New Yorkers Share Their NYC Moving Horror Stories — And How to Avoid Them

published Jul 3, 2023
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Credit: Lauren Volo

A cross-country move is the kind of thing most people avoid — it’s complicated, costly, and generally a huge pain. Somehow, though, I’ve done it twice. I’ve gone from New York City to Seattle and back again; I can’t seem to sit still. 

When my partner and I decided to leave the Pacific Northwest, we hired the same movers on the second go-around, hoping for another easy move. But when we called to confirm their arrival time the day before, we found out our move had been … canceled. Well, not exactly canceled — but Ronald, our booker, had been fired, and we were given a two-week window during which the movers could show up at any time. 

Six hours and many phone calls later, we had convinced them (read: begged them) to re-book the move with a subcontractor. The next day, a motley crew of movers showed up — one in a Gucci tracksuit, another in Adidas sweatpants and a dress shirt, and a third in athletic clothing. They dumped our electronics into a wardrobe box and put everything we owned in a nondescript van. By some kind of moving miracle, all of our stuff showed up in Brooklyn three weeks later, for the most part unscathed. 

This story is one of thousands, I’m sure, from New Yorkers who — whether trying to leave or re-enter the city — are confronted with such chaos it feels preordained. Indeed, I have yet to meet a New Yorker who has not had an objectively bad move. At this point, it feels like the price of admission — like the city won’t let you live here until you prove that you really want to, no matter the cost. 

Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

When I talked to Camille Safadi about her recent relocation, she told me that squatters moved into her apartment when she was out of town, one month before the big move. “I just couch-surfed until my new lease started,” she says. “But if you need a good moving guy, I was able to find someone who moved the little amount of stuff I had left at the apartment that wasn’t stolen with three days’ notice.” Her pro tip? Get renters insurance. 

Elsewhere in the city, Eliza Dumais is a lifelong New Yorker who once moved into a new apartment three blocks away from her old digs. She and her roommate enlisted their dads and friends for the move, who spent the day drenched in sweat, carrying boxes and tote bags up and down the street. But when it came time to move the couch, it didn’t fit through the new door. One storage unit and a couch doctor later, and the sofa had been chopped into bits. Looking back, Dumais only has one piece of advice: Hire professional movers

If Dumais’s story shows the limits of asking your loved ones for help, John Carl’s story proves that hiring “professionals” isn’t always foolproof, either: “I hired three men with a truck from Craigslist,” he says. “They showed up with clipboards, wrote down how much stuff I had, and had me sign a form finalizing the quote. They asked for half upfront and half after. I paid cash. They went to get the guy who had stayed behind parking the truck. After a while I began wondering why it was taking so long. My girlfriend said, ‘You know, those two guys were wearing flip flops … that’s not a good sign.’ They never returned. I mentioned it to some police officers who happened to be out front of my building. They laughed at me. ‘You gave money to strangers from Craigslist?’” I said, ‘Fair enough.’” 

These anecdotes are all over the map — proof that there’s no tidy, universal tip on how to orchestrate a seamless move in New York City (or anywhere, for the matter). Maybe the moral of the story, then, is to expect the unexpected. Moving may be hell, but having a place to call home is a privilege, a joy, and almost always worth the trouble.