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Amount Charged is Less Than Estimate: Psychology Involved?

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When I was helping my girlfriend move to a new apartment this past weekend, we had the help of a moving company. We also had the misfortune of a snow and ice storm. After offering to pay three neighborhood kids to shovel the driveway and get rid of the ice so the moving truck would be able to access the house, the kids eventually gave up without getting much done.

Overnight, it snowed some more and froze, so conditions were worse in the morning. A neighbor lent us an ice pick and after some hard work (and arms that are still sore), we managed to clear a path for the movers. Originally, they wanted to cancel the plans for the day and come back when the weather was more favorable, but there was no way that was going to work.

The lead mover of their three-person team, all ready in a bad mood, went over the contract involving a $110 per hour charge as well as a per-pound fee. After further analysis, he estimated the job would be $750, and he didn’t hesitate to add that a 20% gratuity is customary, but not necessary. The figure sounded a little high for the small amount of furniture that woud be moved.

At the new apartment when unloading, the movers had no choice but to block the road, and the police were not happy. They gave the moving company 15 minutes to move before a summons would be issued. Apparently, the officers never came back. We were still expecting the worst when it came to reconcile the payment.

The total came to “only” $550, on to which we provided a gratuity of $100. It wasn’t quite 20% mostly because of the first mover’s attitude at the beginning of the day. After the moving company left, we considered that the early estimate may have been on the high side to make us feel better about the “real price” when finished and to improve their chances of getting a nice tip for coming in “under the estimate.” Perhaps they were using a bit of human psychology to their advantage, or maybe they just over estimated the amount of time it would take to unload everything.

I mentioned during the course of the day that we might want to supply beverages for the movers as suggested in this Ask MetaFilter thread, but with no food in the old apartment, the refrigerator not yet cleaned and operational in the new apartment, and the poor attitude at the beginning of the day from the lead individual, the suggestion was vetoed.

Published or updated March 19, 2007.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Didn’t think of it the way you presented it, but it makes sense. My wife and I moved last summer and got an estimate. The actual $ came in less and we gladly paid that plus a decent gratuity. Not a bad strategy as long as you don’t overbid and lose the business.


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avatar 2 Anonymous

I’ve moved around A LOT and this scenario happens every time in every state. Those movers are sneaky ones! ;)

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