UHAUL Moving Disastathon

One week after the beginning of our moving nightmare with UHAUL I find myself sitting in shock, wondering if this really did happen to us. Maybe it happened to a close friend who told the story so much that it became ingrained into my consciousness. Maybe all of the people that I was talking to on the help line were really just robots who were unfeeling, uncaring, and incompetent. But after I make my daily phone with UHAUL to check on our “case”, I am slapped with the cold hand of reality. This really did happen. All of it. UHAUL has been very mean to us. We got screwed big time. And I’m about to tell you the story so that you can pass it along to your friends with the following written into the topic line of your e-mail in apocalyptic caps: DON’T EVER RENT FROM UHAUL!!!!

Our moving (emotionally) moving (spatially) tragedy began on Thursday, June 23rd around 5:00 pm. 5:00 pm was the absolute latest time that UHAUL would contact us about our truck that we planned to pick up the next day. Sensing that something was afoot, Julie called them up and began the game of cat and mouse. After waiting for a while during each call, she was told the following, “Your truck is in Quakertown.” After a call to Quakertown, “Sorry lady, we don’t have a truck for you.” We call back, wait and are told, “Your truck is in New Hope.” And the response, “Sorry lady, we don’t have a truck for you.” We call back are told, “Silly us [my addition], your truck REALLY is in Quakertown.” We reply, “Are you sure.” Them, “Oh yes, we’re friggin’ UHAUL.” Call back to Quakertown (you guessed it), “Lady, we really don’t have a truck for you.” So then Julie called back UHAUL and waited, talked to someone, waited, talked to someone, etc. She was guaranteed a call by 7 pm, but no one ever called. She called back right before 7 pm and waited until 7:30 or so, but no dice, no truck, no help.

After a tense and worried night, Julie began the morning by calling UHAUL. She was understandably upset and I was upset because UHAUL had made her so upset. No one in our house was very happy that morning, especially with help coming over for the move that afternoon and no truck for them to help us move stuff into. Julie waited for several hours on hold and talked to a few people until UHAUL actually got us a truck at their Horsham location.

When we considered the hassle, stress, delay and inconvenience that UHAUL’s blunder had caused us (over 4 hours on hold!), we figured that we were entitled to a discount. Julie spent even more time on hold and was transferred from person to person, each time with the promise that she was being sent to someone who was, “A specialist who is better able to assist her” (classic UHAUL-ese for “buzz off punk, we’re not giving you squat”). She was finally told that a supervisor (whom we will call “J”) would contact her very soon about a discount. We waited for the allotted time, but J never called. Julie called again and was told that J would call her, but of course (I hope you’re catching on to the pattern by now) we never heard from J. As an aside at this point: after we had been in Vermont for a few days I actually was put on the line with J when calling to talk to a manager about getting our refund. I said, “I don’t know if our name sounds familiar, but we were told that you would contact us before our move, but you never called us back.” She replied, “I’m sorry sir, I don’t remember talking to you.” Warming to her slip up I countered, “That’s exactly my point, you were supposed to call us but neglected to call us.” Slipping into UHAUL-ese she commented, “I never received that message.” Which, if you need a translation at this point, means, “I didn’t care then and I don’t care now about your problem. I’m only talking to you now because your mother keeps calling us.”

My friend Eugene graciously dropped me off at the UHAUL center. I walked up to the counter, grabbed the keys, a guy pointed the truck out, and I was off. I should have known that things were going too smoothly at this point. I should have been suspicious. About this phantom truck that had suddenly appeared. I should have been aware that the guys at the UHAUL never took a peek at the truck, especially the tires (one of the easiest things to check). But had UHAUL taken any interest in our safety, none of the following would have happened and UHAUL wouldn’t be exposed to you as the horrible company that it is.

