Monday, April 30, 2012

Mother's Day is Coming........

Just a friendly reminder to all of you that Mother's Day is only 14 days from today, May 13th.
It is very important not to wait till the last minute to ship Mom her gifts, as if you do it early, it
will be less expensive to ship, since we have time this week to ship the presents ground, and not
air, which is a lot more money.

My mother, unfortunately, is no longer alive, but I remember what she often told me in her later years, which, for some reason, still rings true: a mother can take care of 10 kids, but 10 kids cannot take care
of one mother......I think my Mom told me this when I first forgot to get her a mother's day gift.....but
after hearing that statement, I was never late again.

Ask me, one day is not enough to celebrate mothers, as without them, where would be all be......
Happy Mothers Day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Another Problematic and Inadequate Moving Alternative: Atlas' Smart Move Program

As someone whose firm has helped over 100,000 customers with shipments less than 2000
lbs, moving from one state to another (interstate moving), I was shocked and surprised to see that one of the nation's leading Van Lines, Atlas, chose to embark on a unique Small Shipment
Program, aptly named, Smart Move.

I can't find anything smart about it.

As the first firm in the nation to actually interact with the Less than Truckload Freight Industry,
Box Brothers simply created a system that allows for small shipments to be transported across state lines, by utilizing the existing infrastructure of the United States Freight system.

At the time, everyone in the moving industry, simply felt that they had nothing in common with the freight industry, as plain and simple, the movers were specialists and the freight guys were just haulers. As is often the case, there has always been more synergy between these two industries than anyone in either industry has admitted.

After all, about 25 years ago, it was a railroad, Norfork Southern, who owned North American Van Lines, and who decided it was foolish to have drop frame trailers, as someone there theorized that if they had equipment and orders but not the right equipment to haul freight, even if they were going in the same direction, they could not capitalize on it, due to the fact that
drop frame trailers were not suitable for palletized freight shipments.

Conceptually, this was not a bad idea, but it never worked and North American Van Lines, never seemed to get up to speed hauling a lot of freight. It could be that the Moving and Storage Industry is sometimes, decentralized with agent drivers and agents, who did not want the freight and of course, there were those who argued that it would be penny wise and pound foolish
to have a van line driver miss a job to load 5000 lbs when the freight firm needed 400 lbs picked up and delivered in a few days--something that the household driver and industry was simply not prepared to work out--then.

So here comes Atlas with this idea to create these heavy duty plastic type containers, similar to what we call a lift van, but much sturdier, and I suspect, as a very high cost. Never mind the carbon footprint so often discussed today.

But then, Atlas did something new in its program, it announced that it would not use the Atlas
over the road fleet to help facilitate the movement of these units, instead, deciding to put the
whole program onto a freight platform, to most likely obtain the benefit of quicker delivery dates than the moving industry can deliver, due to its structure of utilizing owner operators for interstate service.

Of course, the problem here is the same problem with all of the other small shipment solutions
the van lines have come up with in the past, merely addressing the need to offer a small shipment alternative, but with nothing compelling to the customer or nothing that moves the service and price quotient any closer to giving the customer a good and valuable transparent service, which is just what the industry is lacking today.

How does one size fit all a good solution. If you have 200 pounds to move, it will cost over $10.00 a pound just to ship it through their system. How come they can't tell the customer that the coverage they claim to provide to the customer that is included with each shipment,
is bogus. I think you would need to have a spaceship land on your container for you to be able to make a claim, as the whole issue here as with all of these new alternatives, is that the customer, becomes self insured and two, he moves himself, but pays as much as he would for a
full service move and does not have insurance to cover any losses.

This is the crap we get from one of the nations largest van lines. No transparency, no value in pricing and they do not tell anyone that their coverage will not cover the customer for self loading or packed by owner boxes. If this is a do it yourself service, how come they can't just tell you the truth? Why do they need to lie. Do you go to the market and buy fruits and vegetables, do you have to pay for 5 lbs of carrots, if you only want to buy one lb?

How does this help the moving industry, to promote a non transparent and one size fits all service, when the entire industry is about being able to deliver good service for a fair price. In
this day and age of renewed called for more regulation, not less, do we get a service that only promises an 11 day transit, over the freight system.

Maybe someone should tell Atlas and their "Smart Moving" program that Fedex, for example,
will take LTL freight from my dock on Monday, 4/16/12, and have it delivered to someone's
new home by this Friday, in New York, on 4/20/12, with standard freight delivery.

I might be wrong, but when we created our Small Shipment Services Program at Box Brothers, over 20 years ago, we set out to create an environment that leveled the playing field for the
smaller loads and their customers: We gave them certain dates and specific times for our crews
to do the pick ups; we took professional inventories; we packaged their possessions like they were our own, utilizing more and better packaging (air cushioning, void fill, eps foam sheeting, ethafoam for very heavy and breakable items like stone, glass, and statues, piano's, etc, and we boxed everything in customized cartons that were made to fit the item, not the other way around, and finally, palletized the shipment so that the only way that the shipment was moved, was with a forklift or a pallet jack--so that no item would be moved individually.

