From Under Boxes Comes the Light (grab some crackers, this is a long one)

Oh friends, I have so much to share about our move experience but rather than kill the next 17 minutes of your time reading the details, I’ll just give you the list:

1. Paced our packing nicely throughout the weekend, with enough time to spare to have dinner at the site of our first date, our last night in town.

2. Got a call 16 hours before we were to pick our moving truck up that the truck had mechanical problems and there were no other trucks available in the Chicagoland area. This resulted in a mad scramble to find another one (successful) and a $50 (accidental) charge from the initial company for not officially cancelling (reimbursed).

3. Truck packing went fairly well if not slightly delayed, and in spite of my inherited dining room table getting a large scrape/chunk taken out of the edge of the table leaf, everything arrived intact.

4. … this is the longer story of which I’ll spare you most… We signed our lease online over 25 days prior to moving in. They knew we were coming, we emailed several times between when we applied and when we left Chicago. Upon arrival to the subdivision, we drove past our unit and found the garage door open. Hmm. We drove around to the office and went in, everyone was happy to meet us and Fred finally, and excited to get the move-in going. Our mover Mario (found on Craigslist, fully awesome individual) was already there waiting for us. Together, we drove back to the unit and went in. We found the only thing in order was the internet installer present. Everything else – aside from the new flooring and paint on the walls – was in total disarray. Nothing was ready for us. The upstairs carpet smelled of dog pee and clearly still needed to be replaced. Doors were off of hinges, light bulbs were out, the new paint was marred and marked with dirty handprints, new toilets were off their mounts, the master bathtub had water in it from somewhere, etc… we stared at each other in confused silence.

The property manager was horrified and obviously embarrassed at the failing. He apologized, I think we guessed before it was all over, somewhere around 47 times. He promised he’d get his crews on the unit immediately and we’d be fine to come back at 4 pm to a sparkling, perfect apartment. We agreed, easily rescheduled with our mover (because he’s awesome), and left to find a dog-friendly patio with food and beer (found and loved). By 4pm we were rested and ready to face unloading the truck.

We drove up to the unit and discovered a car parked in our garage, and when we walked in, the Mr. & Mrs. Nice Guy we’d put forward at first left the room along with all those 4 pm promises. Nothing was done, there was absolutely no difference in the state of things other than the cleaning lady who was in the kitchen, scrubbing away (it was her car, turns out). We drove over to the office and let the manager know that it was after 4 but nothing was done. Again, together we drove back to the unit and walked through. He apologized, made many phone calls to his crew, and apologized some more. We rescheduled our mover again (did I mention he’s awesome?) and took the manager at his word that the carpet would be changed, cleaning finished, and we’d have some help unloading our truck since our mover couldn’t coordinate a crew with so much shuffling. At about 5, they unloaded the contents of the truck into the first floor (of two) and we trusted the manager that we’d have help moving the upstairs items to their places.

By 6:30, the carpet was almost finished being installed but the manager’s upstairs-moving crew was nowhere to be found. I’d overheard them say they couldn’t install the toilets or threshold strips until the carpet was done, so by 6:45 it was clear we weren’t going to be able to stay there that night since our bed and mattress were buried in one huge disorganized, conglomerate pile of our life contents, in the living room.

The manager assured us we’d be reimbursed for any expenses incurred due to the screw up, so we called to let him know his crew disappeared, nothing was done to completion, and we booked a hotel that night. It should be noted that he too, vacated the property by 6 pm, presuming his crew would stay and help us. He stammered yet another apology and let us know that his boss sent his apology as well as the offer of a $100 rent credit and… my favorite part… an Edible Arrangement. It was all so ridiculous by that point that all I could do was laugh, and laugh through the rest of the evening every time I remembered it. The hotel room was nice but the $100 non-refundable pet fee just to have Fred with us, was not.

The next day around noon we went over to the unit and remarkably, found it all to be in order. The carpet was installed and aside from paint that still needed touching up and an accordion door off its hinges, it was done and ready. Our belongings filled up almost the entirety of the living room in absolutely no order, with the larger pieces of furniture blocking the boxes (because they were loaded into the truck first, they were the last to come out and the last to go into the home. Professional movers would never have allowed that to happen but we were long past professionalism).

