Washington's furniture moving fight : Planet Money In 1978, a young man named Mike Shanks started a moving business in the north end of Seattle. It was just him and a truck — a pretty small operation. Things were going great. Then one afternoon, he was pulled over and cited for moving without a permit.

The investigators who cited him were part of a special unit tasked with enforcing utilities and transportation regulations. Mike calls them the furniture police. To legally be a mover, Mike needed a license. Otherwise, he'd face fines — and even potentially jail time. But soon he'd learn that getting that license was nearly impossible.

Mike is the kind of guy who just can't back down from a fight. This run-in with the law would set him on a decade-long crusade against Washington's furniture moving industry, the furniture police, and the regulations themselves. It would turn him into a notorious semi-celebrity, bring him to courtrooms across the state, lead him to change his legal name to 'Mike The Mover,' and send him into the furthest depths of Washington's industrial regulations.

The fight was personal. But it drew Mike into a much larger battle, too: An economic battle about regulation, and who it's supposed to protect.

Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.

Mike The Mover vs. The Furniture Police

Mike The Mover vs. The Furniture Police

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Normally, when you're running an illegal business, you don't advertise it in the phonebook. But nothing about Mike The Mover's story is normal. The Yellow Pages, Seattle 1997/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

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The Yellow Pages, Seattle 1997/Screenshot by NPR

Normally, when you're running an illegal business, you don't advertise it in the phonebook. But nothing about Mike The Mover's story is normal.

The Yellow Pages, Seattle 1997/Screenshot by NPR

In 1978, a young man named Mike Shanks started a moving business in the north end of Seattle. It was just him and a truck — a pretty small operation. Things were going great. Then one afternoon, he was pulled over and cited for moving without a permit.

The investigators who cited him were part of a special unit tasked with enforcing utilities and transportation regulations. Mike calls them the furniture police. To legally be a mover, Mike needed a license. Otherwise, he'd face fines — and even potentially jail time. But soon he'd learn that getting that license was nearly impossible.

Mike The Mover's life is littered with court records. Superior Court of Washington for King County Public Record/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Superior Court of Washington for King County Public Record/Screenshot by NPR

Mike The Mover's life is littered with court records.

Superior Court of Washington for King County Public Record/Screenshot by NPR

Mike is the kind of guy who just can't back down from a fight. This run-in with the law would set him on a decade-long crusade against Washington's furniture moving industry, the furniture police, and the regulations themselves. It would turn him into a notorious semi-celebrity, bring him to courtrooms across the state, lead him to change his legal name to 'Mike The Mover,' and send him into the furthest depths of Washington's industrial regulations.

The fight was personal. But it drew Mike into a much larger battle, too: an economic battle about regulation, and who it's supposed to protect.

This episode was hosted by Dylan Sloan and Nick Fountain. It was produced by Willa Rubin, edited by Sally Helm and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Will Chase helped with the research. It was engineered by Maggie Luthar. Jess Jiang is our acting executive producer.

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Music: "Spaghetti Horror," "Threes and Fours," and "Sugary Groove."