Moving Nightmares: when a deal with a broker goes bad

Posted at 12:12 PM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 10:22:41-04

NAMPA, Idaho — Idaho is seeing a huge boost in population, despite a pandemic slowing growth rates for much of the rest of the country.

According to data from the Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho had the fastest growing population in the nation between 2019 and 2020--and much of that growth happened in the state's urban areas. Most of the rest of the country saw growth slow during the pandemic, but here in Idaho, it was quite the opposite.

"The population growth for Idaho from 2019 to 2020 never slowed down," explained Craig Shaul, a regional economist with the Department of Labor. "Idaho, the open spaces, there's something about the attractiveness for people outside of the state that felt this was still a great place to go to during the challenges of a pandemic."

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As more new Idahoans move in from out of state, many of them put their trust in moving brokers to help relieve some of the stress of moving across state lines. But a Nampa couple found out when that trust is betrayed, moving can become a nightmare.

Patrick and Debbie McBride's moving nightmare started in November of 2020. The pair were making the move to Nampa from Medford, Oregon. To make the move a little easier, the couple decided to hire a moving broker called "Move Smart."

"We had contacted Move Smart on September 29th and agreed to a price of $5,400," Patrick remembered.

A few weeks later, the company gave the McBrides a call.

"They wanted more money, so we sent them more money--$1,900 to be exact," Patrick said.

Related: Census: Idaho ranks second nationally in population growth

Then the moving day came, and with it, even more problems. The truck the company brought was a day late and wasn't big enough to fit all the furniture the McBrides had, even though they had provided a full inventory of their things weeks before. The couple needed to be out of their house in Medford by November 3, so they ended up having to rent a truck for the remainder of the furniture and drive it the 8 hours from Medford to Nampa themselves.

When they finally arrived in Nampa, the furniture Move Smart was supposed to be moving for them was nowhere to be found.

"They were supposed to deliver the furniture on the 11th, they finally got here on the 12th and said we had a balance of 4700 dollars to pay him," Patrick said.

The company employee wouldn't accept a personal check, even though the company had taken them in Oregon. The employee told the couple he'd only accept a cashier's check, money order, or credit card. Not only that, but the clock was ticking.

"It was about noon when he showed up, and he said he had to leave at 12:45," Patrick remembered.

When the couple couldn't pay in the 45 minutes, the employee left with all their things in tow.

"It was a very horrible thing we went through, I can't believe we went through it... I couldn't believe it," Debbie remembered.

"The most sickening feeling we had was watching that guy drive away with our furniture in it," Patrick said.

After weeks of back and forth with the company and paying even more money, the couple finally got their belongings back only to find much of it was severely damaged. It became clear to the McBrides: they were scammed.

The couple decided to file a claim with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB says the couple isn't alone.

As more people move, they've been seeing this scam more and more often.

"We never think it's going to happen to us," explained Rebecca Barr, a spokeswoman with the Better Business Bureau. "That research from the very beginning matters. Doing the reputation search on the moving broker is huge, but also asking about what moving companies they use, what are their standards for choosing moving companies?"

Related: Report shows how many people moved to Idaho in recent years

When it comes to moving, Justin Armuth with Whitewater Moving knows what to look for. He's been helping people move right here in the Treasure Valley for more than two decades. He says a moving company's standard should always be to be transparent and upfront about all the details of your move.

"Who's going to be on the job, who's the driver, who's the helper, how long have they been with the crew, when they're going to show up, etc," Armuth explained.

Despite all the hardship, the McBrides are working to move on from the ordeal and make a new life here in Idaho. They hope their story will stop this from happening to someone else.

"This whole thing has been a nightmare. If this can help someone else avoid this, it will well be worth it," the couple agreed.

The BBB says some red flags to watch for whether you're researching a moving broker or a moving company are complaints and bad reviews. They also recommend paying attention to how transparent the company is and how responsive they are to your questions.

You can always find a list of BBB accredited organizations online.