When a moving company left Paul and Pascale Hawkins without their belongings for nearly two months, they almost landed a guest appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
The company eventually delivered the shipment, although it included damaged furniture, ruined electronics and a soaked mattress. Despite thousands of dollars of damage, the late arrival was enough to take the new-to-Juneau family off the guest list for an "Oprah" moving-scam episode.
Local media attention to the family's plight did bring donations of clothes and furniture from Juneau residents.
"We had so many e-mails and phone calls and donations - it was just amazing, totally amazing," Pascale Hawk-ins said.
The Hawkinses and their four children moved to Juneau from Sumter, S.C., in October when Paul took a job at Bartlett Regional Hospital.
They chose Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based moving company Century Express Van Lines to move their belongings. But the movers, scheduled to arrive in Juneau on Nov. 15, did not show up until early January.
Family sits in empty house waiting for their belongings
December 17, 2002
The Hawkinses spent a week trying to contact Century Express Van Lines, but calls were not returned.
When questioned about the undelivered shipment in December, Century Express operations manager Tony Oz said: "I guess it's the weather."
After almost two months of failed promises from the company, the moving truck arrived at their front door Jan. 6. But to the family's dismay many of their belongings were damaged beyond repair - moving boxes were crushed and soaked with water, furniture was damaged, and computers and other electronics were ruined.
Pascale Hawkins, 34, said it looked like the load had been left outside in the rain.
"The mattress was soaked but we were able to dry it out, thank God," she said.
The family still is trying to assess damages and plans to file a claim with the company.
Boris Gavergun with Century Express Van Lines said he did not know all of the details about the family's situation but noted it is the first time a shipment has showed up so late.
"It's very unfortunate that these things have happened," he said.
Gavergun said his firm has been in touch with the New York City-based shipping company Classic International to find out what happened. Gavergun said Classic International, which handled the shipment, is solely responsible for the items arriving late.
Bella Grushko, a representative of Classic International, said she had no information about the delayed and damaged shipment.
Hawkins said an Empire article about the family's situation brought donations of bunk beds and a fold-out double bed to the family, who slept on the floor in sleeping bags for weeks. They also were given clothes for the children, patio furniture, a dresser and other household goods to get them through the ordeal.
A radio station near their hometown also picked up the story and interviewed Paul Hawkins, 34, sparking an outpouring of calls and e-mails to Century Express Van Lines, Pascale Hawkins said.
Hawkins said she would like to take legal action against the company but fears the costs would outweigh the benefits.
In addition to having their possessions delivered weeks late, Century Express also charged the Hawkinses more than double the original estimate quoted for the move, the Hawkinses said. The company originally gave the family a $4,300 estimate over the Internet, but after loading the van they increased the charge to $10,000, which the Hawkinses paid.
The company has been criticized by the government organization that regulates the industry. In July, it was fined $9,500 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for violating commercial regulations.
Hawkins has filed complaints against Century Express with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration but has not seen any action taken against the company.
For now, Hawkins said she and the family are just happy living in Juneau.
"We're never going to move again," she said.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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