Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My experience with Worldcare Pet Transport

When I looked up this company on the web they only had one review; which was positive. Our experience with this company was so bad that I feel like I have to put it out there so no one else will go through what we went through.

My husband got a job transfer from Worcester, MA to Portland, OR. I knew that moving across the country was going to be stressful and difficult but I was mostly concerned with moving our 8 pets (4 cats, 2 Chinchillas, 1 Guinea Pig, and 1 Gerbil). I did a fair amount of internet research on pet relocation/transportation specialty companies. In theory the idea sounded good; most companies offer door to door service, booking the pets flights and some offer additional services such as acquiring required health documents and vaccination certificates from your vet.

At first I was considering flying just the rodents in cargo and taking several flights with my cats in the cabin with me; but one of my cats is oversized (18lbs) and would not be able to fly in the cabin. I contacted three different pet transport companies who returned a quote of $4000 or more just for my rodents alone; my husband's company had given us some extra money for moving expenses which we'd set aside to move the pets with but now it seemed the transportation companies were not going to be an affordable option. I started looking into what else I could do.

In the meantime my husband asked our moving company if they knew of any good options of getting our pets across the country. They said they'd do some research and get back to him. The next day we got a call from Reece at Worldcare Pet in Darien, CT. Reece is either the owner or the manager of the company and he made a point to say “We're not cheap, we're not the Walmart of Pet Transportation and we don't want to be.” He put our worries at ease explaining that the pets would be in good hands and instructed us to send an email with our pets' names, breeds, ages, and weights for an online quote. I sent the information off and got an email back from Wendy. This is when the problems began.

The quote from Wendy on 10/6/10 was for: 4 cats in 4 series #200 crates, 2 Chinchillas in 1 series #100 crate, and 1 Guinea Pig in 1 #100 series crate for $2695. This included basically everything except vet services (which I will go into later). I noticed two problems right away; the first being that this quote did not include my gerbil and also that my oversized cat would not be approved to ride in a series #200 crate as he exceeds the weight limit (something I would think a person who is in this line of work would already know).

I sent an email back right away inquiring about my gerbil. I also sent links to different travel cages because I wasn't sure what type of carrier she would need seeing as she is so small she could easily pass through the bars of a typical pet crate. This email went unanswered. I sent another email with my concerns that my oversized cat would need to travel in a series #300 crate. I got an email response from Wendy the following day that simply said “The additional cost for the larger crate is $275 plus the cost of the original quote.” I sent another email asking about my gerbil which also went unanswered.

I decided to contact Reece again as I was not getting through to Wendy. The following day I received a response from Wendy stating that she was working on trying to get all 8 pets on the flight. Four days went by without hearing anything else. On 10/12/10 I sent another email to Wendy explaining that my husband was leaving for Portland on 10/30/10, and I needed a date soon. I asked several questions in this email about food/water/fasting before hand, vaccination and health document requirements, etc. I got an email back from Wendy stating that it would cost $310 extra for my gerbil to fly plus an additional $110 for a custom crate. She did not answer any of my other questions except for information on the health documents. The cats required non expired rabies vaccination certificates and all 8 pets required a health certificate. In this email she stated that Worldcare Pet could take care of the health certificates for $35 per pet.

It was then I called Wendy to inquire about the custom crate for my gerbil; I sent her a few more links to travel cages that she said would not be airline approved so I agreed to pay extra for the custom crate. I also told her that I wanted her to take care of the health certificates for $35 per pet and I would get a copy of the cats rabies vaccines myself and fax them to her. I let her know I would be providing all the other stated travel crates for the pets and she told me to disregard the $275 additional for the series #300 crate. After that first phone conversation, I decided to chalk up her inability to answer questions in emails as a miscommunication or a fluke and agreed put down a 50% deposit for the services.

When I received the cats rabies certificates in the mail on 10/15/10 I had my husband fax them to Wendy right away. I sent her an email with a heads up and she emailed me back when she received them. I also spoke to her on the phone and she said “Everything looks great!” These were 3 year rabies shots that were administered in 2008 with an expiration in 2011. With Worldcare Pet taking care of the health certificates, there really wasn't much else we needed to do and I was anticipating a low stress experience.

