Expats Learn Hard Lessons : Moving, House-Hunting & Getting Ripped Off

Do you heed advice or throw caution to the wind when living as an expat in a foreign country? Just in Istanbul alone, I could write a series of books about stories of how expats get ripped off, but more than that, allow themselves to do so with the desire to save a buck. Recently, I’ve again observed this in action where a few questions ahead of time would have saved many headaches.

In June and July, I wrote a series on home crime, finding an apartment, and then moving. Oddly enough, one of my favorite writers for Today’s Zaman, Kathy Hamilton, wrote about her home invasion during this time too. Then on Monday this week, I marveled at her again, who evidently, doesn’t read my blog or heed advice. Well, maybe she’s just a fiction writer who spins a great story. If not, I understand her disappointment and pain. I noticed that she just went through a move from hell due to the movers.

Time-tested awareness information goes a long way to preventing problems. Well, her two articles beg for more commentary. First off, I know first-hand about both problems.When I returned home to find my steel door ajar yet jammed, I knew to call the jandarma (police) immediately, and then a locksmith. The burglars knew right where to go in these apartments and took out my wall safe first.

What could I have done to prevent that? Nothing as far as the break-in itself as it was considered an inside job, but I shouldn’t have been so foolish to think my stash was secure in a flimsy wall safe. Think about the location where you put valuables. No lingerie drawers. No drawers where you keep just bits of stuff. Not your clothes pockets, so unlike as in Spanish speaking countries.

While Turkey has lower crime rates than most, it’s on the increase and summertime is the perfect invitation to say “rob me, I left my key under the mat for convenience.” As far as movers go, as I said in my earlier posts, don’t hire the guys sitting at the end of the street because they have a truck advertising they do moves. The local kapıcı with a truck may not be your best pick either. People are nice, granted, but it doesn’t make them professional movers!

Go only with a referral from people you know who’ve made similar moves. My movers from Asya Nakliyat were the consumate professionals, not to mention bilingual as an added service. They understood a customer needs and desires. Most professionals won’t rip you off or act like apes when taking care of your household goods. They also don’t arrive in dirty, smelly clothes either! If you find they aren’t acting in good judgment, stop them! This is an indicator you’re in for a ride.

Ask questions beforehand to assess whether or not you’re getting professionals. Get a guaranteed estimate. Before your move, they should visit your house to see what you have and how much time it will take them. An estimator came a week prior, checked the house, ask some questions about the use of elevator, flights of stairs, what would be moved, and then told me what time they’d arrive and when they’d be finished. Result: Perfect execution & on time!

Ask about what tasks they are qualified to do. One of Kathy’s problems was, after studying in London for some years, that they had no idea how to move a house, let alone disassemble furniture. Mine disassembled the wardrobe in minutes and reassembled it without a scratch. Same for my bed. The mattress was clean too.

Ask if the trucks are covered and if they use furniture pads and covering. It makes a big difference in furniture delivered as you left it or a mess. Do you want them to pack your belongings? With what materials do they use—used boxes or new; newspapers or packing paper? How long will it take them? Hopefully not all summer, we need a vacation, too!

How many people in the team of movers? Mine were six and each had a particular job. Just like clockwork.
Do they know how to get to your new place? Give clear directions or go with them to your new house.
Do they take a lunch break in the midst of your move? How long?
Are there additional costs of any kind, such as itemized packing materials, feet or meters to the front door or extra cost per flight of stairs?

Who do you give the money to at the end of your move? Give them a little extra for each person on the team. Who should you contact if you have trouble with the movers?

These considerations will go a long way to make your move fast, smooth, no or low breakage, and most of all, Not to Get Ripped Off! And about that saying to everything—”This is Turkey”—don’t let anyone use it as an excuse as then it becomes your problem. So, now is there any doubt in your mind about what you must do to ensure your move goes off without a hitch?