Meet the Guy Who Wrote the Book on Moving: The Long Haul

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After years in the moving business, you’d probably have enough stories to write an entire book. Maybe you could write an entire series of books. Maybe you’ve got so many stories you wouldn’t even know where to start.

Then again, maybe you and I would have given up if we had fallen through an attic on our first days as a mover.

Cue college dropout Finn Murphy. Despite this (and many more) stories, he managed to hang in there and learn the ropes of the moving business, from carrying stuff to packing a trailer to driving a big rig down a narrow tree-lined street.

As he tells the story, ten years he worked as a mover and hauler until, exasperated with the way the industry worked–or, more precisely, the way it didn’t–he walked away. Finn was off the road for 20 years, first running his own business importing Irish linens then taking over a customer’s business on Nantucket where he would live and even serve as mayor at one point.

But there’s no telling where life’s road will take you, and eventually, Finn Murphy’s road led him to Colorado and back into the trucking business. After a few years he began writing down and recording his thoughts, his insights and, of course, his many crazy experiences. And now he’s put them all in one place: a 226-page memoir called The Long Haul.

In his book, Finn covers the spectrum of life in the moving business, from the everyday stuff to the personal nightmares to the future of the industry. He talks about the cowboy culture that permeates the trucking industry. He details his experiences with some of his worst customers. And he relates the feeling of being behind the wheel, roaring down the Interstate or rumbling down 6th Avenue in Manhattan.

Murphy’s book is getting plenty of great reviews. But don’t let that stop you from keeping track of your own stories from the road.

Come to think about it, this HireAHelper community of ours probably could put out an entire series of books! Who’s in?

Mover Saves Man’s Life in Florida

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Different customers need different things. Some need you to take extra care of the glass-top dining room table that has been in the family for eleven generations. Some need you to keep out of the flower beds – and will stand on the porch to make sure you do. Some need an hour to go over the paperwork before they sign anything. Some need to be reassured every ten minutes that yes, you will be packing up the drapes for them.

Then there is the occasional customer who needs you to save their life.

Unfortunately, we haven’t discovered any footage of the actual event as it unfolded. But from what we gather from CBS News 12, Michael Morgan from Two Men and a Truck may very well have saved Morton Trugman’s life when he kept him from tumbling down a long staircase at the Windward Palms Retirement Community in West Palm Beach, Florida.

According to CBS12.com, Morgan sprang into action after seeing 84-year-old Morton Trugman begin to lose consciousness at the top of these stairs in the lobby at the retirement home.

“I saw him, he just ran up the stairs, he took like ten steps and kind of scooped, basically saved his life,” said Emilio Faella, Windward Palms Enrichment Coordinator.

Morgan just says he was glad to be there at the right time.

But he wasn’t just there. He was paying attention – not to his shoes, not to his phone, but to the people and things around him. Those customers with the glass-top tables, the drapes, the flower beds and the paperwork issues are usually really good at telling us – again and again – exactly what they need. But there’s always the possibility a customer can’t give us that heads up. Let’s hope it never happens, but hey, it pays to pay attention.

It also helps to be able to run up stairs really fast.

7 Embarrassing Lessons I Learned While Moving People

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Learning to be a good mover is not something you can get from a book. Like riding a bike, playing the piano and getting your black belt – like so many things, really – we all have to learn how to move stuff by going out to the job and getting to it.

And as with just about anything, it involves making mistakes.

This month I want to share with you seven lessons I learned during my earliest days on the job. Lessons learned both through the mistakes of others and through my own errors. They made me feel stupid and embarrassed, but nevertheless taught me things I needed to know if I wanted to stay on in this business.

#1. The nicer the furniture, the more likely you’ll damage it.

This isn’t some sort of karmic law. This is pure woodworking and physics.

The finest dressers and desks have drawers that slide out nice and smoothly – meaning you only need to tip that piece so far before gravity grabs hold of those drawers and start pulling them out and onto the floor. Quality furniture also (usually) means good, solid wood. And it’s heavy. Drawers will gain speed fast and hit the floor hard. Armoire doors, once they start to swing open, can come down so hard they put cracks in themselves; if they don’t bang against the floor, they can end up playing “irresistible force meets immovable object” with their hinges.

Yes, I’ve seen all this firsthand. A lot of it happened on a local move during my first week as a mover. I don’t know about the other guys on that crew, but that was the first and last time I let something like that happen.

Protip: Pad-wrapping items like dressers and armoires can obviously keep all those drawers and doors in place. So can a layer of shrink wrap. But if you prefer not to pad-wrap or shrink wrap those big pieces until you get them out the front door another option is using those big movers’ rubber bands, which are easy to put on, easy to adjust (by knotting up and tying off any slack) and totally economical since you can use them for years.

