When New York City movers clear out an apartment, they leave with a whole lot more than furniture.
A young woman in a U-Haul arrived in New York City nearly four years ago, ready to get settled into her new place in the West Village. She hired movers from Big Apple Moving to help her unload, Karl Osman, one of the company’s owners, recently recalled.
Joining her was her fiancé, who had flown in that day from military service. They asked Mr. Osman and his crew to first put their new mattress and bed together. Once it was set up, as the crew worked in the rest of the apartment, the couple stayed in the bedroom alone and began having sex.
“We had to wait behind the door for quite some time,” he said. “They did take probably 90 minutes, and we were like, ‘Wow.’”
“Nobody had the heart to knock on the door,” he continued, adding, “We got a good tip, though.”
Movers often have a front-row seat to one of the most stressful, vulnerable or even romantic moments in a couple’s relationship. At the end of each month, they are called to transport mattresses and Allen-wrench-friendly furniture across the city for romantic partners moving in together for the first time, couples moving from one place to another, or the newly single after a breakup.
The job can lead just as easily to tales of disaster as to amusing stories to trot out at parties: blowout fights, exes calling the police on each other with accusations of theft, even customers falling for their haulers.
Voyo Popovic, founder of the moving company Piece of Cake, said that moving a couple in the process of splitting up — difficult in the best of circumstances — is infinitely more uncomfortable when they haven’t decided who’s taking what furniture.
“One spouse will tell us, ‘You can pack and take the chair,’ but the other one would say, ‘Bring that chair back,’” he said.
Another mover at the company, Stefan Jacimovic, recalled a time he moved a woman out of an apartment she shared with her boyfriend in Brooklyn. The company sent over movers, who packed everything and loaded most of it into the truck before the couple decided at the last minute to cancel the move.
“At the end of the day, they just decided to live together and forget about everything, I guess,” said Mr. Jacimovic, who said he gave her a full refund — about $2,200 — after transporting everything back inside.
When moving couples who aren’t breaking up, there are always ways to get a sense of their usual dynamic, said Sven Wechsler, owner of Sven Moving. One person may show his true colors and “lose their crap completely,” he said, while the other becomes wide-eyed and embarrassed, wondering if she made a huge mistake.
“They think movers are like flies on the wall, so they don’t hesitate to have very open conversations with each other in front of you, so you kind of get a sense of their dynamic, of their relationship, like petty grievances or just weird stuff,” Mr. Wechsler said. “You see into their private lives in a weird way you wouldn’t normally see.”
An organized, well-packed apartment and a chaotic, filthy excuse for a move-out can both be reflections of a relationship. It can also be telling when only one person is present, Mr. Wechsler said. Once, when he arrived at a home to move out a woman, about five of her friends were there to help her pack her things in a “very rushed process.” He said it was obvious they were sneaking her out while the husband was away.
“We were asking: ‘What else should we take? The television?’” he said. “And she arbitrarily decided that we take the television, and we started worrying if we were robbing the place.”
Lou DeFabrizio, owner of Lou Moves You, said someone once made a habit of requesting a move after a breakup, but repeatedly canceled after making up with his partner. The third time it happened, Mr. DeFabrizio actually showed up, but was turned away and offered some money for his time. When the person requested a move a fourth time and Mr. DeFabrizio refused, the would-be customer left the company a nasty, one-star review on Yelp under the name Daniel.
“And then I realized what was happening,” Mr. DeFabrizio said. “Daniel and their partner would get into some sort of fight and it’s like, ‘I’m calling the movers!’ And they would always make up in the morning and not break up. And I’m like, Daniel, I can’t be a part of this, this toxic relationship.”
Mr. DeFabrizio has had enough of his movers get hit on by customers that he put out a disclaimer: “I had to put it in the frequently asked questions of our website, like, ‘Hey, while we’re working, just leave us alone a little bit.’ Afterward, if you want to get their phone number, that’s cool.”
Some of his movers have hooked up with customers, he said, and at least two had found love as a result.
Part of the job of helping people move is accepting that you’ll become privy to things usually reserved for the bedroom. While moving a lesbian couple into a “shoe box” apartment, a fourth-floor walk-up on the Upper East Side, Mr. Osman recalled hearing a noise coming from beneath a few feet of boxes and furniture. It was a vibrator.
“The girls were giggling, and those few minutes felt like it was a very, very long time because we couldn’t dig through those buried boxes,” he said. “It made everybody’s day.”