For a New York Mover, a New Form of Payment Accepted: Bitcoin

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The Roadway Moving Company in New York has a new question for their customers:

“Would you like to pay by cash, credit card or Bitcoin?”

From this Business Insider report, it sounds as though Roadway is not the very first moving company to begin accepting payment in Bitcoin. Apparently, there are others, which points to the birth of a new trend in the moving industry.

Roadway owner Ross Sapir (yup, the very same Ross Sapir) says the acceptance and use of Bitcoin is a sign of advancement and progress. He points to several advantages in using the cryptocurrency, including

  • Safety – Bitcoin transactions don’t involve personal, identifying information.
  • No third-party involvement – meaning no banks or other institutions to get in the way of – or extract fees from – the transaction.
  • Low fees – lower than using credit cards or other forms of virtual payment.
  • Untaxed purchases – with no identifying information tied to transactions, they cannot be traced and therefore cannot be taxed.

“We as a company are always looking to be the leader in providing the newest and most advanced services to our client,” Sapir tells us. “I’m confident that this form of currency will soon be mainstream in the moving industry and I’m thrilled to be leading the charge into this new era.”

If you want to start using and accepting Bitcoin, or just want to learn more, this is a good place to begin if you want to take the plunge like they are.


Cover photo by Alister & Paine Magazine

The Rise of Plastic Storage Companies, and What It Means for Movers

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You don’t have to be an industry insider to know that the self-storage industry is booming. Drive around Anytown, USA and it’s almost impossible not to notice those orange-and-gray, or orange-and-purple, or green-and-white facilities popping up all over the place. Even if you round down SpareFoot’s numbers from 2016, the country is currently at over 50,000 self-storage facilities generating over $30 billion in annual revenue.

Crazy numbers, for sure. And guess what? Things are only just beginning to get interesting. We’re seeing the emergence of a lot of small (for now) companies offering services beyond typical self-storage – services that were virtually unheard just a few years ago.

MakeSpace and Clutter Surge

MakeSpace.com

Consider MakeSpace, a New York City outfit that has raised $47.5 million in venture capital in just the last two years. Not your average self-storage provider, MakeSpace packs, picks up their customers’ excess belongings and brings it all to their storage facility. Customers don’t need to think about how much storage space they need because they don’t actually have to rent storage units. They don’t have to worry about getting their stuff moved to a certain place and time because MakeSpace does all the back-and-forth for you. And since their storage facilities are located in what TechCrunch describes as “less desirable areas” outside prime real estate locations that are fairly removed from the residential areas they serve, MakeSpace can rent space at a lower cost, thereby reducing operating expenses.

Besides New York, MakeSpace operates in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., serving tens of thousands of customers, that according to CEO Sam Rosen.

Meanwhile, Clutter of Culver City, CA, operating on a similar business model, has expanded beyond Los Angeles to serve San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, and states New York and New Jersey. As of June 2017, they have raised $96.5 million in venture capital – double that of MakeSpace. According to Forbes, they plan to infiltrate every major city in America and several more abroad.

Millions in capital, global plans … there must be a lot more people out there with a lot of stuff willing to pay extra for this ultra-convenient, self-storage service.

The Rise of Plastic Bins

Of course, not everyone is looking for self-storage. Some people just need to get their stuff from Point A to Point B. Unsurprisingly, the range of services for these people has exploded too, starting with the U-Haul revolution and the rise of ABF Freight, followed by the portable storage container craze and – ahem – the wild growth of the moving labor sector.

It turns out this is the one place eco-conscious people choose plastic over paper.

Yes, we’re seeing now that people want to be green as much as they want to save green – and we see that customers are looking for even more alternatives when they move. And one of those alternatives involves cutting back on all that cardboard and tape.

Enter the gorillas and the kangaroos.

Redi-Box.com

Since 2011, Gorilla Bins of New York City has been renting out black plastic bins two weeks at a time. (They know it takes a lot more than a day to pack and unpack!) And they aren’t the only ones touting the three-point “We drop them off – You use them – We pick them up” service line, inspiring plenty of imitators. Redi-Box is ready with their red bins in Chicago and Portland. Rent a Green Box covers Los Angeles and Orange Counties with their (of course) green plastic bins. Hopping around the Springfield, MO area we have Roo Rent a Box and their stacks of gray bins.

There are many players in this plastic bin rental game. Their prices and policies may vary, but they all operate on the same fundamental idea. (Really, the biggest question right now might be who will end up buying out who down the road.)

