A Moving Experience

At some point, you’ll probably move you and your studio — complete with rare musical instruments, computers, invaluable backup data, hard drives, recorders, financial records, pictures, and more — from one place to another. You’ll essentially be moving your entire professional life up to that point.

But if you’re doing an interstate move, you better know about the Carmack Amendment, as it dramatically limits the liabilities of movers. Although the movers are theoretically liable for damage done to your shipment, just try collecting: They’ll hire their own appraiser, and if you want to contest their claims when they say something like “Your Honor, it’s just a guitar; I can buy a guitar for under $179 at Wal-Mart,” expect to spend thousands on lawyers and appraisers to fight their conclusions.

Keep reading, though, because it gets worse. A moving company can commit the types of acts that would normally lead to lawsuits on the state level — including fraud, bait-and-switch, overcharging, willful destruction of property, even threats and harassment — without being accountable, because the Carmack Amendment is Federal law that trumps state consumer protection statutes.

I learned about this the hard way, through an experience with North American Van Lines that would not only keep me from ever using them again, but cause me to recommend that no one ever use them for anything, ever. Sure, many people complete moves without problems: But before you move, do some research. When you see names like “North American Van Lines” crop up time after time as defendants in litigation, think twice.

Also, google “Carmack Amendment” to find out what few steps you can take to protect yourself. Get your gear appraised and photographed before it’s packed, and provide a written statement of these appraisals to the company as a basis for insurance coverage — then don’t move until it’s acknowledged. When unpacking, have witnesses and a video camera to document any damage you discover.

Problems with movers represent an alarming and rising tide of consumer complaints . . . you might be the next one to say “My gear melted because I was promised an air-conditioned moving van and it wasn’t.” (By the way, thanks to the Carmack Amendment, movers are not liable if they make promises, even if they’re in writing, but don’t deliver.)

You’ve been warned. In fact you should probably just rent a U-Haul, invite a friend as a co-pilot, and move yourself.