Florida couples say they were duped by moving companies amid pandemic

‘I feel like I’m on Survivor,’ Rebekah Massena said

They moved to Florida for their dream homes, and instead, they are living in empty nests.
They moved to Florida for their dream homes, and instead, they are living in empty nests. (WKMG)

ORLANDO – They moved to Florida for their dream homes, and instead, they are living in empty nests.

“Normally we would have decorations, but it’s empty right now,” Eric O’Dell said walking through his home in St. Cloud. “It is difficult sometimes when you just need to relax at the end of the day and all you got is a refugee camp.”

[Scroll down for 10 questions you can ask your moving company]

Instead of sofas and dining room tables, the O’Dells have turned their home into more of a camping store, forced to sleep on cots, sit on lawn chairs and eat over portable folding tables.

The O’Dells have been waiting nearly four weeks for their items to arrive on a moving truck from California.

Once the items were picked up, the company went silent, according to O’Dell.

“They have our complete bedroom set, all of our clothes. We feel like life cannot function in the way that it should,” Teresa O’Dell told News 6.

One hour away in Orlando, The Massenas have waited even longer.

“It was supposed to be three to five days, then it was seven to 21 days,” Rebekah Massena said.

“Now it’s 61 days,” Joseph Massena said. “Sixty-one days as of today.”

Eventually, the family of four caved, buying mattresses and other household items they already owned, but left on a moving truck.

“I feel like I’m on Survivor,” said Massena. “It does not feel like home.”

Both families told News 6 Investigators the pandemic was ultimately what pushed them to move to Florida.

“That was kind of the final straw, in addition to all the taxes,” Joseph Massena told News 6.

“The pandemic opened the door for us to finally live a dream: to get ahead, to work remotely, to live where we wanted to live,” O’Dell said.

So what went wrong with their moves?

Both families looked at Google reviews, but they did not check with the Better Business Bureau, state professional movers’ associations or with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

When News 6 checked the FMCSA, our investigators found 19 complaints this year alone against The Massenas moving company, Cheney Bro, and four complaints against the O’Dell’s moving company FebEx.

News 6 did not get a response from anyone at FebEx despite multiple attempts. Associates with Cheney Bro did not agree to an on-camera interview.

News 6 also checked each companies registration with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Our investigators found FebEx has only been in business since October 2020. The company has 43 trucks with only one driver.

“You can look like anything on the internet. You can look as established as you want to look, but that is not always the case,” CEO of 1776 Moving and Storage based in Orlando Michael Haase said.

Haase, who sits on the board of the Professional Movers Association of Florida, has seen many moving problems, even helping families recover their items from movers who would not deliver.

“Ask a lot of questions. Ask them if they are a broker or a carrier. The difference is very significant,” Haase said, which was another mistake our new Florida families made.

Both The O’Dells and Massenas thought they were hiring a moving company. Instead, they unknowingly worked with brokers, who typically take 30 percent off the top and then bid your move to total and complete strangers who you do not get a chance to vet.

For example, The O’Dells in California worked with a broker in Illinois who bid their job to movers in Nevada who were supposed to take their stuff to Florida.

The final mistake? Both families went with the cheapest quotes.

“In hindsight, we may have paid for a U-Haul or some other kind of rental truck and done it ourselves,” O’Dell said.

“Moving is not cheap. If you ever hear a rate from a moving company that sounds too good to be true, it will be,” Haase said.

News 6 investigators repeatedly attempted to reach the brokers and moving companies accused of misleading business practices. We even tried to talk to a registered agent at his home in Orlando.

No one agreed to an on-camera interview. However, an associate of Cheney Bro told News 6 part of the reason they were struggling to deliver items was that the pandemic was causing major delays.

News 6 ran that excuse by pro-mover Haase.

“The pandemic has impacted a lot of things, but that has not been one of the things that I’m familiar with at all in the industry,” said Haase. “If they are having issues, they should not have booked the job.”

UPDATE:

Since News 6 started calling these moving companies there have been several new developments.

First, The O’Dells from California called Thursday night to say calls from News 6 worked. Without any notice, movers suddenly appeared with most of their stuff even though The O’Dells say some of the items were damaged.

News 6 reached out again to their moving company FebEx, but they have not returned our request for comment.

Then, after waiting more than 60 days for their items, The Massenas from Connecticut located their things at a storage facility in Brooklyn, NY.

Their moving company, Cheney bro told News6 they are locked out of that storage unit after a former employee went rogue.

Cheney Bro began working with The Massenas after getting a call from a detective.

DO NOT BE A VICTIM

Do not let this happen to you! Professional mover Michael Haase, CEO of 1776 Moving and Storage has several tips below, including 10 Important Questions to Ask When Selecting Your Mover and 10 Things to Know Before Your Move. If you cannot see the tips below, click the links above.


About the Author:

Award-winning investigative reporter Merris Badcock joined the News 6 team in October 2020. Merris is the recipient of a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, a Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, four Suncoast Emmy Regional nominations, and two first-place Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists’ Awards.