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Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Movers damaged her grandmother’s vintage piano, and she’s fighting to get it repaired

When Alanna Ludley was looking for a company to move her belongings from Abington to Hanover last fall, she found Monster Movers. After her piano was damaged in the move, the company accepted responsibility and agreed to pay to restore it. But then it ghosted her.
When Alanna Ludley was looking for a company to move her belongings from Abington to Hanover last fall, she found Monster Movers. After her piano was damaged in the move, the company accepted responsibility and agreed to pay to restore it. But then it ghosted her.(Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)

When Alanna Ludley was looking for a company to move her belongings — including her grandmother’s heirloom piano — from Abington to Hanover last fall, she found Monster Movers, which agreed to do the job for about $1,000.

Ludley asked for four men to handle the 1,000-pound piano, but Monster Movers sent only two. Though they were “very nice and respectful,” the job was apparently too much for them. During the move, the upright piano sustained a deep gash at its base.

Initially, the company accepted responsibility and agreed to pay to restore the piano.

But then it ghosted her.

Ludley repeatedly called and e-mailed but got no response.

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Finally, Ludley warned that unless the company immediately got in touch with her, she would file a complaint in small claims court.

Still no response.

So Ludley sued the company on Dec. 12, using in her complaint the office address in Marlborough that the company listed prominently in its e-mails with her.

What Ludley didn’t realize at the time was that Monster Movers had moved out of its Marlborough office, which, intentionally or not, deprived her of the valid address she needed to collect about $600 to pay for the repair and her court filing cost.

Ludley would soon discover that the company’s official corporate filing with the Massachusetts secretary of state’s office gave an address in Boylston that is even more out of date than the one in Marlborough. (The company’s listing with the state Department of Public Utilities, which regulates the moving industry, is also out of date.)

Later, Ludley found five more addresses for Monster Movers. She did online research, made telephone calls to abutters, and drove by some of the locations; Monster Movers was at none of them.

At a hearing in Hingham District Court on Feb. 15, Ludley received a judgment in her favor, and at a later, second hearing, was granted an “execution on money judgment” that allowed her to hire a sheriff’s deputy to demand payment.

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But where could the demand for payment be delivered? Two sheriffs’ offices she contacted understandably expressed reluctance to take the job without a verified address.

“I had no idea what to do at that point,” said Ludley, 51, a registered nurse. “I was just completely stuck.”

Ludley came to me in frustration. I’m a big proponent of consumers using small claims court to redress losses in business disputes, having once won a case there myself. (The defendant in my case was an auto dealership, so there was no question where to find him; I also once obtained a settlement on the basis of threatening to take a retailer to small claims court.)

But winning a judgment is no good if you can’t get it enforced.

I began my efforts by retracing Ludley’s steps but with better luck. When I called the telephone number listed on the company’s website saying I needed an address to send a lawsuit, I was given one different from the seven on Ludley’s list. That sent me down a winding dirt road in Weymouth, where I found the company’s name in tiny lettering on a dilapidated shed. I knocked, but no one answered.

I then left a detailed message for William Antonelli, the company president. He called me back and told me of a personal crisis that had sent his company into a monthslong tailspin.

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He promised to pay Ludley. But, just to be safe, I suggested to Ludley that she hire a sheriff’s deputy to follow my steps down that dirt road with an official demand for payment.

That stain against Alamo

It certainly sounded silly to me when Alamo Rent a Car claimed something that seems exceedingly improbable: that a customer actually decided to get her rented vehicle washed, during which Alamo claims it was damaged. The company made its claim to explain how the car had supposedly become stained with chemicals, for which it charged the two customers $1,075 in “repair costs.”

The women, Caron Welch of Brewster and Robbin Wilson of Connecticut, insisted it was ridiculous to think they decided to get a rented car washed; furthermore, there were no chemical stains on the car when they returned it. They accused the company of trying to take advantage of them after Alamo accepted the returned vehicle without so much as a murmur about chemical stains.

Questioned by me, Alamo quickly agreed to return the money, which I included in my column a couple of weeks ago. But one reader pointed out to me after reading it that there’s a saying in economics that goes something like this: “Never in the history of the world has anyone ever washed a rented car.”

It’s meant to be shorthand for the idea that people will only spend money to maintain property they own.

Larry Summers, the former Harvard president and US secretary of treasury, was once quoted in The New York Times saying it.

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It makes me think even less of Alamo, if that’s possible.


Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.