Money Changes Everything

Money Changes Everything: Moving the Wealthy

If you want to know how the other half lives it’s no big secret. They live pretty darn well. And the old saying that money can’t buy you happiness? Well, it’s a nice thought, but the fact is that while money may not be able to buy you genuine happiness it can buy you a very reasonable facsimile. But there’s more to living well than simply eating in great restaurants, traveling at your leisure, staying in 5-star hotels wherever you go and buying your suits at Armani. A big part of the luxury lifestyle is the home you live in and the things you surround yourself with in your daily life. And a huge challenge for a moving company is moving someone from one multi-million dollar residence to another.

The Many Challenges of Moving the Well-To-Do

Moving is always a big deal whether you’re moving from your parent’s house to the college dorm, moving from your apartment to your first home, moving with your family from a starter home to something more deluxe or moving from one luxury home to another. But while they may all be stressful situations any mover will tell you that moving the well-to-do brings its own set of unique challenges.

  • Art– Most of us have a couple of beautifully framed posters or a nice oil painting we picked up on vacation to remind us of our trip to Paris. But while those things certainly have value they can’t really be called “art” in the way the well-to-do understand the term. We might have paid a few hundred dollars for the oil painting but the wealthy person may have something like an original Willem de Kooning oil sketch in their living room worth a cool half a million dollars. Or a Frida Kahlo painting worth twice that.

Moving companies need to have an established set of procedures in place for handling artwork since many of these items are not just important investments, but important cultural artifacts. No true collector of art views him or herself as the “owner” of the piece, but rather as its custodian. And that’s what you’re paying for when you purchase high art: the right to act as its custodian for a period of time before passing the honor on to someone else. So the notion that the handling of truly valuable artwork can be reduced to “make sure there’s a layer of cardboard above and below the painting” is ludicrous. Instead, all aspects of the move including packing, loading, transport, and unloading as well as necessary documentation and insurance (and, if necessary, security) must be carefully planned out before the painting is removed from the wall or the statue removed from the pedestal.

  • Antique furniture– Most of us have an heirloom or two lying about the house. Maybe it’s doing more than lying about. Maybe it has a prominent place in the living room or study. But there are heirlooms and then there are heirlooms and the wealthy often have incredibly valuable antique furniture that has to be moved with particular care. The person moving may have an 18th-century Quaker desk worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Or a Chippendale dressing table worth a cool $50,000 or an antique Persian rug that’s worth more than the moving truck it’s being put into. Simply lifting such items and dropping them in the back of the truck isn’t going to cut it. Even the smallest nick or tear could greatly impact the value of such pieces and so, as with artwork, special care needs to be taken to ensure the piece or pieces of antique furniture make it to the new home intact and undamaged.
  • Liability– This is where things get dicey because, while most moving companies carry enough liability insurance to protect themselves in case one of their workers drops a vase or mirror or someone trips over a box and gets hurt, they typically don’t carry enough to protect themselves if one of their workers breaks a Ming vase or a Calder sculpture or leaves the antique Federal desk on the lawn and it starts to rain. If you’re going to move the well-to-do you need to protect yourself because in this case the old adage “you break it you bought it” might as well be “you break it you spend the rest of your life paying for it”. Even the home electronics of the wealthy tend to be prohibitively expensive. While most folks may pay $500 for their TV those rich folks you’re moving may have paid 10 or 20 times that for their 80” OLED TV and nearly as much for the sound system that goes with it. The bottom line for movers is to insurance-up before moving the wealthy.
  • Personalities– Finally we come to that part of the moving experience that no one wants to discuss but every mover at some time has to deal with. The problem personality. While there are many people of means who are wonderfully laid back and easy to work with there are some who think their collection of cash and assets means they are pretty darn special. If you’re a mover and you end up with one of these folks as your customer you’d better have the personality to deal with their personality. Condescension, arrogance and a tendency to treat all the “hired help” as though they were serfs privileged just to share breathing space with the feudal lord is, unfortunately, something that happens from time to time when moving the wealthy. You simply need to put the blinkers on, fulfill your end of the contract, make sure you have plenty of the aforementioned liability coverage, finish the job and move on.

Moving rich folks is not like moving others. Their art is more valuable, their furniture is more valuable, their homes are more valuable and they sometimes, unfortunately, have egos the size of their bank accounts. The key to moving them successfully is to have competent people working for you, carry additional liability and stay focused on the task at hand.

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