We also worked to obtain a mutually beneficial insurance program with a third party insured,
who specifically covers all items which need to be declared and valued prior to the move. We offer different deductibles, replacement cost protection and in the event of a claim, 99% of them are closed within 30 days after a formal claim form is submitted by the claimant.

But the biggest factor in our continued success is that we have a top to bottom commitment to the customer and to rendering top quality service, no matter how small the job is. You turn your lemons into lemonade and and you do not mislead your customer, nor do you convince him or her that a one size solution is best for all.

Atlas is a fine van line, one of the best, but I think this program, including suggesting the use of stock boxes, not official moving boxes is also a mistake by Atlas here, as on the one hand, they tell people that dish packs should be used for packing dishes and glasses--the standard for many decades in the moving industry--and they encourage the use of a single wall carton if you do it
yourself. Why?

I just wish that sometimes, large firms do their due diligence correctly, as we seem to forget what we have learned over the years, that we need to be service oriented and we need to provide good solutions for our customers, not something that is only a partial and not a complete
solution for their current and future small shipment customers. At the same time, these efforts only ensure that firms like Box Brothers will continue to play a part in this segment of the industry.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Self Service vs Full Service Moving; Who Stole the Savings?

For many years, consumers have always seemed to understand their choices when confronted with having to relocate or move their home. The thought process usually runs as follows:

"If I do it myself, and rent my own vehicle, and not use a mover, then I can savee some money..."
"If I hire a mover, it will cost a lot more than if I do it myself..."

Obviously, if someone does not have the means to hire a mover to move all of their possessions,
they really have little choice as moving options.

Today, with fuel prices so very high, it is our belief that each situation is different and should be
evaluated on its own merits. For example, there is a huge difference in moving locally vs moving
a longer distance, usually over 100 miles, as the farther away you move from your current residence, in both full service and self service moving, costs will rise the longer the distance between locations.

But what is most telling is that longer moves, over 1000 miles, I just do not believe that the savings in self service moving are great or compelling, if you have a choice. Consider these issues:
1) Fuel at $4.50 per gallon and YOU MUST REMEMBER THAT MOVING TRUCKS
Los Angeles to Chicago would easily cost over $1000.00 in fuel costs, or more
depending on the quantity of goods and how much weight is in the truck itself

Consider these additional factors:
You have to load the truck yourself or pay others to do it;
You are self insuring all of your goods for damage or loss and
there is no insurance carrier that will cover your own packing
moving negligence that leads to loss or damage; You are self
insuring your move;
You are not at all trained how to load a truck, with weight
distribution and making sure the load is packed correctly and
safely, as if the load is not secured properly, it can shift while
on the road and could lead to an accident;
Are you an experienced truck driver, used to stopping at truck
inspection stations, border crossings and you know all the roads
that are subject to flooding, or are not safe? Do you know where
the mandatory fire extinquisher is in the truck;
How about the toll lanes and bridge fees.....
HOw about the loading equipment and pads, they are extra...

I could go on and on, but my point is that if you carefully shop for your relocation and open your
search to a broader spectrum of choices, both the self service moving market and the newer containerized moving (i.e Pods) options are all very expensive in my opinion and the best approach in making a choice is to make sure you compare "apples to apples"

People need to become aware of how they are going to be charged: for full service movers, local moving is by the hour. End of story. But for long distance moves, it is usally by weight in the U.S. One needs to be wary of other means by which some firms charge, as in all cases, one needs to know what they are buying or paying for. So your move is based necessarily on what you have to move, not what you want to move, but what you actually take with you. Professional relocation firms, movers and firms like Box Brothers, always price their services on weight and iprice accordingly. What I see most often is that firms can under estimate the weight and make you feel that your cost will be x, when in fact, you are going to pay for every pound on that truck, no matter what. IT IS JUST LIKE BUYING BANANAS OR TOMATOES AT THE MARKET, WHAT YOU BUY IS WEIGHED AND YOU ARE CHARGED FOR THAT WEIGHT.

No mystery, no guessing, no fun and games. If you have 5000 lbs of goods, you will pay for 5000 pounds of goods. So you have to make sure when you compare services, you are comparing correctly to ensure that you are getting the best price per pound and the service
requirements you need, to start your new home, your new job, your new schoooling or whatever.

So many times, we find that our prices that we provide to our customers might seem higer than some of our competitors, as most people are confused by moving by weight as who would have any idea how much a bookcase weighs or how much their dining room table, 6 chairs and hutch one really does until is is weighed but I have competitors who ask their customers to guess how much it weighs, as it does not matter how they quote or how much you guess, you are paying for the whole enchilada, with cheese....

So please look at all your options, never be afraid to ask questions and you can ask any of us who
are professional to bind their estimate or guarantee their rates and services, so that you can get the best value and the best service, but you have to be willing to invest the time to obtain an understanding as most consumers just go for the thinking spelled out above, that one is always cheaper than the other and the other one is more expensive, but that analysis is so shallow, it will not be persuasive and correct for most moving consumers.