Also of note, a company named Bin-It is running a similar operation out of their northern New Jersey headquarters, serving not only the New York area but Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Nashville. Yet unlike the gorillas and kangaroos, Bin-It also offers storage, bridging the service gap between valet storage and simple moving bin rental.

It probably goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that this plastic bin rental business is a local thing. It’s conceivable that in the future we’ll see this change as some of these bin-renters extend their reach further across the country and can handle the logistics of tracking and managing their bins in the same way U-Haul manages their trucks.

For now, despite the impressive growth of this eco-friendly niche, it looks like the trend of renting plastic bins instead of using cardboard boxes will remain an aspect of the local move market.

How Does This Impact Movers?

So what does this have to do with all of us in the moving labor industry?  

It surprisingly doesn’t, directly. But say someone calls you up asking if you offer storage services. “No,” you say. But your conversation shouldn’t end there. This person needs a service and seems not sure where to turn. By pointing them in the right direction, you are not only helping them, you’re also tossing a biscuit of friendship to the people you are referring them to. “Tell them Kevin at HireAHelper sent you,” you might say. Or Mark at Mark’s Movers, or whatever the case may be.

You recommend them, they recommend you, and everybody gets a business boost. This dynamic works especially as long as storage bin companies exist as a local enterprise.

The same dynamic can work with the valet storage niche, as well as the emerging plastic moving bin rental market. These companies are directly tied to the storage and moving industry, just like us. Yet they occupy a different niche. So rather than competing, our services are almost always perfectly complementary.

Likewise, those customers looking for that environmentally-friendly alternative to cardboard boxes are potential customers too. The bin-renters generally don’t offer actual moving services, so the door is wide open.

At the same time, be aware that a few other valet storage providers and bin renters have had the same brilliant idea, and have begun creating those collaborative partnerships with a few local movers. So don’t wait! Get online, get on the horn, pick up the phone and get out there! Meet these new players in the storage and moving industry. There may never be a better ally, or imposing competition, depending who gets there first.


Header image by MakeSpace.com

Everyone in Town Moving at Once?! Welcome to Allston Christmas

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It was chaos in Boston once again this past Sept 1st. No, not because of the Patriots, or the Red Sox, or any sort of civil demonstration. Instead, this was just the latest edition of an annual event.

“Bedlam descends upon the Boston area every Sept. 1,” the Boston Globe explains. “Moving vehicles clog the streets, parking is a nightmare, and sidewalks are buried in trash and household items. The cause of this annual headache is known as Allston Christmas, a moving day made popular by identical contracts where an estimated two-thirds of the city’s 165,000-plus apartment leases turn over.”

What? Over 100,000 moves happening on one day? In one town?? Why would any city put their people through such a crazed ordeal?

The reason, ironically, is a matter of practicality. The city’s huge college student population is a major component of the citizenry, and it is only natural that they’d all be moving back to school at the same time.

What’s the logic?

BDCWire.com

The logic goes that with everyone’s leases ending and beginning on the same day, there are no renters stuck having to wait a few weeks between apartments and no pressure for others to break leases early in order to get into their next place. It’s a highly-visible (and, arguably, insane) solution to the unavoidable college student situation.

Sept. 1st is also when families with school children need to get moved in, claims the Globe (apparently unaware the majority of families moving to and from the rest of the country seem to prefer June). But the tradition, dating back decades, “was almost certainly dictated by the market demand of the area’s many college students,” we are told.

“It makes it difficult to manage,” adds realtor Edward Zuker. “But that’s what the market is.”

Damn college students.

New York City once had a moving day like Boston

Moving Day, 1907. Chicago Historical Society

But unlike their counterparts in New England, New Yorkers had common sense and the guts to stand up to a bunch of college kids and were able to do away with the idea.

Actually, moving day in New York seems to have originated with a custom in the Netherlands where, the Encyclopedia of Chicago tells us, servants would change employers at one of two annual hiring fairs. These took place in early May and November, and, for reasons not given, Dutch immigrants settled on May 1st as the day to continue tradition – which may or may not have had any practical value in the New World, but no one seems to have put up a stink about it.

That is, until 1922, when new rent laws went into effect, protecting renters from being kicked out of their places every year. We also see in this New York Times article from May 2 of that year that there was some competition among landlords who were lowering rents along the fashionable Concourse in the Bronx down from $23 to $22 or even $20 a room. Meanwhile, side street rooms were going for $13 to $15.

Ah, the good old days.

In Chicago too we see that May 1st was, as early as the 1840s, the day to move. Giving credence to the idea that some traditions simply should be done away with, the Encyclopedia of Chicago describes moving day as “a very unpopular event, with families facing greedy landlords, exorbitant rates charged by movers (known as expressmen), and the risk of breakage and loss of furniture and belongings.”

