A cross-country move ends in a big headache. Now what?

Many of Ann Moideen’s personal effects didn’t survive her cross-country move. Some went missing. Others arrived at her new home damaged or broken.

Moideen contacted her mover, VIP Transport, expecting the company to honor its contract and reimburse her for her losses. VIP offered Moideen a settlement she isn’t willing to accept.

Unfortunately for Moideen, we can’t help her get VIP to reimburse her for her losses from her interstate move. Details in a minute.

“I contacted the company numerous times to resolve the issues but they refuse to honor the contract,” she explains. “They asked me to pay for full coverage. I paid and waited patiently for them to address all the issues, but they still refuse to address all the issues.”

Moideen would like our advocates’ help in getting VIP to honor its contract with her. But we can’t because we don’t know what’s in that contract. Moideen hasn’t provided us with a copy. And two years have passed since the move, making it even harder to advocate her case.

Moideen’s case serves as a warning that timeliness is paramount in consumer advocacy. It’s also a reminder of the importance of a supporting paper trail. Without both, there’s very little chance of persuading a company to assist — and no chance that our advocates can help you.

A cross-country move goes off the rails

In 2016 Moideen move from New York City to Blaine, Minn. She hired Mayflower, a subsidiary of VIP Transport, Inc., to ship her property to her new home.

Among the goods Mayflower loaded onto a van for Moideen were some highly valuable items. According to Moideen, these included $40,000 in wines and $50,000 worth of furniture, crystals and clothing. She also claims that the moving contract she signed with VIP contained a “full value protection” provision.

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The movers apparently damaged several items during the move, including a suede sectional sofa, a chaise lounge, a painting, a silver bowl and some antiques. And various goods never arrived at Moideen’s new home at all. These included tools, plants, a blender, spice and nut containers, Christmas lights, and a designer bow.

Lost and damaged property is not uncommon during relocation, especially in a long-distance move to another state or region. (My moving company broke my desk when I moved to New York in 1998.) It’s not surprising that Moideen’s move resulted in a number of broken and missing items.

Full value protection?

The day before the move, Moideen received an email from a national account manager for VIP Transport. The email confirmed the time that the Mayflower van would arrive at her home in New York. The van driver would have a bill of lading, and Moideen was to sign up for full value protection for her goods on the second page. Subsequent emails from Moideen to VIP Transport indicate that she purchased and paid for the full value protection.

Presumably “full value protection” is some form of insurance coverage for the goods shipped during the move. Moideen believes that it entitles her to full reimbursement from VIP Transport for the cost of repairs and replacements. But VIP Transport’s website doesn’t contain any contract language and makes no mention of “full value protection.” We don’t know exactly what coverage Moideen purchased.

A rejected settlement

Moideen submitted a claim to VIP Transport. For several weeks VIP took no action on her claim. Then it offered her a settlement she rejected:

Remember that I have a full coverage. …. I have been very patient with you; please respect my time. I want you to replace everything. I need a response within 24 hours. You have taken 1.5 months to settle this?

VIP then offered to arbitrate Moideen’s claim. Instead, she turned to our advocates — two years later.

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No supporting paper trail

Unfortunately, our advocacy team can’t help Moideen out without a supporting paper trail.

A paper trail consists of documentation of a transaction between a consumer and a company. Examples of documentation include letters, contracts, confirmations, tickets, bills of lading, title deeds, and photographs of damaged property. Our advocates review these documents to determine the obligations of each party in a transaction, and whether they have honored these obligations. That tells us whether we can advocate for someone requesting our help.

Moideen furnished us with copies of emails between herself and employees of VIP Transport, but no other documentation. So we don’t have any evidence of the losses or damage other than Moideen’s description. We also don’t know what obligations each party owed in this transaction.

Our advocate Mark Bergman repeatedly requested documentation from Moideen for the terms of her interstate move, but she didn’t provide it.

Between the impatient tone of Moideen’s emails and her lack of a supporting paper trail, her case is problematic. Bergman advised her that we won’t be able to advocate for her with VIP Transport. He suggested that she post in our forums about her case. As of this writing, she hasn’t done so.

We close Moideen’s story with a warning to our readers: To successfully advocate a case, keep a solid supporting paper trail. Itemize valuables like wines in your insurance documents. And, above all, don’t wait too long to pursue a claim.

Otherwise, we will have to treat your situation as a Case Dismissed.

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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