Natasha Mitchell of Kitchener, Ontario hired a local franchise of Two Small Men With Big Hearts to move all of her family’s belongings in 2009. She’s still waiting for them to arrive. The company showed up on the appointed day, but refused to release Mitchell’s possessions unless she paid $890 on the spot- far more than the agreed upon $500. By that evening, the company was demanding $1245, and by the next day $1901, with a threat that if not paid immediately, it would rise again to $2529. Mitchell sued, but has till not gotten her stuff, which is, apparently, in franchise owner Himanshu “Lucky” Batta’s garage.
The judge was quite angry with Batta’s behavior:
“He appeared quite oblivious to the fact that the kind of option he was giving her was the kind of option which might be given by a blackmailer to his victim,” said the judge in his ruling.
“They were simply unilateral demands,” said the judge. “Fortunately … for Mr. Batta and the defendant’s other employees, this is not a criminal court and criminal charges such as extortion, fraud and theft were not laid against them.”
The court awarded [Mitchell] $22,419, plus interest and costs.
Batta remains unmoved and defiant. “That was a wrong judgment against me. [The judge] does not have a right to say that to me,” said Batta. There is good news for Mitchell, though.
As a result of CBC News inquires, a manager at the head office of Two Small Men Canada said Batta will be forced to honour the judgment.
“We are going to hold him accountable for this,” said Rosario Bullaro from Winnipeg. “TSM Canada will see to it that she gets paid. If [Batta] doesn’t pay it, TSM will pay it, and go after him for the money.”
Bullaro also said by exposing Two Small Men to negative publicity and putting good franchise owners in a bad light, Batta has put his licence at risk.
“I will have a letter drawn up from our corporate lawyer to take steps to shut them down,” he said. He also praised Mitchell for going to court on her own. “Good for her for standing up for her rights.”
Another Ontario operation of Two Small Men with Big Hearts has pleaded guilty to similar practices. The Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services said the North York location admitted to “renegotiating a contract under duress” and two other charges in March 2010.
The franchise was fined $2,250. Since then, the government’s had three new complaints about the same location.
This is not the first time a moving company has been found to behave in such an unscrupulous manner. People are particularly vulnerable when their life’s possessions are locked in someone else’s truck. Another reminder to use extreme caution when selecting a moving company..