Moving People II

Ghosted column

Don’t you hate it when you hear someone say, ‘There are two kinds of people in this world, the kind who X and those who Y’? I do. X is always some positive but obvious quality – which, by implication, the speaker ascribes to himself (and I’m afraid it is usually a man), while Y is a wilfully simplistic and dismissive summation of everybody who isn’t like the speaker. There are, for example, ‘those who do’ – excellent people of the highest quality – and ‘those who watch’ – feckless timewasters, losers and dogs. The whole world divided in an instant into worthwhile and the rest. Interestingly, I’d say there are two kinds of people in the world – those who say ‘There are two kinds of people …’ and those who think people who say ‘There are two kinds of people…’ are pompous, self-aggrandising bores, albeit often very successful ones. These are also, very often, the kind of people most likely to say ‘What I like to call…’ when observing something which is perfectly commonplace and which already has a name – like an RFP, or a banana.

But, at the risk of becoming a pompous, self-aggrandising bore, there are two kinds of people in our industry. I’m speaking of course of the movers and the relos, or if you prefer, boys with toys and girls with pearls, or piano shifters and piano players – I could go on but you get the picture and I wouldn’t want to give offence to either side of the great divide. Especially since, as I’ve already said, this kind of analysis is wilfully simplistic – I’m sure there are movers out there who are also talented piano players, just as I’m sure there are relos who aren’t wearing pearls. Probably.

Anyway there’s a view that relos are relos and movers are movers and never the twain shall meet – or least never agree or work effectively together. A fragile truce, or respectful lack of respect exists between the two. Relos view the movers as apes who move boxes from A to B and then process the inevitable insurance claim that ensues, while in return, movers see relos as posh birds who make a huge fuss about finding lovely, lovely houses for really super people.

I say phooey to all that – after all surely we can agree that if anyone is to be stereotyped and reduced to a set of inaccurate and mildly offensive traits it should be the clients. I say there is a third way – and if I may say so, I’m it. I’m a relo – yes, with pearls – and yet I know what FIDI stands for and I read the FIDI magazine regularly. I find it’s a great way to keep up with Rupert Morley, although a while back I noticed he wasn’t mentioned in an issue and I automatically assumed he was dead. Hi Rupert.

And I know that the old divide is changing. For a start, a large percentage of the moving industry now brands itself as relocation, which, unless I’ve missed something, is the same name that the relocation industry uses – so no room for confusion there. But it’s ok, because relocation, at least in Europe, is also rebranding itself – as international assignment services. This is like relocation, but with more paperwork, and, while it may not actually be a better name, it certainly makes for wider name badges at the conferences, so that’s progress of a sort.

Not surprisingly, these changes are giving rise to a certain amount of cross-fertilization, as staff attempt to switch sides. Many are greeted with suspicion, doubt and pay rises. Those of you with an anthropological mind will immediately recognise in this, echoes of the demise of Neanderthal man through competition from and inter-breeding with Cro Magnon man. It’s what I like to call my theory of relocation through natural rejection.

Perhaps the real truth is that movers and relos are just going have to learn to get along a little bit better. And anyway, as I always like to say, there are two kinds of people in this world, those who have a metaphorical relationship with pianos, and those who prefer guitar music.