UPS Plays Blame Game After $5,000 Package Gets Damaged

Mike owns a small business, and he ships a lot. He mostly used UPS, and says that he probably spends $12,000 on shipping annually. Of all of the company’s items to get damaged in transit, it had to be the one worth more than $5,000 that was insured, but not for the full value of the package. That’s just how the world works. UPS claims that the item was damaged due to improper packaging, which is interesting because the item had been packaged at a local UPS Store. But loyal Consumerist readers know that UPS Stores are franchises, not owned by UPS. This means that UPS can blame the damage on Mike, since he’s the one who paid someone else to package the item.

I own a small business that does about $12,000 in shipping each year. Until recently, we primarily used UPS.

I’m comfortable with my staff packing and shipping normal boxes. We normally ship 3-5 boxes every single day. For heavy or expensive packages, I’d rather pay a professional to pack the box and take the risk. We are professionals in our field, but just competent in packaging and shipping. So every 2 months or so, we take a package to a UPS or FedEx distribution center/store and pay them to package it.

In this case, our customer insisted on using UPS with their UPS number. The package was heavy (90 pounds), and expensive (over $5,000). We took it to the UPS distribution center that referred us to a UPS store a few miles away. We took it to that UPS store who packaged it and sent it. $133 for packaging, plus whatever our customer paid for the shipping and $5000 of insurance. Expensive, but for a $5000+ package, I felt it was worth it.

Unfortunately, the package was severely damaged in transit. Repairing the package took over $5,000 in costs, including sensitive electronic components and multiple trips to the customer. It’s my fault I didn’t insure it for the full amount.

Unfortunately, that’s when the finger-pointing started. UPS couldn’t visit the customer for several days due to internal scheduling issues. Due to the time-sensitive nature of the package, the customer opened the package and took pictures and video of the damage. UPS denied the claim due to improper packaging; The UPS Store blamed the issue on UPS Transportation and said the store wasn’t responsible.

I find out later that UPS Corporate purchased Mailboxes etc. several years ago, renaming it “The UPS Store”. Each UPS Store, however, is independently owned and franchised. Because the UPS Store is a separate legal entity, no-one appears to be responsible.

UPS Insurance (also a separate company, called Crawford & Company), initially refused to deal with me as the buyer’s UPS number was used. After several months of working within their process, both the buyer and I gave up.

Step 1 – I disputed/charged-back the $133 from the UPS Store with American Express. I paid the UPS Store for a service they didn’t perform properly. AMEX tried to work with the merchant, but the merchant didn’t respond. AMEX credited my account. The UPS Store already had an “F” rating from the BBB and is the “Penalty Box” with Angie’s List.