Now it was time to negotiate terms. We had a feeling the apartment manager was promising things he couldn’t pull off, indicated by his manager’s subpar restitution, and it was clear we had to come to some sort of agreement. We started out nice, our mover, the internet guy, and the manager all made it a point to say so and wonder aloud what they would do if it was happening to them (“probably not be that nice!” /laugh). With each progressive letdown though, we got less nice. By the time the three of us were standing in our freshly-carpeted bedroom, the gloves were off. Manager asked straight up how much we wanted to make it right. We did the math and told him how we came to the number (let’s say it was under $500), but that was just to break even. To make us less livid, we asked him to waive Fred’s cost to move in ($250, non-refundable…which is a ridiculous rip off but par for Columbus, as much as we could tell). We also asked we be assured his staff would help us carry things up the stairs, particularly because we paid a mover to do it who couldn’t, and my back doesn’t allow it anyway.

From there, he started to get a little defensive and less willing to take responsibility. I said at least twice that we weren’t even supposed to be having any of the conversations we were having, and the reason we were was because of an epic failure on their end that somehow took a month to come to fruition. He admitted he outsourced the work to a third party (on the Friday before a holiday weekend, three days before we were to move in…makes sense) and didn’t stay on top of his employees. He also said that he spent some time the day it all blew up purchasing a white board and meeting with his staff to explain how it can never happen again.

In all truth and sincerity, I told him that if that’s the good that comes out of all of it, that’s great and we hope it works. Ultimately, my feeling is that he’s a middle manager with almost zero power and is likely a terrible communicator whose staff doesn’t respect him a whole lot. I’ve seen it before, his staff may last at the property longer than he will. A manager in that situation does not go home without making sure everything that has to be done, is being done and moreover, stays to make sure it’s done at all. I kept that thought to myself until after he left.

Anyway, we stated our requests and he said he’d make some calls to corporate and get back to us but not before saying he thought it would be impossible for his staff to help us with our furniture after all, due to their insurance policies. I understood that but still felt my blood boil. We walked him to the door and waited to hear what he’d come back with after he spoke to his boss, while slowly unloading things from our car into the garage.

An hour passed and he came back to our door holding some bright green papers in his hand. He held them out and explained they were $100 rent credits, five of them (though actually six, accidental or no), and it was their best and final offer. We’d still have to pay for Fred, and we wouldn’t get help from them to move anything, the corporate office is again, terribly sorry for the problems and hopes it doesn’t sully our entire experience with the complex. We were out at least $500 in actual cash plus Dylan’s day of work revenue lost, and the ability to get a day’s worth of cash paid back for returning the moving truck early. They found a way to pay us back but only in terms that would ultimately benefit the company, how very GOP of them. We accepted our fate and watched the Manager get into his golf cart and drive off as I silently hoped I’d never have to talk to him ever again.

Sigh. So here we are, five days moved in. That door is still off its hinges, no one has come to clean the marked-up paint so I finally took a Magic Eraser to most of it, and about 30% of our boxes remain taped up and waiting in the living room. On the other hand, we still haven’t paid for Fred.

I overdid it moving boxes, bending and lifting and have had to take it easy for a day or two as my back was singing at me most rudely. The silver lining is that the rent credits, in addition to credits that we already received as a move-in incentive, mean we won’t have to pay rent until August. Our kitchen is almost done and has been used a few times already, and our shared office is set up. Today was our first day of working side-by-side with Fred asleep between us. I found myself smiling occasionally at the dream realized and wondering if I could really make it as a remote worker, freelance or not.

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At the end of the day, moving is still the best decision we could have made. We love the apartment (in spite of its paper-thin walls and loud but nice family next door), we really like our little neighborhood so far, and live ridiculously close to all the shopping comforts. We have friends nearby and are excited to celebrate our 2nd anniversary in a few days (possibly by visiting the Ikea up the street, due to open the same day). I could never have gone through this alone, Dylan has been a rock and together we feel like a very good team. He’s let me indulge in my badly needed naps and reminds me to take breaks whenever he sees me bending and lifting too much. We have patio chairs set up on our slab out front and are slowly getting those boxes unpacked and broken down. I told him the other day that I haven’t decorated more than one room of the places I’ve lived since I left Cleveland five years ago because none of them ever felt long-term enough to care about, but since our first night I’ve found myself looking at the walls, cruising Think Geek and considering all those canvases I have but haven’t painted anything on yet.

So entry was rocky at first to say the very least, but it’s shaping up well and we’re pulling through. Fred is adjusting and isn’t nearly as freaked out as he was the first few days of car rides and strange sleeping arrangements. We’re happy. Which, really, is what it was all about in the first place. Now if only we had a Weber grill…

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