On 10/20/10 I got word from the moving company that we now had a destination address for the pets to be delivered to. I wrote Wendy an email with the new address and requested a travel date for the pets of 11/2/10 if possible. Wendy wrote back that she would work with her operations department to see if that was an option and that she would get back to me “tomorrow”. Two days went by and I heard nothing from Wendy. I had not yet booked the date for the movers to come or for my own flight because I was waiting to hear back from Wendy. On 10/22/10 I emailed Wendy to see how things were going and if 11/2 was going to be possible for a travel date. I asked her again about the food/water and fasting. I don't remember who called who but I spoke to Wendy on the phone and she confirmed a travel date of 11/2 for all 8 pets. Regarding my feeding questions, she said the cats should fast but I should not give them food and water in their crates to fly.

On 10/28/10 I got a voicemail and an email from Wendy saying that she wanted to go over the crate sizes and some “incremental costs”. I called her back and she informed me that she'd just now spoken to their vet (this was 4 days before the pets flight) and found out that they'd raised the price for health certificates from the quoted $35 per pet to $85 per pet. I was shocked when I heard this and I wasn't really sure what to do. I said I would call my own vet and see if it would be possible to get the health certificates from them but I wasn't sure about the rodents because my current vet did not service rodents. Wendy then told me that the pets would have a 4 hour layover that I would have to pay an additional $250 for (another thing I thought that Wendy should have been aware of way ahead of time). She then put me over to speaker phone to talk to their “rodent expert” (who's name I cannot recall).

It was hard to hear the woman speaking to me because Wendy was coughing the whole time; so much so that the other employee asked her to stop. This “expert” informed me that the series #100 travel crates (chihuahua size) I purchased were not the right size for the rodents because I needed to buy series #200 (cat size) crates. I asked “Why?” and she told me that “There's just too much room in a series #100 travel crate and we don't want the rodents bouncing around in there. So what you'll need to do is get some series #200 size crates then get a wire cage and put it inside the crate.” Then she proceeded to explain to me how to take the top off of a travel crate in order to get a cage inside; as if I was too dumb to figure that out. “But why would I do that? There wouldn't be any extra room if I just used the series #100 crates that we already agreed upon.” I said. She still insisted that I needed the larger crate to then put a smaller wire cage inside. I started to get annoyed trying to explain that there would be 2 Chinchillas traveling in one crate and there wouldn't be any extra room for them to bounce around and this started a debate about the size of chinchillas. The “expert” and Wendy both seemed to think Chinchillas were small like the size of hamsters. I tried to explain several times that they were large like the size of a grapefruit not including the head and tail. She then told me that Nibbles (my guinea pig) and Fanny (my gerbil) would be traveling in the same crate (which I guess meant I wasn't getting a custom crate for the gerbil?) but they needed to be separated by two cages because they are a different species. Then the “expert” contradicted what Wendy had told me earlier and said that all the pets were required to travel with food and water but no pellet food or hay for the rodents. She then said I could feel free to give the chinchillas fresh fruit and vegetables for the flight (which I would not do because fresh fruit and vegetables would make chinchillas sick). When Wendy took back over the phone call; she let me know that she'd just gotten off the phone with the vet again and they informed her that they do not service rodents either and that the driver would now have to travel to two vets which would cause the pets to have to take a later flight and we would have to pick up the cost to have them boarded overnight. Again, this was 4 days before the pets flight.

