‘It felt totally like a shakedown’: Family describes nightmare move

MINNEOLA, Fla. — A family moving to Central Florida said they felt violated when they were told their moving bill was going to be 5x the original estimate.

Sarah Bowie and her husband just moved to Minneola from Maryland. What was supposed to be a new start has been a trying time for the family of four.

“You just feel so helpless and just spinning out of control,” Bowie said.

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She hired Atlantic Moving Company after finding good reviews online but it turns out Atlantic doesn’t have any trucks or movers. The company is a broker that sold the job to another company that would be doing the actual move.

“I didn’t even have a reason to question that they weren’t the actual company,” Bowie said.

According to Bowie, Golden Van Lines based in NJ arrived in an unmarked truck and told her the move would be more than the initial estimate because she had a lot more stuff and they would need two trucks. She says she couldn’t believe what she heard once the trucks were loaded.

“They told us that the total was going to end up being $24,000 on top of the broker fee of $3,500,” Bowie said.

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The move would cost over $27,000, that’s 5x the original estimate of a little over $5,000. Bowie says they did have more boxes than they thought, but nothing that would justify the outrageous charge. Eventually the movers lowered it to $23,000, but that was still over 4x the estimate.

“It felt totally like a shakedown,” Bowie said.

Interstate movers must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The agency said they’ve seen a 35% increase in complaints from last year.

FMCSA received 10 complaints in 3 years about Golden Van Lines from consumers claiming they had issues with over billing and goods being held hostage.

The Better Business Bureau says there are steps consumers can take to protect themselves.

“Make sure that you have an in-person binding estimate before your stuff has been loaded and before you sign a contract make sure that all your questions have been answered,” BBB President Holly Salmons said.

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Action 9 contacted Golden Van Lines and a manager said they had to use two trucks for the added boxes, increasing the cost of the move,  blamed delays on mechanical issues, and said his workers give estimates before loading the trucks.

Bowie did get her belongings the day after Action 9 spoke with the company but says boxes were smashed, items were damaged and she still feels burned.

“It was so traumatizing, you know, and I didn’t expect it at all,” Bowie said.

Action 9 is helping Bowie send a complaint to the Motor Carrier Safety Administration and that can trigger results.

Avoid moving brokers and get a binding estimate in person from multiple companies before moving day.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.