Month Later... Still Waiting
Submitted this review about Colonial Van Lines
Review made Live: 5/18/2012 3:31:00 PM
This company is horrible. I cannot believe it is legal what they do (an attorney told us that there was little recourse for individuals… you basically need to contact the Office of the Attorney General in Massachusetts and hope enough people complain with you). They basically lied to my elderly mother about everything, had her sign a vaguely worded contract that she could not possibly understand or refute, then held all of her worldly possessions hostage for over a month. They never return her calls, never give her any useful information, and she is STILL waiting for her stuff! That is it in a nutshell. If you want the details, read the following:
First week of April: My mother retired from the USDA in April and decided to move from Cincinnati to Tallahassee, Florida with her daughter to be nearer her son until he graduated in the next year. She had only worked for the government for a little over a decade, so her retirement did not add up to a fortune, so she needed to budget carefully. She started calling different movers at the beginning of April. She received quotes from Budget and Allied, who said they could pick up the following week and deliver the same time for around $3,500-4000. My mother also contacted Colonial Van Line, but did not hear back from them that week.
Second week of April (unsure of exact date): Joel Rousseau from Colonial Van Lines Movers called and told her that Budget and Allied would lose her stuff and be late (How ironic!), so he highly recommended themselves instead. He quoted her for $2,959.95, which was cheaper than everyone else. Said they could pick up on April 16th, but gave her a window to the 26th. When my mother expressed concern over the window because she was herself moving down that same day, he explained that this was just in case of emergency (gave example of truck breaking down) and said her stuff would arrive long before the window date, likely in a couple of days. This was essentially a lie, and the verbal dishonesty from him began a long process of deceit and outright abuse toward the customer that would last over a month.
Wednesday, April 11: My mother paid a deposit of $1,238.77. (This information is on her bank statement). Joel emailed a contract and mom electronically signed it and sent it back, believing from what she had been told that her belongings would be picked up on the 16th and delivered approximately the 18th of April. The rules of the contract dictated that they only guaranteed their delivery for 30 days, but Joel assured her that it was just a formality and that her stuff would arrive by the end of the week that they picked up. Unbeknownst to My mother, the contract contained provisions basically stripping her of her consumer rights and all but guaranteeing that she could not sue them, even if they victimized her.
Thursday, April 12: My mother called and asked them if they could help her pack, because her hip was giving her problems and she would not get it done on time. They quoted her an additional $524.34. This had to be paid immediately. My mother paid this the same day (On bank statement).
Monday, April 16: CVL was supposed to pick up. The truck drivers called and said they'd be a day late because their last delivery ran long. My mother agreed with this and it was not a problem. At this point we were not dissatisfied with the service. A lost day is not unreasonable due to unforeseen circumstances.
Tuesday, April 17: Movers picked up furniture. Movers told her that stuff would be shipped to a warehouse in Chicago before coming to Tallahassee. Things were scheduled actually from there. This was the first My mother had heard this, but at this point no one had said anything about her not getting her possessions later that week as Joel had indicated, so My mother did not complain about it. Little did she know that they would basically hold her possessions hostage there for the next month. Later that day she drove to Tallahassee with two cats. Her daughter, Bonnie, was already there staying with Shane (My mother’s son/Bonnie’s brother) with her one cat.
Wednesday, April 18: My mother arrived in Tallahassee where she, three other people, and five cats (the residents own two) were left living in a small, two-bedroom townhouse together until the movers arrived, which was believed at the time to be within a couple of days. The only alternatives were paying for a hotel that she could not afford or sleeping on the floor in an empty apartment.
Thursday, April 19: My mother called customer service at 888-717-0771 and asked when the furniture would arrive. Not only was she told that it would not be delivered this week, but she was told it had not even been scheduled yet. When she expressed concern over this, they told her they would call her the next day with a date. This would turn out to be untrue.
Friday, April 20: My mother called customer service late in the day after not hearing anything and was told it had still not been scheduled yet. She asked when it would be and they said they were waiting on the dispatcher. No further information could be given at that time. At this point My mother was frustrated, part way because her possessions would not be delivered when she had been told they would be, but even more so because no one on the phone could give her any idea what was going on. Why was it not scheduled? When would it be? When would they deliver her possessions? No one seemed to know.
