maarmie's musings

Sunday, October 21, 2007

$75 worth of bad publicity

My blood sugar level rose to unprecedented levels the other day, and I speed-walked to the library in record time to burn off some of the anger brought on by the crappy sales ethic of Josh Redmond, the guy who sold me on SOUTHERN GROUP INC. in south Florida - for all my shipping needs.

Here's what happened: When Josh initially quoted me the $860 fee for shipping my 11 measly boxes door to door from Tallahassee to Inverness, it was the lowest rate I had gotten thus far - even though the rate was based on a 100-square-feet minimum and I was shipping a mere 30 square feet of cargo.

I jumped on the deal making sure to pay careful attention to the "exclusion list" in big print in the body of the quote document. Said "exclusion list" includes documentation fees, palletizing fees, extra fees for having to haul the boxes more than a certain amount from your door to the nearest location the truck can be parked, etc. About 10 exclusions in all.

Having read horror stories on the Internet about moving companies that quote one fee then tack on a myriad of additional charges after they've got their grubby hands on all your shit, I took special care to go over this "exclusion list" item by item with Josh. I didn't want this happening to me.

Josh assured me that none of the items - except possibly port security charges - would apply to my shipment. I was satisfied and filled out the credit card authorization form and the inventory list and sent them back to Josh in an e-mail reiterating what he had said about the quote being the exact rate I was to pay - except possibly port security charges. Though Josh had offered to put this in writing on his end, and though I said OK, I never got said e-mail, and I never got a reply to mine asking him to confirm this agreement.

Red flag, anyone?

That day, I received two quotes lower than what SOUTHERN GROUP INC. was offering, but I didn't cancel with them because they seemed to know what they were doing. Little did I know that was going to be the last I was going to hear from Josh except for when he tried to fuck me with the final bill.

So, a couple of days after e-mailing back the required documents, I'm waiting for the bill of lading to come via fax to give to the driver who would be hauling my shit to Miami. The day before the driver was to come, I still hadn't gotten said bill of lading. After eight or so phone calls to SOUTHERN GROUP, INC., I finally got my bill of lading, a couple of hours after I was told it would be immediately sent. The word "immediately" doesn't mean jack shit to SOUTHERN GROUP, INC., as you will see shortly.

OK. The Federal Express freight guy is super nice. He takes the information off my bill of lading and puts my boxes on his truck. I learn all about his pregnant wife and his young daughter in the process. Hurdle one jumped. My stuff was on its way.

After that, I was waiting for information on the company overseas that would be receiving my stuff. Name? Phone number? Not too much to ask. I requested this information twice from SOUTHERN GROUP, INC. Twice, I was told by someone named Jay that this information would be e-mailed to me. It is now weeks later, and I have yet to receive this e-mail.

Of course I took it upon myself to call Omega Shipping in Miami, the company that actually owns the ships that will be carrying my cargo. The lovely woman who answered the phone there was prompt, kind and courteous, I might add. She confirmed they received my 11 boxes, that they were currently being loaded onto the ship and that Eurousa was the company handling my shipment in the UK. She even gave me their phone number. Now was that so hard?

So, all that was left was to wait for the final invoice to be e-mailed to me so I could authorize payment on my credit card, after which I would supposedly be receiving all the information about the ship (vessel number, docking day and time, etc.) The final invoice came on Friday, the only time since sending my credit card number that I have heard from Josh, and it was $170 more than what he had initially quoted.


Instant fury.

This final invoice included two items from the "exclusion list" that I was told didn't apply to my shipment: a $95 documentation fee and a $75 palletizing fee. WHAT?!

I e-mailed Josh back immediately asking why these charges were added to my invoice considering he told me they wouldn't apply. I even forwarded him the e-mail I sent him on October 2, the one I sent trying to confirm everything we had discussed:



Good to hear that my shipment is on schedule. I had called Omega, and they verified that all 11 boxes were on board. Regarding the price, I was quoted $860.00 plus $120 for insurance and was told those would be the only charges. You told me that yourself on the phone. What are these documentation and pallet fees?




This was sent to you by me on October 2 to confirm what we talked about. You did not reply:


Please confirm that the $860.00 USD quote includes all fees, charges for door-to-door service of my shipment except the port security charge you say could be added. Please also confirm that this rate includes $1,000 of insurance on my shipment. I have not added any additional insurance. Attached is the contact form and the CC authorization form. I will e-mail you a list of boxes/items/values first thing in the morning. Thank you so much for your help.


I didn’t get a response that day. The next morning, I called SOUTHERN GROUP INC. to talk to the little weasel who chose to hide behind e-mail and seemed to be running when I dared to call him out. Josh was on another call, I was told, and, after waiting for about five minutes on hold, I talked at length to the guy who had answered the phone. I told him my problem, and he assured me that Josh would call me back.

"No he won't," I told him. "Josh never calls me back."

