When you think of a “mover,” what is the first image that comes to mind? A he-man? A common thug? Well, I happen to be a mover, so I took an online poll. And yes, the results broke my heart.
From 100 responders, the composite mover was uneducated, low-class, rude, and untrustworthy. Basically the stereotypical lowlife you see smoking cigarettes outside a pawn shop, his hat turned backward, using the f-word a lot and spitting on the sidewalk.
I admit it. I’m a mover. I lug other people’s stuff, from their brand new 60″ HDTV to their sweat-stained mattresses, 40 hours a week. I earn about $2,850 per month after taxes, drive an old pickup, and rent an apartment in a shabby part of town. My knuckles and shins are always chipped, and I have chronic pain in my back and shoulders, but no medical insurance.
I also happen to hold a bachelor of music degree, and can rock a piano like Rachmaninoff. In college, moving was a weekend job, then a summer job. I graduated in 2005, and I’m still moving.
You are probably wondering why I continue in this profession. Believe me, my friends and family ask me that all the time. Honestly? I’m good at it. Very good.
As with most industries, there is a hierarchy of company personnel. We movers would call it a “pecking order.” I prefer working in a 3-man crew, so I’ll use that for an example.
The lowest rung mover is a “lumper.” Like the name implies, the “lumper” carries boxes and folds the moving pads; he is either too inexperienced or too careless to be trusted to help carry an antique hutch or an artisan leather sofa. He might smoke and spit on the ground, but then he might be a good dude who wants to rise through the ranks.
On the next rung up is the “second man,” or simply “#2.” He has some experience, maybe even takes a degree of pride in his work, and can carry heavy and/or fragile items up and down stairs, and around tight corners. He knows many tricks of the trade, usually has a likable personality, even if a little rough around the edges.
On the top rung is the “loader.” (That’s me.) I am the guy who assembles the load in the truck so that everything fits and nothing can be damaged during transit. Believe it or not, loading a truck is a methodical process. To safely pad-wrap and arrange all the furniture, appliances, boxes, odds and ends of a 5,000 square foot home into a 2,000 cubic foot truck is difficult, especially while the customer prods you to go faster yet be more careful at the same time.
And don’t get me wrong – as the loader, I don’t hang out on the truck while the “lumper” and #2 bring me the goods. On most moves, I carry my fair share. Plus, I hustle to set the pace for the crew. #2 and I handle every item that is delicate, unwieldy, or precious to the customer. In my 10 years experience, I have developed a signature style for handling difficult items, managing the load as a whole, conducting my crew, and interacting with the customer. The results? For one, my crew always gets a fat tip when the job is done. What’s more, other movers request to work with me, and other moving company bosses want me to work for them: seriously, they call like headhunters and make me better offers. I can say, with total humility, “I am the rock star of this industry, in this town and the next town over.”
So back to the “mover” stereotype. Sadly, even a talented loader (or #2 or the “lumper”) can also be a scumbag/druggie/thief, but so can pop stars and celebrity divas (LiLo, Paris, etc.) we all know and love. I have worked with guys who stole from the customer. One guy stole a coin collection, another guy stole a lawn mower out of storage. Honestly there have been dozens of “incidents” where a colleague of mine has shown zero moral fabric. Scum of the earth kind of stuff.
Being a mover is not glamorous, and there have been times when I was ashamed to say, “I’m a mover,” like when socializing in more upscale circles – my girlfriend is a scientist and likes to hang out with that crowd, with me in tow. But that’s more my personal life… back to being a lowly mover.
It is true there are little rewards in moving, which is why movers are often such non-rewarding people, as my poll indicated. The few rewards that do exist get snatched up by guys like me, who give it our all, who catch a little buzz off of excellence, at whatever task.
And no, I don’t plan to be a moving truck loader all my life. I am arranging to buy the moving company I work for now. It’s a strong, reputable operation, and most problems stem from the high turnover rate of come-and-go “lumpers.” I believe I can recruit the very best movers in town, and from nearby towns: honest guys with skill and positive attitudes that I will provide excellent wages and benefits. It would be well worth it to have superior movers and dominate the other moving companies in town.
I cannot disclose the moving company I am in the gradual process of buying. If my crews found out, it might disrupt our dynamic. But I can credit a couple moving companies where I received the best training and leadership opportunities. They are Help-U-Move in Tri-Cities, WA ( http://help-u-move.com ) and Gentle Giant Moving Company in Seattle. I will write another article about how things are going once I am running the show!
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Derek L. Cooper