Can movers cancel at the last minute?
May 15, 2011 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Can a moving company, after scheduling a pickup date and taking a deposit, legally back out a week before the pickup date? And if so, can anyone recommend any good moving companies for taking a small load (1.5BR, leaving most of the furniture) from Watertown, NY to Tampa, FL?

An elderly relative, following the death of her husband late last year, came back to their summer place in upstate New York this spring to pack everything up, sell the house, and take up permanent residence at her home in Florida.

The house actually sold quickly, with the closing happening on May 31st (so she has nowhere to go but South after that date). She arranged for the movers in early April, they took a deposit at that time, and she had a reservation for them to come on May 29th to pack everything up and haul it to Florida.

So today, she called to ask if they could possibly come day earlier, because it would make her schedule a bit easier for that weekend, and they informed her that they had, without even telling her, cancelled the reservation, have a nice life.

So can they actually do that, or does she have any recourse beside scrambling to find an alternative moving company on a week's notice?
posted by pla to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
At the risk of editorializing here, I have to strongly suspect they cancelled because of the price of fuel - They agreed to a price basically a dollar-per-gallon ago, and now realize they won't make the margin they had originally hoped for on this move. I don't know if that has any bearing on my relative's rights in this situation, but I find it absolutely reprehensible behavior, and have half a mind to have my lawyer give them a call.

As a (on-the-side) contractor myself, I have had the price of hardware go up from what I quoted, and I've always eaten the cost difference because damnit, I gave my word that I'd do a job for a known price.
posted by pla at 8:03 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, obviously they have to give the deposit back.

But the last thing you'd want to do is try to force them to do the move. Even if they did, they'd do it badly. You never want to force someone to follow through on a services contract.
posted by musofire at 8:11 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well they can, but that doesn't mean there's no recourse, though there's no guarantee that said recourse is going to be all that pleasant for anyone involved.

Your relative has paid a deposit. Unless she has done something which would permit them to cancel, and it doesn't sound like she has, she is entitled to the return of that deposit if the moving company is unable to perform.

It's even theoretically possible that the company could be responsible for the difference in cost between what they were going to charge and what she winds up paying another company to do the moving. Potentially even any extra costs she incurs if she can't move the day she planned because of their breach.

But getting any of that money is going to involve taking the moving company to court. We probably aren't talking about all that much money, so small claims court is probably an option, but this is going to be an utter pain in the neck.

Call the company and demand the return of the deposit. If they won't, a lawsuit may well be your only option.
posted by valkyryn at 8:14 AM on May 15, 2011

I recently asked a question about finding an interstate mover for my grandparents and much of the advice was useful, especially the recommendation to check
posted by desjardins at 8:26 AM on May 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

One option you might have, if you can't find a good mover on your tight deadline, is to move the stuff into storage to buy yourself some extra time, if that's a viable option for you.
posted by zug at 9:50 AM on May 15, 2011


Everything depends on the contract. Any medium or large moving company will have a standard one that spells out the circumstances under which they can back out. Sit down (with a magnifying glass if necessary) and read every word.

Remember, though, that if you force them to move you, they may well break or lose stuff. A lawsuit will cost you (and them) a lot more than it's worth.

Get what you can from the mover and then go with another company.
posted by KRS at 11:41 AM on May 15, 2011

When we moved from Binghamton NY to Dallas TX, we noved with Dimon & Bacorn who were part of North American Van Lines. This was the *best* moving experience I have had in this country. They were helpful, courteous, on time, good packers, and did not attempt to overcharge.
Their nearest branch is in Syracuse which is 70 miles away and this was a while ago -- you could check with North American Van Lines if they have another mover near to you.
I'd definitely get a lawyer to write a letter, asking for a recompense fee in addition to return of the deposit.
posted by Susurration at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2011

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. has a TON of great links for finding a mover, definitely the way to go for now.

Also, thanks for the "IAAL", KRS. Unfortunately, with the low amount of money involved, I figured it would come down to that (not worth taking any action against them, even if she did have a case).

I consider it really disappointing, though, that companies can get away with crap like this. Most of you probably recognize me as having Libertarian leanings, but I firmly believe in always acting in good faith. The money doesn't even matter, just the principle of leaving a retired recent widow stranded with a mere week to find a way to get everything out of the house... Just disgusting.
posted by pla at 2:51 PM on May 15, 2011

I consider it really disappointing, though, that companies can get away with crap like this.

The flip side is true too. Insurance companies pay thousands of nuisance claims every month--$500 here, $750 there, $250 there--for claims that are completely bogus, but more expensive to fight than to pay. There are people who actually make a decent side living doing this, though centralized claims reporting is starting to make that harder.

It's a simple but unpleasant truth of our society--and maybe all societies--that offenses under a certain threshold simply aren't worth the expense of rectifying them. In this country, that threshold is frequently around $1,000.
posted by valkyryn at 9:05 AM on June 1, 2011

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