He swore, though, that he, personally, would see to it that Josh call me.

Three hours later, Josh still hadn't called. I called my husband to complain and to take him up on his offer to call the little scumbag.

C* called, and it was Josh who answered the phone. C* talked to him about my issues, and Josh denied ever telling me that items on the "exclusion list" wouldn't apply to my shipment. He said, however, that he would talk to his supervisor and take off the $95 documentation fee and would call me in the next few minutes. Those were his words. In a few minutes.


One hour later, I asked C* to call again. Josh answered again and said he would be calling me immediately. Tick tock.

Then, I get another fucking e-mail:


Dear Ms. Blakley,

I do apologize about the delay in getting back to you. Unfortunately I have been in and out of the office for the past week assisting on local shipment we have going out.

In regards to your concerns we do not include any documentation or pallet charges in our cost.

This was clearly mention in all of our exclusion and was not specified in the included items on your rate.

We have to pay these charges out to the steamship line therefore we have to bill the customer. There are many unforeseen issues with shipping overseas therefore we have to keep an exclusions list just like any other company.

The balance of $1150 will still stand at this time.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Thank you


By this time I was seeing red.

On the phone to C* again, reading the e-mail and asking him to talk to Josh's supervisor. While he was on the phone talking to a Mr. Levins and accusing Josh of saying what he had to say to get my business and then scamming me later, I got a wild hair up my ass to call the supervisor myself. He called me back when he was done talking to C*, and I let him have it. I told him the whole story, and all he could say was that Josh was one of his best employees and that the "exclusion list" is written in large print on the invoice. I told him I knew all about the damn list but that Josh had told me blah blah blah.

Long story somewhat shorter, he took the documentation fee off the cost, leaving me stuck with only $75 in extra charges. Since I knew my only other option was to pay the entire cost quoted (within three days or face additional "surcharges" - how convenient) I happily chose this option.

They better hope I don't stumble upon any message boards having to do with moving companies, though, because I have more than $75 worth of venom to spew about their shitty service.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The last supper

The family came up here this weekend to see me one last time before I fly off into the wild blue yonder. I was stressing about it Saturday to C*, worried that my dad would use this meeting as one last chance to get a few digs in before I leave.

The end of Saturday evening would have been easier for me had that been the case. But, yet again, the 'rents had to make things as hard as possible on me by being...nice.

They exclaimed over the wedding photo album and the photos of Scotland I brought along to share. They asked thoughtful questions about my near future. They all said how good I looked. It all left me wondering why things couldn't have been this way all along, why they waited until I was get ready to move to another country to finally treat me like a human being.

Following years of mental and physical inactivity following the death of my grandfather, my gradmother looks old, sad and frail. Her hair is grayer than ever, she seems shorter than ever and she looks sadder than ever. That's the last time I'll ever see her, I'm sure.

Though we were extremely close when I was a child, we have had a falling out in recent years, and I don't really have any feelings about this meeting being our last or about the reality that my daughter will never meet her great-grandmother.

My brother and sister-in-law were great. For once, my brother was the butt of all the jokes, and he took it quite well. After losing more than 200 pounds, he is obsessed with healthy weight maintenance, exercise, nutrition and body fat percentages. As my brother is wont to do, he talked on and on about the topic, and we took this as an opportunity to roll our eyes, point out his phychological weaknesses and laugh our stupid laughs. I joined in with glee, finally knowing how it felt to be on the other side of the punch lines. I'm not saying I'm proud of how I acted, but it was interesting all the same.

But bro knows we think he's the biggest genius we'll ever meet in our lifetimes, so at least he's got that to cling to even as we insinuate, with smiles on our faces, that he'll one day end up in a padded cell somewhere bound by a straightjacket.

Love you, bro!

I was hoping dad and stepmom would break open their wallets for more than dinner, but it wasn't destined to be. No cash for only daughter and soon-to-be granddaughter. maarmie sad.

When brother and sister-in-law dropped me back at my place this morning after brunch, I couldn't help but cry. My brother is the only person in my family who has meant anything significant to me for such a long time, and it will be ages before I see him again. At least I leave seeing that he has become such a different and better person on so many levels and that he has (albeit obsessively) decided to take his good health into his own hands.

Food won't be killing him anytime soon, and that makes it so much easier for me to float away.

Friday, October 05, 2007

It's definitely a girl!

This photo of the baby is an update at 17 weeks. Hasn't she grown a lot? I am now at 21 weeks and counting, and I leave for Scotland on October 29.

My car is fixed. My visa is in hand. My furniture is sold. My resignation is tendered. My boxes are packed and ship out today. My diabetes is under control with diet and exercise. My credit cards are quickly getting paid. My remaining doctor appointments are made. My medication is filled. My suitcase is packed. I have checked out of my job even though my body is still, technically, here.

Even though the temperature is in the 30s during the day in Scotland right now, I cannot, cannot wait to leave.