What Happens to Items That Are Lost by a Moving Company?

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Moving companies sometimes leave customers furious because their possessions have been lost. While some eventually recover their lost items, many never find out what became of their goods. However, consumers can file claims through their movers' insurers. They can also file complaints with appropriate agencies to keep others from falling prey to unscrupulous or negligent movers. In 2009 alone, customers lodged 7,850 complaints with the Better Business Bureau, although it's not clear how many had to do with loss or theft of belongings. It's worth noting that the BBB considers 73.2 percent of those complaints to be settled.

Loss of Goods

Moving companies are fast-paced operations trying to handle as many moves as possible. This invariably leads to the genuine loss of items. Movers may leave possessions sitting in the driveway of a customer's previous home. They may place belongings in a far corner of the moving truck, where the goods became obscured by items from another move. Movers can also lose belongings while transferring them from one truck to another. Transfers often occur when moving companies use their own trucks to pick up the items but employ subcontractors to do the actual long-distance hauling.

Theft

Loss of valued possessions can also occur as a result of theft. The moving industry is not known for performing meticulous background checks on employees. According to a 2009 article published on MSN.com, some unscrupulous companies pick up day laborers to help out during busy times. It's unlikely that these laborers are screened in a meaningful way prior to hiring, and theft may result.

Unguarded Belongings

Neighbors or passersby may avail themselves of items that movers delivered but left sitting in a driveway or another accessible location. Possessions could also end up at the curb, as if waiting for trash collection. This can happen when renters move out and landlords must quickly get the property in shape for new tenants. Items left in an unwatched moving truck may also end up in someone else's home. In fact, stolen items can end up just about anywhere---from the thief's home to an online auction.

Tracking

Some lost items---primarily those mistakenly delivered to another customer's home---may be tracked down after some effort. According to the MSN article, moving companies have been known to "find" items when consumers offer to open their wallets. But this should not be an acceptable solution. If customers encounter problems or lack of cooperation, they can file a claim with the moving company's insurer.

Claims and Arbitration

Most reputable movers have "valuation" insurance coverage for lost and damaged goods. Despite the name, valuation policies typically pay only a minimal amount. Settlement is based on the weight of an item rather than its value, according to the Maryland Attorney General's website. Therefore, if a mover loses a 30-pound item, the policy may pay the customer just 60 cents per pound, even if the item was an expensive electronic device. Further recourse is available, however. According to the American Moving and Storage Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all interstate movers to participate in a neutral arbitration program. For those who remain dissatisfied after contacting the insurance company, arbitration may be the appropriate next step.

Complaints

Consumers can file complaints online with the Better Business Bureau, which offers dispute resolution programs. Even if the complaint is not ultimately settled, filing helps others evaluate a moving company's performance record--and many people use this resource. In 2009, the BBB received over one million inquiries about movers. Customers who feel they have been victimized by a mover can also file complaints online through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. However, this applies only to interstate moves.

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