After loading up the truck on Friday afternoon and then finishing it up on Saturday morning, I hopped into the driver seat of the truck, my brother-in-law Joel drove my ’94 Corolla behind me, and then Julie followed with our ’02 Saturn. We planned to drive about 45 minutes north on 202 into New Jersey and then stop at Wawa, my favorite convenience store that I am sadly leaving behind in the greater Philadelphia area. We pulled in at Wawa without too much trouble at that point. After grabbing coffee, donuts, and Wawa lemonade (top notch I say), we noticed a few things about our UHAUL.

First of all, Julie and Joel noticed that it was listing to the left. Secondly, there was a puddle of green engine coolant on the ground in front of the front left tire. We weren’t sure what was up, so a stop at the first service station along the way was certainly in order. Though I missed a few due to traffic passing on the shoulder (New Jersey, only the strong survive!), we eventually found a Shell gas station, auto shop, and Dunkin Donuts off of exit 22 of 287 N along rt. 206.

After filling the outside back left tire, we had a rough time getting the back left inside tire filled up. In fact, there was no pressure on it at all. That didn’t sound too good for us. In addition, when we lifted the hood up, the engine coolant was bubbling up and out of the cap, leaving yet another puddle (sorry local streams). The mechanics of the shop were with us at this point and took a look at the inner back left tire and said that it was flat as can be. They put some coolant into the truck and told us to watch the temperature. There always is the time-honored practice of running the heat to keep the engine cool as a back up plan. We went into the Dunkin Donut place (that happened to have four chairs in its small space) and made our first call to UHAUL.

At around 2:00 pm I made the first call to the help line and was promptly on hold. After about 15 minutes I talked to a human being (I think) and she just wanted to know what the problem was. I told her and was put on hold again. The recorded message that became tormentor constantly reminded us to use jumper cables to start up a truck with a dead battery, to drive the truck to our destination and call for help in the morning if the truck could be driven safely (why would I call the lousy help line if that was the case), and to only accept jumps to your battery if you have Triple A (UHAUL doesn’t want anybody else to screw things up, they like to work alone). I spoke to one or two other people, explained our problems, and was (you guessed it) put on hold so I could be connected with “someone who could better assist me.” With my eye on the clock, I noted that after a solid hour of waiting on hold I still had not received any help. Thank God I had a cell phone that wasn’t on roaming, at least I hope it wasn’t on roaming. I can’t imagine if I had to use the phone of the auto shop. With the passing of an hour, I finally talked to another lady who took down our information, went to put me on hold despite my protests, and then hung up on me. I was furious. I yelled, “Damn it, those bastards!” Julie and Joel looked at me wide-eyed, not believing what had just happened.

I took a walk around the parking lot to calm down while Julie began the same process of waiting on hold, talking for a minute, and then waiting on hold. After yet another unbelievable hour, Julie talked to a lady (we’ll call “I”) who guaranteed that she would call us back with information about a company that would come and tow us. “I” was also notified of our coolant problem and assured us that all would be well. She promised a call back within 30 minutes. We waited longer than 30 minutes and called in an unbelievable 3rd time. Each time I talked to someone I nicely begged to not be put on hold. They would wait until I finished talking and then put me on hold.

After waiting yet another hour, I got on the line with “E”, who mumbled his way through our frustrating conversation. Though it was hard to find out much of anything from E, he did manage to tell me that M & W Towing would be coming out to fix the tire in about 2-3 hours. E and I talked around 6:00 or 6:30, so we figured that we had a long night ahead of us. Suspecting that things would not pan out if UHAUL was left to themselves, I asked E for the phone number of M & W Towing. In an inexplicable, damnable, rotten, and robot-like move, E would not give it to me. I tried and tried to convince him that this may be a good idea, but he insisted that the Towing place had my number and that was all they needed. I told E that I wanted to speak with his supervisor and that was that.

With the conclusion of this conversation, we went down the road to a pizza place for dinner and contacted my in-laws, who were already at our house waiting to help us move, that we were not going to be on the road until dark. To her credit, “L”, the supervisor of “E”, did call me back, but she washed her hands of our troubles because she only is in charge of sending out help. I would need to direct all other complaints and/or requests for refunds with the customer service line. No translation needed there.

