It was a dark and sleety winter day, the wind blowing wet and cold, the sidewalk icy from neglect despite the midtown New York location. An entire block was on its way to being demolished and reconstructed. A beautiful building no longer beautiful enough was to be torn down, and the tenants, some there for decades, were being uprooted and forced to move out.
Enter Rainbow Movers to do an in-person estimate. It is a always a good idea to get in-person estimates from several companies, compare them, and then make an informed choice about whom to hire.
I was met at the door by a welcoming couple, their floppy golden lab behind them trying to get an in-person sniff of wet, cold me. We sat in their living room to discuss the options available to meet their needs, who would do the packing and when it all would need to happen. Dog sat with us as the subject went from the move in question to the more important things, like the changes the city was going through, the good live jazz just around the corner, and the days when the city was more affordable, habitable and fun for average humans.
Finally we all remembered that I was actually there to estimate their move, and our energies shifted to that task. Dog, meanwhile, was just fine with the laughing-telling-stories energy. As the shift began, Dog bolted into the recesses of the apartment and came back purposefully with a large, well slobbered rubber chicken dangling out of his mouth. It was to be a loaner chicken for me, and he directly plopped it in my lap. What could I say? “Thanks, Dog,” I think it was.
I’d received the blessing of the rubber chicken. His people declared that I’d just been hired. The move went well, and several of their friends in the building hired us too.
Sidewalk Sale – How We Sold the Couch We Couldn’t Give Away
In the late 1980’s, the Rainbow Movers offices and warehouse were in Tribeca. At that time Tribeca was not yet the posh downtown neighborhood we know today, but change was in the air. Though boutiques were few, cafes with higher priced coffees and burgers began to appear. The newer residents who began the conversion of Tribeca’s lofts and warehouses into luxury housing that defines it today, became our patrons.
One of the treats we provided our changing neighborhood was an occasional sidewalk sale of items our movers had rescued on jobs, things that were being left behind by our customers. Though the movers often thought they’d have a good use for these things, almost as often they would have a change of heart once it all got back to our warehouse. As a result, we would accumulate multiple tables, chairs, dressers, TVs, computers, couches, coffee makers, air conditioners, mirrors, lamps, rugs, books, tapes and records (remember tapes and records?), VCRs (remember VCRs?) radios, desks, file cabinets, and on and on…
Our sidewalk sales began as an effort to clear out our space. The prices were so low we would rarely have anything left to bring in at the end of the day. But there was one memorable exception: a Chesterfield sofa. Or, more accurately, what remained of a Chesterfield after a life as a plaything for our customer’s cats. We put it out on the sidewalk with a sign saying “Chesterfield Couch = FREE!!” For the cost of new upholstery, it would have been the bargain of the decade. But there were no takers. And so it went, out and back in, out and back in, for many days.
Finally we put it out with a new sign that read, “Chesterfield Couch = $5.” Within minutes, a man walked up and and said, “I’ll give you $3 for it.”
He took the Chesterfield couch, and we all went out for coffee (remember $0.35 coffee?).
Happy is Good – Moving Rituals
Some time ago, we got a call from a wealthy, established businessman who needed to move. He was living in a very nice residential hotel in the middle of New York City. The issue wasn’t that he had a lot of possessions to move. It was that as part of his spiritual practice, he needed to take special precautions when having his stuff moved for him.
The altar that he set up in his room could not be touched or moved by him after it had been established and he had made an offering. He also apparently felt he would derive the greatest benefit, for himself and others, if he lived and performed his rituals in all four corners on that floor of the building.
The hotel knew about this, and the management was perfectly ok with him living there as long as he covered the costs of cleaning and repairing any damage that he left behind. This he was very quick to do.
So he paid the building for the cleaning of his place, and paid us to move him to the next corner. We worked with him for a few years, relocating him on the same floor so that he could cover all four corners.
We were happy before, and we remain happy, so perhaps the spirits approved.
Mrs. Jones was an elderly woman who called us in the very early days of the company. Her plan was to leave New York City and live out the rest of her years with her husband in Western PA.
I met with her to see her building and all that would need to be moved. Because Mrs. Jones planned to stay in New York for a couple of days before moving out, our movers were to meet others at her house who would tell them where to put all of her belongings. She sketched out a detailed map of exactly where the house was located so that the team could easily find it.
After a day of packing up the truck and driving out to PA, our movers arrived in the town but by the time they arrived, it was getting dark. They had trouble finding the place, even with the help of Mrs. Jones’ map. They also quickly realized that at that time of day, people in the area would not open their door to strangers in a moving truck. We all agreed it would be best for the movers to find a room for the night and try our luck the next day.
