Does it seem like the moving industry is getting worse? Does it appear that the quality of office moving service has slipped? It may not be your imagination. What you’ve heard about moves not finishing on-time for the price quoted; damage to furniture and computers and the destruction of office space seems to be occurring more now than ever before. What can end users and property managers do to “fix the problem?” Understanding the cause of the problem can help you prevent it.

The sub-prime mortgage crisis and its subsequent negative effect on home sales forced many movers to offer office-moving services to stay afloat. According to industry experts, both residential and military moving revenue plummeted during the last recession.  Many movers jumped into the office moving arena with no training in order to survive the downturn.

“Companies hiring movers and office building managers need to know that the trend points to the potential for lower quality and higher incidents of damage,” said Ed Katz, head of the International Office Moving Institute (IOMI®).

“Though some movers successfully accomplish both household moves and business moves, the two are nothing alike. For example, a household mover would not necessarily know how to transport computers safely or protect office building walls, doors, floors, and elevators from being damaged. These neophyte office movers are often learning the pitfalls of commercial moves at the expense of both the customer and his landlord,” said Katz.

Many of these new players are undercapitalized and have little or no training and experience. Their only “claim-to-fame” is that of being the low-price mover. This is the industry that is now moving millions of dollars of sensitive computers and fragile furniture into office buildings that are themselves highly susceptible to damage.

In this new price-driven era, there are several things that property managers and end users can do to minimize the risk inherent in an office relocation. Property managers can adopt and enforce strict moving policies that include minimum mover liability insurance. Tantamount to this, they can become proactive before a move by arming their buildings to guard against major damage. One product that relates to a need that property managers have been trying to solve for years—how to protect the outer elevator doorjambs and lobby-side panels in the lobby of an office building. A device called Mat-A-Doors® does just that. Two reinforced foam vinyl-covered panels attach to the outer frame of a passenger elevator that is also used to haul freight. Since the Mat-A-Doors® cover the elevator jambs and wall panels in front of the elevator, the risk of damage from movers is greatly reduced. Mat-A-Doors® are made of a durable vinyl material; fold up for compact storage and set-up in seconds. They can also be used to protect main glass lobby entrance doors and double reception room doors.

End users can increase their chances of having a successful move by first talking to the people who can give them the information they need in order to make the right choice. They should meet with both their present and new building managers. Because of their frequent first-hand experience with moving companies, property managers know what can go wrong on a move. They know only too well what happens when a tenant unknowingly hires a mover who doesn’t have adequate training, skill, supervision, experience and insurance. They’ve seen furniture fall off the moving vans; computers dropped; torn carpet, gashed walls, scratched doors and “trashed” bathrooms. Their security people have caught movers checking for unlocked doors on floors where they don’t belong. Because of the risk to other tenants in their building, building managers were forced to say “No” to their tenant who, on Monday morning, begs them to let his mover finish his job that he failed to complete on the weekend because he underbid it.

Another method to find good service providers is to visit the International Office Moving Institute (IOMI®) website that lists its moving company graduates. Certified Office Movers® have been taught the best practice methods to minimize the risk of damage to furniture, computers, and real property. They learn a proprietary estimating formula that’s based upon man-hours instead of the household movers’ pounds method. As a result, the chances of a move completing on time for the price quoted is greatly improved.

IOMI® is not an alliance, a trade association, or a moving company, but an independent, unbiased office moving training organization beholden to no one. It has no members.

Before hiring a mover, ask the following questions:

1. How will you move our contents?
All professional movers provide plastic crates such as the TygaBox to move the contents of furniture. Crates make cardboard cartons obsolete. They hold 2 ½ more contents than corrugated, are already built, and are much safer and easier to handle. Crates, of course, are reusable and don’t fell trees or fill landfills like corrugated.

2. How will you handle our computers and other electronic equipment?
The preferred manner is to first wrap each computer component (monitor, printer, and C.P.U.) with bubble wrap and then place the protected equipment into a container for safe transport. A new technique, using an antistatic wrap called a Comp-U-Wrap, has all of the advantages of bubble wrap but none of the disadvantages. It’s faster, easier to use, and more efficient than bubble wrap. Since it is reusable, it doesn’t fill landfills. Regardless of which method your mover chooses, do not allow him to “blanket-wrap” your computers with furniture pads. Blanket-wrapping causes harmful dust particles to gravitate and stick to the fans inside of a computer slowing them down and causing the computer to overheat and crash. Movers’ furniture pads are full of dust, dirt and fibers and, therefore, should not be wrapped around the CPU.

3. How will you handle our lateral file cabinets?
Moving companies that have a Spider Crane® or a Rock ‘N Roll Jack® can relocate lateral file cabinets safely without disturbing the contents. This “boxless move” concept eliminates the risk of mixed- up or lost files and gives you 100% access to your files immediately before and following the move. Moving them any other way, such as emptying the top two drawers and tipping the cabinet onto a 4-wheel dolly, can cause them to rack and torque. Once they do, they’ll stick and jam and cannot be repaired.

4. What type of insurance coverage do you have?
John Schubert, President and CEO of Southern States Insurance, Inc., Atlanta, GA, warns, “The one with the insurance often becomes the one who pays. You may be contingently liable for accidents if your mover isn’t adequately covered. For your protection, you should demand current certificates of insurance listing workers’ compensation as well as general liability coverage–$2 million for general aggregate and a $5 million umbrella.”

Shubert further cautions, “If you obtain replacement value insurance, don’t think that it is a substitute for a good mover. Insurance normally does not cover valuable papers (your files) or recorded electronic data; and if you’re put out of business while you’re waiting for the insurance company to settle your claims, there is no coverage for your downtime and lost business. Insurance companies have 60 to 90 days to settle claims.”