Categories: Office Moving

Steps To Take To Avoid Damage and Liability When Moving Your Office

TASA ID: 2040

Did you know the forte of most moving companies is their long distance household division while their weakest area is commercial moving?

An experienced office mover knows that the difference between a residential and a commercial move is as great as the difference between night and day. Yes, many will get you to your new location, but will it be on time, within the budget, and without mishap?  Unfortunately, probably not.

Ask the building managers at both your present and new locations to recommend two or three moving companies. Property management people have extensive first-hand experience with movers and are as anxious as you to have the move be a success. Therefore, they are a great place to start your selection process.

Another avenue is to visit your new office building and ask some of the tenants if they would recommend their last mover. Perhaps your attorney, accountant, insurance agent, or other supplier may be in a position to suggest an office mover. Since they don't want to jeopardize their relationship with you, they will be careful whom they recommend.

After you have selected and pre-qualified potential bidders, take the time to meet individually with each mover's representative for an analysis of the move. Be certain you fully understand what will be done and how the move will be carried out. Get at least three estimates. However, if it's a large move, you may want to solicit five bids.

Have someone of authority (not just an information gatherer) from your company meet with each mover during the inventory process. Inform the mover about your needs and ask how he proposes to meet them. The same representative from your company should meet with all of the movers. During the initial walk-through or inventory process, determine whether you or the mover will be responsible for handling the movement of fragile items such as lamps, paintings, and plants. Identify any additional services such as the packing of common areas like the supply room or library, the balancing and bolting of lateral file cabinets, and the disassembly of modular furniture.

After the salesman completes his inventory process, set a time for him to return and make his formal presentation. At that time he should bring a list of the last five companies whose offices his company moved, with contact names and phone numbers. Tell him not to furnish you with a list of references (which he naturally would pick and choose to create a favorable impression). If your move is very large, request that he provide you with a list of comparable size moves he has done in the last 12 months. Ask him to also present at that time his Certificate of Insurance, as well as actual pictures of the type of moving equipment he will be using on your move. Some movers have been known to simply copy pictures and drawings of equipment they find in other moving company brochures and represent it as their own.

The next step will be to interview your mover. Allow enough time for your mover to make his formal presentation and to answer the following questions:

1. What type of moving cartons will you provide?

Similar in size to the Office Legal Tote, the plastic crate (brand names such as Rent-A-Crate®, Tyga-Box and E-Crate) offer an efficient alternative to the conventional moving carton.  Because of its strength and shape, the plastic crate can be stacked 4 high without crushing the boxes below or their contents.  Stacking the boxes 4 high reduces your contents volume by 20%, thereby lowering your total moving costs.  Less volume means that movers make fewer trips to and from the moving van and can even reduce the number of truckloads.

The plastic crate has overcome the risk of lifting heavy boxes since the the companies have devised an ingenious method of stacking their containers on a unique dolly during the loading and unloading process.

2. How will you handle our computers and other electronic equipment?

The preferred manner is to first wrap each computer component with two layers of bubble wrap (with the bubbles facing the bubbles) and then place the protected components into a container for safe transport. A new patented technique, using a device called a Comp-U-Wrap®, has all of the advantages of bubble wrap but none of the disadvantages. It's faster, easier to use and more efficient than bubble wrap. Since its reusable, it doesn't fill landfills and is much more efficient. Regardless of which method your mover chooses, do not allow him to "blanket-wrap" your computers with furniture pads. According to an article written in PC World magazine, Chuck Miller warns about harmful dust particles entering your CPU. and causing it to crash. Movers' furniture pads are full of dust, dirt and fibers and, therefore, should not be wrapped around the CPU.

3. How will you handle our lateral file cabinets?

Moving companies that have a Spider Crane® can relocate file cabinets safely without disturbing the contents. This Boxless Move® concept eliminates the risk of mixed-up or lost files and gives you 100% access to your files immediately before and following the move. Moving them any other way, such as emptying the top two drawers and tipping the cabinet onto a 4-wheel dolly, can torque and rack them, causing the drawers to stick and rub.  Once they are racked, they cannot be repaired.

