Special Investigation: Handle with Care

WAVY-TV 10 Photo

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – A locally-based military family reached out 10 On Your Side hoping to prevent anyone else from losing money to a moving company, as they nearly did.

For Shannon Scolly and her family, the problems began a few weeks after they paid a $635 deposit to a company called Savannah Van Lines in early October.

“They had a good website, they had good people on the phone, and they were quick and professional to respond, so we thought everything was going to be fine,” Scolly said.

When Scolly called several weeks later to schedule a date for the move, she got a busy signal over and over again, and Savannah Van Lines’ website was no longer operating.

Determined to get the service she paid for or her money back, Scolly emailed the company using a different address, pretending to be a new customer trying to schedule a move.

To her surprise, Scolly said she got an email back from a different company, Moving Express & Storage, Inc.

Emails from Moving Express & Storage, Inc. indicate it was hired by Savannah Van Lines, a broker, to fulfill the Scollys’ move.

By that point, Scolly was frustrated and wanted her money back. Eventually, she got Moving Express & Storage to email her an invoice from Savannah Van Lines, but representatives said they could not refund her money.

Fortunately for Scolly, Navy Federal Credit Union refunded her family’s deposit, but after reading lists of negative reviews online, she decided that wasn’t enough.

“It's just not fair, you know, $630, that might not be a lot for some people, but that might be Christmas for somebody,” she said. “I think more people need to get their money back.”

10 On Your Side’s investigation revealed both companies are the subject of federal scrutiny.

The United States Department of Transportation is now handling 95 complaints against Savannah Van Lines, which is also listed as Fendas Moving and Storage. The company is no longer legally operating because it either didn’t respond to or refused to cooperate with an audit, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database.

Moving Express & Storage, Inc had 58 complaints in November, and 63 by the end of 2016.

In total, FMCSA will investigate approximately 3,000 such complaints per year, according to Kurt Larson, a spokesperson for the agency.  Put together, the two companies the Scollys dealt with make up five percent of complaints the agency will handle in the average year.

Additionally, FMCSA has fined Moving Express & Storage more than $120,000 for consumer and safety violations since 2012, according to its Safety Measurement System database.

10 On Your Side could not reach Savannah Van Lines by phone or email. A woman who answered the phone at Moving Storage & Express said the owner was aware of the complaints against his company and was working to turn its reputation around, but did not wish to discuss the issue further.

Those who encounter issues with a moving company should report it to four agencies, according to Larson.

First, file a report with your local police department. Then, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and FMCSA.

You should also contact your bank or credit union to see if they can help, as in Scolly’s case.

For those wishing to avoid the trouble the Scolly family encountered, FMCSA has resources online at protectyourmove.gov for people trying to book a mover.

In summary, FMCSA recommends that consumers:

  • Get a written estimate
  • Check the mover is federally registered and insured
  • Check the mover’s complaint history
  • Keep quality in mind when comparing price estimates
  • Know consumer rights and responsibilities

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