Why You Should Insure Trophies You Send In The Mail

Jason takes part in a long-distance fantasy football league in which past winners of the championship trophy send the prize to the next season’s victor. Well, at least that used to be the routine until the most recent mailing of the prize did to the trophy what the Packers did to Jay Cutler.

Jason writes:

I am writing to ask for advice in a dispute with the US Postal Service. My group of friends created a nice fantasy football trophy to honor a friend of ours who passed away from cancer last year. This trophy was to be shipped to the newest victor this week, and it was with disastrous results.

The guy who shipped it wrapped the trophy in bubble wrap about 2 to 3 inches deep, and secured it with no room to give in a “if it fits it ships” box. The box arrived yesterday looking like it was sent through a tornado, and the trophy torn apart into 3 pieces, with a bolt even missing from the box. He did not insure the box, and that is our fault I know, but how can you ever expect a package to go through hell like this?

I want to confront the postal service and have it replaced. They completely destroyed a treasured tribute to a friend, and I just don’t know if i even stand a chance. Any advice would be helpful.

If you ship items with sentimental value, do you spring for insurance or take your chances in the USPS hit parade?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mike says:

    If you want to confront the Postal Service to have it replaced all you need to do is show them the insurance number…oh wait, your friend failed.


    • coren says:

      They won’t insure it unless it has real value.

      • nbs2 says:

        It does have physical value – the cost of repair or replacement. Might it be worth even more to them? Sure. But, with insurance, the USPS would have (theoretically) have paid to get a new one.

        Unless, of course, the thing is made from dude’s ashes. In which case, I suspect the replacement cost wouldn’t have been covered by USPS insurance.

  2. Rebecca K-S says:

    That’s the point of insurance. I suspect Jason’s SOL.

    If it’s of value, I insure it. I don’t trust the USPS quite that much.

    • QuantumCat says:

      Same. I get insurance as more of an incentive for the USPS to not arbitrarily disregard the state of my parcels than for the actual insurance part. Of course, the actual insurance helps when they do.

    • Its_Miller_Time says:

      At least if he went through UPS, he would have had $99.00 of insured value, for free (or does UPS not do that anymore?)…

      • P41 says:

        The flat rate boxes come with $100 insurance included. Sentimental value only applies to things that can’t be repaired or replaced. If $100 buys a new trophy, they can transfer the winners names over to the new one. From the picture it looks like just superglue will get the trophy back together though with a scar.

  3. QuantumCat says:

    I always spring for insurance if I ship anything with any value. I once shipped some video games to a cousin and the post office delivered the obviously torn open and empty shipping envelope. No one at either post office we called seemed interested in figuring out where the missing games went when they found out it wasn’t insured. It just wasn’t their problem.

  4. Supes says:

    The problem is, USPS insurance only covers actual value, not sentimental value.

    • MarcZero says:

      This is true. If it means so much to the fantasy league, they should set aside some sort of fund to cover professional packing and shipping costs each year.

    • HalOfBorg says:

      Actual Value SHOULD be enough to buy a new one. Or at least get very close.

    • Jennifer says:

      EXACTLY. And buying insurance doesn’t magically prevent it from getting broken. If they had bought insurance, they would still have a broken, one-of-a-kind irreplaceable trophy – plus some money. The moral of the story is to pack it so that it doesn’t break.

      • startertan says:

        I think his letter implies that he did pack it so it wouldn’t break…

        “The guy who shipped it wrapped the trophy in bubble wrap about 2 to 3 inches deep, and secured it with no room to give in a “if it fits it ships” box.”

        On a lighter note, this reminds me of the Simpsons ep where Krusty hocks his daughters violin in a poker game. Fat Tony has his appraiser look at it and says “Well, it won’t bring much cash, but its sentimental value is through the roof!”


  5. TheReij says:

    “The guy who shipped it wrapped the trophy in bubble wrap about 2 to 3 inches deep, and secured it with no room to give in a “if it fits it ships” box.”

    End of story. It really sucks considering the circumstances. “The guy” should have sprung for a professional packing service rather than cramming it into a flat-rate box.

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      I read this as, “It fits perfectly and wasn’t lose in the box,” not “it was crammed in there.” Hard to say for sure. If the box was actually torn and items were missing from within it, that’s a handling problem, not a packing problem. But still, no insurance, no luck.

