Are “find-a-mover” sites rigged?By Eric Anders • Oct 26th, 2012 • Category: Advertising, MOVE MANAGEMENT
If you're one of those anxious consumers shopping online for relocation related products and services, you might want to 'move' before you enter any personally identifying information into some of the popular find-a-mover business lead aggregators.
Gaming the system
During the last few years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of 'help me, please” inquiries from those who've tried these popular, easy-to-use vendor search and selection tools to find a reputable company or carrier to handle their local or long distance move.
Several frustrated guests complained that all the calls they got for their efforts were from “scammers”. Or that the company was too small and only had a couple of trucks? Or didn't have any local agents to perform an in-home estimate? Or they were a move broker who didn't own any trucks.
Usually I respond to these types of requests by sending a link to RELORT's “How to …” resources and urging them to visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's consumer help site at ProtectYourMove.gov.
If they haven't already shared the information, I also ask them where they're moving from and to, and when they hope to have their relocation completed. .
The responses vary but the format they're returned in speaks volumes about their online shopping experience.
- “California to South Florida”
- “Chicago to somewhere near Austin”
- “Philly to DC”
- “Cambridge, MA to Northwest, DC”
- “dallas to Houston”
To a trained pro, there are two replies that would catch their immediate attention.
Austin is an rapidly growing city attracting lots of upscale real estate development and highly qualified professional talent worldwide. Someone interested in relocating from Cambridge to DC is likely a student or faculty member moving from Harvard to Georgetown. Both spell O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y!
Cherry Picking Software
Recently a frustrated repeat visitor asked if I could help her find a “good” mover … again! The subject line on her email revealed her consternation – “Are find-a-mover sites rigged?”
Last January she moved from New York to California and now plans return home early next year if she can't find another job. My young guest knew the drill. “This time it's from LA (90002) to NYC (10460)” she wrote.
Included in her email was a fairly comprehensive list of well respected van lines agents who operate in the Los Angeles market.
Except for one very notable exception – a move broker being investigated by a Senate Congressional committee – the list collectively represented the top tier of national household goods carriers operating in her extremely large metropolitan service area.
“I'm having a really hard time getting any of these companies to call me back”, she complained. “It almost like they don't want the business”
“Are you calling them up or contacting them online”, I responded.
“Then they probably don't”, I replied.
“I recommend you either call them on the phone or move your zip codes.”
“Rapidly rising costs combined with shrinking manpower and equipment capacity have forced many successful but struggling companies to improve their organizational efficiency and ROI by using sophisticated demographic software to process, analogize, sort, and – often – ignore some new business opportunities.”, I explained.
“Frequently when you fill in a “request an estimate” or “find-a-mover” form online you're forced to “volunteer” just enough general detail about your upcoming relocation for the company's that operate these FREE estimate services to automatically decide if your move would be worth their time and effort.”
ZIP Code Discrimination
Companies that program these types of in-house customer selection products or purchase and then modify off-the-shelf software can quickly and efficiently draw demographic conclusions and make 'informed' business decisions based on the city or zip code locations entered by each prospective new client.
In today's digitally wired world, it's also fairly simple for anyone to use hugely popular social media networking sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr to easily (and secretly!) glean personal information about a potential customer using just their name, location, and email address that the software required them to enter.
My guest was somewhat surprised, for instance, that I knew she was moving back to New York because her marriage to her college sweetheart failed after seven months, and that she recently lost her job as a sous chef at a well known celebrity watering hole and eatery. Thanks to her very public Facebook profile and prolific postings and pinning about her personal life, it wouldn't be too hard for an honest salesperson or, more likely, an unscrupulous fly-by-night mover or broker to easily hijack her move … and her life!
I emailed back that she'd get much quicker responses for requests for an in-home estimate if she change her origin zip code locations from 90002 (East Los Angeles) to – say – 90068 (Hollywood) or 90210 (Beverly Hills).
And instead of entering that she was moving back to the Bronx, it might be better to use a more generic destination like saying she's planning on moving to some part of the major metro area of New York City.
What goes around, comes around
While this type of online chicanery of using a customer's personally identifiable information to sort and select potential clients is both legal and understandable, the jury's still out on the long term effectiveness of using sophisticated move-management software to profile, monitor, manage, or manipulate new business opportunities.
Recently one of our son's childhood friends whom I hadn't seen since they graduated wrapped her arms around me from behind at his wedding reception and gave me a great big hug and kiss.
She introduced me to her new beau and then told him that her fondest memories of visiting our house over the years was that the door was always open and there was a picture of every kid who walked through it taped to the refrigerator.
“And …" I told her " … they'll always be there!”
I suspect that the next time this enterprising young sous chef and her family moves, it probably won't be with any of the companies who didn't respond to her when she need them.
Today's online shoppers aren't like those that used be delivered via the Yellow Pages.
Most can't tell you the brands of all the products they consume or name of each of the service personnel who visits their home on a regular basis. But they can sure tell you who they won't allow into their homes or which companies they will never do business with again.
What goes around, comes around!
Thank you Senator Rockefeller and Matt Cutts! – RELO Roundtable
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