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Moves, Meals and Money: Tips for Working With Movers

“Welcome to my home complete stranger employed by the lowest bidding moving company. Please come in and pack all of my possessions, including all those valuable, unmentionable, unorganized and embarrassing while we try to make small talk for several hours.”


As military service members and spouses we are sure to see our fair share of movers, so it is worth our time to make this routine interaction slightly less awkward. Everyone who has ever used a professional moving company seems to have their own little secret to a successful interaction with the packers and movers, like a free lunch or a hefty tip.

Who’s hungry?

If you need convincing that the incentive of free food is a powerful weapon, just think about all of those invitations for installation events that advertise free pizza! Still not sold? Have you ever been to a party or reception that was void of food? For shame! There is no quicker way to get a room full of people to turn on you than to deprive them of food.

But, is there a right way to feed your hardworking crowd? Simply stated, yes. The free lunch incentive is twofold; you are doing your movers a favor, true, but you’re also offering a free meal so your movers will stay put, stay motivated and stay happy. I like to drop hints of lunch when the movers arrive so they are working toward something all morning. Something along the lines of, “Let me know if you need anything, and we’ll have lunch for you all around 11:00,” usually does the trick.

Since your pots and pans are being packed away, you’ll most likely need to spring for some take out for your movers. Some popular choices are pizza, sub sandwich platters or ready-made meals from the grocery store. If you would rather not offer a meal or your movers finish before mealtime, be sure to at least have cold water. You might also offer sports drinks or sodas (chances are, you need to clean out that fridge of yours anyway).

Tipping isn’t just for cows

The tipping method is pretty self-explanatory. When someone spends the day doing a job for you that you didn’t want to do, it’s customary to offer your appreciation with a president’s face on it. Exactly which president you offer is up to you and is dependent on the quality of work of your packers and movers.

If you choose to tip, take into account that you will probably have more than one person moving your belongings, so calculate ahead of time how much you can offer so each mover gets a fair share. Like anyone else you might tip, you can also let the quality of work determine the tip amount. If you had an exceptional moving team, you might offer the full amount of cash you allotted, but don’t feel like you have to offer a tip—or at least a large tip—if you weren’t overly impressed with your movers.

Professional vs. friendly relationships

Whether or not you choose to offer lunch or a tip is completely your call, and it certainly isn’t required. You can offer your movers a great work environment. You should have a somewhat professional relationship with your packers and movers so they work. If you are just shooting the breeze with them all morning and showing little care about your belongings, chances are that they aren’t going to feel any motivation to pick up the pace and put extra care into wrapping that irreplaceable crystal vase that you love so much. Exercise a healthy professional relationship with your movers with the following tips:

  • Show them each room of the house that they will be working in. Be sure to clearly point out which rooms or items are off limits (because those items will travel with you).
  • Give any additional requests upfront. If you want all your kitchen supplies packed together, say so! Otherwise, you may end up with forks and knives in the box with your bath towels.
  • Remember that golden rule. Treat your movers like you would want to be treated in that position. For instance, if I was packing up all of your…for lack of a better term…stuff, I would want some direction from you followed by a little faith that I know what I’m doing.
  • Stay alert and available for questions and additional direction.

Nothing says you can’t be professional and friendly. If you’ve ever sent food back at a restaurant, you know that there is a delicate balance of getting your complaint or request across to your waiter and being nice enough not to tempt someone to spit in your food. Gross and inappropriate, yes, but it happens.

The same fine line exists with your movers. Let your requests be known, like please be extra careful with our wedding china, or don’t pack that bag of trash, but remember that they are people too. Don’t be afraid to make a little small talk to help them pass the time while they work, and ask more than once if they need anything, like water, a break (especially on a hot summer day) or access to the restroom.

Your next moving experience can be a positive one. Your movers have a job to do and, if you care at all about your possessions and a smooth unpacking process, you owe it to yourself and your movers to be a balance of professional and friendly. And, if you can manage it, a little lunch or cash incentive never hurts either.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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