Underground Movers: Starting a Moving Company

If you're stuck in the city and long to live in the country, starting a moving company or trucking business might help you earn your way out.

| January/February 1972

Student Movers was a child of desperation born when my man and I returned to New York in September of 1970 with barely enough money to take our tired VW bus across the George Washington Bridge. By spring, our moving company had grown from a struggling one-truck outfit into a full-scale, full-time enterprise. That homey little underground operation footed our rent, kept us well-fed, paid a year's college tuition and took us out of the city and onto the land the following June with $8,000 in our pockets.

If you're stuck in the city, starting a moving company or trucking company just might help you earn your way out too. All it takes is a second-hand truck or bus, a stable telephone number, strong arms, and a broad back. Here's how.

Why Underground?

Underground, in the case of moving, means unlicensed and uninsured — strictly speaking, illegal. But there are dozens of underground movers in every big city that operate openly and even advertise in establishment newspapers without hassles from the police. It amused us to call ourselves the Bonnie and Clyde of the moving world, but we really weren't trying to circumvent the law. Working underground was simply the best way to provide a cheap and efficient alternative to high-priced professional movers.

Our customers didn't mind that we weren't insured; our low rates made up for that. We made it clear that we couldn't be responsible for breakage and we refused to handle very delicate or very expensive items. But if we did damage something—as happened a couple of times during the year—we paid out of our pockets rather than making the customer file a claim and wait months or years for reimbursement.

We did have a slight run-in with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in late spring over licensing. "You're operating illegally," their inspector told us sternly. "You'd better go out of business right away."

"Yes sir," we said, "right away, sir."

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