpacking. The pricing structure was the same with every company I got a quote from (and I only got them from highly rated companies) – a fixed trip charge of $60-90 and an hourly rate of $90-100. The winning company quoted me two hours and was on the low end with the trip charge, meaning I was looking at roughly $250. For that price, I had thought why not? A Uhaul rental would cost me $100 or so when all was said and done and I don’t feel it would be right to ask anyone to help me accomplish such a task without putting a Benjamin Franklin in his pocket and a hearty lunch in his stomach – and that would have involved me working too whereas this moving company didn’t just promise, but insisted, that I wouldn’t be lifting a finger. So it seemed like a no brainer.

But you know what they say; hope for the best, plan for the worst. Following that mantra, I had everything ready on moving day so that the movers would have to do nothing but load, drive, and unload. I used my car to move a large portion of my more fragile/valuable/smaller belongings in advance, I had everything that was left in neatly stacked, organized boxes, and I had all my furniture disassembled as necessary. And thank Jesus, Allah, Buddah, and anyone else up there that I did!

Once the movers arrived on moving day, it didn’t take me long to see I had been sold a bill of goods. The movers who showed up were not the promised strapping workhorses, but a couple of twig limbed kids in their early to mid twenties, neither of whom looked likely to score even a one on a 225 pound bench test. I hoped my assessment was wrong but sadly, it was not. One of them was at least a halfway decent worker who seemed to know what he was doing. The other was neither. As a result, much of what I witnessed appeared to be a training session – and it was not going well. There was a lot of standing around waiting for further instructions, a lot of “not like that, like THIS!”, and growing anxiety on my part as I watched the clock race on and on with shockingly little progress being made on the modest amount of stuff that needed to be taken and loaded into the truck.

Foolishly taking the moving company at its word, I spent most of the morning on the phone with customers, dealers, etc as the two opportunistic young men milked the situation. At first, they would take a load and be gone a reasonable ten minutes or so before returning for another. Then the disappearances got longer. And longer. At one point I went the fifty or so steps from my apartment to the loading dock to see what was going on. Both movers were in the back of the truck doing who knows what and upon seeing me, they got out and headed back towards the apartment. My second mistake, with the first having been hiring them in the first place, was taking their recommendation and working rather than escorting them on every single trip. I suspect things would have gone according to plan if I had but since I didn’t, we were well over the two quoted hours before they had even finished loading the truck.

When the truck was finally loaded, one of the movers informed me that they would be stopping for lunch on the way but assured me that I wouldn’t be charged for the time. After the spectacle I had witnessed for the last three hours, I was skeptical at best. But what could I do at that point? My stuff was in their truck and I was along for the ride at that point, like it or not – and I wanted it to arrive safely on the other end. So I drove to the new apartment and worked on getting the stuff I had already moved out of the way so the additional stuff could be moved in as quickly as possible. Close to an hour later, the truck showed up.

I watched the two gentlemen standing behind the truck discussing something for about five minutes before I decided I’d had enough of their game. Walking right past them, I opened the rear door of the truck and started unloading my own stuff. When the one in charge objected, I explained in no uncertain terms that we were already over an hour over the quoted amount of time and that unless they were prepared to start deducting time, they were going to have a new teammate for the remainder of this job. My tone and expression likely made it abundantly clear that further objections would prove futile so the three of us got to work. Unsurprisingly, it took only a half hour to unload the truck and get the movers off the clock.

Clearly trying to take the edge off the situation, because admittedly, I was PISSED and was making little effort to hide it by that point, the lead mover “generously” deducted a half hour from the over four hours he would otherwise have charged me for the no more than two hours of work that had actually been done. As a man who has done my share of real work in life, I couldn’t bring myself to totally stiff these two, even given the circumstances, so I gave them each ten bucks. However, I also advised them that had the job been completed as quoted, their tips would have been considerably more.

As I unwrapped/unpacked, I discovered the same little mishaps that would have happened had I completed the job without hired help – mostly little chips and scratches on furniture. Thankfully, most of these were easily repairable with some buffing and the occasional use of a wood crayon (seriously, if you have any chipped furniture, a wood crayon is a Godsend that will almost effortlessly make those chips almost invisible to anyone who isn’t looking for them!). I sent an email, complete with pictures, to the moving company, describing the events of the day in detail and offering the opportunity to respond before I went on a review writing campaign. I have not received one to date. I will follow up with a call tomorrow and barring an impressive act of after the fact customer service that would likely involve a significant amount being refunded, I will be spending some time leaving two star reviews (the job did eventually get done at least) with summarized versions of what I’ve just written on every review site I can find these guys on. If it comes to that, it will be part therapy and part public service.

But I wrote about it here to illustrate something important. If it seems too good to be true, it almost always is. Even if the moving service I received hadn’t come up abysmally short of what was promised, I still would have done the majority of the work. In my opinion, the real work of moving is the volume of packing – particularly those little, fragile things, many of which reside in the kitchen. It is certainly the most time intensive part. All told, best case scenario, the moving service could have done maybe a quarter of the total work for me at best. And as I’ve described, my actual experience was a far cry from an even acceptable scenario. Had I done things my way (rented a Uhaul and paid someone a hundred bucks plus lunch for the small portion I needed help with), I would have been out no more than $250 rather than the over $400 I wound up paying for results that were most likely worse than what I would have otherwise gotten. Slick sales pitches make outsourcing seem like a no brainer but in reality, the end results rarely live up to them. Maintenance/repairs on cars is another wonderful example of this concept. You pay a substantial mark up on parts and usually around $100 an hour for often fairly simple labor and the kicker is that by the time all is said and done, you’ve been inconvenienced for just as long as it would have taken you to do the job yourself in the first place. So rather than picking up the phone, roll up your sleeves and get to work.

My second observation is hardly anything groundbreaking – just something that grabbed my attention and forced me to think about something important. I was at a presentation today that highlighted the outlook of a particular company and provided an overview of the global economics of that company’s industry in the process. It was a solid presentation but one relatively minor point really struck me: 6000-30,000. One slide discussed the rapidly expanding global middle class and in order to do so, it needed to define things first. It defined a global middle class household as one with a US dollar equivalent income of $6000-30,000 a year. I did some subsequent reading and this appears to be right in line with most analysis that is done on the subject. Almost everyone in that room was extremely wealthy by global standards. Hell, there were interns present who probably make more than 30k a year.

Perspective is always valuable and so are reminders of things we already know but have conveniently shoved to the back of our minds. Just by living in the United States, we are already far better off than the vast majority of people in the world. A good portion of the global middle class income range is considered poverty level here. We’ve practically won the lottery just by being born. By my calculations, there is only a roughly 4.3% chance (300 million divided by 7 billion) of that happening for any given person and it’s actually lower than that if you factor in that tons of people had to emigrate here. So the next time you’re frustrated about something, remember that if you make over $30,000 a year, you are in the high income category from a global perspective. You may not have things easy, but most people have them a hell of a lot worse than you do.

And with that, I bid you all a good night!

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