- Toronto Star Article
- By: Corey Mintz Food, Published on Thu Jul 10 2014. (Article Link)
We feed professional Toronto movers chicken baked three ways — and then we ask for an estimate.
For most people, the first move is to school. Dad straps your futon to the roof of his car and the rest of your belongings fit in your backpack. Then, in your early 20s, your friends help you move, in exchange for pizza and beer. But eventually you acquire enough stuff, your friends are busy and you have an actual job. So you hire professionals.
The last time I moved we hired amateurs, bozos without the geometrical understanding to turn a bookcase sideways so it fit through the door. It took them until midnight to finish the job. We got what we paid for.
Joe Callaghan, of Brilliant Move, tells me that if he got a new place, he wouldn’t move anything. He’d just show up with his barbecue and swap possessions with the former tenants.
Well, most of us don’t think like that, and we get a little freaked out over moving. I’m doing it soon — the moving, not the freaking out. I’ve been packing up my belongings and it is horrible. Far too many shelves are crammed with stuff that needs to go straight into the garbage. I’ve contacted movers for estimates and found wildly different, and often confusing, pricing schemes.
So tonight I’m feeding movers, Callaghan and his partner Ben Hahn, plus Jessica Keyes and her mother Vicky Riley Keyes, of Red Coats Moving Solutions.
Callaghan’s wife, Tatiana Read, had told me that chicken wings were his favourite. So I abandoned plans to make pizza, the typical tip for movers (actually, they mostly go untipped, but a relatively standard amount for those that do is 10 percent).
It has not occurred to me until this moment that a dishwasher would be great for chickenated dishes. I’m juggling three batches of chicken wings — Buffalo, honey garlic, Thai — with limited space, needing to wash each mixing bowl between and then the hands that held chicken. I let the water get so hot that it burns me, then wash the handle of the sink, then the soap container.
It’s too hot out to be deep-frying. But despite what I may have said earlier, baked wings can be excellent. The trick is to apply a bit of baking powder or cornstarch to help crisp up the skin.
After salad, I set down the platter, eight pounds for six people, hoping it will be enough for five humans and one Callaghan, who looks like the cartoon version of Superman, with hands like catcher’s mitts and a chest like the front of a battleship.
“It’s a disadvantage to moving,” he says, reaching for a wing. “Every time you carry a box up the stairs, you also have to carry yourself up the stairs.”
“Oh, Joe just dove in with his hands,” says his wife, scolding him a little. Except that they’re chicken wings. Let’s not stand on ceremony.
Actually, I feel self-conscious tearing into the wing meat like an animal, next to Riley Keyes, a demure woman in a red blazer and crisp British accent, who does not look enthused about eating with her hands (though she does choose a beer over a glass of Chardonnay).
Her company is a one-stop shop for the whole move, managing all aspects of transition: helping get rid of belongings, packing, unpacking, scheduling cable and internet installation, customizing floor plans. They subcontract movers (only WSIB-covered companies). They even set up the stereo and make the bed.
I’ve allocated four nights for packing my apartment. Keyes estimates it as a four-hour job for two people. I guess when strangers are packing your stuff, there’s no sentiment that causes them to slow down and examine each item for memories.
The two companies I’d contacted for estimates want to start charging me the hourly rate of about $140 as soon as the truck leaves the lot in Scarborough, even though I’m only moving three blocks. I challenge Callaghan to give me an estimate. He rubs his chin, looks around, goes out to the patio to lift the furniture (heavy iron), peeks in my closet (filled with comic books), asks how many stairs at the new place, how far between the truck and the elevator.
“It’s an art,” says Hahn. “It’s not a science.”
Callaghan suggests two guys and six to seven hours. Box-centric moves are quicker with more hands for an assembly line. But you can only move one sofa at a time, so furniture-heavy moves can make do with two people. As he multiplies the cost of labour by the number of hours, Callaghan cocks his head at an angle, sticks out his tongue. But he is only pretending to be challenged. He has a doctorate in math.
Suddenly I’m concerned about having gotten a quote from movers that didn’t take a look (though all the guests say nice things about the company).
“A lot of people will call and say, can you give me an estimate on a one-bedroom apartment,” says Keyes. “Well, your one-bedroom may be different from my one-bedroom.”
Her mother eyes my sofa. “Your furniture here probably has to go over the balcony.” Oy. Another headache.
Most clients don’t consider those factors. And just about everyone underestimates how much stuff they have. So both companies do a site visit.
Riley Keyes recommends people check out the Canadian Association of Movers and ask for references. “We also recommend that the movers are WSIB-covered. Because you’re going to have a mover in your house and they could fall down the stairs and break their leg. And if they’re not properly insured, you’re the person who’s responsible.”
Moving is stressful. Though it only ranks as 28 on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, well below marriage and imprisonment, just slightly more stressful than “trouble with boss” and “change in church activities.”
“There’s a lot of emotional content to people moving,” says Hahn.
People are often at their worst: The micro-managers who watch the movers like taskmasters; the impulsive people who call movers with one day’s notice; the couples getting divorced.
“The flipside of a household split is a household merger,” says an optimistic Hahn. “That’s always really positive. There’s so much, ‘I can’t wait. This is going to be fantastic. Life is gonna be great.’
“Leave your card for later,” adds Callaghan. “When they have to do the split.”