Friday, July 2, 2010

Pack-out Diaries, Epilogue

Dear Pack-out Diary,

After 15 hours total, the movers/packers wiped their hands clean of dealing with us. All of our possessions, save for those we can carry in our car, are in some remote location, hopefully starting the 2,500 mile journey to Mexico.

I've got a few leftover items that didn't make it into yesterday's post, and a few other observations from our experience to wrap this series up.

First, someone who knows a lot more about etiquette than I needs to put together a comprehensive book on the rules of tipping. I'm at a loss on this topic. There really isn't rhyme or reason to what is a good tip and who you tip.

For example, the first time a gas station attendant pumped my gas, I felt obligated to tip him, so I gave him $2. He looked surprised. I told my dad the story, and he said that is because you don't tip gas station attendants. Why not? We tip bell hops for flagging down a cab or moving our bags on a rolling luggage rack.

So, yesterday morning as the movers/packers were finishing the job, Natalie called Free Studies Inside (FSI) to get their advice (Natalie edit: actually, it was the travel office), because we felt like tipping here seemed appropriate. Plus, as I mentioned yesterday, we liked these guys; even the schmuck was a nice guy. (Though our opinion is subject to change depending on the status of stuff when we get it.)

The word that came down from FSI is that the government doesn't cover tipping the workers, and that often times, people provide food and drink for the workers. That would have been good to know during the first day of packing, but not so helpful during the second day. (And to add insult to injury, not only did we not buy them lunch, we ate our lunch in front of them...we aren't bad people, just ignorant on these matters.)

So we tipped each of the three movers $40 at the end of day yesterday. I have no idea if that what was cheap or overly generous, but I say that compares pretty favorably to a $10 lunch. Though they probably didn't feel that way on the first day of packing.

Also during the first day of packing we had lots of visitors. The State Department sent over an inspector, which was surprising because we didn't ask for one. He was a very nice guy and gave us one good piece of advice. Buy a guest book for our travels. The moving/packing company also sent an inspector.

I don't really have tips for how to prepare for pack-out other than it seems that unless you dedicate an absurd amount of time sorting through every thing, you won't ever be 100% ready. We were ready enough that our air freight shipment (I now consider UAB obsolete) has most of our necessities. Though the ratio ended up something like this: Natalie - 350 pounds; Tiffy - 60 pounds; EF'M - 40 pounds. I guess this was my penance for poorly overseeing Al's pack-out.

If we had this move to do all over again, I suppose I'd spend more time preparing our air freight. That is probably the only good, over-arching piece of advice I can offer.

The thing is is that every one's situation is different. For us, about 80% of our items were going ground/surface/sea (so long to HHE, too). For non-local hires, I'm guessing there is a lot more going into storage.


  1. Sounds like your tip was fair (even generous). Have a great trip and best of luck on settling in quickly!

  2. You tipped really well!!!

    When you are in Mexico and they come to deliver your HHE you have 2 options:

    1. They unpack the truck and then unpack your boxes and you provide food and drink for them until they are done.

    2. They unpack the truck and they you let them leave, with a small tip, and start unpacking the boxes yourself.

    We opted for option 2 because I didn't want them in my stuff. We had 4 people unload the boxes and we gave them $50 pesos each for a tip.

    Oh, other times to tip in Mexico:

    ~When they pump your gas. We give them 5 pesos every time. It's really whatever you want to give.
    ~When they unload your grocery card and bag your groceries. We give 5-10 pesos, depending on how many groceries we really have.

    Just some of our observations here.

    Have fun driving to Mexico!!! Enjoy the scenery!

  3. Holy crap! I never even thought of the culture of tipping in Mexico. I still don't understand our culture of tipping...this could get ugly.

  4. Quick question--what do you use the suggested guest book for? People involved in your moves? People you meet abroad? Just curious...

  5. Sorry I haven't gotten back to this question; you caught me during a transition period.

    The guest book would be for people who come visit our home(s) abroad. The inspector who made the suggestion was very proud that he had a member of some nation's royal family sign his book.

  6. Thanks for the response--I figured it might not get answered due to the timing. Great idea...I hope to employ it, assuming we get through the clearances and get an A-100 class. But I am optimistic!

    Thanks again, and good luck! The house looks great!