PHOENIX - Moving is never easy. But imagine all of your belongings being held hostage by your movers until you pay them double the originally agreed-upon price.
That's what just happened to former New Yorker James O'Donnell.
He wanted to move to Arizona for one main reason: "The winters in New York," he said.
But his hope for a warm reception in his new home fizzled when his movers didn't live up to their online ad.
"It will be low cost, no problems at all," he remembers it read.
That's not how it happened.
O'Donnell paid more than $3,000 for the move. The contract shows he had paid in full.
O'Donnell's contract is with XO Moving Systems Inc., a company that does business as California Movers out of Newark, California.
But a New Jersey company called Sovereign Van Lines is the agent listed on the contract and that was the company that delivered his belongings.
When the movers arrived in Arizona with all of his belongings, they refused to remove them until they were paid double the original price.
"They said they would drive me to the bank and I would fill out a cashier's check," he said.
They were demanding thousands more in cash. In other words, everything James owned was being held hostage. He felt helpless.
"I feel anger," he said. "I feel betrayed."
Fortunately, help was near. The Arizona Department of Weights and Measures has been tracking this mover around the state.
Their investigators were at O'Donnell's house when the movers arrived.
Investigator J.J. Stroh said the movers tried to falsely increase the amount of belongings they moved for O'Donnell. They wanted to charge James another $3,200, he said.
Neither XO Moving Systems Inc. nor Sovereign Van Lines says they are responsible. Stroh says it's common in the industry for one business to sell contracts to another, so it's tough to know who's responsible.
After the movers arrived at O'Donnell's house, Stroh added up the belongings, crunched the numbers and had some good news for him: Instead of $3200, O'Donnell owed just $273 extra.
The disappointed movers took the money, and O'Donnell gladly paid it.
Here's my advice: Before you make a move, check out the reputation of the movers you hire by researching for complaints online. Check complaints with the Better Business Bureau and Ripoff Report.
Also, make sure to get an estimate from the company in writing. And don't sign any incomplete documents; they could go and fill in the blanks later.
Folks, you want J.J. Stroh on your side. You can contact the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures for problems ranging from taxi cabs and gas shortages to moving complaints.
For more advice about to protect yourself from moving scams, you can also go to the federal Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website, here .