When I got off the phone I was very upset. I had already been worried about the pets being in their crates for a whole day and now I was finding out that they could possibly be stuck in their crates scared overnight. In a panic I called my vet who said on such short notice; there was no way that they could fit in exams for four cats. I hung up and sat down on the bed and started crying because I didn't know what to do. (This was incidentally my birthday). I felt like the people at Worldcare Pet were incompetent and I didn't want to give them my business anymore but there was only 4 days left and they already had over $1200 from us and I felt like I had no choice. I called my husband at work who was already at the end of his rope; finishing out his old job with no time off before he started his new job across the country. He started calling local vets and fortunately convinced our previous vet to squeeze in the rodents at the last minute. The next day (10/29/10)was his last day of work; 3 hours of which now had to be spent at the vet's office getting certificates that were supposed to have been taken care of for us ahead of time by Worldcare Pet. We had no choice but to pay the $85 per pet for the cats to get health certificates from their vet. At this point we were so frustrated and angry but at least the pets were back on their original flight schedule and would not have to be boarded overnight. My husband went back to work and faxed the rodents health certificates and I got an email from Wendy saying that she had received them. She later sent an email with the pets trip itinerary. She again has the pets crate sizes wrong (she has them listed as 6 #200 series crates) and said if anything was misstated, I should drop her a line. I did so by sending her an email back saying the pets are traveling in 3 #200 series crates, 1 #300 series crate and 2 #100 series crates. I got an email back saying she has forwarded this information to the drivers.

The day before the pets flight (11/1/10) Wendy called me and asked for the number of my current vet “in case our vet needs to see their other vaccination records.” Ie: distempter, etc. (There is a reason I am mentioning this seemingly mundane phone call, please read on...)

The day of the flight: 11/2/10 the pets were picked up at about 7am by a driver who introduced himself as being from some other pet transportation company (I can't remember the name, maybe Starlight? Yeah, you are as confused as I was). I handed off our beloved pets and prayed to God that everything went smoothly.

Halfway through the day; after I had checked the status of the first flight on Continental's website about a hundred times; Wendy called my phone. This was 1 hour before the pets connecting flight was scheduled to depart. I let her leave a voicemail because it stressed me out to even think about Wendy at that point. I took a deep breath and listened to the voicemail. On it Wendy stated that she sent me an email with the “final quote” and yes, I am thinking that she does not know what the word “quote” means and that we needed to pay the balance in full before the pets second flight. I didn't know what that meant... if I failed to pay within the next hour would my pets be stuck in Newark, NJ?

I was even more floored when I read the “final quote” which came out to $4065! I tried calling Wendy back over and over again for the next five minutes thinking that if I don't pay this balance; my pets wont fly. Her phone went to voicemail every time. I tried calling the cell phone number she supplied on her voicemail; which turned out to be a wrong number. Finally, I sent an email authorizing the payment explaining that I can't get through to her over the phone and that her cell phone number is wrong. I got an email back from her saying that she had been on a call for the past 20 minutes (so it must have been alternate universe Wendy that called my cell phone five minutes prior).

The good news that happened was all the pets arrived safely in Portland, Or that night. Over the next few days I was busy cleaning up our house and putting in on the market for sale... I was alone in the empty house with both my pets and my husband on the opposite side of the country. I tried to put the thought of Worldcare Pet out of my mind but the more I went over the figures and the “final quote” it just wasn't adding up.

$2695 was the original quote plus $310 for Fanny plus $340 ($85 x 4) for health certificates and a $250 layover fee comes out to $3595. So why did the cost come out to $4065? Where did the additional $470 go? On 11/6/10 I sent Wendy an email asking for an itemized receipt because the final cost seemed higher than what it should have been. I was extremely nervous about receiving her response because I wouldn't want to wrongly accuse someone of “ripping me off”. I thought somehow I had forgotten something or added it up wrong. I need not have worried as I never got a response from Wendy.

After I arrived in Portland, my husband asked me to write a summary of all the complaints we had with the service we received from Worldcare Pet. I did so, and on 11/12/10 he wrote a formal complaint and sent it to Reece Mcdonnell.

The following day Wendy called my cell phone. This was a surprise to me that Reece would even allow the person we had so much complaint with to contact us again. My husband said he would handle the problem from then on so I didn't answer the phone. He called Wendy on 11/13/10 who said that she would be issuing a credit for $476 with absolutely no explanation for the overcharge. I received an email about this refund as well. My husband requested an itemized receipt and Wendy sent me an email with a PDF of the services performed by their vet. I was surprised to find that they had charged us $146 per cat instead of $85 because they gave all four cats rabies vaccinations that they didn't need.

