IT HAPPENED TO ME: Movers Forced Me to Leave a Positive Yelp Review Before Finishing the Job

Is that what’s called a "shakedown"?
Publish date:
February 11, 2016
moving, yelp, pressure

I needed to get out of New York, and fast. The reason I needed to move was that I have a problem saying no, and New York is full of things I want to say yes to. I had a string of failed relationships and jobs, and I needed a major change. My parents suggested I move in with them, at least temporarily, in North Carolina until I figured out what I wanted to do next.

I did very little to prepare for the move, since it was so spontaneous. I thought I’d just pay some movers to come, pack up my stuff, and move it out to my parents’ rented van for me. A week before the move, I found a company on Craigslist and scheduled a time for the team to come. We settled on the price, and they said they’d be there at noon on Saturday.

Moving in NYC is a pretty awkward thing to do. You have to find parking and deal with pedestrians in your way. I lived in a fourth-floor walkup that didn’t face the street, and the buzzer on my apartment didn’t work, so I couldn’t just sit in my air-conditioned apartment waiting for them to show up. I waited downstairs in the car with my parents who, luckily, found a parking spot right in front of the building. We sat baking in the July sun, well past the noon start time.

At 12:30 p.m., I called the movers to check if they were still coming, and they said they’d be there within the hour. When they didn’t show up by 1:00, I called again and they said they’d definitely be there within the next hour. My parents bitched and moaned and I made an excuse about NYC traffic.

The moving team finally showed up. I first showed them our van, and then led them upstairs. The “head” mover — we’ll call him Head Mover — was the only one of the three who spoke English, and he said to me immediately upon viewing my stuff, “This isn’t going to fit.” My heart sank. “But we’ll try,” he said. They got to work putting together boxes and tossing stuff into them.

We packed a few boxes, and the other guys carried them downstairs. Head Mover said again that he didn’t think it would all fit in the van. He commented on the amount of books I was moving (a lot) and said he moved a screenwriter a few weeks prior who had a whole roomful of books he was moving.

I was packing some magazines when Head Mover walked over. He found a small rubber ball in a pile of miscellaneous objects I had, and he asked me if he could have it; he struck me as a child who didn’t know what was and was not appropriate. If I were hired as a mover, I wouldn’t ask my clients if I could have one of their possessions. Sure, it was a cheap rubber ball, but who asks that? I felt stupid for actually wanting to keep that cheap rubber ball, so I told him, “Sure.”

I have a problem saying no and I hate myself for that quality.

About an hour into the move, Head Mover said it would help him out if I’d write a positive Yelp review. I told him, sure, I’d post it later, but I was a little annoyed he’d asked, considering I just gave him the ball.

He took a box downstairs and came back up and said, “I’d really like if you could give me that Yelp review.”

And I said, again, “Yes, I’ll do it when we’re done.”

And then he got a call from his boss. They were speaking in what sounded like Russian, and then he said, with the boss still on the phone, “Can you do that Yelp review?”

And I replied, “Yes, I told you I’d do it.”

He got back on the phone, saying something to the boss, and turned to me, saying, “No. Now.”

I already felt weird about hiring men to come into my house and pack up my stuff for me. I was in a fragile place because I was packing up and leaving a place I’d been for almost a decade to go move in with my parents. I felt like a failure. I pictured my parents waiting downstairs in the van, sweating. And so, I sighed and sat down on the couch and said, “OK. I’ll do it now.” And I did.

Yelp, for me, is a place of transparency. Sure, some shady stuff goes down in terms of writing angry posts about competitors, but for the most part, I think of Yelp as a place where people are trying to be of service to their fellow human beings. Go here, don’t do this, this place is amazing, this salon stinks. It should be a safe place. It should not be a place where I feel forced and a little threatened to say something nice about someone.

Not Yelping about my life was something I was actively choosing to do, and this guy forced me to do it. I know it’s not like being assaulted — I would never put it in that category, obviously. But it did feel like a violation of sorts. That’s extortion, right?

Head Mover made me show him on my computer the review I posted, and he reported back to his boss. After I posted it, they took some more boxes downstairs, and ultimately, finished the job.

I’m still conflicted about the review. Overall, the movers showed up two hours late, charged more for the boxes than they originally quoted me, and threw my things haphazardly into the boxes. But still, they carried a lot of boxes of books downstairs from a fourth floor walkup in 100-degree heat, so that alone should be worth a good review. I just didn’t want to be forced to give it.

This happened months ago, and I’m still thinking about it, so I finally decided to delete the review. Sixty-five people found the review helpful. I flip-flopped a bit on the decision to remove it, because at the end of the day, they weren’t terrible at actually moving my stuff. It just didn’t feel honest if it wasn’t initiated by me.

I’m more angry at myself than the movers because it illustrated the bigger issue. I’m incapable of standing up for myself. Why couldn’t I just say no?