Dear Aboda: The Carousel of Houses Part IV

The money they suddenly wanted to charge us is more than David makes in a month.

On that restless night in windy Vredehoek before we finally moved into the mansion, David and I had been asleep when the agent called from Seattle. She wanted to confirm our move the next day. From the bedroom I had watched David blinking at the phone as he acclimated to her stream of caffeinated chirrups. She brightly confirmed that this would be our last move, and that they would pay for us to stay the two extra weeks until our permanent apartment was available. David blinked again when the line went dead, and crawled back into bed. That was the last we’d heard from anyone at Aboda.

In their relentless disorganization, Aboda sent us an email a few days ago asking how we would prefer to be billed. Since there was no way we could afford to pay, we knew we might have to move a fifth time.

The last straw floated down.

We went crazy. Pawing the ground, wolf keening, hair ripping, shit smearing crazy. Violence twisted in our guts. We would do anything. We wrote a letter to the CEO.

Dear Aboda,

I can tell from your correspondence that you don’t understand that you’re ruining my family’s lives. My son is 6 months old. We will have moved him 6 times in two months; 3 of the moves on short notice thanks to Aboda.

If you’ve had a baby you know that stability is key. Spencer’s sense of stability has been obliterated. He cries all day and wakes up often at night. He’s constantly anxious. I can’t tell you what it feels like not to be able to comfort him.

Graebel was employed by Amazon to coordinate my family’s move from Luxembourg to South Africa on November 29. The container with our effects could take 8-11 weeks to arrive, so we received 6 weeks of temporary accommodation with option to extend if the container took longer.

Graebel/Aboda could not arrange for us to stay in an apartment for 45 consecutive days, so we planned our stay in two different apartments, Icon Jazz for one night, and Ocean View Drive for the remaining 44 days until Jan 14. After arriving in Cape Town on November 29 we stayed in Icon Jazz, move #1. We moved to Ocean View Drive on November 30, move #2.

In the late afternoon of New Year’s Eve, two weeks before we were contracted to leave Ocean View Drive, we received a call from a woman from Company A asking if we’d found accommodations for the next day. We’d never heard of Company A or spoken to this woman before, and spent the entire New Year’s Eve trying to find out what happened, and whether we’d have to move, with no car, a baby, and all of our belongings, with 12 hours’ notice, on New Year’s Day.

Because it was New Year’s Eve, it was hard for us to coordinate with the agents, who were understandably on holiday. Our holiday was taken from us. Our primary agent with Graebel referred us to their on-call agent. In addition to the on-call agent, we spoke with two different people at Aboda, as well as the two Company A managers. Throughout our move, I’ve worked with so many people from different companies, yet none of them seem to have any idea what the other has done or committed to; the burden of which is outsourced to me, the employee, while I’m ramping up a new business in a new role in a new country, with my family at home trying to adjust.

To my disbelief, I discovered that Aboda had circulated two separate leases for Ocean View Drive, one we had signed with a check-out date of Jan 14, and another one signed on our behalf, unbeknownst to us, by Company A and Company B, another company we’d never heard of who was apparently contracted by Aboda. Our contract said the 14th. The other one said the 1st.

I wonder how the nation’s fifth largest housing provider can fail to keep its own leases straight, but with so many degrees of separation, it would have been surprising if nothing went wrong. The prospect of moving in 12 hours was so incredible that I was prepared to refuse to leave Ocean View Drive, given that my contract said Jan 14.

Person 1 of Aboda coordinated with me via phone and email. I knew that this unplanned move meant I would have to move three times in a month: on Jan 1, Jan 14 and on Feb 1 when my permanent residence was available. I made it clear to Person 1 that this was unacceptable. I said, “If I’m going to leave Ocean View tomorrow, I want to move my family into one place for the entire month of January until my own apartment is available, and I want Aboda to cover all expenses.” Person 1 said, “Sure, we can do that.”

At 10am on New Year’s Day, Aboda had Company A move all of our things – my wife and I hauled our belongs up two flights of stairs and loaded two Land Rovers with a Company A agent – to the Pine Park residence. Move #3. I was scheduled to work in order to give my leadership team the day off, but had to take the day off to move our belongings and help my wife with our baby. The Pine Park apartment was a third the size of Ocean View Drive, and stiflingly hot. My son never napped, due to the heat. My wife and I were in our swimsuits.

