Learn From This Military Family's Moving Nightmare

August 2, 2018

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If you're looking for a reputable moving or storage company, you've hopefully done your research. One military family learned the hard way that red flags shouldn't be ignored when they moved from North Carolina to Mississippi and fell victim to a scam moving service.

In early spring of 2018, Josh Taffer was searching online for a trustworthy-looking moving service to help transport his family's belongings several hundred miles from NC to their new home in the Jackson, Mississippi area. Military families are no strangers to the process of finding moving assistance or a storage company. While 57% of U.S. adults have never lived outside their home state, another 15% have lived in four or more different states, with many military families falling into that 15%. Taffer tried to play it smart and called around to over a dozen movers he found online to find the best deal, one of which was named Spartan Van Lines.

Taffer was attracted to the low price that the Spartan representative quoted over the phone after estimating the volume of items to be moved from Taffer's old home. The quote was about $5,000, around half of what some competing movers had quoted. Red flag alert! Despite this, Taffer felt reassured by his conversation with the representative, and he saw on their online presence that Spartan had offices around the country, so he agreed to the price. He was reluctant when Spartan called back a few days later to add a possible bump to the initial estimate, but went through with having the movers arrive at his home to start packing a few days later.

Red flag number two: while Taffer expected a branded truck with a professional-looking moving team, he was surprised when a "raggedy" duo of movers showed up with an Enterprise truck that ended up being too small for everything that needed packing. Another red flag went up when the original cost was presented on the contract that they insisted he sign before they physically began moving items -- with plenty of 'extra' fees tacked on. The total added up to around $15,000. Understandably, the rise in cost caused Taffer to recoil. He cut a check closer to the original agreed-upon quote and insisted that was all they would get.

Taffer looks back on the day with regret. "I remember my wife and I looking at each other and wondering if that was the last time we were ever gonna see every single thing we owned." Unfortunately, they went through with the movers anyway. Upon reaching their new home in Mississippi, they realized their belongings hadn't arrived yet and stopped into the local Spartan Van Lines office to confront them. They arrived at a building with no trace of Spartan Van Lines, and knew they had been duped.

Spartan claims that the Taffers' belongings had not been delivered because they had not yet paid their bill in full, but it should be noted that the Better Business Bureau had been receiving similar complaints about Spartan and businesses seemingly connected to them and had been investigating their shady practices for a while.

Officials from the Better Business Bureau have three tips for avoiding disappointment and stress like that endured by the Taffer family. First, when searching for reviews for a mover or storage company, be sure that reviews on Facebook or Yelp are from real people with an account history and profile photos. Second, don't fall for over-the-phone quotes, get thorough estimates in person. Third, check for their accreditation from state or local organizations or from the BBB.