Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Moving Horror Story About My Books

Our former Connecticut home had a lot of storage space. I had under the eaves closets that were cool year round and were about 60 feet by four feet. There were two walk in closets in the fourth bedroom that served as a playroom. We had a room full of bookcases and two rooms had built-in bookshelves. Those are where I stored my books. That is how I was able to collect over 8000 books and have it seem like I really didn't own that many. When things are stashed here and there you don't always realize how much you actually own.

I kept some books logged at Libratything.com and others I had in an Excel spreadsheet. I had received about 1300 books free of charge when a parochial school closed and was going to throw their books in a dumpster headed for a landfill. Others I got free at a local transfer station who ran a free book shed service. I bought others for 10, 25, or 50 cents, and some for a whopping one dollar. I got books from Paperbackswap.com and bought used books for up to 90% off full retail at homeschool curriculum used book sales. Others I bought new, of course. I collected rare and out of print books over several year's time.

When we moved from Connecticut to Texas on short notice I put my hands on every single book and the process overwhelmed me. I donated over 4000 books to charity. I had no time to resell them other than paying a friend 20% commission to take 20 boxes to a used curriculum sale, they did not all sell either, even priced at 25 cents, 50 cents or one dollar.

The moving expenses were paid by us, not my husband's new employer. There was a base fee plus 60 cents a pound. The entire move cost us $25K. Ouch. Based on the box count and box weight of 40-50 pounds each, I estimated the cost to move the remaining books here was $3500. I did not know what we'd wind up moving into since we had rented a small home temporarily, I didn't know what storage I'd have but I felt these books were keepers at least for now.

We wound up purchasing a home with a full wall of windows facing the backyard, so that is a lot of wall and shelf space that does not exist here. The other rooms are open floor plan as most new Texas homes are. My windows start six inches off the floor so again there is little room for even a low bookcase let alone tall bookcases. I still own too many books than I can shelve in the new home. But I'm off on a tangent. Back to Connecticut and the moving story.

The move was so fast and I was alone with my kids since my husband had already moved to start his new job. I hired someone to help me pack. I sorted everything, chose what to throw away, donate, or to move, and marked the box as to whether it was going to the rental unit or into the storage unit. The hired friend packed my books meticulously so that the books would not be damaged in route by having spines broken or covers crushed. We painstakingly labeled the boxes to show what subject and type of books it contained. This was necessary since I'd not yet chosen materials for the upcoming homeschool academic year. I needed the boxes labeled "homeschool English, homeschool biology, homeschool nature guides, homeschool math, homeschool high school history", so forth and so on.

I found out about how professional movers work after signing the contract. Despite interviewing the local moving agent I found out that the truck owners are independent contractors and who you get to move you cannot be predicted in the future, they use whoever is close by who is contracted with that franchise company (i.e. Atlas, Allied). Our local mover seemed great but on moving day we were assigned a guy from Georgia who is contracted through the national franchise who has no direct relationship with the local mover agent.

Moving day was to begin at eight in the morning. A vehicle showed up with three local movers from the local agent's office. They informed me that the tractor trailer truck with the driver/owner/foreman and his assistant mover was delayed for five more hours and that they could not load that truck until after one in the afternoon. They didn't quite know what to do with themselves and asked if they could begin loading boxes outdoors for faster loading when the truck arrived. It was August and it was hot and sunny and I was so busy that I didn't know the local weather forecast. I told them it was fine so long as there was no danger of rain since I did not know the forecast. They said there was no danger of any rain and I believed them. They moved boxes of my books onto the newly mulched (and bush free) garden beds which were in the process of being redone. We were also in the middle of having a new roof put on and there were no gutters on the house yet. We were in the middle of renovations from an ice dam winter storm problem the previous season which the insurance had been hassling us about paying on the large claim (another major headache I was dealing with besides the unemployment and then the sudden move).

The moving truck finally arrived and the movers were now under the direction of the owner-operator who acts as job foreman. They had left the boxes outside and were told to work on furniture moving instead. All at once the clouds blew in and the thunderstorm hit and the rain was pouring down onto over a hundred cardboard boxes of my books. The rain on my v-shaped roof was pouring off in sheets (due to lack of gutters) directly on top of my books. I nearly had a heart attack. A lot of the books I had kept and decided to move with me were out of print or rare books. We kicked a fit and the movers started moving them onto the truck and threw a tarp over it. Now the mulch was wet and the moisture started wetting the boxes from the bottom up. My younger son went and sat in the rain to watch the activity.





I had a major concern about what would happen to wet cardboard and wet books while on a weeklong journey in over a hundred degree heat coming down to Texas. I worried that the soaking wet boxes would leach water into the books as time went on, even as the minutes ticked by, and worried that later the mildew or water damage would occur. If we could get the books out of the wet boxes quickly, it would prevent worse damage, I thought. I could imagine books growing mold and mildew and being ruined over the course of the move. Wet paper with no air circulation and hot temperatures is a bad combination.





