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Confessions of a Professional Mover
When you think of “mover,” what is the first image that comes to mind? Is he a man? A common thug? Well, I happen to be a mover, so I did an online survey. And yes, the results broke my heart.
Out of 100 respondents, the composite driver was uneducated, low class, rude, and untrustworthy. Basically the stereotypical lowlife you see smoking cigarettes outside a pawn shop, his hat turned backwards, using the f-word a lot and spitting on the sidewalk.
I admit it. I am a mover. I carry other people’s stuff, from their brand new 60″ HDTV to their sweat-stained mattresses, 40 hours a week. I make about $2,850 a month after taxes, drive an old pickup truck, and rent an apartment in a bad part of town. My knuckles and shins are always chipped, and I have chronic pain in my back and shoulders, but no medical insurance.
I also happen to have a bachelor’s degree in music, and can rock the piano like Rachmaninoff. In college, moving was a weekend job, then a summer job. I graduated in 2005, and I’m still on the move.
You are probably wondering why I continue in this profession. Believe me, my friends and family ask me this all the time. Honestly? I’m good at it. very good
As with most industries, there is a hierarchy of company personnel. We movers would call it “pecking order.” I prefer to work in a 3-person crew, so I’ll use that as an example.
The lowest rung mover is a “lumper”. As the name implies, the “lumper” carries boxes and folds the moving pads; he is either too inexperienced or too careless to be trusted to help carry an antique couch or artisan leather sofa. He might smoke and spit on the ground, but then he might be a good guy who wants to rise through the ranks.
On the next step up is the “second man,” or simply “#2.” He has some experience, maybe even a little pride in his work, and can carry heavy and/or delicate items up and down stairs, and around tight corners. He knows a lot of tricks of the trade, usually has a likable personality, even if a little rough around the edges.
On the top step is the “charger”. (That’s me.) I’m the guy who mounts the load in the truck so everything fits and nothing gets damaged in transit. Believe it or not, loading a truck is a methodical process. Safely wrapping and arranging all the furniture, appliances, boxes, spares and finishes from a 5,000 square foot home into a 2,000 cubic foot truck is difficult, especially when the customer is urging you to go faster and be more careful at the same time. .
And don’t get me wrong – like the loader, I don’t hang out on the truck while the “lumper” and #2 bring me the goods. In most moves, I carry my fair share. Besides, I rush to set the pace for the crew. #2 and I handle every item that is delicate, unaffordable or precious to the customer. In my 10 years of experience, I have developed a signature style to handle difficult items, manage the load as a whole, lead my crew and interact with the customer. The results? First, my crew always gets a fat tip when the job is done. In addition, other movers ask to work with me, and other moving company bosses want me to work for them: seriously, they call like headhunters and make me better offers. I can say, with all humility, “I am the rock star of this industry, in this town and the next town over.”
So back to the “mover” stereotype. Unfortunately, even a talented charger (or #2 or the “lumper”) can also be a crook/druggie/thief, but so can pop stars and celebrity divas (LiLo, Paris, etc.) that we all know and love. I worked with guys who stole from the customer. One guy stole a fundraiser, another guy stole a lawnmower from storage. Honestly there have been dozens of “incidents” where my colleague has shown zero moral fabric. Foam of the earth kind of stuff.
Being a mover is not glamorous, and there were times when I was ashamed to say, “I’m a mover,” like when socializing in more upscale circles – my girlfriend is a scientist and likes to hang out with that crowd, with me in tow. But that’s more my personal life…again being a humble move.
It’s true that there are few rewards in moving, which is why movers are often such non-rewarding people, as my survey indicated. The few rewards that exist are captured by guys like me who give it their all, who capture some excellence, at whatever task.
And no, I don’t plan to be a moving truckloader for the rest of my life. I am arranging to buy the moving company I work for now. It’s a strong, reputable operation, and most problems stem from the high turnover of come-and-go “lumpers”. I believe I can recruit the best movers in town, and from nearby towns: honest guys with skills and positive attitudes, that I will provide excellent wages and benefits. It would be nice to have top movers and dominate the other moving companies in town.
I can’t disclose the moving company I’m in the step-by-step buying process. If my crews find out, it could disrupt our dynamic. But I can credit some relocation companies where I got the best training and leadership opportunities. They are Help-U-Move in Tri-Cities, WA (http://help-u-move.com) and Gentle Giant Moving Company in Seattle. I will write another article about how things are going after I run the show!
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