During my niece's last move from Manhattan to Boca Raton, FL, a steak knife she packed carelessly punctured the box … and the mover's hand. This became a very, very messy move. Luckily no stitches were required, but blood was shed and a pall cast over this already stressful day. Moral of the story: The last thing you need on moving day is to piss off your movers.
But not all irritants are as easy to spot (or as potentially deadly) as a sharp blade.
Here are eight things clients do that seriously annoy movers, and should be avoided at all costs. Or, at the very least, remedied with an apology and a substantial tip.
1. Not having stuff ready
If movers are scheduled to arrive at 9 a.m., all your belongings should be packed in boxes, taped, and labeled by 8 a.m. In other words, give yourself lots of wiggle room.
"They don't want to stand around; they want to start moving immediately," says Wes Taft, who developed the MoveCheck app. If your move is scheduled to take a half-day, they probably have someone else scheduled for the other half. Plus, if you're paying by the hour, that extra time is deducting money from your wallet.
2. Packing stuff carelessly
We know: Packing is overwhelming, and if you're short on time, you may just start tossing things into boxes with no rhyme or reason. Just get it done, right? Wrong! You need to pay attention to how you wrap and box possessions if you want them to arrive safely -- for all concerned.
"Some people think they can just throw stuff in garbage bags and move them that way," Taft says. Not so. Pack all possessions in boxes that you seal and clearly label. Wrap sharp objects (like kitchen knives!) in bubble wrap or towels, and write "razor-sharp cutting instruments" on the box so movers know to be extra-careful.
3. Needing plants, pets, and other tricky items moved
In the moving world, potted plants are the equivalent of contraband -- movers will not take them in their trucks because they could spill dirt or spread bugs. Other no-nos include any live pets like turtles or goldfish; propane tanks from grills; open bottles of caustic items like weed killer or bleach; fireworks; and bullets. You can ship firearms, but you must alert the movers and provide make, model, and serial numbers, says Brian Carey of Carey Moving in Charlotte, NC.
4. Opening packed boxes
Movers hate when a panicked client tries to retrieve some life-saving medication he packed in that box way over there. Some things should never leave your hands, including daily or emergency medication (like EpiPens), valuable jewelry, house deeds, stock and bond certificates, and cash. Buy a lockable case you can stuff with valuables and bring with you on moving day.
5. Letting your kids or pets run wild
Movers do not, as a rule, inherently dislike kids, but they sure aren't fans of the ones playing hide-and-seek amid the boxes on their trucks or vans. If you can't find a playdate for your kids on moving day, keep them occupied away from the main traffic of the move. If you have pets, kennel them in a quiet room where they can't run out the door and trip (or worse, bite!) movers carrying large boxes. Better yet, find a friend who will take the pets during moving day, which can be as stressful for animals as it is for humans.
Movers hate hoverers and hand-wringers who spend the entire day shouting, "Watch it, that's fragile!" They're not a big fan of being told to lift with their knees, either. Before movers arrive, micromanage all you want -- label boxes with a number, room, and item ("#1, Kitchen, Chocolate Fondue Maker") and keep a master list. But when the professionals show up, power down and have faith you've chosen a good moving company and things will all work out in the end.
7. Haggling about price
Don't even think about haggling over costs or changing the scope of a move after the professionals have arrived. Successful moves take premeditation and preparation, which is reflected in a contract you signed before moving day. Attempting to shave off a few dollars at the last minute is terrible moving etiquette. And changing the scope of the move by suddenly adding or subtracting items -- or asking your college buddies to contribute some free labor -- will only add to the chaos. If changes can't be helped, talk to the moving company, which will communicate changes to the muscle.
8. Disappearing in the middle of the move
Some clients are less skilled at multitasking than they think, and run last-minute errands when they should be at home signing paperwork so the movers can start their engines and deliver furnishings to storage or their new home.
"Without signing, we can't move the truck," Carey says. Clients should never leave the house while movers are still working. If you must pick up the dry cleaning, make sure you leave an adult at home to sign on the dotted line.