We’re not sure much has changed.

Montreal moving day. Toronto Sun

North of the border in Quebec, Canada, we see the moving day tradition is alive and well. The history here goes back even further, to the middle of the 18th Century when the French colonial government of this “New France” forbade the semi-feudal landlords of the time to evict their tenants before the winter snows had melted. By 1866 this had evolved into a requisite

of the Civil Code that urban leases begin on May 1st and end on April 30th.

This was fine with everyone for about a hundred years until it was decided that May 1st as a moving day was much too inconvenient for families with children in school. (Damn students again.) Thus in 1973, the Quebec government moved Moving day to July 1st – which, incidentally, is also Canada Day.

Now it may sound silly to make all those people move when they would rather be out celebrating Canada’s birthday. But this Toronto Sun article suggests that those French-speaking Quebecers, particularly those in Montreal, aren’t much interested in Canada Day.

We won’t get into that conversation.

We will say that, for all craziness of the summer season, we sure are glad that the millions who move do it over the course of a few months instead of all on one day.

Now if we could just convince a bunch of colleges and universities to start their school year in the middle of the slow season…


Header image by Boston Magazine

Florida and New York Grapple With New Sex Offender Laws for Movers

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On June 9th Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill directed at moving companies and the former sex offenders they may hire. (more…)

7 Things I Learned When Downsizing From a House in California to a Shoebox in NYC

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Full disclosure: I’m a child of the suburbs. I grew up in sprawling northern California, where trips to used bookstores and the mall are practically pastimes. There wasn’t much spatial constraint when it came to accumulating things. If I picked up a tchotchke, there would definitely be a place for it somewhere in my home.

(more…)

5 Things to Ask Before You Move Into a City Apartment

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So you’re all set to move into your new downtown apartment! Congratulations! You’ve got your life loaded up and your old life is in the rear view mirror of a U-Haul. Nothing to do now but set up the new pad and get your new life in the city rolling!

Wait!

There’s more to moving into a new apartment building than just picking up your key and having your buddy hold the elevator. City buildings likely come with a whole list of rules and regulations for moving in, so whether you are moving by yourself or hiring movers to do it for you, it’s wise to contact your building manager ahead of time for the complete run-down. With that in mind, here’s a list of five questions that should top your moving day FAQ.

(more…)

Which States Gained and Lost the Most People From Moving Last Year? We Break It Down

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[Synopsis: As United, Atlas reveal their annual migration stats, states try to explain themselves.]

United Van Lines has done it again!

They’ve released their nationwide migration statistics for the year, that is. And right off the bat, we see some small surprises.

(more…)

The Man Who Paints With Packing Tape

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Scour the internet long enough and you’ll feel like there’s nothing you haven’t already seen. And yet, there’s always something that comes along that makes you throw your arms up in disbelief. So with that in mind, let’s meet the latest from that arm-throwing tradition.

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First Help, THEN Yelp: Movers Screwing Over Comedians

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[Synopsis: Pushing your customers around is never a good idea. Especially when they’ve got pull.]

You hear the one about the comedian who won his case against the moving company?

The comedian had a better delivery.

Groan. 

Honestly, the honest truth is stranger than any joke I could come up with. I’ll prove it with two stories of moving companies not playing nice with their comedian customers.

The first story involves a comedian and his couch and a moving company who allegedly demands that Mr. Funny write and post a review on Yelp before the movers show up. Mr. Funny doesn’t think this is very funny and the situation quickly heads in a downward spiral.

The moving company was embroiled in controversy after Burgess posted onto social media a private text conversation with the movers in which he was referred to using a gay slur. He, of course, finally left them their review.

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-1-03-34-pm

After the mayhem, the folks accused of this funny business claimed they were never in touch with Tituss Burgess, the comedian who just wanted his couch to be somewhere else. “They suspect that someone is using the company’s name and reputation to do business as them,” we are told. What we are not told is where Mr. Burgess’s couch is.

Our second story is also not funny at all. In fact, it is so not funny it’s almost hard to believe. But comedian Kurt Braunohler lays it all out in the Yelp review on his facebook page:

“…Then, after your movers moved all of my mom’s earthly possessions onto their truck, they presented me with a bill for five times the quote. When we called you and explained the situation, you blamed me for being naive enough to believe the quote. You told me I should be aware of moving costs and know that was too low. When we explained that my mom had just died you told us “aww, get a hotel room and hug it out.”

Wow.

Comedians are funny. That’s their job. Our job is to move things. And yeah, we like to have a little fun on the job when we can.

But some things just aren’t funny.

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