Yesterday was the most stressful moving day I've ever had.
Doug's US-based company who is contracting to USAID started it by hiring a US relocation company to organize our entirely European-based move.
The relocation company, in turn, contacted an international moving company with an office in Skopje (because, apparently, they don't work with any of the other international moving companies that have an office in Pristina -- yes, they exist) to arrange for our move.
That moving company asked a German company to pack up our house and deliver the boxes to that company's storage facility where the Macedonians can pick it all up.
Doug's company gave us 5,000lbs (net!) weight of moving allowance.
Nobody outside the US uses weight in moving (unless in air freight but this wasn't air freight). Everybody else uses volume. The Macedonians use a rough formula that has all sorts of considerations about density and averages and whatnot worked into it which roughly equates to 90kg per cubic meter. Oh, can you see the problem here? METRIC SYSTEM, for the win! But nobody outside of the rest of the world uses the metric system, so we have a communication problem with the relocation company. Also, you may have noticed that our weight allowance is NET weight, whereas in the rest of world, those cubic meters include packaging materials.
Are you still with me?
The US relocation company fears and loathes the rest of the world system, so they insist on their 5,000lbs net weight, even when the Macedonians and the Germans suggest to use 24.5 cbm instead. They insist on a weight ticket of the truck including the packaging materials. The truck arrives, I ask whether they have the weight ticket, the packers are Russian and Polish and German and they nodd. They survey my stuff and hem and haw. "We can't fit that into the truck. That truck is too little."
You know what? I had noticed that. The truck was a 3t truck which, in German, is not even a regular truck but a Kleinlaster, a "small truck". I had expected a 7.5t truck which is laid out to carry weights of 2,268kg (ah! metric system! that's your 5,000lbs for you).
They start packing, and decide their best way of attack is to stuff all containers full of things, thus exceeding the recommended 80kg/cbm (not 90!) to about 100kg/cbm. They made sure I was aware of their dedication and ingenuity by grunting a lot when they carried the boxes outside.
Now, remember they said they had weighed the truck?
It turned out they had no idea what I was talking about. I called the moving company, "Why was the truck not weighed?"
"We will weigh it tonight."
"But my 5,000lbs are net weight and if you weigh it tonight, that'll be a gross weight."
"Well, we didn't get around to weighing the truck this morning, so we are going to weigh it tonight. Since the guys know how much material they used to pack your belongings, we will unpack the truck [into storage] and then weigh it again with the corresponding amount of packaging."
"Hm." Not complicated at all. Especially since we have an official weighing station just 10 minutes from our house.
The problem I have with the weight allowance is that there is no way to know how much you can actually pack. Sure, books are heavy, so you'd rather pack paperbacks than hardcovers. But is your table heavy or not? If you use plyboard you'll be better off than with a solid wood table. That's all sensible and easy to understand but look at your living room and give me a quick estimate of the weight of your belongings. Hm? And now give me a quick estimate of the volume. I can tell you that the latter is much easier than the former.
We squeezed. We pushed. The truck was packed under the roof. My spanky new iMac was loosely put on top of other boxes, only in its native box, no additional boxing or packaging. I confess to being rather worried about its fate. Anxious. Really really not sleeping well. In any case, there were quite a few things we needed to leave behind. Shelving, chairs, toy chests, lots of books. 5,000lbs is a measly moving allowance, especially for a family of six.
We ended up 300kgs over our allowance, gross. I cannot tell you how much packaging was used. 100kg? Maybe? So, 200kg over. I will tell you for nothing that if this costs more than a few hundred Euros, I'm going to blow an artery. Because left to my own devices, I'd have hired a local moving company with a 20 foot truck, had the local packers stuff it full, had the customs officer seal it in my front yard, sent it off to Pristina, and not only would have managed to move all of what I wanted to take but kept under whatever Doug's company is now spending, had had much less stress and hassle, and would have been faster, too.
But nobody asks me.