BOSTON (CBS) – Rosemary Alfredo was hoping for an easy moving day. After all, she was only heading one block around the corner in Boston’s North End.
Instead, Alfredo endured a three-day ordeal that drained thousands of dollars out of her wallet.
Alfredo hired Father and Son Moving and Storage out of Billerica after spending nearly an hour on the phone with a salesman detailing every item that needed to be moved. The quote was cheaper than other estimates she’d received.
On moving day in late June, Alfredo says the company never showed up.
Forced to take another day off work, she said a young, inexperienced crew arrived and seemed unsure of how to proceed. One of them wore flip-flops.
To cap off the day, the moving truck wouldn’t start. Alfredo spent the night in a hotel with all her possessions in limbo.
“I felt totally trapped,” she told the I-Team.
Finally, the crew started moving her belongings into the one-bedroom apartment. According to Alfredo, every piece of furniture ended up scratched, cracked or dented. But that wasn’t the worst part of the ordeal.
After unloading half of her belongings, one of the movers delivered some bad news.
“I can’t unload the rest of the truck until you give us another $3,600,” Alfredo recalled. “It felt like extortion.”
What she didn’t know at the time was Father and Son has a checkered past.
Back in 2012, an I-Team investigation into the company prompted the Attorney General to crack down with a lawsuit.
The company eventually settled, paying $75,000 back to disgruntled customers and more than $50,000 in state fines.
However, it appears the punishment did not make those complaints stop. Since the settlement agreement, the Attorney General has continued to hear from dozens of angry customers, many with similar experiences.
A woman from Boston wrote, “The move was $2,685 more than the quote. They held my stuff in storage until I paid them.”
Another customer claimed, “The entire load was held hostage.”
Kenn Pike of Lowell knows the feeling.
“What I ended up paying them was almost a month’s salary,” he said.
Living on disability benefits, Pike said the move was financially devastating. He also told the I-Team he felt threatened when movers doubled his quote.
“It kind of felt like you were being robbed at gunpoint,” he said.
Father and Son president, Bryan Taylor, refused to answer questions about the new complaints since the settlement with the Attorney General.
So the I-Team went to the company’s Billerica headquarters to get some answers. When approached in the parking lot, Taylor bolted for the business door and did not respond to questions about the allegations of holding customers’ furniture hostage.
Taylor later sent this statement after the parking lot exchange:
“We work hard every day to achieve our goal of total customer satisfaction. We will not be satisfied until every customer of Father and Son has a positive and pleasurable experience.”
Attorney General Maura Healey told the I-Team moving customers are particularly vulnerable because the company has possession of all of their belongings.
When asked if the company is on the agency’s radar, Healey responded, “We are going to closely review this and take very seriously the complaints that we have received and we’ll take appropriate action.”
Taylor and his company could be facing more fines if the Attorney General’s office finds it violated the terms of the settlement agreement.
Alfredo still can’t believe her experience, saying the company should be held accountable.
“I think it’s a disgrace and I think they should be out of business,” she said.
Tips from the Attorney General for hiring a moving company:
- Be sure to do your homework, shop around, and ask about all additional costs when you are given an estimate for your move.
- If you are moving household goods from your home to another location within Massachusetts, your mover must be licensed by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU).
- Carriers moving household goods from one state to another must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
- A written estimate where a company representative comes to your home is one of your best safeguards against overcharges and other potential issues. Over the phone quotes are non-binding estimates.
- Consumers who wish to complain about a household goods mover may contact the licensing authority, or may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at (617) 727-8400.
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.