Then I received a shocking email from Wendy stating: “As per my conversation with (Me) on November 1st, she advised me that all (4) cats were up to date on their rabies vaccinations and provided me with two of her local veterinarians contact numbers for the cats in order to obtain the vaccination certificates. We received the vaccination information on November 1st indicating that the cat’s rabies and feline vaccination had expired. Our local veterinarian in Boston would not issue a health certificate for the cats to travel unless they had updated vaccinations. I then called (Me) back on the same day and informed her that the vaccinations were not up to date. I contacted (Husband) and advised him that the cats would need to get their health check and updated vaccinations which he could pay for directly to our local veterinarian in Boston. (Husband) confirmed on November 1st that we could pay for the cat’s health/vaccinations and provide him with a final charge.”

There were so many lies in this email I couldn't believe it. The phone call she described was the mundane call I mentioned earlier. Never once in that conversation did Wendy bring up any issues with my cats rabies vaccinations. Also, they are 3 year shots and would not expire until 2011. She also stated in this email that she didn't get the vaccination certificates until 11/1 which is also a lie; as I have an email from her stating that she received them on 10/15/10! Also; if we'd had a conversation about this, why would she then call my husband for authorization? None of the lies even made sense. I was so hurt that it even came down to lying about us to cover her own mistakes.

My husband sent back an email to Wendy as well as Reece saying that we faxed the rabies certificates and they were received on 10/15/10 and that they were not expired. Also, if there had been an issue it should have been taken care of well before the day before the pets flight. He requested a conference call with Reece, Wendy, me, and himself for the following day at 12:30 Pacific time to discuss.

Worldcare Pet then had their vet call my husband and try to convince him that by Massachusetts state law they were required to give the cats an additional 1 year rabies shot on top of their unexpired 3 year rabies shot which doesn't make sense for two reasons: 1. The cats have had physical exams at two or our own vets in Massachusetts and never required an additional rabies shot and 2. If this were so, why would they give the cats not only 1 year booster shots but also charge us for additional 3 year shots they didn't need? I can't even be sure these vaccinations actually happened because we received no certificates.

I have mixed emotions about the conference call that happened on 11/17/10. Wendy informed us Reece gave her authorization to refund $1060 for the $476 overcharge and the entire $584 vet bill. Never once did she or Reece acknowledge that Wendy made huge mistakes and even lied about us. They blamed it all on their vet which they said they questioned doing business with now. I was so mad I didn't say anything except “I want it in an email.” They told us they would send an email confirmation and issue a refund to our credit card. On 11/18/10 we got nothing. My husband wrote an email to Reece on 11/19/10 inquiring about the refund and included the specific amount so that we had some written record of it. Reece answered back that their billing person had been out the day before but would get the refund and an email confirmation to us by the end of the day. You guessed it, by the end of the day we got nothing. On 11/22/10 we finally got a refund.

I'm seriously baffled how this company is still in business with such unbelievably poor customer service. The whole purpose of spending the extra money and hiring a professional Pet Transportation company is to make the move as stress free as possible and Worldcare Pet made it a hundred times worse than if we had just done all the work ourselves.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Insert Tetris theme here...

I just got off the phone with the Pet Transportation company and everything is falling into place. All of the pets are good to go with the exception of the gerbil who will most likely need to fly in a customized crate. As long as I get copies of the cats' Rabies vaccinations, all pets will be flying out to meet Al after October 30th.

Al's job has agreed to provide us with 30 days of temporary housing plus rental car. Once they give us an address, the pets will be fully booked. I scheduled a preliminary assessment with the movers to come out on Friday and survey how much stuff we will be moving.

The pets have to go before the movers come so they will be able to pack up their cages, beds, litter etc. On the other side of the country Al will need to get temporary cages and food and water supplies. He is refusing to take a day off before the move and I am afraid he is going to get burned out.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Things are progressing slowly...

Over the past 5 years we have accumulated a lot of stuff. When we put our house on the market we brought a good amount of it up to my mother in law's garage for storage. It made things easier for what little house showings we've had but yesterday we had to rent a U-Haul to get all of it back over here to prepare for the move.

I was planning to sell most of the furniture, but unfortunately some of it got molded from all the rain we had over the summer. With only three house showings under our belt over the past 6 or 8 months, we might have been better off keeping it all here. Now I will be lucky to give the furniture away.

