How to stop movers from holding your stuff hostage

PHOENIX - Moving is never fun.

But it gets even worse when you're asked to pay thousands more than agreed in order to get your stuff.

It happened to new Valley resident, James O'Donnell. He says he paid the originally quoted amount of $3,000 for his cross country move, but when they arrived with his things the movers demanded an additional $3,200.

"I feel anger. I felt betrayed" he said. "They said they would drive me to the bank and I would fill out a cashier's check."

And he felt like they were holding his belongings hostage.

Shawn Marquez is Director of the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures , which handles moving complaints.

"You have a lot of sheisters out there, people who make a living on shaking people down," said Marquez.

Their website shows 19 complaints investigated this year. Many of them are like James'.

Marquez says protecting yourself starts with the estimate.

"If someone is two or three thousand less than the rest, there might be a reason for that," he said.

Going with a less expensive option doesn't mean you're getting a good deal, because you could end up paying even more once you reach your destination.

Other tips include:

-Checking other customer's opinions online

-Avoid over the phone estimates. Movers need to know exactly what they are moving to be able to give an exact price.

-Make sure there is a numbered list of each item being transported

-Never sign a blank document. You have no idea what will be filled in after you've signed.

-Request a "binding estimate" that guarantees the total cost of the move based on item included in the estimate

The US Department of Transportation has additional info here .

James was one of the lucky ones. He got the Department of Weights and Measures involved and instead of paying $3000 more, he was only on the hook for $300.

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