I demanded that the books be repacked immediately. The driver said I had to supply the boxes. I had no extra boxes on hand as my packing was done. I didn't have 50 or 100 new boxes at my disposal. I started having an anxiety attack and hyperventilating. It was the mover's fault that this happened so I felt the mover's should give me free boxes. The driver said he had nothing to do with the boxes being outdoors as that was done by the local movers under their own direction, so he was not financially responsible for their actions. (I later learned that once he arrives on the scene the job is under his direction but whatever happens before he technically was not responsible for.)

As I freaked out, the moving men thought I was being hysterical. First my husband stepped in and dealt with them while I went and id deep breathing in a quiet area of the house. Later the movers started making fun of me, right in front of me and also behind my back in front of my kids. My younger son was upset to hear them making fun of me. You see we'd gotten rid of our four old non-HD, non-flat screen TVs since they do not insure them because they often break in a move. The movers, with their ignorant manner of speech and with their (only) high school educations had already made fun of us for owning so many books. Who needs this many books, they asked. Who reads so much? No one, they said. "Usually people prize their TVs the most but you don't even own any! That's weird!" I tried explaining that we homeschool, not that I had to justify myself to them, but it fell on deaf ears. They thought I was some kind of book nut packrat.

Not only was I afraid the books would be ruined and that they'd need to be replaced at my expense, but I did not want to pay 60 cents a pound to move ruined books or to have the ruined wet books infect good books and make more of a problem than we already had on our hands.



My husband I had to escalate the situation by calling the staff, then the manager, then the owner of the local mover. He agreed to drive boxes to my house to give us boxes free of charge. When the boxes arrived (an hour later) we began repacking (inside the truck). I handled wet books and wiped the covers and painstakingly repacked them with care so they'd not break in transit when stacked ten feet high in the truck with other heavy stuff on top of them. Then the driver said the insurance did not cover us being on his truck and we had to leave while his workers repacked them by themselves. I didn't trust them at this point but what could we do? They basically threw the books in the boxes any which way. The books were mixed up and topics were combined. For example homeschool curriculum was now mixed with cookbooks and adult nonfiction, and nothing was labeled. This would present a challenge later when I needed to get my hands on my books.

The thunderstorm passed and the sun came back out again. My garden thermomemeter that registers high and low temperatures showed that during the move the maxmium temperature in the tractor trailer truck had reached 155 degrees. The temperatures during the move on the Texas end was 105 degrees.

All the books that were wet were ones slotted to go to the (temperature controled) storage facility. Due to the way the moving process unfolded it was impossible for me to check those books for damage when the boxes arrived in Texas. The boxes were put into the unit and the stuff was stacked about ten feet high solid, going back 30 feet. The insurance claim deadline for damage to items going to a storage unit was 48 hours. This meant that most of our possessions could not be checked in time and no claim could be put in. Those boxes remained in storage for a year, at which point we had sold the old house, bought a new one, and paid the movers to bring all that stuff to the new home.

This weekend I finished putting my hands on all my books by going through the last boxes that the movers had repacked. Those boxes were labeled with the local mover's logo so they were easy to detect. I found a fair number of broken spines, bent covers, or books completely bent in half or warped severely, and about thirty books warped and had pages ruined from water damage from that thunderstorm. None had new mold or mildew. I had feared that if some grew mildew they would spread it to the other books in that same box, that did not happen.

For anyone who loves books and collects books and uses books frequently, I am sure you can understand the emotions I was put through that moving day. That to me was a true moving horror story. We had other damage done and even fraud done to us so this book nightmare was just one of the anxiety causing things that happened. I am relieved today to finally know the full extent of the damage. I am happy to know that our demand to change the boxes before the water full seeped into the books worked to save over 95% of the books.

5 comments:

Deborah said...

This is one of those stories that is so horrible it could be published...

ChristineMM said...

This is a story that horrified me so badly that it took me 18 months to finally tell it!

I was in PSTD after the incident. I twitched for days.

Jennifer said...

I am sorry about your books. We moved from a large home to a smaller city apartment and I had to donate most of my books. It was not fun or easy.

Kay said...

Christine I am truly sorry you suffered through all of that. My one burning question though is why didn't you fire them immediately on the front end when they started making fun of you in front of your kids? They were bullies and ignorant. Any human being who would deride an employer for owning books certainly doesn't have the wherewithawl to respect them and pack them appropriately. I would have had a cursing fit and demanded they get off the property asap. I'm sure you were overwhelmed with the move but we must be courageous when dealing with asinine employees and simply fire them. Especially when they are private contractors. A simple "This isn't working, you're fired, get off my property." will suffice. Call the local PD if they don't comply. Peace officers are very good to have nearby during a negative exit.

ChristineMM said...

Hi Kay,
We used a nationwide carrier and were filling a tractor trailer truck. They book up 1-2 months in advance. You can't fire the company and get someone booked for the next day. We were ready to move and we needed to get out. There was no way to fire the owner of the tractor trailer truck.

The local mover's small crew of 3 guys were our only option that day. All their men were out on other jobs already, this happened at the half-way point in the day. The owner had a different local mover crew come for day two of the loading job.

Long distance moving is a gigantic project and they have you over a barrel. I could tell the fraud story we went through but so far am holding back.