    • tz says:

      “packing” is both art and science. Something with a heavy head and thin neck can break even if packed in the normal bubble wrap – it can’t stand stress in certain directions. Also bubble wrap doesn’t help with crushing. You would also need something to prevent crushing the outer box from breaking anything inside.

      Bottom line, Insure it. You can’t go beyond real value, but you can insure for the materials and labor to replace it.

  6. Stickdude says:

    “If it fits, it ships*”

    (*where it ships, and the condition in which it arrives, may vary)

  7. yessongs says:

    If it was packed correctly, then you would not have a problem. It’s the shipper’s failure not usps.

  8. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    “He did not insure the box, and that is our fault I know…”

    When did no insurance suddenly become free license on the part of companies to break stuff, is what I really want to know.

    • TheReij says:

      This isn’t a courier service. Most of the handling of that package is automated. When it does touch human hands, they’re not going to put on white gloves and gingerly move it around. Even the USPS is a business with deadlines to meet. Not meeting deadlines will mean lost revenue.

      You’re absolutely right regarding your argument. However, the sender must take some responsibility as well. If a package (or it’s contents) are valuable, you insure it. I just returned a Razer gaming mouse to Razer. I paid for shipping with insurance. Yes, the item is broken. However, should the box be mangled or destroyed in transit, I now have recourse should Razer have any issues.

      • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

        Well, here’s the thing. If I hit a car, and they don’t have insurance, how does that take me off the hook? It doesn’t.

        It isn’t even as if there’s a notice at the desk when you go to USPS, or FedEx, or UPS that says you can’t expect packages to make it through whole to other side. The fact that it’s automated isn’t an excuse, it’s an explanation.

        • benson304 says:

          No, but there is this: If insurance is not purchased at the time of mailing, the USPS is unable to honor any requests to be compensated for lost, missing, or damaged item(s). The Postal Service™ is not held liable for damage which occurs during the processing or handling of mail matter under Title 28, Section 2680(b) of the U.S. Code, except for Express Mail®, Registered Mail™, Insured, or COD.

          So, that can be interpreted in such a way that you cannot expect that a package will make it whole, and in order to protect that package you should purchase the necessary insurance.

          UPS does it too:
          UPS’s liability for loss or damage to each UPS domestic package or international shipment is limited to a value of $100, except as set forth below. Unless a greater value is recorded in the declared value field of the UPS Source Document or the UPS Automated Shipping System used, the shipper agrees that the released value of each domestic package or international
          shipment is no greater than $100, which is a reasonable value under the circumstances surrounding the transportation, and that UPS shall not be liable for more than $100 for each domestic package or international shipment.

          Notice the “under the circumstances surrounding the transportation” part?

          • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

            Which is a morally bankrupt cop-out, and certainly not the way things should be.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      agreed. kinda what that you need to pay for insurance to hope they that don’t mess up your package.

      I get letters that is are mangled up when a letter from the post master saying sorry… wth. I don’t want an apology, I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Until the USPS are held accountable for not taking care of the items, they won’t care.

      The only thing I like about USPS is that it’s a federal crime to open someone’ else mail. If the same rule applied to Fedex mail. I would send all my stuff with fedex.

    • kuroshirohaiiro says:

      I would love to work for a company that has a built in clause in their “terms and agreements (that nobody reads)” stating the right to break stuff. In the name of all sarcasm of course, destroying random products in transit has to be a little satisfying if not a stress reliever. Maybe somewhere along the line a USPS employee was scavenging through uninsured packages looking for gifted cash or something of the sort and was suddenly reminded that he was scavenging to pay back a fantasy football bet. Angered, this employee took off some steam to the tune of, “Maxwel’s Silver hammer,” or in this case… silver football trophy of sentimental value and now a consequence of a gambling addict’s rage.

  9. Alvis says:

    “to honor a friend of ours who passed away from cancer last year…”

    Boo hoo. Folks, leave this crap out. We don’t care if you had to drag your kids out to the store in the cold. We don’t care if your husband is in the military. Just stick to the consumer issue.

    • Mike says:

      Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays.

    • coren says:

      Without that it’s just a random hunk of mental. That’s an important aspect to the story.

