In Finn Murphy’s, The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road, “shippers” get a behind-the-scenes look at what movers really do with your stuff. It’s not always pretty. The bottom line is this: If you want to have a happy move, be nice to the movers. We’re all in this together.
Murphy became a long-haul trucker over 30 years ago, handling more than three thousand moves. His perspective on what it’s like from the mover’s side would encourage anyone moving to be a kinder person. Readers learn about the good, the bad, and the ugly of moving from someone who has seen it all.
What You Don’t Want to Know About What Movers Really Do With Your Stuff
As I read about Murphy’s experience, the copious amount of drinking and driving that occurred back in the pre-union days surprised me. “As far as I could tell,” Murphy says, “the moving business floated on an ocean of alcohol” (13). Fortunately, Murphy claims that things are different now and that the drunk driving of the olden days has disappeared. So, if the last time you used movers was back in the ‘80s and it didn’t go so well, you might want to give it another shot.
According to Murphy, movers do not steal from shippers – ever. Murphy assures readers that after thirty years of working as a mover, “I never once saw anyone steal anything from a shipper” (21). Before you get too comfortable, though, you may want to reconsider letting the movers pack your socks and underwear. While Murphy admits that movers don’t steal, a sneak peek at your intimate apparel sounds like fair game: “This is not to say that we didn’t open drawers or boxes, particularly if the shipper was good-looking. Then she could reasonably expect her dresser drawers to be ransacked for a look at the lingerie . . .” (21). Um, okay. Good to know.
What You Don’t Want to Hear About What We’re Really Like
Murphy airs the dirty laundry of the moving industry, but he’s quick to point out that we shippers aren’t saints either. Murphy claims that movers know more about us in thirty minutes than our friends of thirty years know about us.
“Movers notice things,” Murphy explains. “Especially the things folks want to keep hidden. We don’t carry any judgment toward mundane bourgeois hypocrisy unless we’re treated like chattel.” (129). They see the dirty dishes and the empty booze bottles and the things we’ve hidden in the dresser. Murphy argues that this is why shippers create a psychological boundary with the mover by making the mover anonymous. Instead of calling the movers by name, they’re grouped in and known simply as “the movers.”
A lack of common courtesy can lead to some problems. Yes, us shippers are tired and stressed on moving day, but consider what your mover is going through, too. Your mover is working twelve hour days packing and unpacking people non-stop across the country with little sleep, and he eats when the work is done. The mover doesn’t know what’s waiting for him when he knocks on your door on moving day. Will he get a good shipper or a bad shipper? To ensure that you have the happiest move possible, be the good shipper.
How to optimize moving day with professional movers:
- Smile, say “hello”, and introduce yourself and your family.
- Ask for the movers’ names and write them down so you don’t forget them.
- Offer the movers coffee or a beverage when they arrive.
- Designate a bathroom in your home that the movers can use.
- If you’re ordering pizza, order extra for the movers.
- A tip at the end of the day is appreciated, but not required.
- Be empathetic to late arrivals – you have no idea the distances or driving conditions under which your mover drove to get to your home.
- If the movers break, damage or scratch something, imagine your best friend did it – the mover did not do it on purpose. Mistakes happen. Stay calm and it will be handled.
How to ensure a bad moving day:
- As soon as the movers arrive, get mad. “You’re late!”
- Treat the movers with disrespect. Be rude.
- When you get an estimate, don’t show the movers everything they need to pack and ship.
Other wisdom gleaned from The Long Haul:
- Movers don’t covet your things. To them, it’s just freight.
- We have too much stuff. Declutter.
- In the end, whether it’s in our lifetime or the next generation, all stuff will get thrown out.
- When passing a truck on the highway, never stay by the front wheels. Pass the truck quickly and get ahead of it. A front-wheel blowout is a trucker’s biggest fear.
- If you’re moving to Florida, don’t bother taking your stuff down there. Everyone ends up leaving it in the garage or getting rid of it because it doesn’t fit with their new lifestyle.
- Veteran movers don’t wear jeans. Jumpsuits are much better because they don’t have rivets or require belts that can cause damage on furniture. They’re also looser and more comfortable than jeans.
- The best map? The Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas. Much better than GPS.
