The below “do not’s!” are taken from the Federal Maritime Commission, as well as several years personal experience in the industry.
No one wants to pay too much for a service, but International Shipping is not a product in a box – it’s very difficult to compare prices and services like you would a TV or a car.
Here is what to avoid:
Shop on Price
This is the sure-fire way to run into problems. Unscrupulous brokers, rogue operators, and professional scammers prey on greed and ignorance (meaning people don’t know; even smart people) so don’t be greedy!
If you go online to one of those “Find-a-Mover” websites and pick the lowest quote you get, rest assured you will have many problems, and your final bill will be much higher than the low, low rock-bottom price you (thought you) agreed to.
While price is always a consideration when selecting a mover, it should be one of the lower ones.
More importantly, the estimated price quote you initially receive is NEVER what you will actually pay. You need to see what is NOT INCLUDED and find out what that will cost, also.
Keep in mind that it is quite possible, especially for small shipments of household goods or personal effects, that the cost of shipping is more than you can afford, and, frequently, even more than the actual items are worth. If that is the case, you are “ripe pickings” for a scammer or unethical salesman to offer what appears to be a low price, but in fact is not inclusive of all of the fees you will need to pay.
Don’t Get a Visual Moving Survey
If you hear the line “You know better than some stranger what you want to ship!” run!
The visual survey is the best way to sort the good and the bad in our industry. It is more than just seeing what is being shipped – however that is a big part of it. The survey allows the shipping company to see the house, the street you live on, what size truck can fit, what the parking regulations or restrictions are, and many other factors that are important in determining the cost.
Also, the visual survey allows you to see a representative of the company that will be doing the packing, find out the company name, address, and a little about them. It also allows you to weed out the broker working from a basement in some remote city (or country!), before he has your goods and you have a problem.
The only instance where a visual survey might not be possible is if you live more than an hour from the nearest moving company. In most of the world, that is not an issue, so in most of the world, only accept quotes from companies that send a surveyor.
Think of this – you would never call a Dentist and say “My tooth hurts – what will it cost to fix?” would you? When you order international shipping services without a visual survey that is exactly what you are doing!
Don’t Read The Fine Print
The most common question I get as a salesman is: “Does that price include everything?”
It’s a legitimate question – if you don’t read the quote. However, if you read the quote, you will see that there are some things that can’t be predicted, and they are not included.
It’s also the perfect questions for the scammer to hear, for exactly the same reason. When you get the bill, if there are charges that are different from the quote, the first thing a judge (or anyone else will ask) is “What does it say in the agreement?”
It won’t matter what the salesman said (or didn’t say) on the phone, it matters what is written on the agreement. So if you don’t want to read it, don’t complain when you find out what the price doesn’t include, and be prepared to pay for it.