'Rogue Movers': Following a Wasilla family's shipment
After spending more than $23,000 and waiting six months, a Wasilla family's belongings have finally been delivered, but not by the moving company they hired.
A KTVA investigation into Ability Moving and Storage, which has offices in both Alaska and Texas, exposed several more complaints from customers who say the company isn't delivering. Complaints include raising the price on customers multiple times during the move, failing to pay subcontractors, delivering damaged goods, and delivering shipments months late, if even at all.
Pete Sandor and his mother Lori say they hired ability to move them from New York to Wasilla in June 2017, then spent the next six months living a moving nightmare.
"These poor folks, they give everything they own, and a lot of their, or most of, their money, and they're out. It's worse than burglary," said Rick Childers, with Alison's Relocations.
Childers said he's rescued multiple moves from Ability in the last few months, meaning those customers paid twice just to get their belongings delivered, but when he watched KTVA's report on the Sandor's predicament, he knew he had to do more.
"I talked to Lori Sandor and they told me that they have a recently disabled daughter who is sleeping on the floor. That bugged me," said Childers.
So did text messages KTVA reported receiving from Ability.
"Ability said, 'If you run this story, they may never get their stuff.' That put me over the top. That is when I started making the phone calls," said Childers.
Alaska Marine Lines was holding the Sandor's shipment at the Port of Anchorage while waiting for Ability to pay its bill.
Childers said AML agreed to release the shipment to him at no cost to the Sandors, so Alison's Relocations could deliver it for free.
"I've never been able to get a carrier to waive charges. I was shocked, but very happily surprised, and that says a lot for Alaska Marine Lines," said Childers, adding it's a gesture he's never seen in his 41 years in the moving industry, "It's huge."
Delivery day brought mixed emotions for the Sandor family, delighted to see their things again, but nervous to learn the condition of their shipment.
"It's a little nerve-wracking because still want to see exactly what happened to our stuff in the last few months," Pete said as Alison's Relocations movers backed the truck toward his open garage.
The delivery was also out of the norm for the movers, doing inventory on the back end, to make sure damages would be documented.
A table, Pete said, was his grandfather's, arrived with legs broken off, glass pieces were broken, air conditioning units the Sandor's instructed contractors to leave in New York were on the truck, and a new couch was ripped, dented and stained.
But some things that can't be replaced did make it intact. Lori was relieved to find glass heirloom items her late mother bought in Spain had survived the journey.
"I'm like, 'Oh thank God,' you know, that they didn't break because there's no way I can replace these. You know, being that my mom and dad both passed away, it means more to me now that I have my mom's stuff," said Lori.
"That's exactly how they got the extra money out of us," Pete added, "We just couldn't let the stuff go. Every time, just more and more money. When you have your family heirlooms and things that can't be replaced, people are then willing to pay it."
"[Alison's Relocations] contacted us within a week after the first broadcast to say that they were gonna help us, and they got everything for us," said Pete.
To Alison's Relocations and AML, he wanted to say, "Just, thank you. We're just excited to get our stuff back."
Childers says families that find themselves in a position like the Sandor's are in a tough spot.
"There's nothing anybody can do, really," Childers said. "APD will tell folks that it's a civil matter, the attorney general will say the same thing, and the city prosecutor, they'll say it's a civil matter because you entered into a contract."
He says he intends to push for change in the industry.
"This happens when an unscrupulous operator comes into the market," said Childers. "It's relatively easy to obtain authority to be a mover. You gain authority, you start collecting shipments and money, and you don't move them. You do all the wrong things -- this has been going on for six months -- by the time the DOT Federal Government gets involved and revokes authority, lots and lots of damage has been done. You can get away with this for months before anything really happens... There needs to be a better way to stop this before it gets along as this situation has, and with other families, and we've even talked about going as far as our congressional delegation, Don Young. There's gotta be something that can be done before it gets this bad, and we're gonna pursue that,"
In this case, Childers says he wasn't surprised to learn of complaints against Ability. A KTVA report connected one of the current owners to a moving company started in 1988 called C-Xpress Moving and Storage, which became a frequent flier in small claims and civil court in the '90s, for similar complaints.
Childers' tips for vetting a moving company can be seen in an interview here.
KTVA has made multiple attempts to learn the status of a Federal Department of Transportation investigation into Ability. A public affairs employee says information will be forthcoming.
The DOT website shows 10 complaints against Ability in 2017, and one already in 2018.
KTVA's attempts to reach Ability for comment have not been returned.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.
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