Nearly two years after Kraig and Lisa Owens moved their family to Washington state from Colorado, their belongings remain in limbo.
For the past 21 months, almost everything they own – furniture, clothing, children’s toys, photographs, family heirlooms – has been held behind lock and key at a storage facility in an industrial area of Portland.
“We don’t care about the material things. We don’t care about a washer and dryer or a bedroom set or a TV,” Kraig said. “But there are some irreplaceable items, you know?”
Lisa was nearly in tears as she wondered whether her family would ever get their belongings back.
“The majority of our lives and most of the kids’ lives before we moved here is all there,” she said. “I feel like a disappointment to the kids. I feel like a bad parent, you know, because I’ve let them down.”
Since the day the family moved from their house in rural Denver to their new home in Spanaway, they have been in a bitter feud with the moving company they hired to transport the contents of their house.
‘Panic’ sets in
In October 2012, Kraig Owens was out of work and desperate to find a job to provide for his wife and eight children. When an opportunity came up in Seattle, he was told he had about two weeks to make the move.
The Owens were on a tight budget.
Kraig said they looked at several options, including renting a U-Haul and moving the items themselves.
They settled on a company called NW Relocation.
After describing the contents of their home over the phone to one of the company’s moving specialists, Kraig and Lisa were told that NW Relocation could pack, load, transport, and unload their belongs for an estimated $2,971.14.
It was the most affordable option by far.
On the day of their move, which came just a few days before Kraig had to start work in Seattle, a truck from NW Relocation arrived right on schedule.
“They said they’d be there between 8 and 9 in the morning,” Kraig said. “They showed up at 8:05 a.m. We were like – ‘this is going to be great!'”
He said everything changed when one of the movers walked inside.
“They didn’t even take a look around and they said, ‘This is going to be double.’ At that point, that’s when the panic set in.”
The company gave the Owens family a revised estimate between $6,000 and $7,500.
Running out of time, Kraig and Lisa said they felt trapped.
Instead of turning the trucks away and looking for a more affordable option at the last minute, the Owens continued with the move and hoped NW Relocation would work with them to bring the cost down, or accept some sort of payment plan.
Instead, the Owens’ belongings were hauled to the company’s headquarters in Portland and loaded into a warehouse until the family could pay in full. NW Relocation also started charging the family $690 a month for storage.
‘Worst moving company, EVER’
A quick Internet search of “NW Relocation” yields hundreds of reviews from customers who were less than satisfied with the company’s services.
“Overall, the lack of professionalism and general rudeness of this company was appalling,” said one reviewer, who claimed the company called and threatened him after he filed a complaint against them with the Better Business Bureau.
“Criminal and unethical,” wrote another reviewer, who said she decided not to use the company after they showed up late.
Another reviewer said the company gave her a low quote over the phone, then jacked the price from $1,200 to $1,900 on the day of the move.
Many more reviewers complained about hidden fees, bad estimates, damaged items and unprofessional customer service representatives. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to the company, called “NW Relocation is the WORST moving company EVER.”
NW Relocation has an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau, the worst rating the BBB can give.
“This is an opinion based off of our rating system, but this is a company that we would not suggest doing business with,” said David Quinlan, a spokesperson for the BBB of Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington.
According to Quinlan, 55 customer complaints have been filed against the company in a period of 36 months. The complaints include one that has not been resolved, and one that the company failed to respond to.
Quinlan said NW Relocation has been on the BBB’s radar for some time.
In 2012, BBB investigators noticed a pattern of complaints against the company regarding delivery issues.
“Consumers alleged their belongings, which were transported by NW Relocation, are missing or damaged upon delivery. Consumers also claim the company provides them with conflicting information regarding the delivery timeframe. Consumers claim what the company promises verbally is not consistent with what is on the contract,” reads a warning posted on the BBB’s website.
“I know personally that I would not use a company that has an ‘F’ rating with the Better Business Bureau, absolutely not,” Quinlan said.
Kraig and Lisa Owens claim NW Relocation has refused several offers of settlement.
In an email back in June, Lisa asked the company to accept $2,000 in exchange for sentimental items.
“I was like, ‘What are you going to do with our wedding stuff, and our kids’ trophies, letterman’s jackets, class rings?'” Lisa said.
The company rejected the offer.
In an interview at their home earlier this month, Kraig and Lisa said they were worried their belongings had already been sold.
To calm their fears, KIRO Radio made a visit to NW Relocation at their headquarters in Portland.
While a manager refused to let a reporter inside their storage facility, he agreed to retrieve one of the family’s belongings to prove the items were still being kept there. A few minutes later, the man emerged from the building, holding a red, white, and blue skateboard that belongs to one of Kraig and Lisa’s daughters.
The couple said they were relieved to find out their items haven’t been sold, but are devastated that they can’t afford to get them back.
Since their move in 2012, the Owens have reached out to several government agencies for help, including the Oregon State Department of Transportation, the BBB and the Washington state Office of the Attorney General.
Quinlan with the BBB said those looking to move should do research before choosing a company. Last year, the BBB received 1.7 million requests for business reviews from consumers looking to hire movers.
On Tuesday, NW Relocation agreed to enter into an arrangement with the Owens family that would lower the amount they owe to $3,500 and allow them to make payments over a period of nine months. The company has also agreed to forgive roughly $15,000 in storage fees.
KIRO Radio’s Gillian Friedman contributed to this report.
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