As it became clear the heat would be intolerable for a full month, I reached out to Company A and Aboda to see if there was somewhere else we could move to. Company A offered to move us to Alexandra Ave the next day, an accommodation comparable in price to the Ocean View property. I reached out to Person 1 via email and voicemail to request the move and heard back from her late in the night that I should leave a voicemail. ?? At 7am the next morning, I spoke with Person 1 and we arranged a move to Alexandra Ave, Move #4.

Last night, Jan 10, we received an email from Person 2 of Aboda about the charge for Alexandra Ave for the last two weeks of January. I’m in disbelief, yet again. On the phone, Person 1 had clearly confirmed that Aboda would be covering the cost of the extra two weeks as a result of Aboda’s egregious error of breaking their own lease and kicking us out with less than 12 hours’ notice. We hadn’t had a single word from Aboda about any kind of payment until now, four days before Jan 14 – even though Company A requested a payment in full at the time of moving into the Alexandra Ave address.

The two weeks Aboda wants to charge me would cost more than I make in a month. I couldn’t even pay for it if I wanted to. I never would have agreed to leave Ocean View Drive if Person 1 hadn’t confirmed that Aboda would cover the two week gap between Jan 14 and Feb 1 when our permanent housing is available. If I have to move again because of this miscommunication, move #5, it will again be on extremely short notice.

My wife is crying. I can’t even think about moving my son yet again, knowing that we’ll just have to move him one more time on Feb 1, move #6, and have the poor guy crying and disoriented for another week.

To rectify the error, Aboda offered the following: transport from Ocean View Drive to Pine Park and Pine Park to Alexandra Ave, accommodation at Pine Park, and a restaurant gift certificate. We wouldn’t have needed the transport or accommodation if Aboda hadn’t broken their lease, so they’re paying for their own expenses that occurred as a result of their error and calling it a gift? A restaurant gift certificate is an insult as an apology for the trouble they’ve put me and my family through.

The past two weeks have been two of the worst in my life. This is the busiest time of the year at Amazon for me, and I’m normally putting in 50-60 hour weeks. Instead, I’ve spent hours on email and phone calls with Graebel and Aboda, lost New Year’s Eve, am now losing another weekend to sort out Aboda’s error. My family has lost our well-being.

My job is supposed to be hard. Amazon via Graebel via Aboda via Company B via Company A was supposed to make my family’s move easy, and it’s been hell.

This is my third experience with Aboda – the first experience, living in Harbor Steps for 3 months in 2009, was fine; the second, a relocation to Seattle via Dexter SLU, where the unit’s bolt lock jammed and trapped us in our apartment for an evening; the third and surprisingly worst experience has been this relocation to Cape Town. Until Aboda rectifies this terrible experience by agreeing to pay for the final two weeks in January, I will not let this rest. It’s surprising that Amazon and Graebel accept this level of gross incompetence. Because this is my life and my family, I will not.


The two weeks have been paid for. We didn’t have to move.

I try to remember that no state of peace or unrest is constant. The center cannot hold, and neither has it atomized into entropy, yet.


  • aprilreiter says:

    Maybe it’s from working in customer support, maybe it’s just my personality, but God am I just thrilled, honestly even made giddy, by a well-written, completely justified complaint letter. Let’s hope this state of peace at least holds until you’re recovered to take on the next one of turbulence.

    • luxpat says:

      Let’s hope! I think we’re in the home stretch. Since we both come from customer support also, we spent hours on the letter, and carefully selected the to: and cc: lines. I still remember everything I thought was effective and ineffective in the CEO letters I responded to in Customer Support. And, coming from Customer Service, I think we felt a certain outrage that we didn’t just feel neglected, we knew for a fact that the service was atrocious. It’s nice that customers have a CEO letter as a last resort. At Amazon, and apparently at Aboda also, they’re taken seriously. 🙂

  • JudyRon Bertoch says:

    Wow! Hope things go better from now on. Glad you set them straight. Love you GJ

  • Tadekolu says:

    Brilliant letter – well done you!

Leave a Reply