Early the following morning I went back to Mrs. Jones’ apartment in NYC where all that remained was the cot where she’d slept-which would be left behind-and some few things she could carry with her. When I told her that the movers couldn’t find the house, all of the color drained from her face. I thought she was going to die.
“Mrs. Jones”, I said, “let’s sit down. This is not so serious. Let’s be sure of the directions.”
We sat down. She drew me the same map and insisted that was where the house was, that was where they should go. And the guys went out and tried it again, in full daylight, even though they were convinced the map and the house were not related. They were right.
Movers have to be resourceful. I suggested that they try to contact her husband (to whom she was related) directly. Why not, I thought, check for a listing in the phonebook and call from a local pay phone (there used to be pay phones).
Shortly the movers discovered that her husband had been dead for 30 years, the house that they owned had come down shortly after her husband was buried, and the property had been subdivided and sold. They discovered this because they had instead reached her brother (same name) and he was witness to the various pertinent realities. They also discovered that Mrs. Jones and her brother had a falling out several years earlier when he finally got rid of furniture that she had delivered there once before and never picked up.
This was all turning into what we in the industry call a problem.
I checked with industry elders I knew for advice, hoping to draw on their experience in the moving business. One told me that since she had pre-paid, I should tell the movers to find a flat spot on the outskirts of town, empty the truck and go home. Another suggested that I bring everything all the way back to New York and put it into storage here, leaving it for her to get it all out to western Pennsylvania a second time.
So….I asked the movers to phone her brother a second time and and ask if he would agreed to talk to me. I asked if he would take it upon himself to sign her things into storage with a proviso that she would have the authority to claim everything once the finances were straightened out. He was a kind man and agreed to do it and to pay for the first month.
Once the crew was back home, I heard the whole tale again and decided to write Mrs. Jones a letter to try to recover some of our extra expenses. I asked only for the cost of our extra time and the overnight stay for the guys. I figured it was worth the price of a stamp.
After a short time, she wrote me back, saying she heard from her brother that the movers were very nice and took good care of her “stuff”. She said she didn’t have the money just then to pay these extra costs, but she said that in 3 months she’d be able to take care of it. In her closing she noted, “Mrs. Jones does not welch out on her debts.”
In three monthly installments she kept her word.
It isn’t unusual to get a call from a harried citizen needing something done on very short notice. Often this is what happens when too many things are planned for too little time, and time is running out.
We ran into this situation when a Gramercy Park homeowner called and desperately asked us to come right away. She needed a dresser to be delivered to an auction house, and the mover she had regularly used failed to show. The auction was imminent, and so was her departure time on a long awaited cruise. Our fees were not an issue but most important was that we had to be able to get there quickly.
So, hurry we did, and quick we were. A housekeeper answered when we rang the bell, asked us to kindly wait a moment , and disappeared back into the residence. After 10 minutes waiting, we rang again and were asked to kindly wait a few more minutes. Finally, the door was opened and we were led into a large formal foyer where every single item of furniture, every lamp, every exposed shelf and surface, the entire floor, everything except the dresser for auction had been covered by white bed sheets.
Making her first appearance, our customer, the desperate caller, pointed to the dresser for auction. She hurriedly explained that in her frenzy to find a replacement for her now former (she repeated this several times) mover, she had completely forgotten to have everything else in the room covered. So, as we waited, she helped her assistant in doing so. Why did it all need to be covered? The thought arose that perhaps a breathless house painter would be the next to arrive, but that was not it.
She needed to cover everything because, as she memorably put it, “You know how dusty you people are.”
We successfully delivered the dresser, and received our payment and a generous tip. Her glowing recommendation to her acquaintances led to several of them hiring us. We turned out not to be so dusty after all.
It is often the case that people, especially people that have lived somewhere for many years, forget about the treasures (monsters) they have accumulated and put away. As time goes on, there can be layers of “treasure” hiding other layers of “treasure” from view and creating surprises for all when it comes time to move.
In packing the children’s bedroom of one of our customers, we were told that the bunk bed would be left behind, but that there were things stored underneath (i.e. treasures aka monsters) that would be coming and needed to be packed. Nothing unusual in that. Underneath beds are great spots to bury treasures. Our mover found out the hard (pointy) way, that among the treasures was a porcupine pelt. Boy scout camp?
Fortunately he’d reached in carefully. No injury, no hard feelings… well, you know what we mean.