      • pop top says:

        No. It’s still a trophy. It doesn’t matter that the friend passed away.

        • coren says:

          A trophy is easily replaced. An item of sentimental value isn’t.

          • RogerX says:

            You can create a new trophy and migrate the nameplates of the winners to it. Boom, now the sentiment is on this item. Sentiment is an illusion created by the mind.

            I’m not immune to the sob story. I lost m,y younger brother to cancer at age 29 two years ago. It sucks. But he’s in our minds, not in any item that reminds us of him.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        It’s still just a random hunk of metal.

    • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

      You don’t care. Great. Now stop speaking for every other person on the planet if you don’t mind.

    • unsmith says:

      He’s right, folks. Ask yourself – is the OP entitled to some preferential treatment because he has a sob story? The rules should be universally applied, regardless of emotional circumstance.

      • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

        I like that. “The RULES!” Funny how my rule is that when somebody else breaks something, it’s not automagically my fault.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      I think it’s relevant. After all, the dead friend could be pissed that they used his passing as an excuse to do buy and exchange a fantasy football trophy, and haunted the post office just to make sure he intercepted it and forced them to fumble.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      Actually, I find this quite relevant. It speaks to why it bloody well should have been insured!

      I don’t know how well it can be padded when you are talking about a “if it fits, it ships”. The name alone conjures up visions of improper packaging.

  10. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Sorry, but the USPS shouldn’t be held responsible for your bad packaging job. Someone tried to cut corners by wrapping the item and shipping it cheap, and they failed. I have shipped multiple laptops, and they have always arrived safely. Why? Because I make sure to leave buffer room for some abuse, and don’t skip on materials: http://twitpic.com/17ld15 That’s air bags hot glued to the side of the box, suspending the laptops from touching any edge of the box.

    If anything, you should put it back together, and make the “disaster” part of the history of the trophy.

    • Ilovegnomes says:

      “If anything, you should put it back together, and make the “disaster” part of the history of the trophy.”


    • Eyeheartpie says:

      USPS SHOULD be held responsible for mishandling a box though, and from the OP, it sounds like the box was in pretty bad shape when he got it. That’s not a mispackaged box. That’s a mishandled box.

  11. SpendorTheCheap says:

    I’d like to see a post entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Insure Things Shipped in the Mail” followed by 10,000 stories and photos of things completely undamaged.

    • RogerX says:

      Having sold a couple of thousand of items on eBay and shipped via USPS for 12 years, my personal rate of damage or loss is about 3%. I always require insurance for items worth more than $50. At the cost of insurance, if the 4% claim rate is consistent with other customers, they are losing money on the price they charge.

      I’ve had my share of hoops to jump through, “lost claims” or “claims being investigated” that require hassle to resolve, but eventually they cut me a check for every loss. Of course, there will never be an initiative to reduce the amount of losses, or handle items more safely. The insurance rates will simply go up again.

  12. Tyanna says:

    If a screw is missing, I would find out if the box was opened. I’m not sure it’ll help you in your pursuit, but if you can prove that a USPS worker opened the box and didn’t repack it properly you might have a less flimsy leg to stand on.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      I bet the screw goes through the base, and terminates in the football. If it cracked, the part the screw attaches to could have broken off, and forced the screw out the bottom of the box, at the seam. IIRC, the flat rat boxes fold into themselves, and the center seam of the bottom is “open”.

      • Southern says:

        It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that USPS “inspected” the box’s contents though, either.

  13. Jachim says:

    Don’t use USPS. Problem solved.

  14. coren says:

    “If you ship items with sentimental value, do you spring for insurance or take your chances in the USPS hit parade?”

    Cmon, how is this question helpful? How about something thatll do Jason some good in combating USPS? Why should anyone have to spring for insurance for a shipping company to do their job properly?

    • Eyeheartpie says:

      Because $#!+ happens?

      • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

        That is absolutely unacceptable as an excuse in a business transaction.

        “Shit happens? Sure. But, you’re still paying for it.”

      • coren says:

        Shit happening doesn’t change that I paid someone to ship something (and that there is an implication that this includes the item arrive intact)

  15. LadyTL says:

    As long as it actually arrived, USPS doesn’t care if it is in a million pieces much less three.

