On Saturday, I moved from the S.F. area to the peninsula, about an hour away, with movers that I’d hired. We had three guys, and paid a flat hourly rate. At the end of the move, one of the movers added up the total elapsed time, multiplied it by the hourly rate, and added in their fuel charge. They wrote all this down on the bill/invoice and signed it. I signed it, and my boyfriend and I tipped each of the movers.
That was Saturday. On Wednesday morning, my boyfriend gets a call as he’s driving into work, and it’s the manager of the moving company saying the mover who added up the hours and did the multiplication made a mathematical error—it was supposed to be about 20 minutes more (~$40). He asked if we would approve adding that extra charge to the amount they’d already calculated. My boyfriend said he had to ask me, because it was my credit card we’d used. I looked up the receipt of the bill that I had, and yes, they had made a mathematical mistake in calculating the total. I hadn’t caught it at the time, and neither had the movers. This has never happened to me before, though; I assumed that if a business made a mistake, they would just suck it up, and not call the customer and ask for more money three days later. On the one hand, yes it was an honest mistake and $40 was not a large portion of the total cost. On the other hand, it was their mistake, not mine, we both signed the final bill, and from the way the guy on the phone was talking about it, it seemed like if I said I didn’t approve the extra charge, they were out of luck and would have to charge me the lower amount. So…would you have said, “Yes, charge me the extra money,” or, “No”?
I ended up saying yes, but almost entirely out of something like karma or wanting to feel like I did a “good” thing. I was kind of offended that they would call and ask for the extra $40 after it was their mistake, and we had tipped the workers—it’s not like we were trying to stiff someone that money, the tip we gave was more than $40—even though they were technically (legally? IDK) correct in trying to correct their mistake with me, it’s not a business practice that encourages repeat business or happy customers. I might write a Yelp review about it, but basically I just wouldn’t hire them again to move us, even though before today I was 100 percent satisfied with their work.
I guess another factor I was thinking about, after having read the article about the grilled cheese truck worker and the finance people not tipping, was that I’m about to start a well-paying job a month from now. After five years of making grad student money, I kind of felt like I’m now supposed to be looser about situations like this, because I’ll soon be rich(ish). Forty dollars is a lot to a grad student making $30K, but not to someone making $130K, right? — A.
It seems to me that if I were 100 percent satisfied with the work the movers did, I would also want to pay 100 percent of the money the movers worked to earn. Moving is such a terrible, arduous process, and a lot of people have no problem hiring movers to get it over and done with (I am one of those people). Moving is tough on the body. Things can get broken and damaged in the process. Movers often show up late, or get lost on the way to the new residence. In my experience, it’s rare for things to go 100 percent the way you want them to go. The only thing that did go wrong in this instance was that there was a miscalculation—a miscalculation that resulted from an honest mistake. We all make honest mistakes.
Personally, $40 isn’t going to make or break my budget, and well, mistakes happen. People often get fired for making mistakes like this. You may have saved someone from losing his or her job. You may have given someone enough money to pay another bill—someone who has a job where the pay fluctuates depending on the amount of work that comes in every month, and what people are willing to tip on any given day.
I also think that it’s not worth it to write a Yelp review with the intention of giving the moving company a negative rating because of this experience. It seems to me that the company realized they had made a mistake and gave you the option of saying no, which you could have said if you felt strongly enough that you didn’t want to pay for the miscalculation. If you said yes out of karma, or wanting to feel like you were doing a good thing, writing a negative review essentially negates that.
I’d move on. You’re putting your broke, grad student days behind you and will be making good money soon. Feel good about that. Remember that the people who we recall the most fondly in our lives are the people who were the kindest to us.