Editor’s Note: The Daily Texan reminds readers that listings on Craigslist carry no guarantees or insurance for services rendered, and employing unlicensed movers comes with a number of risks.
Paul Land crouches over the bed frame he’s been hired to move and unscrews the headboard from the sides, wiping the sweat out of his eyes as he works.
“What do you want to put in there first?” asked Patrick Duvall, Land’s coworker.
“Headboard, then the side rails.” Land replied. He picks up the headboard and takes it outside the house to where his white Chevy Silverado is parked in the driveway. He quickly slides the piece into the back of the truck and walks back inside to grab more furniture, passing Duvall and the sides of the bed on the way.
Land, Duvall and the Chevy comprise Two Movers and a Truck, a local moving service Paul Land started a year ago. They help people who need their belongings hauled somewhere — not necessarily a novel idea considering the hundreds of moving companies in Austin that do basically the same thing. What sets Land’s operation apart, however, is that it isn’t actually a moving company. It’s simply two guys loading beds, dressers, armoires and most anything else (no hazardous materials). They charge $50 for the first load and $25 for each additional haul. Also, if customers need their own truck unloaded, Land gives them the option to hire the two movers without the truck for $20 an hour per mover.
“It’s cheaper to call us to move a pool table or an armoire than a big moving company,” Land said. “We’re laid-back and we’re hauling ass the whole time. If two guys can lift it, we can move it.”
Lindsay Taraban, who recently hired Land and Duvall, agreed. She said she had called a couple moving companies before getting in touch with Land, but the minimum charges were too expensive for what she needed moved.
“I’m not going to pay $200 to move my bed,” Taraban, a liberal arts honors student, said. “The other thing about [Two Movers and a Truck] is that they charge by the load, which is good because I just had like two pieces of furniture.”
In Texas, commercial moving companies that transport people’s personal property are classified as household good carriers and must have the required permits and insurance and register with the Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier division. However, since Land and Duvall’s truck isn’t considered a commercial motor vehicle (defined as a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds), they can operate without the legal formalities — a freedom that has its ups and downs, Land said.
“It’s like when you buy something on Craigslist: buyer beware, you know,” Land said in regard to possible concerns about insurance or scams. “People ask us [about insurance] a lot. I tell them that we’re not liable for any damages.”
Land straps the disassembled bed frame into the back of the truck. “But we tie down everything like it was ours,” he said.
“Like it was our grandmother’s,” Duvall adds, tying down his side.
The informality that comes with being unofficial is what makes it worth it to Land. Two Movers and a Truck doesn’t have a storefront, there isn’t any paperwork involved and there isn’t even a website. Land said those types of things would complicate a simple process.
“It’s like calling your friend to help you move,” Land said. “If you need help moving something, we’re two guys who have a truck. We’re not a company. People are paying us for our labor. It’s like you pay a regular guy to mow your lawn. That’s pretty much how we are.”
In turn, the friendly interactions with customers sometime result in perks that movers who work for a licensed moving company most likely wouldn’t be permitted to accept.
“Some people offer us beer and we’ll kick back and have one,” Land said. “One of our repeat customers baked us a cherry pie the last time we were at her place.”
Land and Duvall advertise their service on Craigslist, which is where Land got the idea for Two Movers and a Truck in the first place. He said his friends would buy things off of the site and they wouldn’t have a way to move it. Being the guy with the truck, Land is the one usually called for the job. That’s when he realized that he could use that guy-with-a-truck status to make a little money.
“I was doing it as a part-time thing — just a little extra money on the table,” Land said. “And then it just blew up. Now I’m getting about 30 to 40 calls a week, give or take. It’s been so busy I’ve had to give some up.”
Land, who had been laid off from his job at DHL before he started Two Movers and a Truck, said that he had been looking for an occupation with a flexible schedule so he could spend more time with his 3-year-old son. The new moving service provided that flexibility.
When Land first started, he was working with his brother-in-law, but that partnership didn’t work out because of scheduling and conduct mishaps. He was introduced to Duvall in early July when Land helped Duvall’s friend move. Duvall, who was looking for a job at the time, was immediately on board.
The two agree they make good partners. Duvall, a tattooed, easy-going guy from Myrtle Beach, S.C., adds some energy to the equation. Land said whereas before he would have to keep an eye on his former partner to make sure the work got done, now he’s the one who has to keep up.
“He’s always jumping off railings and sliding around and doing cartwheels,” Land said as the duo prepared to depart with their latest haul. “He’ll have a box in his hand and he’ll be flipping over stuff.”
Duvall, who has played live music since he was 13, said loading band gear has made him good at fitting stuff in
“It’s like second nature,” he said, maneuvering a vacuum cleaner into the last available space in the bed of the truck. “I’m just really good at tetris-ing shit into the back of trucks.”
Printed on Monday, August 8th, 2011 as: Two Movers and a Truck