  16. RogerX says:

    You guys are paying for a new one. Always pay for insurance unless you can afford to buy a new one. The USPS guys “only” get paid $18-$25 /hr plus government benefits to sort mail. I know a couple of them, and they’re flat-out sociopaths who could not care less about your things.

  17. Package Man says:

    I wish you the best of luck with that, but unless your friend insured it, the USPS isn’t going to give a donkeys rear end. Not much to go by for size reference, but it looks like the trophy should have shipped in a box larger than any of the flat-rate ones. The largest one is only about 12x12x6 and that just isn’t enough room for a trophy that size, with or without bubble wrap.

  18. jiarby says:

    I own and operate a trophy/sign shop and have never seen one smashed up like that! It must have been upside down and then smashed downwars putting all the weight on the neck of the football figure.

    If the OP takes to to a local trophy shop they will be able to order a new football figure and repair the base for a minimum cost.

    NOT as big of a deal as the OP is making it out to be. Less than $50 to fix

  19. Wolfbird says:

    Warning: *some* shipping companies will not insure used items. A trophy that gets swapped around is considered used and is therefor not insurable. Always check with your chosen carrier first.

  20. Jerkamie says:

    Shouldn’t have shipped such a important thing in a cardboard box, the boxes get stacked when put into transit and yours was probably close to the bottom. All that weight on that little support of course it would snap.

  21. common_sense84 says:

    The trophy faked an injury to hide the fact that it was benched?

  22. nicoleintrovert says:

    How is this an issue to be posted on the Consumerist? If he didn’t buy insurance he didn’t buy insurance. Lesson learned. If you are shipping something that is of value to you, sentimental or monetary… INSURE IT!

  23. bruce9432 says:

    The largest hirer of felons (ex-cons) is the USPS, need I say more?

  24. HammRadio says:

    Why isn’t this trophy presented at a neutral site with Joe Buck and a whole bunch of confetti?

  25. ZukeZuke says:

    They are totally SOL.

    Anything of value shipped through the USPS should be insured. Anything worth more than $100 shipped through UPS should be insured. Learn it, live it, love it.

    • ZukeZuke says:

      Additionally, why in the Sam Hell did they go with a bargain shipping method? Anything of value should also be shipped Priority w/tracking (and insurance).

  26. Cetan says:

    Securing it with “no room to give”?

    Sounds like our problem. If you’re packing the bubble-wrap in so tight with no buffer room…

    Also, USPS – U should probably (in)sure.

  27. outinthedark says:

    My faith in humanity is dashed with the completely unsentimental comments made and the final question is completly irrelavant and unhelpful.

    What a brood of trolls.

  28. skapig says:

    Speaking as a former pro-packer, I have trouble believing that this was packed properly. The described amount of bubble wrap sounds ok, but it sounds like it was just placed in a box that could just barely fit it in that state. There should have been an extra inch (at least) left all around it filled in with packaging material such as peanuts to the point that the box is very firm when sealed.

    The big carriers won’t baby your packages. They toss them around and the machinery beats them up. If it’s valuable, pack it right and insure it. Marking it as fragile won’t help too much.

  29. DerangedKitsune says:

    No insurance = they tell you to sit on it and spin.

    USPS will not give a damn about this problem, no matter how high it’s taken.

    Yes, it should not have happened… but they have no impetus to fix it since it wasn’t insured. I figured you could send an uninsured package via USPS, watch as the guy behind the counter rip it open and steal the contents, and toss the packaging in the garbage, and since it wasn’t insured, USPS wouldn’t care because it wasn’t insured.

    • DerangedKitsune says:

      DAMN that is badly written at the end. I really have to proof these better before hitting Submit.

  30. kuroshirohaiiro says:

    GO! CONFRONT THEM! whip out some big books. talk to a business lawyer. There are certain packaging and shipping standards that are required of shipping companies in the US, which does not exclude USPS. So long as there was 2” of packaging material between trophy and box and the USPS still broke it, you could at least get a book of stamps out of them or something. If you are willing to take it to court you would also probably win. Based on these standards (I do not know where to find them so talk to a business lawyer) there is no reason your package could break unless someone threw it in a jet turbine. USPS ftl, punish those UCC breakers.