Family waiting on moving company to deliver-- 6 months & $23K later
A Wasilla family says after paying a local moving company $23,000 six months ago, they're still waiting on Ability Moving and Storage to deliver their belongings.
The card table sitting in their dining room was on sale at Fred Meyer, Pete Sandor and his mother Lori explain, as they push a stack of papers around.
"Everything is either on sale from Fred Meyer, Walmart, or True Value second-hand store," said Pete, describing their limited furniture, clothing, and the few nick nacks around their sparse home.
The deals were steals but not like the one they're accusing a local moving company of.
The Sandors say they hired Ability Moving and Storage in July of 2017 to help them relocate from New York to Alaska. They paid the company $23,000, then Ability, which has offices in both Alaska and Texas, hired multiple subcontractors to get the job done.
But before their shipment left New York, one of those subcontractors began harassing them, leaving voicemail messages on Lori's phone, angry that Ability hadn't paid him and demanding Lori satisfy the debt.
"I don't work for free [...] I've been waiting four days to get paid," said a voice in one of the messages, threatening, "This stuff is going out on the street today."
In August, the Sandor's paid another subcontractor, TGR, an additional almost $4,000 to go pick up their belongings from that subcontractor in New York and take them to Seattle.
Then the barge company bringing their shipment to Anchorage then sent them photos of their boxes, loosely piled, and coming apart.
"All of our pallets look like that. Over-packed, not properly secured and toppled over," said Pete.
Now, the Sandors say another contractor, Alaska Marine Lines, is holding their shipment at a warehouse in Anchorage until Ability pays them.
"We want our stuff delivered here, paid by her, because we paid for it already," said Pete.
He's referring to Geneva Dupuy, listed as management for the company, who they've met in person before.
Now when they call her, their calls go unanswered.
When KTVA tried her number, there was no answer, then minutes later, a call back.
The woman on the phone refused to identify herself, only saying she was an employee of Ability Moving and Storage.
Pete and Lori say after the brief call, they recognized the woman's voice as Dupuy's.
Three separate sources told KTVA Dupuy often pretends to be another employee during phone calls.
The woman called back a short time later to say, while still refusing to identify herself, that the company is trying to work things out.
"We're actually trying to make these people whole," she said.
When asked if this has happened with other clients, the woman said, "Since August we've had a few, that's correct, I'm not gonna deny that."
She refused to elaborate on how many or discuss the company's finances in detail.
KTVA has confirmed similar, dis-satisfactory experiences with four other families.
One woman, Reachelle Cheek, said her shipment arrived looking severely damaged after 10 weeks and daily phone calls to the company.
"I just about fell over and died. I'm not even kidding. All my stuff was thrown in this truck, smashed, broken, ran over, no crates," said Cheek during a phone call with KTVA.
She said she has yet to be reimbursed for damaged and missing items.
At another Anchorage moving company, Allison's Relocations, Rick Childers said that he and others in the industry have been aware of issues at Ability.
"When this happens, it really does bother us. It's disturbing because it gives all of us a bad name," said Childers.
He said when you hire a moving company, you should expect to receive your belongings in four to six weeks, and a time frame of more than six months signals "something is seriously wrong."
Childers suggests those looking to move do research on the companies, including checking out their history on the BBB website. He also recommends going with companies that have contracts with the military and large companies like oil and gas corporations.
A letter written by a former Ability Employee, dated October 31, 2017, details concerns about the company's operations:
"There has always been some delay with moving shipments due to financial issues but only a few week delay. Until August of this year, then everything grid locked. We were instructed to continue to book moves and collect money even though nothing was moving."
"If you were to call up right now requesting for a move, they would accept your money, tell you okay, and then either they personally will come and pick up your stuff, or a subcontractor, and then everything goes bye-bye," said Pete.
In two visits to the company's Anchorage office during normal business hours, KTVA found a locked door, holding a sticker boasting a Better Business Bureau accreditation.
But according to the BBB, the company's accreditation was revoked in December because Ability was "not meeting standards" and had a pattern of complaints. Nine complaints have been filed against the company, two of which remain unresolved. The complaints deal with failure to render services, failure to pay their subcontractors, and leaving customers "high and dry." The BBB rating now sits at a C+ while the company is going through an appeal process.
And the BBB isn't the only agency taking a look at Ability.
"DOT, Department of Transportation, they were there as we were there, investigating what was going on," said Childers, of one of his visits to Ability's warehouse to retrieve a family's stalled shipment.
KTVA also obtained a letter from DOT to Ability, giving the company notice of a compliance review, and asking for a laundry list of company records to be made available. KTVA is waiting to learn the outcome of what the letter calls an "investigation."
Meanwhile, the Sandors are waiting for the day they get their belongings back and have a message for anyone else considering moving:
"Stay away from them. You'll save a lot more money going somewhere else."
KTVA received several text messages from the employee's number asking that this story not be reported. One message reads, "Running the story will prevent us from being able to get Sandor shipments and others out to them."
The company has not yet given a specific date for the release of the Sandor family's shipment.
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