I forced down dinner, though my stomach was firmly tied in a huge knot. The 3 of us returned to the gas station and spent more time just waiting. Though it was a long and tedious day, there were some moments of God’s grace that came streaming through. First of all the mechanics at the shop were very kind fellahs who laughed at UHAUL’s incompetence and put us in a good mood. The guys at Dunkin Donuts were also very understanding and accommodating. At least we had chairs in an air-conditioned place to wait out the tire company. We also gained some perspective on life. One of the customers at Dunkin Donuts was completely overreacting to the whipped cream on top of his coffee drink. He didn’t want whipped cream and lectured the two Korean men there as if they were little children who didn’t know anything about the world. He talked about all of the places that always ask him if he wants it and so forth. I think he needed that coffee drink dumped in his smack talking face. But in a strange twist, God turned the tables on me. I at least had stuff to move, a place to live in, two cars, a wife, a loving family, and a decent place to wait. At my moment of “crisis” I was still better off than 80-90 percent of the world. That’s some perspective. Oddly enough, the peak of my frustration was when the lady (or robot) hung up on me. Once we began expecting UHAUL to fail us, everything became easier. And once we saw that we still had things pretty good, we certainly perked up a bit.

The rolling hills of North Jersey loomed over us as the setting sun created a pale red sky on the Western horizon. It was close to 9:00, there was no sign of the tow truck, and we were worried. Though sons never want to unnecessarily worry their mothers, I decided that it was time to get my mom in on this. Getting my mom involved is the heavy artillery, bringing your most powerful and persistent weapon into the fight. I called my mom, who was absolutely enraged at UHAUL, and she got to work. After a good half hour of searching online and calling around, she found M & W Towing, talked to the owner, and then called us with unbelievable news. I am not making this up now. UHAUL (whom we called Boo-Haul, Foo-Haul, Screw U-Haul, etc.) had never contacted them! They had no idea we were stranded all day and would have come within an hour if UHAUL had called them. The owner said that he would send out a guy in the morning to our hotel to fix the tire.

Upon hearing the news, Julie and Joel both sat in silence. Julie seemed very upset. Though we were not looking forward to driving all night, we figured that we could at least drive a few hours before turning in. Now we felt deceived, abandoned, and screwed over. It was a horrible moment.

Realizing that we had to just give up for the day, we asked for directions to the nearest hotel. The Dunkin Donuts guy told us to go South on 206 and there would be a hotel at the circle. Not knowing the area, we took his word for it. After driving longer than the 10 minutes he said it would take, I called my mom with another distress call. There was no circle to be seen and we didn’t see anything that looked like a hotel. I said that we would pull into a place and wait while she looked for a hotel in Bridgewater, NJ.

Of course my mom came through again. With my Step-Dad, Aunt, and herself all working on the computer and phones, they found a Marriot down the road from us. Of course the lady there told my mom that we had to pass the circle and they would be right by there. Thinking that this had to be some sort of joke, I called about this invisible circle and found out that it was actually under the highway that we had been traveling on. That was just icing on the cake. Chugging down the crowded lanes of 202 around 10:30 pm with our crippled UHAUL, we turned in for the night at the Marriot and thankfully received a complimentary lock for our truck. Way to go Marriot. Going to bed that evening we were reminded that God was somehow in control and working in the midst of this nightmare and that he would be with us for rest of it, no matter what may come the following day.

At around 7:30 am we received a call from a frazzled and nervous UHAUL customer service representative who we’ll call “A”. He told me that my mom had given him quite an ear-full and that the towing company would be by at 9:30 am to fix the tire. Apparently my mom had spent over two hours on hold during the night to no avail at all. She could not get through to any one. She then got up at 6:00 am, latched on to Avery, and didn’t let go. UHAUL will regret getting on her bad side! Way to go mom! He assured me that it would pan out this time, apologized (barely) for the screw up, and then promptly called me every 30 minutes to let me know that all is well and so forth. He guaranteed a full refund at the return center and told us to save our receipts for the hotel and meals so that we could be reimbursed. That was good news to us because our cars were packed. Only the driver could fit into each car, so our mobility was severely limited. We waited out the tow truck by having a sweet breakfast buffet at the Marriot’s restaurant. Thanks UHAUL, hope you don’t mind leaving a generous tip.