Extra advice: Gravity works on all kinds of furniture, not just the most expensive stuff!

#2. Sitting in the passenger seat does not mean you get to take a break from helping.

Unfortunately, one guy I worked with didn’t seem to understand this. “Watch that side,” I told him as I began backing half-blind into a slot between two other box trucks. “Aw-right,” he said, glancing lazily at the side view mirror before letting his eyes glaze back over.

I suppose it was my fault. I shouldn’t have taken it for granted that he was going to keep watching that side for me and warn me when I was about to sideswipe the truck parked on his side. Which, of course, he didn’t. And he didn’t get socked with a bill for the damage either.

Protip: This “help your driver” rule is always in effect on the road, because so are blind spots. When your driver is pulling up to the curb along a tree-lined residential street, pay attention not only to how close the tires are getting to the curb, but also how close the top of the truck might be coming to any big fat tree branches. Trust me, tree branches can do some serious damage.

#3. Don’t blindly trust a dog or its owner.

“He’s real friendly,” the customer with the mixed-breed said. “But I’ll put him out back so he doesn’t get in your way.” That seemed fair enough to all of us.

He was a quiet pup, actually, and after a while, I’d totally forgotten about him. I figure so did one of the other guys by the time he went out back to take care of the patio chairs. From the living room was where I heard the barking and the shouting, and I was walking through the kitchen when my fellow mover busted through the back door, cussing and bleeding in three places.

Protip: Quiet dogs are still dogs. With teeth.

#4. If you put things out of the way, remember where you put them.

After moving non-stop for six hours, our three-man crew was finally done with the unload. All we had to do was have the customer sign off on the inventory sheets.

“Looks like we’re missing something, fellas,” he said, showing us the lone unchecked box on his bingo sheet.

On the inventory, it just said “screw box” – which was exactly what I wanted to do. But the four of us – the crew plus the customer – spent the next half an hour looking for a screw box, not sure what one was even supposed to look like. Walking through the garage a fourth time, I looked over at the customer’s big old rolling tool chest and the sliding compartment doors at the bottom. Inside, to everyone’s relief, was a small PBO half-filled with nuts and bolts and washers and flanges and… yup. Screws.

Protip: Keep sticky notes and a marker in your pocket for anything that needs special denotation. That way, an out of the way item will be clearly visible and explained. A lot can be forgotten during a five-hour move, trust me.

#5. Pressboards can’t really be pressed.

During my first week as a mover, I was introduced to a pressboard entertainment unit in the customer’s living room. It held a big TV, stereo equipment, a VCR (this was 1996). When we got it cleared off and picked it up, it immediately started to wobble. I could feel the thing getting progressively looser as the lead guy and I eased it as best we could down the apartment building’s stairwell.

Out on the truck, the lead guy pulled out something called a ratchet strap. There I learned that when you introduce a ratchet strap to a piece of pressboard furniture, the ratchet strap will waste no time crushing that piece of pressboard furniture to pieces.

Protip: When confronted with a piece of pressboard furniture, give the customer two choices: a piece of paper called a Pressboard (Particle Board) Waiver that releases the moving company from liability for damage to a piece of furniture that shouldn’t be moved, or a piece of paper that says “FREE”. Read this discussion on MovingScam.com for more on particle/pressboard waivers.

#6. You know that the name is painted on the side of the truck, right?

One day, one of my fellow crew guys and I were asked to go help another van line agency handle a job in Manhattan. My buddy and I sat in the cramped space behind them, our knees pinned against our chests for the 90-minute ride into the city.

Granted, driving in Manhattan can suck. Driving a 26’ box truck around Manhattan is brutal. It takes patience. It takes nerves of steel. Our driver for the day had neither.

At one point there were three lanes being squeezed into two. New Yorkers generally have a grasp of the concept of merging though evidently, they don’t seem to like it. And, well, the driver let everybody on that ride know from out the window.

Protip: Most people on the road can both hear you AND read the name on the side of your truck.

#7. Shrink wrap comes in rolls, but you can’t reroll it.

“Hand me that shrink wrap, Kevin,” my buddy said from the back door of the box truck. Hands full (with what I don’t remember) I gave the shrink wrap at my feet a push with my boot and sent it rolling across the floor of the truck toward my buddy – and the boss, who had just materialized out of nowhere.

“Don’t EVER do that!” he barked in his usual intimidating way.” You know how much a roll of that stuff costs? You get one little rock in that plastic and the entire roll is shot! Where’s your head?!”

