Denver movers caught on hidden camera adding charges, fake tax after giving moving estimate

CALL7 Investigators test company fined by state

DENVER - When CALL7 Investigators went undercover to test a Denver moving company that has had nearly 200 consumer complaints and been fined by the state, the movers tried to charge us significantly more than the estimate.

The company, named 67th Ave. Moving & Storage, agreed to move us for $267 but then tried to tack on what they called an 18 percent moving tax, which state officials told us doesn’t exist. A representative also promised that wrapping was free but the mover, when he arrived, said it would cost $25 per item.

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When we asked him about charges on hidden camera, he told CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon that this was a common situation with clients of the moving company.

“He's just saying whatever he needs to say to get the sales,” the mover said of the person giving the estimates for the company. “When I get here that's the typical response for the last week because they're not telling people the truth.”

The company representative promised to provide free wrapping and said they would not charge us more than the estimate, but during the move the charges changed.

“Well, the only thing that they don't disclose is the 18 percent,” said a second mover. “This goes to the State of Colorado. Basically that's a tax.”

“This is how they get you," he said. "Bill Ritter, when he was on it, that's what he signed.”

“Oh, so Bill Ritter put it into effect?” Rabon asked.

“Yep,” he said.

But both the Colorado Department of Revenue and the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates moving companies, told the CALL7 Investigators that there is no 18 percent moving tax in Colorado.

Our cameras also captured that we were deceived about the free wrapping.

“Wow, ok, ma'am, they lied to you,” he said. “I can shrink-wrap everything for you, but that costs $25 per item.”

CALL7 Investigators rented a storage unit and hired 67th Ave. Moving and Storage to move us from the storage unit to a townhouse that we also rented.

When the movers arrived at the townhouse, they refused to unload our property unless we paid the additional alleged moving tax.

“I'm not going to pay for a tax that doesn't exist,” Rabon told the movers.

“Here's the thing, if you don't pay for the tax, I can't unload you,” the mover said.

“So you're just going to take my stuff?” Rabon asked.

“Exactly,” he said. “That's the way it is.”

“You're just going to drive off with a van full my furniture and my belongings?” Rabon asked.

“That's the way it is, ma'am,” he said.

We were not alone in getting an estimate and then being asked for additional fees and charges. The Better Business Bureau has received nearly 200 complaints about the moving company in the past three years, and the PUC fined the company $4,300 last December and $1,400 in August for not providing customers with accurate estimates.

Brithgee Doyel used the same moving company and was charged triple the estimate.

“We were stoked,” she said of the initial estimate. “We were like, 'We found an awesome price.'”

Jamie Pilcher is another customer upset at the tactics of the moving company.

“They gave me the best rate,” she said.

But the low price quote increased significantly once the move started.

“There wasn't much I could do, I got really upset, I was crying,” Pilcher said.

The movers drove away with Doyel’s stuff after she refused to pay the inflated charge. She eventually obtained her possessions, but said she had to pay triple the quoted price.

“I was so devastated,” she said.

Pilcher said the company charged her credit card during the move so she had no choice but to pay double the estimate.

Rabon went to the company's office to ask them about the added charges.

"If a driver came and quoted you a tax, he quoted that wrong," the warehouse manager said. "It is not a tax."

The manager said the 18 percent was a fuel surcharge and pointed to a copy of the contract that notes a fuel charge, but the contract we signed had the fuel surcharge blank and 18 percent charge was marked in another area of the document.

The employee who quoted us the tax, said he was directed to do so by his supervisors.

"You said over and over that there's an 18 percent state moving tax, and that's not true," Rabon said.
 
"That's how the old owner put it to me, ok?" the mover said.
 
"But you weren't under the old owner?" Rabon said.
 
"Oh now this is a new owner now, he just took over in August," the mover said.
 
Office workers told us the company's problems will be fixed because the company is under new management and owned by Leo Shifrin.

We caught up to Shifrin on his way to federal court to be sentenced for filing a false tax return, but he declined comment.

PUC spokesman Terry Bote said it is against the rules to charge significantly more than the estimate.

“That contract, per our rules that became effective August 1, cannot be more than 110 percent of what the estimate was,” he said.

Bote said after the interview that the PUC cannot do anything other than continue to fine the company. He said that the PUC can only revoke a company’s license if it fails to pay fines or annual fees, or if a company does not maintain proper insurance.

Former customers question whether regulators are doing enough to protect consumers from companies like  67th Ave. Moving and Storage.

“They shouldn't be in service,” Pilcher said. “They shouldn't be allowed to move people.”

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Statement from 67th Ave. Moving and Storage:

We acknowledge the exposed problems at the moving company. These problems were due to the mismanagement of the prior management team, which has been completely replaced as of August 2012.

We do not condone and never instructed employees to call a fuel surcharge a tax. Employees that have been caught misleading consumers were let go on the spot, while existing employees were provided additional training. This situation is inexcusable and we will be swift to react to any future problems of this nature.

In addition, we have retooled the way sales and marketing staff estimates moves. If a revision in the estimate is required the revised estimates are always given to consumers BEFORE the start of any move.

Any consumer who was misled as to the fuel charge being called a tax will be issued a full refund of the charge. Anyone consumer who’s goods were retained due to the fuel charge will be refunded the entire move and their goods delivered out of our warehouse free of charge.

The new management team has implemented strict quality controls and these issues should not occur in the future.

67th Moving and Storage management

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Related Links:

  1. BBB Advice: Hiring a mover
  2. USDOT guide to moving companies
  3. Moving out of state? Research movers
  4. Check company ratings with the BBB
  5. PUC mover rules
  6. File a complaint against a moving company
  7. Check a moving company's license

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If you have a news tip, or follow-up to this story, e-mail Keli Rabon. You can also connect with me on Facebook or through Twitter @KeliRabon.