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Packing and snacking

Cleaning out closets and organizing drawers are not the only tasks required before moving day. Another part of preparation is getting ready to meet the packers and movers, a crew of strangers who will soon be handling the family’s possessions. Balancing the professional relationship with the very personal nature of the task can be challenging.

Building positive relationships with moving personnel is advisable, and some military spouses say they do so by providing food, drinks and even tips for the workers.

“We want to treat our movers well,” said Liza Schug, “because we want them to take good care of our things.”

“We put out a spread,” said Debra Young. “Juice, water and sodas are always on ice. We have fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, sandwich fixings … for all types of diets, chips, different cheeses, different breads, pickle selections, and salad fixings, plus homemade cookies.”

Mimi Espinoza said her husband provides cold drinks all day and a monetary tip for each mover when the job is done.

“He is also very big on calling the company afterwards and giving feedback,” she said.

The crew from Hazzard Moving and Storage in St. Louis, Mo., who delivered our household goods for our latest move did a great job, so I took a cue from Espinoza’s husband and called the owner to compliment his employees. While I had him on the phone I also quizzed him about the best ways to treat moving crews.

Pat Hazzard said that in his experience, military families are more likely than civilians to offer meals to their movers.

“Maybe it’s because the military families are more in tune and more experienced moving customers,” he said. Meals are not always offered, though. Hazzard estimated that about half of his company’s military customers, less among civilian clients, feed the moving crews.

“Certainly our crew does not expect it at all, but it probably happens more frequently on a military move,” he said. He said providing a meal is “above and beyond” and can build a stronger relationship between customers and movers.

Regarding tips, Hazzard said his company does not have a policy against it and estimated that about half of his customers tip packers, loaders and drivers.

Company policies vary regarding tipping, as do customs in other countries. It’s probably a good idea to ask the moving company ahead of time whether workers can accept tips.

“(Movers) have always told us they are not allowed to accept monetary gifts or tips,” said Lysa Glaeser, but she does provide drinks and food, “because it is the nice thing to do for people that are helping us.”

Other considerations are important, too. Christine Ferris, an Air Force wife, said she makes sure the packers have a large table or surface for wrapping. This prevents the dining room table from becoming a work station.

“I also point out where the powder room is so they don’t have to ask me and feel like they’re imposing.”

Some families provide breakfast and snacks as well as lunch and home-cooked meals rather than takeout.

“They get tired of pizza and fast food every day,” Lisa McCaffrey said. She finds movers enjoy sloppy Joes she makes in the crockpot.

Susan Reynolds said she thinks taking good care of the movers and feeding them contributes to a better move. Debra Young said it also helped when her family requested extra tasks, such as relocating large appliances.

As Hazzard said, none of these perks are required, and families who feel the movers should bring their own lunch and work without outside incentives are just as numerous as those who provide meals and tips.

Because preferences differ, it’s good to set expectations upfront. Let workers know when they arrive whether food or drinks are available. Point out the restroom for their use, items not to be packed, and set any ground rules. Finally, keep the contact information for the moving company handy to report any problems or to compliment the movers on a job well done.

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