I wouldn’t say the whole entire roll would be shot. I wouldn’t say anything – not to that guy’s face. But he was right. Get even a small nick or cut or bit of debris in that plastic and it’ll drive you nuts the way it comes apart next time you try to use it. Money down the drain.

Protip: When someone asks you to hand them the shrink wrap, do just that.

Got any of your own lessons to share?

We know some of you have been around a while – long enough to have some good stories of your own about the hard lessons you’ve learned. We’d love for you to share them, so all of us can learn the easy way what you guys have learned the hard way.

Which brings me to one final tip.

Admit your mistakes. Spell them out to your team when they happen. This way you’ll be helping people avoid doing the same thing down the road.


Illustrations by Marlowe Dobbe

Inventory Sheets Legally Keep You From Losing Your Stuff on a Move. Here’s How to Use Them

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Among the many pieces of paperwork that a full-service mover will ask you to sign is a piece of paper called a “Household Goods Descriptive Inventory”. It’s more commonly known as an Inventory Sheet, and it’s basically an itemized list of everything the movers are transporting for you, from your furniture to your boxes to every last golf club, garden tool and garbage can in the shed.

We know, you hardly have time to search for a coffee filter, let alone make a list of every single thing you own. But why is writing all that stuff down so important before the movers haul it away?

You Probably Want Your Stuff Back

On move day, before the rest of the crew starts carrying your stuff out the door, the lead person or someone else who knows the drill will be going around putting numbered stickers on everything and writing a description of each item on the corresponding numbered line on the “IS”. So if you make one, you’ll get a copy of that inventory sheet – or more likely several inventory sheets – and when your stuff is delivered you’ll check off each numbered item as it comes off the truck. Armed with your inventory sheets, you can make sure everything is there.

Here’s what happens on a move with completed paperwork.

Example #1: Your movers have emptied the truck, everything is moved in and accounted for according to the inventories. You and the mover both sign each IS as documentation that all items have been received.

Example #2: Once the movers have emptied the truck, you find that one item on your inventory sheets has not been checked off. You and your movers search high and low for the item (because you both want to find it!), but it is nowhere to be found. Near the bottom of the IS you will write very clearly which item is missing, then you and the mover both sign off on the paperwork. (Make sure to keep a copy!) This is your documentation for filing a claim for your missing item.

Inventory Sheets Also Keep Track of the Condition of Your Stuff

Nobody wants to end up with a scratched and dinged up dining room table. Likewise, your movers don’t want to be held responsible for any scratches and dings that were already in that table. A special column on the inventory sheet, where your movers can record any existing damage, serves as a safeguard for both of you.

Example #1: If your dining room table is all scratched up upon delivery, but those scratches are documented on the inventory sheet as already existing when the movers came to move you, you cannot hold your mover falsely accountable.

Example #2: If there is any discrepancy between the condition of your dining room table as recorded on the IS with the condition of that table when it gets delivered, you’ll have the legal evidence and documentation you need to get reimbursed for the damage. Describe clearly the new damage in the “Remarks/Exceptions” box, then take pictures of the damage as further proof. (These pictures can also help your moving company determine whether to repair or replace the item.)

It’s Important to Prepare Ahead of Your Move

It’s hardly practical to follow your mover around to witness every notation they make on every inventory sheet and to check every box, every piece of furniture and every loose item in your garage. Go ahead and try if you like, but I bet you’ll drive both yourself and your mover crazy.

Instead, be proactive before the move. On the day of your relocation, check your furniture, your appliances, your bookcases and your bicycle. The actual paper itself is pretty straight forward: Just plainly denote any significant scratches, gouges and dings. Then point them out to your inventory taker. Seeing how you are paying attention, they’ll be inclined to do more of the same.

On packing: If you’re doing your own packing, keep track of how many boxes you have. Number them as you label them with what is inside. Make a rough list of your boxes if you like, noting what size or kind each box is. Such a list may not amount to a legal document but you can use it to make sure your mover has the same number of boxes listed on their official inventory sheets.

Finally, familiarize yourself with a typical IS, including the most common abbreviations movers use when taking inventory:

  • PBO – a box that was packed by the owner, i.e., you
  • CP – a box that was packed by the mover, i.e., the carrier
  • MCU – Mechanical Condition Unknown, to prevent false claims by the customer that something “was working before I moved.”

For a good example, take a good look at this standard Household Goods Descriptive Inventory form:

The inventory sheet is your best (and perhaps only) friend if something gets lost or damaged. Make sure you are well-acquainted – both before and after your mover fills it out – before it’s finally time to sign off at the bottom.

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