As I begin, there is a need to stress that everything done by the company is perfectly legal, not moral, not ethical, and not appropriate to long-term customer relations, merely legal. I stress this because the company involved has continued to fall back on their legal disclaimers as the perfectly acceptable method for committing fraud, theft, and calling this “customer relations.” As we are naming names, the offer continues to stand to print the company response if they ever grow up and address me as an equal, and not a child to be scolded by a boilerplate contract.
On 10 May 2021, I was informed that my financing was finally clear, and I was set to close on a home on 14 May 2021. On 11 May 2021, while conducting a search online, I came across an advertisement for Alliance Van Lines Inc. from Palm Beach Florida. The company offered a reasonable rate to move my household goods from Phoenix, AZ., to Las Cruces, NM., and I paid a deposit. The verbal agreement was, “We have a driver in Northern AZ., he has to come through Phoenix on Saturday and can deliver in Las Cruces Sunday, as he heads to his final destination for a Monday delivery.” The phone representative went so far as to place me on hold, and “check” with dispatch for space availability and to double check times for picking up my household goods (15 May 2021) and delivering them (16 May 2021), without hindering his driver’s final destination.
I paid the deposit. Assured by the representative that my deposit was refundable, and everything was planned. I would get a call 24-hours before the driver arrived to confirm pick up times. I got a call, within 10-minutes of the Palm Beach office closing to confirm my household goods would be picked up, delivered to Las Vegas, Nevada, and then available for delivery sometime in the following 7-10 business days in Las Cruces, New Mexico. This was not the agreement and expectation as set on the 11th of May. I called Alliance Van Lines Inc., the representative hung up on me, and when I called back, the phones had been set to night voicemail.
Monday, 17 May 2021, I get more than 20-calls and finally an email claiming that my signatures and the name on my credit cards do not match and to call to rectify this oversight as soon as possible. Since the 17th of May, I have sent emails asking for my deposit back to no avail. No explanation as to why the deal changed, simply the reliance upon a boilerplate contract agreement, and the firm insistence that I was in the wrong in what I heard and my expectations of what was happening. If, Alliance Van Lines Inc., responds to this article, I will be glad to post their reply as a follow-up.
From the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, we find the following definition of the legal term, bait and switch.
“A “bait and switch” takes place when a seller creates an appealing but ingenuine offer to sell a product or service, which the seller does not actually intend to sell. This initial advertised offer is “the bait.” Then the seller switches customers from buying the advertised product or service that the seller initially offered into buying a different product or service that is usually at a higher price or has some other advantageous effect to the advertiser. This is the “switch.” Normally, the switched product that the consumer buys is usually at a higher purchase price, an increased profit for the seller, or may have a less marketable characteristic than the product advertised.”
There are four legal criteria for a bait and switch:
“… The key components for evaluating a claim of improper bait-and-switch” by the recipient of a contract are whether:
(1) the seller represented in its initial proposal that they would rely on certain specified employees/staff when performing the services;
(2) the recipient relied on this representation of information when evaluating the proposal;
(3) it was foreseeable and probable that the employees/staff named in the initial proposal would not be available to implement the contract work;
(4) employees/staff other than those listed in the initial proposal instead were or would be performing the services.”
Joe, the employee who called me, represented in the initial proposal that his driver was available with the needed deck space to haul my load of household goods on 15 May, deliver on 16 May, and continue on his way to his final destination, and that my load of household goods was a perfect fit to finish out his load from Northern AZ; thus, the first criterion of a legal bait and switch was met.
I, the customer and recipient, relied upon the verbal disclosures from Joe to make a plan for moving my household goods. Thus, criterion two was met. However, I did not know that the pickup was going to be done with a 26’ truck at the time of Joe’s call and my putting a deposit down. Nor was there ever any discussion about a third party handling my stuff, moving it to Las Vegas, Nevada, and then delivering the goods in the next 7-10 business days. Nor, was I offered the more expensive method of direct delivery, which the representative contracted by Alliance Van Lines Inc. was willing to sell me for direct delivery to Las Cruces. Hence criterion three and four have been met. A legal bait and switch occurred, and I have lost the deposit of $698.00, a not insubstantial amount of money at this time.
As soon as I knew I had been baited and switched, I sent the BBB in West Palm Beach a customer complaint. I had to dig deep financially to meet the moving expenses in a hurry, and then had to drive a truck for 6-hours to my destination. While help was available to load and unload, the plan was blown, my health during the trip was not good, and my wife suffered greatly while riding in the truck. I mention these facts because it was not a small feat to arrange loaders and unloaders, rent a truck and car carrier, and move, all at the last possible moment on a Friday and Saturday.
As an interesting counterpoint, I met two great people in Phoenix, who worked for Vet-Ops, who loaded our truck, at the last minute. I highly recommend these guys as they were smart, agile, flexible, and performed marvelously the loading job. We also met two great unloaders from Move Doctors, and wish to thank them for their incredible speed, professionalism, and enthusiasm for unloading our truck and fitting our needs into their hectic schedule at the last minute. If we ever have need of these gentlemen again, I plan to look them up. U-Haul deserves mention as they were able to, at the last possible moment, arrange for a truck and car carrier. U-Haul was very accommodating both in Phoenix, and in Las Cruces and deserve the highest praise for their professionalism and support of our move. The three companies who picked up Alliance Van Lines Inc. slack were the epitome of providing goods and services at the price quoted, in a timely fashion, and in a manner that embody a desire for growing customer relations.
Alliance Van Lines Inc. you have brought shame upon yourself and I wish you the best with the consequences! A bait and switch are never allowed, never acceptable, and always unethical and immoral. May you be happy with your choices and their inherent consequences!
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
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