- If you’re one of the rude shippers, movers will find a creative way to retaliate.
The most important takeaway from The Long Haul is that possessions don’t matter nearly as much as people do. Accidents and delays happen when you move. Forming a good relationship with your movers will help everything run more smoothly.
 Shipper = someone who uses a moving company to move their stuff
Murphy, Finn. The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tale of Life on the Road. (New York: W. W. Norton & Co.), 2017.
Thanks for sharing this advice
Good tips to make the movers happy. After all they will be handling all your stuff.
Pretty amazing post, very well informed. Thanks for sharing.
“Drawers to be ransacked for a look at the lingerie” I laughed way to hard at that.
This always scares me, not knowing what they are really gonna do with your stuff.
Having nearly nearly a decade of professional moving experience I can say that 95% of the time your possessions will make it from A to B without a hitch. If you have a smaller load you can guarantee that it won’t be the only shipment in the truck/trailer and things do get mixed up from time to time – and you can bet your ass any driver/loader worth a shit will load the truck or trailer to the gills – hence why it’s important that you as the shipper do your part in checking off the inventories on delivery… yeah it sucks but this is the only way to account for your stuff.
I’ve honestly had little experience with my guys stealing things or being careless with furniture and containers but this may just be because I work with the same guys constantly and I know that I can trust them to not pocket your Rolex or whatever else you may have of value. The only times I’ve ran into theft were when I hired local help off of Craigslist or picked up some dudes from Home Depot for the day… these situations are rather uncommon though and are usually a product of a job being severely underestimate or I’m behind schedule and need to expedite things.
Do understand that the moving industry is one that will hire just about anybody so don’t be alarmed if your movers look a bit rough… chances are one dude on the crew has served a lengthy prison sentence for some reason or another though do note that theft based crimes leading to jail or prison sentences are an automatic disqualifier during the hiring process at any legitimate moving company. Heck I worked with an older gentleman for some time who served somewhere on the odd end of 15 years in DOC for manslaughter but you’d never know it he was a nice guy and never caused any problems. Movers are also notorious drinkers as well as users of various illicit substances but rest assured they tend to save that crap for after work since being intoxicated at a residence is grounds for immediate dismissal without any pay even if dude worked half the day before being told to kick rocks. Heck I had to kick a guy off a job midway through a coast-to-coast-to-coast trip because his nightly drinking escapades became too much after getting arrested on one occasion and pulling some other bs by slashing some strip club DJs tires in Toledo after the Patriots won the Super Bowl lol. He was an awesome mover but having to deal with that shit was too much so yeah I dropped him off at a bus terminal and wished him luck.
Point being hire reputable movers and you’ll be fine. Hire shady low cost movers and expect things to go awry. Not trying to stereotype but these are usually ran by either Russians or Israelis and they tend to show up in some sort of rental truck be it a UHAUL, Penske, Etc; though rental/lease tractors get a pass since the company owns the movingvan (trailer) themselves. If neither of those options work for you then you can always just do it yourself. You may find it common nowadays that there are companies out there that solely supply the labor aspect of the move i.e; they will psck/load or unload your stuff into a truck that you have rented and will drive to its destination. each end will be handled by completely different local moving crews so you take a gamble there plus you have to drive the big scary truck yourself but it’s really not that bad just take your time and realize that box yrucks and semis are magnets for stupid and no you can’t simply override the governor so get used to doing 65-70 mph on the jnterstate even if you’re in Texas or somewhere similar. Just be sure to be aware of the road conditions around you as well as accounting for additional room needed to maneuver the truck through turns/tight spaces and if you come across a bridge that is under 13’6″ try to find a different route unless you are absolutely positive you’ll make it under without a problem. I mean most box trucks tend to be shorter than that anyways but you may find that bridge clearance may have been measured some time in the past and may not be accurate… not worth testing the top off the box to save some time because then you’ll have to transfer your things to another truck and yadada.
I realize I’m a few years late to the party but hopefully this information is of use to somebody out there.
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Great. I was the nice shipper and even tipped well. Two months later and I haven’t heard from the company about when my belongings will be in – except, that maybe they’ll be here the one weekend (in ten days) that I need to be on the other side of the country because my son is graduating.