Moving is a trade, not a side job.

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I have been in the business of moving people since my early teens. It has supported my family and I for over 20 years and I am grateful for the security it has brought me at times. At times I became frustrated with certain aspects of it, lost a bit of sleep when things didn’t go well, and watched many people float in and out of it’s ranks over the years. It has been a crazy ride but the time spent in the industry has given me much, including a very specific point of view and critique of the philosophy of the industry as a whole.

For this week’s post I really want to talk about why I think Moving as a whole should be treated as a proper trade, not just a weekend gig or a summer job for students.

What Moving Means To Me.

This relationship has been an off-again, on-again love affair that has allowed me to interact with different people, in many countries. I can say that I love this business even if, at times, I ache so badly that I exist in an Advil laced stasis for days, or even weeks at a time. This hasn’t stopped me from continually dipping my feet back into the industry after extended breaks as I view this line of work as my fallback trade.

While it is true that anyone can pick up a dresser, move a box and carry a piano, I can state with a certain level of experience that becoming a mover requires a high level of training, commitment and love for the industry. In any industry there are skills necessary to develop a level of aptitude that qualifies you as a professional or a professional in training. Those same ideologies seem lacking to some practitioners of our industry.

Moving, to outsiders, is an approachable alternative to labor. It is a gig job without benefits, befitting the most basic of mental aptitudes when compared to academics engaging in research. Beyond the fact that this generalizes the industry and those who inhabit it’s daily rigor, it also leaves out the fact that this trade has the same route to mastery as most other trades out there. Yes, we do not engage in treating the cancers of the world but, we do ensure those researchers homes can travel to the limits of the earth safely – so they can focus on their job and save those lives. 

Yes. I will make such a bold claim. In fact, to take it a step further, I would hazard to attach every move that has ever gone successfully as a verified increase in the world’s total utility. Because, who really enjoys their belongings destroyed? Not I!

Is Moving Really A Trade?

A trade, craft, or tradecraft should be considered as any vocation that a person commits to outside academia. Much like the pathways academics take, tradespeople, since the dawn of apprenticeships, have toiled and cursed their instructor’s name, wept in frustration, and seen efforts to improve on an already developed field of study fall flat on their faces. Through trials and failures, expertise is slowly nurtured into a reality. Just as academics choose to focus on a single aspect of that mastery when they obtain their PhDs, movers and other tradespeople choose to hone their specialties as their careers progress, but this isn’t the entry point of us in the moving industry.

Starting out, most of us carry boxes.

Yes, a less than glamorous aspect of training, but something that is infinitely appropriate to those who know little of the techniques used in the trade.

Moving furniture has a unique learning curve when a person first enters into the trade. Most first-timers are given menial tasks: Pick up that box and put it over there, run grab me a pad, help me with this… These tasks are given to build confidence, awareness and a general “feel” for the job. It is a commonality in construction trades as skilled workers slowly introduce the methods needed to carry out parts of the job until the apprentice has learned enough to understand the philosophy of why the tasks must be completed one way and not another. These lessons ensure work is completed correctly and that the worker doesn’t cause irreparable damage to goods, or harm others. You wouldn’t want a person who had just started constructing your kitchen, would you?! Here is the failblog giving us a good example of what a poorly trained professional can produce: http://failblog.cheezburger.com/thereifixedit/tag/contractor

As you grow in this business you move past the mundane and get involved in specializing you ability. What most clients do not recognize is the technique necessary to pick up heavy goods for long hours and not collapse. I had a job once where we had a 3rd floor stair-carry of a brass board piano. It was ridiculously heavy and took myself and my partner nearly 2 hours to haul up it the stairs and get it into its resting place. I remember the feeling of completing the task successfully and the look on the owner’s face once we went to gather a signature for the bill. We both were sweat covered, shaking and quite near exhaustion. Our effort was well received as the client was very happy. I remember thinking how lucky we were to finish the task. I did not air this and kept it in my head, along with this thought: The customer has no clue about the delicate, 2-hour dance that had occurred with the piano!

How The Task Was Taken Care Of.

Simple: My partner and I were well trained and talked each other through each step of each stair. Regardless of how effortless anything looks, only deft hands capable of understanding nuances that come with training can complete something and make it look easy. Moving pianos sucks. The person on the bottom of the 500-pound piano must have complete trust in the person guiding the front up the stairs. One misstep, they could destroy a part of a home, or worse, workers could be killed if control is lost.

On an aside here is a funny link. Check out this video to see what poorly skilled movers can do:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAp9UY1ccys

Moving away from the skill necessary to do this job, there are other aspects that can influence the outcome of a person’s ability to complete this job. I have known great people who thought they could skirt the law and work without proper insurance or licenses. This is so dangerous, not only for the person who unwittingly hired these “professionals” but also for the person who is trying to conduct business this way. The homeowner can lose their kitchen table or, even worse, their entire household’s belongings in a single “Act of God”. The way to run a business is something that is lost in most trades now. The person who has taken on the responsibility of the apprentice must make sure that not only an amazing education in the trade/work selected, but also has the responsibility to educate their heir in a way that they will become successful business people outside of their time in training.

Our Western ideologies about work and the practices inside of the trades we use for our income have been lost due to industrialization of the world economy. Everything is bigger, better, faster. In my opinion, those who have signed on for an apprenticeship attempt to become professionals too early. There is a want for those involved to prove themselves and to get out from under the tutelage of their mentor. Money can sometimes be a reason, pride more often than not is what drives these separating factors. If you look outside of North America, the time for training is greater than what we need trades people to endure to make sure proper education. Here is a couple of links that explain some differences:

Stone Masons

Apprenticeships

SO WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? WHERE DID WE LOSE OUR WAY?

I think it has something to do with commercialization and media. Every show on HGTV, along with other TV shows, magazines and even social media gives users/consumers a false sense of hope that any person can tackle even the most difficult of tasks. These sources of inspiration show us the drama of how to do something wrong. When confronted with this blatant disregard of procedure the viewer/consumer is left with a small possibility of doing it correctly. It’s the process of elimination. – “Well, if this is the only way something can go wrong, I’ll be able to do it right!” This logic when described in this fashion seems insane but we see it in everyday life. Go to Home Depot or hang out at a U-Haul for a few hours. I guarantee you will run into a professional utilizing their services. I also guarantee that you will run into a hobbyist attempting something that really should be left to professionals.

The aftermath of such attempts by amateurs leaves the professionals with the task of cleaning up the work left behind. If you tally up the costs of the attempt by the unprofessional with the repair by the certified professional, the costs of the job skyrocket. This increase in cost is transferred to all services in one trade to another. The emotional attachment and pride that a person has towards their work adds value. Besides, pride is expensive.

HOW CAN WE FIX IT?

There is a simple answer.

For those working in a trade: Slow down. Learn everything that you can. Train your apprentice to honor your traditions and skills. Support quality over quantity. Educate the consumer.

For those receiving services: Research the best. Do not pick the lowest quoted price. Educate yourself in the absence of proper information. Leave the tasks to those who are better trained than you are.

See. Simple.

Trades are something that should not be overlooked by society as a lesser than option for those not wanting to pursue collegiate education. The training that comes with learning a trade is equal to what a student must put into obtaining a master’s degree. That effort deserves the same respect we give graduates. Those who have gone through the process of being trained by a master and have gone into the world need to step up and be recognized and organized. Movers are no different from those who build your houses or fix your toilets. Quality practices can make your move a worry-free beauty. If you choose to go with those who are not so well trained… well…

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