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.