I guess it's just as well, it seems no one wants to pay a fair price for anything. I've had 4 yard sales so far and had people trying to haggle with me over things like a $5 DVD player. Most of the things I've put on Craigslist have sat there even though they are bargain priced. Looks like we'll end up just giving everything away since we are planning to rent when we get to Portland. We may not have a yard where we're going and we have a lot of yard stuff; lawn mower, shovels, rakes, etc.

On the plus side, we learned yesterday that we can claim the loss on our house on our taxes. If the house sells for less than $175,000 which is looking likely; we'll be losing about $60,000 on it. The Pet Transportation is also supposed to be tax deductible. Still have not heard any additional news from them. Will have to give them a call tomorrow.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

We'll make great pets...

Moving our pets across the country has proved to be the most challenging hurdle. We have cats, chinchillas, a guinea pig and a gerbil. I thought long and hard going back and forth with how I was going to do it. Cats in the cabin? Rodents in the cargo? Drive the cats and rodents across the US in the car? After much discussion and a recommendation from the movers we called a Pet Transportation company.

If you can afford to do it, this is probably the easiest, least stressful thing to do. The company will arrange the flights and health certificates, pick up the pets and bring them to the airport, and pick up the pets from the destination airport and deliver them to your door. It is very, very expensive though.

Things were going smoothly over email for about two days. But the first quote I got left out our gerbil and had one of our cats riding in a carrier that he would exceed the weight limit on. I sent one email asking about the gerbil and what carrier she should ride in and a second email stating that our 18 pound cat would need to ride in a larger carrier. (Something I think they should know since this is their business) I got one email back stating that if Raikou rides in a larger carrier it will cost an addition $275. I wrote another email asking "Okay, what about my gerbil?" Still no response the next day.

Shortly after, I emailed the owner (who we had spoken to previously) about my gerbil and how I felt my question was being ignored. He wrote back with an apology and the secondary person wrote with some bullshit response that she was working to see if all the pets would fit on one flight. Sounds like back tracking... why would she give me a quote in the first place if she was still currently trying to find a flight for all the pets? And why would she ignore me asking about my gerbil 3 times if that was the case?

I am already annoyed with the pet transport company... is this a bad sign?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A tale of a life changing location switch...

I am moving across the country in about a month. From Worcester, MA to Portland, OR. The more research I do about hauling my ass across the US, the less satisfied I am with what little information I find. This is why I decided to start a blog. I figured if anyone else is in my situation; they may find whatever I did to get there informative.

First off; about me: I'm a girl about to turn 32 at the end of this month. I have been depressed for a while mostly due to obesity and location. I have always been overweight; 235lbs being my highest. Shortly before I met my husband; I was living in Norwich, CT and I had lost about 85lbs partly from being sick and partly from doing the Weight Watchers.

My roomate at the time decided to move to Pennsylvania. I was faced with a choice; follow my roomate (who was like my second mom) to Lancaster, PA or move in with my boyfriend in Worcester, MA. I chose the latter.

Over the next couple years I went through a couple of changes. I decided to be Vegan and I gained about 60lbs. I would attribute my weight gain to a several factors: 1. Being Vegan I have discovered there's actually MORE food to eat than I ever ate when I was omnivore or vegetarian. 2. I stopped working because of chronic back pain so I am very sedentary. 3. I hate it here. Plan and simple I hate Worcester, MA.

There are a lot of people with "Worcester Pride" who would hate to hear me bad mouthing the city. I think perhaps if you're not actually from Worcester, you can't help but see what's wrong with the place more so than what's right. But I wont get into all that.

Al and I were originally planning to move to CT. A lot of my depression stems from the fact that my friends all live in CT and I find the people in Worcester to be wholly unfriendly. I know only two people in Worcester after living here for 5 years and one of them is incredibly obnoxious.

So Al said to me "If they offered me a transfer at work; maybe in California, what would you want to do?"

I said "Well, I think it would be an interesting experience if nothing else. We could go for 5 years, then if we decided we didn't like it we could move back."

Al got the ball rolling at work and he was approved for a transfer to Portland, OR. Milwaukie, OR to be exact. His start date is November 1st and we have a lot of planning to do.