Katz Pic 1 Moving Cabinet      Katz Pic 2 Guys moving stuff

         Racked Lateral File Cabinet                                             Spider Crane

4. How will you handle our desks?

Here, too, is a clever invention for minimizing your downtime during office relocation. Instead of shutting down hours before your move packing the contents of your furniture, movers can inflate a Space GobblerTM into your drawers, which immobilizes the contents so that nothing moves around and falls out. If your mover does not own Space GobblersTM, you must totally empty and pack the contents of all the drawers.

5. How will you handle our library?

Have the mover under your close supervision load your books onto book bins, which look like bookcases on wheels. This procedure, like the Spider Crane® and Space GobblerTM, greatly reduces your downtime because it gives you 100% access to your books immediately before and after the move. The Dark Ages method for moving a library is to pack the books into mountains of boxes where they can easily get mixed up. This system is very labor intensive and puts you out of business before and after the move.

6. How will you protect the office building from damage?

To protect carpet, a new product covers carpet with a 6-mil-thick vinyl that has a light adhesive on one side. It has all of the benefits of Masonite yet none of the problems. It is easy to handle, store and apply. Where Masonite is very labor -intensive and expensive to install, the vinyl carpet cover rolls down in minutes. Another new product, called the Mat-A-Door®, protects lobby walls, main entrance doors and the lobby side frame of a passenger elevator that is used to haul furniture.

Katz Pic 3 Banged Door                   Katz Pic 4 Hallway Shot

                      Damaged Door                                                             Protected Door

Katz Pic 5 Wall Scratch                   Katz Pic 6 Guy Moving Bin

           Damaged Elevator Frame                                                  Mat-A-Door Protecting Elevator

7. How will you load the furniture onto the moving van?

You can immediately measure the level of sophistication of your mover if he uses the "floating" method for loading the furniture instead of the stacking method. The floating method keeps the furniture on the dolly on the floor of the moving van. It is fast, safe, and efficient. The old-fashioned way is the stacking method, where the mover undollies the furniture onto the truck and stacks it floor to ceiling. This procedure (used on most long distance household moves) can cause considerable crushing damage to anything at the bottom of the pile. It is also slow and very labor intensive.

8. What provisions do you have for contingencies such as a truck breakdown, an elevator failure, or the need for additional men or equipment?

The best answer is that someone of authority from the moving company will be accessible during your move. Such a person should be an owner or the general manager. Usually, the salesman has no decision-making authority in an emergency or last-minute change of strategy.

9. What type of insurance coverage do you have?

John Shubert, president and CEO of Southern States Insurance, Inc., cautions, "The one with the insurance often becomes the one who pays." You may be contingently liable for accidents if your mover isn't adequately covered. "For your protection, you should demand current certificates of insurance listing workers' compensation as well as general liability coverage -- $2 million for general aggregate and a $3 million umbrella," advises Shubert.

If you obtain replacement value insurance, don't think that it is a substitute for a good mover. This type of coverage normally does not cover valuable papers (your files) or recorded electronic data; and if you're put out of business while you're waiting for the insurance company to settle your claims, replacement coverage does not pay for your downtime and lost business. (Insurance companies have between 60 and 90 days to settle claims.)

10. Will we be permitted to audit your invoices?

A small minority of movers has a habit of billing for movers who are never on the move, i.e. "ghost movers." Will his company permit you to examine the payroll and cost records to verify all moving charges if you deem it necessary?

11. Will you furnish a list of your last five office moves?

Ask for a list of the last five office moves with contacts and telephone numbers. Call all five contacts and ask the following questions:
A. When did the mover move you? If the moves occurred more than 6 weeks ago, be suspicious.
B. Ask how well the mover protected their furniture, P.C's, and contents.
C. Ask if and how the mover protected their offices against damage.
D. Ask if the mover completed the job in the time allotted, and if the bill exceeded the prices quoted.

12. Last but not least, "mass walk-throughs" do not save time.

This "herd" concept has become very popular in recent years but often undermines the entire selection process. First, movers on a mass walk-through will be afraid to raise vital questions for fear of informing their competitors how they propose to do the move. The mass walk-through also encourages unrealistically low bids by intimidating those who participate into second guessing their competitors' bids. Finally, the mass walk-through penalizes those movers who are thorough and detailed, and, subsequently, slower in taking their inventory. In order to keep pace with the pack, they are forced to take shortcuts or overlook important details.

If you follow the procedures outlined above, you will have an excellent chance of reducing damage and injuries during your office move.

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal, medical, or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of the author, who will be contacted by TASA.

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