I met the tow truck guy in the parking lot and he replaced the tire fairly quickly. His name was “J” and we had a nice chat for the whole time. Seeing my guitar in the truck, he shared that he sings in a band and is working on recording. He did a great job of empathizing with us regarding UHAUL, even saying some the words that we were thinking but didn’t voice. The back tire was changed without a hang up (or being put on hold). It had a hole in it about the size of a baseball. J also found that the outer back left tire was pretty worn down. It really needed to be changed, but he had only one. He advised me to take it slow. He also checked the front right tire and found that it was 50 pounds under weight. Suffice it to say, UHAUL did a horrendous job inspecting our truck and making sure that it was road-worthy. It’s almost criminal negligence.

With our tires as good as they were going to get, we set off again, worrying that the outer back left tire would make it and wondering what the deal was with the coolant. UHAUL was notified of the problem several times, but by the time they forgot to call the towing company, we just wanted a new tire and planned to make due. The mechanics at the Shell station said that the gauge was fine, the engine seemed to be running cool, and it didn’t spew coolant after driving to the hotel, we hoped that we would make it without any problems. Of course there were no other options. Though some supervisors we have talked to recently don’t seem to understand this, how can UHAUL expect us to go through another fiasco with their roadside assistance line? There is only roadside negligence. Our claim number began with a 2, and according to several people in the towing industry that means there have been over 2 million break downs/roadside assistance issues with UHAUL. That’s not encouraging. So there really was no reason for us to call an incompetent, uncaring, and obviously understaffed company for help that may not arrive.

Our game plan was to stop at every rest area on the highway and check on the coolant. The gauge said that everything was normal, so I ran the AC and thought that we were home free. We stopped at the two story rest area in NY state where 87 and 287 meet. After getting some snacks we went outside to find the coolant puddle again. Bummer. I bought a few containers of coolant, added it to the reservoir, and then cranked up the heat in the truck. With the windows down, the heat blowing, and Gatorade flowing into my hot, dehydrated body, we chugged up 87 North on our way to Vermont.

After braving severe thunderstorms, hail, and the winding roads that go from Albany, NY to Bennington, VT, we finally pulled into our driveway around 6:30 pm. Hot, tired, and hungry, we were a solid day behind schedule. Joel unfortunately had to leave shortly after we took a quick dip in the our swimming hole, but Julie’s parents stuck around until Wednesday to help us get settled. Though we brought the truck back on Monday afternoon, this saga is far from over. I have much more to add about our follow up, how UHAUL has avoided and misled us, etc., but this concludes the journey portion of our nightmare with UHAUL.

Please pass this story to anyone who is considering UHAUL for an upcoming move. I don’t want anyone to rent from UHAUL without knowing how dangerous their trucks can be and how horrendous their customer service and roadside assistance can be. If we had blown a tire on the highway without a cell phone, I don’t know how we would have ever received any help.

If you should pass this story along, please reference the article’s author and location:
Ed Cyzewski

3 thoughts on “UHAUL Moving Disastathon

  1. Ginny Goodwin

    Ed, I want you to know that the congregation of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on College Hill in Easton were praying you and your entourage throughout this trip. They are looking forward to hearing of your ministry in Vermont.

  2. Tom

    I can’t tell you enough how my wife and I had the EXACT same thing happen to us…
    It’s like the twilight zone. I would send a copy of our story, but you’ve already written it. I tried to sue, but the lawyer with whom I spoke said it would not be lucritive enough. I’m not the suing type, but I decided to make an exception with "Uhell".
    It was an absolute nightmare, and I’m not sure how they stay in business.

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