The myth of the movers binding estimate or not to exceed moving cost estimate

Christopher Noblit
The movers binding estimate

Taken at face value, a binding estimate may  appear to be very attractive to moving & storage consumers. However, a flat-rate Binding Estimate  (or "guaranteed not-to-exceed Binding Estimate) can easily be employed as a scam-tactic to lure consumers with a price guarantee, only to become a bait and switch tactic on moving day. I refer to this as "the myth of the binding estimate" and please allow me to expand on this thought if I may...

All too often moving & storage consumers are easily lured by promises of binding "price guarantees" and lower than average moving cost estimates. But such price guarantees can be illusory. How? Let's start to understand these issues by reviewing the common definition of a binding estimate. When you receive a binding estimate you should see verbiage similar to this on the written binding estimate…

"This estimate is binding on MegaGreatSupaMovers and you, except if you additional household goods or require additional services not identified in this estimate. In this event MegaGreatSupaMovers is not required to honor this estimate. The charges shown are the charges being assessed for only the services specified in this estimate and for moving the articles listed on the associated pre-move inventory."

What does this mean? First and foremost it means that only the articles listed on the pre-move inventory (know in the moving industry as the "Table of Measurements" or the "Cube Sheet"...which the estimator prepared when he or she surveyed your shipment in your home) will be moved for the Binding Estimate amount.

Therefore, if the Table of Measurements lists 200 items and the driver counts 250 pieces when he or she comes to load your shipment the driver will ask you "which 200 pieces do you want me to move for this binding price?" Alternatively, the mover will agree to move all 250 articles, but only if the binding estimate is amended and the binding price is raised to account for the additional 50 articles to be moved.

Now here's the rub: In my market I have found that five times out of ten customers who receive a Binding Estimate never receive a copy of the Table of Measurements from the mover. Therefore, the customer has a Binding price which states it is based upon moving a specific list of articles, but the customer is not provided with a copy of the list of the articles to be moved; this is troublesome.

Several years ago I gave a woman from Queens an estimate for her move to California. "You're way too high!" she protested. She said she had a "guaranteed price" from another mover and she showed it to me. This mover had provided her with a Binding Estimate (and he had provided her with a copy of the Table of Measurements listing the articles he would move for the binding price)...however he had failed to list the contents of a 1,500 pound master bedroom set on the Table of Measurements. I attempted to explain the ploy to her but he wouldn't entertain the logic...she had been seduced by the promise of a lower "guaranteed" price. On moving day she called me in tears "they won't take everything unless I pay more!" she cried.

As a result, and in my opinion, there are several lessons for consumers to learn about Binding Estimates or guaranteed not to exceed estimates:

1) If the price is significantly lower that of other mover's cost estimates then there is a problem and the problem is going to come back to haunt you when you are most vulnerable, most stressed, and have the least amount of bargaining power: on your move-out day.

2) If you choose a Binding Estimate or guaranteed not to exceed price make certain that you obtain a copy of the Table of Measurements and make certain that the Table of Measurements accurately describes all of the articles which you need to move.

3) Don't jump the gun on a Binding Estimate. All too often a Binding Estimate is obtained three months before a move and in the intervening three months the your plans on what will be moved changes dramatically which renders the Binding Estimate worthless because it no longer accurately reflects the articles to be moved.

4) Last, use your head and don't be seduced by the price. Do your homework and make every possible effort to locate and secure the services of a professional responsible moving company.

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