Thursday, October 16, 2008

Here comes the future lawyer. Watch out!

So I know I didn't post about this.  I'd hoped the Better Business Bureau route would work better than it did but apparently the movers I used are accustomed to being lying bastards.

Anyway.  So when I moved back on Sept. 1st, one issue was that they wrote on the form that they worked for 4.5 hours.  They worked for 3.  Including travel time.  Now, because this was Sept. 1st in Boston and their office is in Allston (aka student central), paying for 1.5 extra hours for movers was a hell of a lot more than on any other day.  As in, $262.50.  I'm a student, I'm on a limited budget, I can't afford that.  Hell, most of you with jobs probably can't afford that.  I only hired movers in the first place because driving a moving truck in Boston when you don't drive here at all is a bad idea.  My mom and I learned that when we first got here.  So anyway, I had it all planned out so that I could pay for the movers as long as they stuck pretty close to the estimate.  They would have been right on the estimate had they actually charged me for the hours they actually worked.

So.  Anyway.  The first problem with this 4.5 hour thing is that they didn't actually bring my attention to it (clearly, knowing that I would have objected).  They just said, "okay, here's what you owe," took my card number, had me sign a million things without giving me a second to look at them (I would have insisted I get a chance to read it because as a law student I know the importance of reading before you sign but the guy was also hitting on me and as I had just moved to a somewhat isolated complex in the suburbs and I was the only one there since Vanessa wasn't moving in on the same day I wanted him out of there) and then they left.

So, they leave, I call my mom in a panic because I didn't have enough money in my account to pay for all that.  We got that worked out, blah blah, then I looked over the contract more closely and saw where they put the hours worked, where I was supposed to initial that this time was pointed out to me, and therefore noted that they, essentially, scammed me by not giving me the opportunity to double check everything and padding their hours.

I tried to call them 3 or 4 times throughout the week following.  The secretary took my messages every time, saying that the person I needed to talk to was "unavailable."  No one ever called me back.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.  Mind you, this company was accredited with them, which is part of why I thought it would be okay to hire them, so basically that means that they have agreed to BBB's dispute resolution methods.  So I waited for a response to my complaint.  The response I got on Tuesday basically said that they charged for 3 hours of labor and 1.5 hours of travel time.  It then said that the laborer who came told me that.  It then said that they spoke to me on the phone 4 or 5 times following the move explaining that.  Now, you all know me.  Would I lie about whether they had ever spoken to me on the phone?  No.  Am I dumb and don't understand that the travel time between apartment A and apartment B is part of my charges?  No.  Am I incapable of figuring out how many hours elapsed between a start time of 7 am to a departure time of 10 am from my new apartment after all travel time between the two apartments has been accounted for?  No.  Therefore, I am correct and they are lying bastards.

I emailed them after getting this response to my BBB complaint, explaining exactly why their response was false.  And then told them I'm not afraid to go to court.  Then a couple hours later the BBB told me that the case is being administratively closed because the company supposedly made "reasonable efforts" to resolve the issue and I'm still dissatisfied (yeah, because they're liars so of course their response made it appear as though they tried to resolve the issue) so I have been using the wonderful legal resources at my disposal (aka my Evidence professor and a couple other professors I'm close to, one of whom was an Administrative Law Judge) and figuring out exactly how I can take them to small claims court and win.

Here's what I have.  First, hearsay evidence is permitted in small claims court.  I've found some online reviews (on websites I wish I knew about before but oh well) that demonstrate a pattern of similar behavior from this company.  Since online reviews are frequently done with quite a bit of anonymity and no way to contact the people it will probably be difficult for me to actually get the people who wrote the review to come in and testify as witnesses, hence the need for hearsay evidence (these reviews would certainly be hearsay, for you non-law people).  So, what I have is some evidence from other people who have experienced this situation with this same company which will assist me in convincing the hearing officer (small claims doesn't really have a "judge" and there's never a jury) that I'm being truthful.

Second, there's this lovely part of Massachusetts law called chapter 93A.  The Consumer Protection Act.  This act reinforces the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealings in Contracts law and actually makes it unlawful to breach this covenant.  And here's the beauty of it.  I might be entitled to double or even triple damages, plus reimbursement of court fees, under this wonderful act.  I have to do some more research to see if that applies to my situation but I think it does, it has something to do with the fact that I already paid them and am trying to get the money back.

So.  Then we have just my general skills as a law student.  I have some experience in oral arguments and a tiny bit of practice in questioning witnesses (I did very well the day I did that in evidence class) so that will help in court.  I'm going to check and find out if I can submit a brief in small claims court because then I can submit that and the hearing officer can look it over when making the decision, as well as all the exhibits I'll submit.

Yeah.  I think they're in trouble.  I wasn't a person to mess with before I went to law school.  Now I'm unstoppable.
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Jenn said...

I will now live vicariously through your flogging of the moving company. I could tell you a story about a moving company that would make your toes curl but it is way too long for comments. Let's just say we needed an interim storage solution before moving into our house and the company we hired provided that. When we tried to call them to have them complete the move it took 2 months to track them down. By the time we found out where our stuff had even been brought we were 1 week before an auction. They never paid the bill but ran away with our money. We thankfully got our stuff back but had to pay double expense (truck & storage facility bill). Wish I knew you back then girl.

Kick their sorry asses all over that court room!

Ginger said...

am i understanding correctly that they didn't have you initial the space next to the hours being charged on the contract? if that's the case, call the credit card company and point this out to them while explaining the situation and they will notify the company of a chargeback in that amount being disputed. the company will have an amount of time to respond and provide proof, which they will lie about, but if they don't have you initial that part of the contract then the contract is null and void and they lose. if they forge your initials then you can get all of your money back in small claims court.

Bridgete said...

Hmm. That's interesting Ginger. I'll look into that. I used a debit card though, not a credit card. Hence the reason I called my mom in a panic. But disputes on debit cards usually work in a similar manner so I'll see...