Tuesday, April 24: My mother called them back. It was exactly one week after they had picked up, and two days before the window was closed. No one from Colonial had made any attempt to contact her. At this point we were frustrated that they seemed unable to give any real information and unwilling to keep us informed, but understood that they still technically had until the 26th for it to be on time. Customer service again told her it had not been scheduled and that they were afraid to give her an estimate because they really did not know when it would be delivered. When My mother reminded them of the window, they said they actually had 30 days per the contract (which is vaguely worded in the contract and was never discussed verbally with the client) before delivery. This was the first time she had heard anything about it taking 30 day. When My mother told them this was unacceptable, they said they would call the dispatcher and call her back in two days.
Thursday, April 26: My mother called, having not heard anything, this time agitated. She told them off for lying to her and was transferred to a manager. The manager gave her the same spiel as before--her stuff had not been scheduled yet. Nothing could be done until it was scheduled. When my mother expressed her frustration with this, noting that their time was up, they said it would probably be delivered during the weekend or on Monday, but that they could not guarantee anything. Again, they noted that the contract gave them 30 days. The contract actually only reads that they only “guaranteed” it would be delivered in 30 days. But Joel had told her otherwise, she had been told once on the phone that it would likely be there within a few days, and my mother was beginning to feel like she had been coerced into signing the contract. Furthermore, the manager was rude about the situation and offered no sympathy or understanding. The only restitution she was offered was $30 days off per day it was late—an absurdly small amount considering the lies and stalling my mother had been subjected to and in light of the bill being several thousand dollars, though it was indeed in the contract, but again never discussed by CVL—and even then she was not automatically entitled. She was told she would have to apply for it. They were jerking her around, and she had to do all the work to be repaid for it. At this point, with little information to go on and no clue when or if her worldly possessions would be returned to her, my mother’s stress levels went up.
Friday, April 27: My mother called Joel Rousseau to see if there was anything he could do. He said he would transfer her to customer service, and she told him not to bother because they would not do anything and told him to deal with it. At this point the window Joel had given her had come and gone.
Monday, April 30: My mother called customer service and received the same answer she received before. Wondering if they were just taking advantage of an elderly woman, she asked me if I would call for her to see if I could get a different answer. I called, and was told that the delivery had not reached the "scheduling phase." I asked the service representative when the scheduling phase would occur, and she said she would have to call the carrier and she would call me back. I told her I needed a time for her return my call because our calls had not been being returned. She said 45 minutes to an hour. Three hours later... no call. At this point it seemed clear that they were making no effort to resolve the issue. I wrote them a letter in an email detailing the events above, expressing that we were displeased with the service, and notified them that I required a reasonable date for delivery or I would seek legal counsel. I gave them until Wednesday, May 2 to deliver an exact date for delivery. I received a call from them within an hour--our first returned call! I am afraid I missed her name, but she was very terse. She argued with me because the contract expressed that they had 30 days, and I retorted that (1) they verbally lied to us on multiple occasions and (2) I did not sign the contract and the situation was adversely affecting me and my family. She said she would contact the carrier, and I told her we had been told that before and that we were past that, and if I did not have a specific date of delivery by Wednesday that I would contact an attorney. After the conversation I posted my letter in review form on mymovingreviews.com. At this point I noticed that there were many, many negative reviews with similar experiences to ours. How is it possible that this place is even in business? It is a real shame that my mother, a retired elderly lady, had not had the knowledge to read the online reviews herself before she agreed to work with such an apathetic and deceitful company.
We also researched attorneys and contacted David Abrams' office via his website. Website noted that he was an experienced consumer's rights attorney. Checked with the Florida Bar and confirmed his good standing. Received response the next day and was scheduled for a consultation the next Wednesday.
Wednesday, May 2: Still no word from Colonial. I received an email from the review website I had submitted to from a "Screwed Too" saying that Colonial Van Movers was owned by Aldo Disorbo, who is currently under investigation by the United States Senate. Apparently Colonial is part of one larger company with a big boiler room of "representatives" that duplicate the consumer's information and basically act as a middle man to various companies, and all of this is located in Margate, Florida. The email recommended that I call a number, but we decided to wait until we discussed this with an attorney. I am not certain if this is legitimately true, as I did not find any information online, but in any case it was obvious that many people were angry with the company. How companies like this can be allowed to victimize customers like this is beyond me.
