It is the heart of the moving season, but before you pack, you will want to hear what happened to this woman's prized family possession after she hired a company for a long-distance move.
Christina Leoni paid Allied Van Lines more than $4,000 to move her entire life from North Carolina to Connecticut.
She chose them for two reasons.
"They have been around for years and that our things would be safe," said Leoni.
But the thing she cared about the most is what went missing during the move in March. It was an old cedar chest holding generations of family history, and it was gone in the blink of an eye.
"I used it to store all our family photos and albums and awards," explained Leoni. "To anybody else they would mean nothing but to us, it is priceless."
Nearly four months later, she is still trying track it down.
Christina said Allied Van Lines wasn’t very helpful when she first reported the cedar chest missing.
"Allied’s main office in Fort Wayne Indiana said that because I signed the order for the shipment, that I received it," said Leoni. "And they won’t do anything."
In a letter dated May 13, Allied said it had looked for the cedar chest, but was closing Leoni's case and denying her claim because she had signed a form at the end of the move stating her belongings had arrived.
Now, a few photos that hung on a wall and a few more her husband keeps in his wallet are all that’s left of decades of family history.
"Thank God we have that," said Leoni.
Moving problems happen all the time. One of the agencies that handles them is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Leoni hasn’t contacted the agency, but enforcement administrator William Quade said it gets more than 5,000 complaints each year.
"We can call. We can put pressure on and we can go in retroactively and make sure things were done right and issue fines if they are not correct," said Quade, explaining the actions the agency can take against a moving company.
The agency investigates things like lost or damaged property, delivery issues, unauthorized operations and "hostage moves."
"It’s where a trucking company will quote a price from the move and then, once the goods get on the truck, in order to make the delivery, they want two, three, sometimes four or five times what the quoted price was," said Quade.
However, some cases call for more than just issuing a fine.
"There does come a time when some of these acts cross the line from being civil penalties to actually deserving criminal penalties, and we have had criminal prosecution," said Quade.
One way to protect your move is to purchase insurance for your belongings, but keep in mind insurance often goes by weight, and that means your replacement check could be much lighter than you expected.
"You can have a lot of valuable stuff that is not weighing a lot," Quade explained. "And so, if you are getting 60 cents on the pound, when you start dealing with large screen TVs, you are not getting anywhere close to the value of the television."
Another important suggestion to protect your move is to find out the key players of your move ahead of time.
In Leoni’s case, three companies – Allied Van Lines, a company called Wile Transfer and Storage, and Astro Moving and Storage – all worked to move and store her belongings at some point.
"I seem to be getting the run-around. Everybody is passing the buck from one to the other," said Leoni.
Allied Van Lines, Wile Transfer and Storage and Astro Moving and Storage told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters they are continuing their search for the cedar chest.
Allied also sent a statement saying:
"We are concerned by this customer incident as it is the company’s goal to always provide the highest quality moving experience. We take this incident seriously even though the customer acknowledged the physical receipt of all of the items were delivered as intended. We retraced the entire move and have researched the shipment process extensively. At this time, we are confident the items are not in our possession."
Most importantly, don’t sign anything until you are sure everything has been delivered and is in the condition you expect.
"As far as they are concerned, because I signed for it, I got it," said Leoni. "But I didn’t get it."
Leoni has some advice of her own.
"Take it with you; physically take it with you," she suggested. "Because once it is gone, you may never see it again."
Another thing you should do is make a check list of your things and compare that checklist with the one the moving company has.
If you have a problem with your move, first, file a complaint with the company. Next, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. If it’s a cross-country move, contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and if it’s in state, you can file a complaint the with Connecticut Department of Transportation.
You can also find more information at www.protectyourmove.gov.