Claiming relocation loss or damage: Does it have to be so hard?
If there is one aspect of relocating that’s messy, it’s the physical move and its aftermath. Families want to settle into their new home as quickly as possible so they can get on with their new reality and all that it encompasses. In all the whirlwind of receiving their furnishings and unpacking, they may find that some things are damaged or are missing. And that’s when the real fun starts…
The moving industry’s claims process is flawed, and often unfair. It starts with the documentation created for the shipment. For most international moves, the transferee is asked to sign off on an inventory of their household goods, with notes on existing damage, only once the truck had been loaded. At this point, there is little to no ability to dispute its accuracy. At the destination, already busy and sometimes overwhelmed, the transferee is asked once again to confirm receipt of the inventory as well as any loss or new damage. This list then becomes the reference point for any claims. How can this be considered fair treatment when the inventory process is more form than substance?
The last thing transferees need when starting a new assignment is to be told “if it’s not on the list, it’s not covered” when they aren’t sure how accurate the list was in the first place. Often, if they pursue the matter and the corporate mobility and relocation management teams become involved, the mover will settle the claim in the interest of good relations. On the other hand, many corporate movers are aware of the inventory process deficiencies and give their claims administers a reasonable margin of discretion to settle undocumented damages.
From a cynic’s perspective, one may wonder if the inventory listing is used as a tool to retain control over what will be paid for undocumented claims and benefit from what is missed. Is it relying on the likelihood that some may not bother with the fight because they have so many other things going on?
Interestingly, inventory listings are not used for local moves. Movers rely on the customer’s word and generally agree to compensate for damages or losses. What’s the difference? To be fair, international moves occur over a longer timeframe and involve a greater number of service partners, which may heighten the risk level. That, however, does not translate into greater dishonesty on the part of the transferee. So, why not accept a claim based on the transferee’s word?
Another consideration for change is the time and cost of creating and managing the inventory list. With driver recruitment and retention becoming increasingly difficult, movers are seeking efficiencies to meet demand and to keep revenue at stable levels. Eliminating or streamlining the inventory process would allow them to focus on moving the shipment, especially given regulator restrictions on service hours for drivers
Wouldn’t it be beneficial for all parties to change the way damage or loss claims are handled? The following options would lessen reliance on inventory lists and redirect the savings to a more supportive process:
1. Eliminate the entire inventory listing process and:
a) settle all claims based on the transferee’s claim form, this would free up funds to cover any damages or losses that would have been previously denied, or
b) use independent claims professionals to adjudicate damage or loss.
2. Continue with the inventory listing process, but only for purposes of tracking missing items and settle damage claims as described in a) or b) above.
What we see with the existing claims process is that, while its design may have been an attempt at fairness for all, it misses the mark and risks destabilizing the delicate relationships and partnerships between the transferee, the mover, the relocation management company and the corporate client. So, lets rethink inventory listings. Why not change the claims process to something that is less contentious and more streamlined?