NOTE: the following letter to industry colleagues was published in “Direction”, the Magazine of The American Moving and Storage Association in the September-October 2012 Issue.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
In February 2005, I assumed the position of chief executive officer for the company my husband, Dean started in 1997 in Tallahassee, Florida that is now known as AMWAT Moving Warehousing & Storage. Prior to my career in the moving industry, I was a white collar crime and Medicaid fraud investigator. I utilized my skills as an investigator to research and evaluate the industry as a whole. I wanted to learn what consumers thought about our industry, I also wanted to learn strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I was very concerned about the negative impact rogue operators and unlicensed activity had on our industry’s image and on our ability to earn revenues. These two concerns threaten the image of our company and our ability to earn an income.
Rogue operators are not only taking consumers items hostage, they are taking our industry’s image hostage and impacting our revenues. The activities of rogue operators are so obscene that it over shadows reputable moving companies. As we all know, bad news circulates at a much quicker pace; unfortunately the media knows bad news sells. Just recently, in May 2012 the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs filed a lawsuit against several moving companies claiming dozens of cases in which movers allegedly held customers’ items hostage until they paid charges that were several times the quoted cost. Consumers, who have been wronged and rightfully so, are quick to post a negative review online. Unlike the majority of happy consumers who simply cannot find the time to post a positive review.
So what are we to do? It is going to take some time and collective effort to change the perception consumers have of us. I know we will always be battling rogue operators and unlicensed activity but we can mitigate the problem by being proactive and reporting these unscrupulous companies to the authorities.
In 2007, I had the pleasure of meeting Linda Bauer Darr, Chief Executive Officer of the American Moving and Storage Association. I was happy to meet another woman within the industry but mostly because we seemed to share common goals including changing the perception consumers had of our industry and educating the public to avoid rogue operators and hire reputable moving companies. Since then, AMSA launched ProMover a consumer protection and certification program. The ProMover designation certifies qualified moving companies in an effort to help consumers identify reputable moving companies from the rogue operators but the designation is limited to interstate moves. We need to be equally vigilant against illegal operators in the local and statewide level.
Since its launch, ProMover has gained traction but we cannot rely exclusively on the efforts of the American Moving and Storage Association, they need our help to raise awareness. We must collectively and consistently work together to change the image of our industry in the national and local levels. We must utilize every opportunity to educate consumers and elected officials. Our message of professionalism and value must rise above the behavior of the rogue operators. We owe this to our industry, ourselves, and to our employees. We are a great and powerful industry, as Linda Darr so precisely stated during her opening remarks at the AMSA Annual Conference, “. . . successful movers are the kings (and Queens) of the trucking world and stand out above all others. Because movers possess a unique set of talents: the strength of Hercules, the navigation skills of Sinbad, the psychological skills of Freud, and the patience and perseverance of Mother Teresa.” I have embraced these remarks, shared them with my employees and posted them on our company website.
As the chief executive officer of the company, I feel it is my responsibility to testify before legislators on issues that concern our industry because it is going to eventually impact my company. During Florida’s 2011 Legislative Session there was a bill seeking to deregulate the moving industry in Florida. I was not in support of the bill nor was the Florida Movers and Warehouse Association due to the issues the State of Florida experienced with rogue operators prior to regulation; thankfully the bill did not pass. In previous years I have testified against duplicity in regulations; where the State and local municipalities have duplicate regulations. My view is, if the State has laws addressing certain issues then the local municipality should defer to the state’s authority. Whether one agrees with me is not the point, it is that we do not sit idle and wait for things to just happen.
What happens to the moving industry in the national and local level will eventually impact your company directly. We are consistently submitting articles that educate consumers on the laws regulating our industry and providing tips on how to avoid rogue operators and unlicensed moving companies. We also promote our corporate citizenship, we believe in promoting ourselves because if we do not, who will? We have become well acquainted with the State agency that regulates our industry and consistently report unlicensed activity.
Every customer we come into contact is immediately provided with our Florida’s moving license and/or interstate authority via Wheaton World Wide Moving in an effort to bring awareness of the laws regulating our industry. We encourage our customers to hire licensed companies and warn them about the perils of unlicensed activity and rogue operators. We are consistently utilizing social media to bring awareness of great things movers are doing, not just us. Social media is a great tool to bring consumer awareness and advocate on behalf of our industry.
As you can see there is a lot we can do to rise above and separate ourselves from these unscrupulous characters. So if you find yourself complaining about issues in the moving industry, ask yourself what can I do to effect change? And if you need help, I will be more than happy to help you.
Gloria Pugh, CEO
AMWAT Moving Warehousing & Storage
Interstate Agent Wheaton World Wide Moving