M oving home at any time is stressful enough but can
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you imagine the sires of moving home to another country? Bob Clarke can. Each year his co-npany, John Mason International, is responsible for moving thousands of families to new homes in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the Continent.
A former Pickfords regional manager, Clarke is now managing director of the firm he joined nine years ago as sales manager. Using shipping, airfreight and road haulage, international moves account for around 60% of turnover. But why would so many people want to leave Britain when the Government is continually telling us how wonderful things will be, just around the corner? "The ma n emigrant market is to Australia," says Clarke. "Most moves to the U or Europe ore corporate ones: where companies have strengths they are happy t move people into those locations—the cost of shipping the contents of a househol is cheaper than putting people into hotels." The coming of the Single Market gave the business a boost: "The work has opened up," he says. "There was a great fear that the UK would be Hooded with foreign trucks but it's been the other way round because UK operators have offered such competitive rates." The service offered by John Mason allows the householder to forego packing: they can leave everything in situ, present a list and forget about it. Except that they don't. "We are dealing with people who are stressed out all the time," says Clarke. "Often the husband will go abroad first and leave the wife to sort out the move. People who never normally complain go off the deep end in this situation. You sit here sometimes and think this is unreasonable, the reaction is disproportionate." As an example, he cites European customers who will phone t complain that a vehicle is a few minutes late, forgetting that they are several hundred miles away. To smooth the way John Mason's staff try to build a relationship with the householder before starting the move. It's not always the most expensive thing in a home that has the most value to its owner. "We ask people, 'what are the mos important things to you?' It may be that duck on the wall because their son won at a fair," explains Clarke. These jobs can produce a surprising amount of paperwork. Clarke brandishes fat file dealing with just one move from the US to Britain which includes shipping waybills, bills of loading, insurance documents, sundry correspondence and an inventory of items moved. The company will ensure that those moving have the right perscrial documents, such as visas.
All this sophistication has its roots in a humble operation founded 102 years ago by Mary Mason, a cool merchant. In those days folk were less fussy—Maso