Paying friends to work for you?
August 7, 2009 11:47 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to handle a moving situation that could involve paying friends to help?

We're moving a few blocks away into a new place. We have a 2-bedroom apartment with the usual stuff, including thousands of books. The place we're moving to is on the third floor (no elevator). It's going to be a fast but tough job.

A good friend, X, as well as an acquaintance, Y, work for a small moving company. The boss of this company, Z, hires X and Y to move people. Z owns the truck and is the one who makes the deals. He could possibly get a cut of what he charges for X and Y, I don't know. The way Z charges people is to ask for a certain amount for the truck, and then additional money per man per hour.

At first, I wanted to hire the company because I know that X could use the work/money. However, we think we can get the truck for cheaper. Z is not a friend of ours, so throwing him business is not really our mission. How weird is it to rent our own truck and pay X and Y cash ourselves?

Complicating factors: another friend, W, has offered to help. Because he's offered, and we will probably have the chance to help him move sometime soon, we weren't thinking of paying him.

I'm imagining a horribly awkward interaction where we are paying a good friend (X), an acquaintance (Y) but not another good friend (W). Just paying them at all emphasizes the fact that we have money to spend (we're better off financially than X, Y, or W). I'm afraid that X will insist on doing it for free, and while we can certainly make it back to him in other ways (we've already given him several decent used computers that we're no longer using), it kind of pains me not to give him work/money if I can.

Any ideas for doing this gracefully? Ideally, I'd like to rent the truck ourselves because it will be a lot cheaper. It's just the whole paying friends (close friends) directly that kind of squicks me out.

Thanks for any advice!
posted by tk to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go with the plan to rent your own truck and pay X and Y. Tell W the situation and offer to pay him as well.

If he accepts the money, he needed it, and be happy for him.
If he declines the money, be happy that he is doing it for you.

Not the cheapest option, but it's better than insulting a friend.
posted by Xoebe at 11:54 AM on August 7, 2009

If you're going to have X, Y, and W help you move, I would either pay (or offer to pay) all of them, or none of them. Once other friends come into the picture, it stops being a "moving company" situation and becomes a "friends helping you move" situation. Otherwise, get just X and Y to help, and pay them their usual rate.
posted by LolaGeek at 12:00 PM on August 7, 2009

Best answer: If it's the actual handing out of cash that squicks you out, would your friends accept compensation in the form of dinner or drinks? You could host everyone at a restaurant or with your own cooking after the move itself (or at a later date). If they won't accept food and fun times, offer cash. If that doesn't work, cook them a meal or dessert and deliver it afterward?

In regards to W, I'd compensate him for the work he performed now, rather than waiting a while to balance it out. You say there's a chance you'll be able to help him move, but a lot can happen in the meantime and that opportunity may never come up.
posted by CancerMan at 12:01 PM on August 7, 2009

Is it possible you could just hire X, if the job is really that fast? If X doesn't think they should take a side job, or can't do it solo, hire the company and get both X, and Y through Z - you should certainly be able to negotiate for the labor without their truck, although once you figure in the gas / insurance / trouble the truck may seem like a better deal.

You shouldn't feel bad about paying X, and neither should they - it's their job. If it helps to have clearly defined tasks then don't move any of the books yourselves. That way you're paying a professional to do an unpleasant and difficult job you don't want to do yourself (and you don't!)

I'd tell Q (or is it W?), thanks a lot for the offer, but we have a ton of books and we're going to hire a professional, because we know how much moving books sucks. We're still happy to help you move later. Or they could have a substantially different job, such as showing up for the last hour with the beer and pizza.
posted by ecurtz at 12:12 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rent the truck. Pay your friends in beer. While drunk, take X and Y aside and foist money upon them. Help W move when he asks.

This has worked for me in similar circumstances.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2009

CancerMan is right on. One or three nice bottles of booze for each of them may also be an acceptable trade, depending on their preferences.
posted by ourobouros at 12:40 PM on August 7, 2009

In my opinion, it's not worth it to save a few bucks on the truck. The company is likely bonded and insured, your friend operating solo under the table is not. Not only are you mixing friends with business (which already squicks you out), but you're having three friends help you but treating two as pros, and one as a favor to a friend. This way lies madness and a future human relations AskMe, in my opinion.

If you want to hire X, Y, and Q to move you and rent the truck, pay them all.

Books are no big deal to move, as long as you pack them in small boxes. I like liquor store boxes for this; you can usually pick up a ton of them for free.

(It is safe to assume that Z takes a substantial cut. It goes to things like business licenses, advertising, insurance, equipment, other operating expenses, and of course his own salary.)
posted by desuetude at 12:41 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you are hiring someone to do the job, then hire them through their normal channel and pay them with money. If moving someone is your job, then you expect money not bottles of wine or dinner. Because while I like wine, my mortgage company insists on cash.

Regarding Q/W - he gets a thank you, but we're hiring someone.

There's no reason to feel weird about hiring a friend. This is their work and there's no reason to be ashamed of it. It would be weirder to hire someone else to do that job.
posted by 26.2 at 3:11 PM on August 7, 2009

Best answer: desuetude is right. I got lost a bit with the friend-letters, but you should hire a moving company. Moving is one time not to scrimp. Professionals will get it done faster and the extra money you spend is well, insurance. What if one of your friends breaks an arm in an accident while helping you move? What if they get in a car accident on the way to/from your new place? Moving is dangerous physical work, and you already are looking for ways to scrimp. Go with the pros, pay the extra money and do not put your friends in jeopardy like that.

Otherwise I imagine the next question will be along the lines of "What do we owe Joey, who broke his leg while helping us move? His insurance covered it but we feel bad. Cash seems odd between friends, so should we take him to dinner or buy him a nice bottle of wine?" (No snark intended, honest)

If you absolutely do decide to ask your friends to help, pay them all, generously, and equally. I'd say $150/day. That's almost $20 dollars an hour for an eight hour day. If it takes around 4 hours I'd still give each of them $100. Have the cash on hand in envelopes for each of them and do not let them leave without them. Unless you were in dire straits, don't ask friends to do dangerous physical labor as a favor. It's the start of bad blood that's just not worth saving a few bucks.

A move like you're talking about in Philly, for instance costs $400 with two men moving the smallest amount of furniture in city. With your books, you'd probably fall into the next higher-up category. Say, $600-$700. That's just a guess in a very expensive part of the country.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having bonded and insured movers do this job.
posted by vincele at 7:48 PM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.
posted by tk at 7:19 AM on August 8, 2009

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