Tuesday, May 8: Nothing had changed. We had not contacted Colonial since our last worthless attempt. They had no contacted us. Their own self-inflicted "guaranteed" 30-day deadline was one week away. Appointment with Attorney tomorrow at 2:00 pm.
Wednesday, May 9: Talked to Attorney David H. Abrams. He said it was very difficult to sue moving companies due to their complex business practices and contracts. In fact, he had once waited for two months to receive his stuff when he moved. This is incredible to us. A company can basically hold all of your worldly possessions for weeks on end because of a vaguely worded contract signed after being coerced by verbal lies and promises? How is this possible? In a world where people are suing businesses for the slightest perceived error, what legitimately can be called a scam is practically legal and there is little an individual can do about it. This is absurd. We were a little frustrated that he was not actually in his office (he conducted the consultation over the phone because he was held up in court) because he was unable to look at the contract, but he seemed confident that there was little he could personally do. We could not even be certain in which state to conduct the case. He did recommend calling the Attorney General’s Office in Florida and the Better Business Bureau. Contacted OAG via their website. Decided to wait to contact the Better Business Bureau.
Friday, May 11: My mother received an email from Colonial saying they were glad her move was successful and asked her to take a survey. Problem: possessions are STILL not here. It will be a month next week. She called them and the customer service rep called dispatch, and they told her it would be here in 5-7 days. Heard that one before. It feels at this point almost like they are mocking her.
Tuesday, May 15: It has officially been 30 days since the goods were picked up. Lord knows what excuses they will utilize to get out of it. Although they have said delivery can occur on the weekends, perhaps they will note that the contract reads “30 business days” to claim that the weekend does not count. Perhaps they will note that they are already paying a “whopping” $30 a day for its tardiness. Perhaps they will note that the contract says my mother can only use an arbitrator chosen by the company to dispute the situation and that she is not entitled to a trial by jury.
Friday, May 18: Still no furniture. It had now been over a month since they picked it up. My mother called today and was told they would call her back. Three hours later no one had called, so she called again and was told that the truck was on its way and should be there this weekend. No explanation was given for why they did not call back or notify her before that the truck was on its way. It was difficult to believe them, regardless of whether it was true or not. Time will tell.
My mother also received an email from the Florida Office of the Attorney General. They informed her that they could not do anything because it was an inter-state situation, but they recommended contacting the Better Business Bureau and also the U. S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
In summary: Colonial Van Line Movers lied to my mother, and then utilized a vaguely worded contract that basically amounts to this: they can do whatever they want, and you cannot litigate against them. If materials are damaged, they are not responsible. If they are late, they are not responsible. If they verbally lie to you, they are not responsible. If they never do anything they said they would do, they are not responsible. Then they talk to little old ladies like my mother, tell them lies about what will happen, and have them digitally sign a contract that they cannot possibly understand. Then they store their stuff until they see fit to deliver. Meanwhile, she is paying for an apartment she cannot live in—a full month’s rent so far—and is living without many things dear and necessary to her. My mother has endured enormous stress over this. She is 67 years old, and there is no telling what physical toll this could take on her. The uncertainty of it all is the worst, though being verbally abused on the telephone has not helped. She is losing sleep, having troubles eating, and is constantly agitated. In the meantime, me and my wife have had to endure living in a house crowded with cats and people, increasing our living costs, and causing us stress as well. My wife has bipolar disease and the stress of the situation is having an adverse effect on her general health, and even though we did not sign the contract, we have been told that we have little legal recourse either. My sister seems to have handled things well so far, but no doubt she constantly worries about My mother and My mother’s health. We finally had to have my mother move into her empty apartment and sleep on an air mattress—difficult things for an elderly woman—because the stress for all of us was causing a potential situation that would adversely affect our relationships with one another. She insisted it was for the best, because she is an unselfish person.
My advice? Do NOT utilize CVL if you are moving. Know your rights ahead of time. Read the contract carefully if you are able to understand it. Question everything. Read the reviews. And if you get screwed, contact your political representatives to let them know that this legal quagmire exists. Do NOT just let it go! A quick look at the reviews here and at many other sites will show you that this is a common problem and there is not a lot that customers can do to protect themselves. Hopefully if enough people complain, something will be done about it.