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I thought that I would relay (finally) my ongoing experience with the poor claims process at Atlas Van Lines. This is the first chapter, which covers the time period from October 30, 2006 to now, February 16, 2007. I will be posting a few more updates once significant milestones or issues arise. Hopefully, someone will be able to benefit from this information.

I recently moved to California from Atlanta for work, and had to make the hard decision — which van lines should be used to do the [not so] heavy lifting. I did extensive research online and had 5 on-site estimates made for the move, which ranged from $1800 to over $5000 (seriously). The discrepancy in estimates is a laughable yet disturbing commentary on the moving business itself. So, I chose the company, a local representative for Atlas Van Lines in Atlanta, for the move, as their price was about mid-range, and seemed fairly competent and responsive. One criteria for all the movers – I grilled them on moving two 1970’s Vespa motorscooters. “Everything else is replaceable,” I said over and over again, “except the scooters. I can have them crated if necessary.” “No problem, we do this all the time” was the response.

Read on for the move and the damage (and the response so far).

Moving day arrived. I looked out for the van, which judging by the promotion materials was to be driven by a professional looking guy with a few helpers, all wearing uniforms and logo caps. The van arrived, pretty much on time. The one helper I saw first, a big guy but not huge, just wearing a T-shirt and jeans. The driver came around the truck and was a grubby looking guy wearing kind of nasty looking shorts and a t-shirt draped over his gut which had peep holes that allowed views of the same. Once again, I expressed the importance of the well being of the Vespas. Once again, “not a problem.” I opted for the $25,000 valuation [insurance supposedly] to cover the move.

The goods arrived in San Francisco a little over a week later. This time a different helper and the driver, wearing I think the same thing as before. Everything seemed to be coming out of the truck just fine. The rubbermaid storage tubs wear looking fairly brutalized (which should have been a hint), but they mostly contained clothing or other things undamageable. Thankfully, I had packed with paranoia – several of the boxes were nearly destroyed as well, but the contents were ok. Then the mattress came off the truck. For some reason there was petroil (gas oil mix) on one corner of the box, which had soaked through a little bit — again, not a huge deal, but a little weird. The scooters were finally rolled off (last on the truck, last off, for some reason). Both scooters sustained significant body damage. On the Primavera, the front fender was sandwiched, the leg shield has several small dents up and down as did the floor, and the paint was damaged in several places. The rear rack and spare tire holder was dangerously loose – not sure yet if the body is cracked where it is mounted. The Rally 200 has crash bars and rear cowl protectors, but nonetheless suffered a sandwiched front fender, damaged chrome and trim, several dents and fairly serious scratches, and the mechanism holding on the right rear cowel was damaged to the point that it was knocked off and broken. That was October 30, 2006, I reported the damage immediately.

On October 31, I received the claims form dutifully and returned it to the office in Atlanta. On November 3, I received confirmation of the receipt of my claim by the national Atlas Van Lines department. It was then up to me to arrange dealing with the appraisal company in San Francisco, who had me move the scooters up to First Kick Scooters. (Thanks to the folks at First Kick for helping me deal with this whole thing.) The appraisal company has been pretty responsive, and due to the nature of the claim, allowed First Kick to do the appraisal, since they were to be the ones doing the work. The total for both scooters with body work, paint, replacement parts, and labor to over $7500, to give you an idea of the damage.

About two weeks ago, around the 5th of February, I was notified by the national claims person (after several calls a week) that they were sending the estimate back to the local Atlanta office again. Ridiculous, right? What “sending” meant was that the local Altanta office was now calling the appraisors again to have them send all the data they sent to the national office to Atlanta. So here is the chain I am now waiting on appraisor–Atlanta office–national office. I will continue to post updates more regularly. The key to getting this done at all is persistence, I know; unfortunately, I now have to catch the Atlanta office claims person and the national claims person by surprise in order to get any information out of them, as they no longer return my calls. I am waiting now to hear back from the appraisors again to make sure that they have provided everything they need to so that I can hold the Atlanta office accountable for progress.

The lesson to the story so far? Don’t trust Atlas Van Lines to protect your belongings. They clearly believe that it is not their job. If you are moving a Vespa or perhaps a vintage motorcycle, have it crated by a professional crating company. It will end up tacking on another $500-$1000 to your move, but it will be less that you have to worry about. $1000 if you can afford it at all is worth not having to deal with poor customer service for over 3 months.