Customer unmoved by experience

While Jean-Michel Jaquet says he accepts that people make mistakes, it was still “awful dealing with Pickfords” who handled his move from Green Point to Lausanne, Switzerland.

Dr Jaquet, who holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, paid Pickfords Cape Town an extra R30 000 for a private container so the delivery date would be guaranteed.

“That didn’t happen,” said Dr Jaquet, “and Pickfords cherry-picked the evidence out of context to put the blame on me.”

In May, Dr Jaquet and his wife learned they were moving to Switzerland and because Pickfords had handled their move from Johannesburg to Cape Town successfully, they decided to use them again.

“Given the precious nature of the goods and the many stresses that we would face, I decided to pay whatever it cost to be moved by a company with an international reputation. The agent told me that one way of ensuring a guaranteed delivery date, within eight weeks, would be to pay extra for a private container, which I did. “Everything seemed to be on track, and I left for Switzerland while my wife stayed behind to oversee the packing. In mid-June, I received an email from Pickfords to say that their Swiss agent needed various documents including a copy of the lease agreement for our new home,” Dr Jaquet said.

“However, the rental market is tough in Lausanne, and we hadn’t yet found an apartment. The Swiss agent, in an email copied to Pickfords, said it wouldn’t be a problem as there was a provisional customs clearance and the container could be held in storage for four months until I was able to get a lease, and, as the cost was reasonable, I agreed,” Dr Jaquet said.

About five weeks later, Dr Jaquet found an apartment and advised the agent and suggested to Pickfords that they wait until he had a final move-in date before they delivered the container.

Then Dr Jaquet asked them if an August 1 date “was achievable”, but Pickfords ignored that email as well as four others he sent them.

“Eight days before I was due to move in, the Swiss agent emailed Pickfords in Cape Town, and, to my shock, the manager said the goods had not left the harbour. My wife was arriving to help set up our home, and as it was her first time living away from South Africa, at least she would have our belongings with us to provide some familiarity when she arrived. Now we faced the prospect of living in an empty apartment for an unknown period.”

An angry Dr Jaquet called the Pickfords shipping agent in Cape Town, and she promised to come back to him. She also told him that Pickfords never gave guaranteed delivery periods and once the order to ship left her hand, it was no longer her problem.

Dr Jaquet contacted the shipping co-ordinator who said she would investigate. She also asked for evidence that the agent guaranteed an August 1 delivery date, which Dr Jaquet provided, “an email in the agent’s own words”.

The agent also offered the Jaquets rental furniture, which was unacceptable.

“They should either air transport our things – but ‘it would be too expensive’ for them – or, at the least, refund the excess we had paid for a private container. Eventually the branch manager said Pickfords would come back to me ‘sometime next week to achieve an amicable solution’.”

But this was unacceptable to Dr Jaquet who was moving into his new home within days. The branch manager said it was Dr Jaquet’s fault as he was unable to provide a lease agreement, and he used Dr Jaquet’s email asking Pickfords to wait until he had a definite move-in date before shipping the container as evidence. Fortunately, Dr Jaquet had kept all the email correspondence including the message from the customs agent who explained that “there was no necessity for a lease agreement”.

In another email, Pickfords told Dr Jaquet that he had known the lease agreement was a requirement because it was written in the customs documents they had given him months before the customs agent said a lease agreement was unnecessary.

Dr Jaquet was told that he hadn’t signed off on storage costs.How could he (sign off) when the container had not yet been delivered?

“It is ironic that the Pickfords website talks about walking hand in hand with their customers through their move. I feel like I’m holding a rattlesnake. I’d appreciate any help you could offer,” Dr Jaquet said. It took a while to track down the managing director of Pickfords in Cape Town. The receptionist at Epping couldn’t tell me his name. Then under duress she gave me the email addresses of Charl Pienaar; his secretary (the email bounced back); Vikesh Ramdihn and Ian Pettey, chairman of the Professional Movers Association, of which Pickfords is a member.

Mr Pettey passed my letter to Julie Roumanis, chair of the South African International Movers Association, who he said would deal with it. If she did, I don’t know. However, I received an email from Ravi Naik, the managing director of Pickfords. He said he had phoned Dr Jaquet in Switzerland and he was happy with the compromise they had reached. “Thank you for your interest in the matter,” said Mr Naik who did not respond to other emails asking to expound.

Mr Naik did tell Dr Jaquet “that journalists would write anything to get a story in the paper”.

“Pickfords paid me R15 000. I refused to sign the statement waiving all rights, as it was a matter of principle. We paid R30 000 extra for a private container to ensure delivery by a certain date. I believe Pickfords should have paid me
R30 000 plus R6 000 we paid to hire a bed and side tables while we waited for the container. “I’m not impressed with Pickfords SA.”

The container finally arrived on September 19.