Thinking of shipping valuable stuff by UPS? Think different!
November 15, 2001 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Thinking of shipping valuable stuff by UPS? Think different! Every time I forget exactly why I never, ever want to ship anything at all by UPS ground, a story like this one pops up that reminds me. The last time I had something sent to me using that "service" (and I use the term loosely) my Athlon desktop system showed up at my door with the case dented and the CPU & heatsink loose inside the case as the box was jolted so violently that it broke the notch (on the ZIF socket) which usually keeps the assembly in place. Use FedEx if it positively, absolutely has to be there in one piece, I guess.
posted by clevershark (20 comments total)
as if MetaFarker wasn't enough, now we're turning into MetaDot as well? :P
posted by sawks at 5:55 PM on November 15, 2001

I'm not going to be a post nazi, but I am going to say this: Why sign for it if it looks like that?
posted by Hildago at 6:30 PM on November 15, 2001

Ask someone at Pyra about the server the USPS mailed us once. It looked a lot like the power tower in those photos. Even though the person shipping it insured the package I think it took three months for them to repay the money on a server needed at the time it was damaged.
posted by mathowie at 6:44 PM on November 15, 2001

you WOULD get a new "whatever you ordered" purchased by UPS if something was that damaged. Right?
posted by Satapher at 6:46 PM on November 15, 2001

Remember: every post is potentially a PR post.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:53 PM on November 15, 2001

Reminds me of that joke:

What do you get when you cross FedEx and UPS?

Fed Up

I've had problems with both. (And USPS... And DHL... And Airborne...) UPS seems no different than any other shipping service in that regard. That's why I buy from companies like (gasp) - they've always quickly replaced any item damaged/lost/etc. by a shipper, no questions asked, no dealing with the shipper.
posted by jca at 7:00 PM on November 15, 2001

I have suffered from the same problems here ( Australia ) with a company called Star Track, then again they were called Discount Freight only a little while ago, so i probably shouldn't be complaining.
posted by Zool at 7:05 PM on November 15, 2001

this is why i buy insurance of at least $500 on everything i ship via ups. even if it's utterly valuless. it's not that much more per package, and if they damage some utter peice of crap, it's like winning a (very small) lottery.
posted by phalkin at 7:07 PM on November 15, 2001

United Parcel Smashers.

Anyway, check out the slashdot artical. It's gotten over a thousand posts already, some from former UPS employees talking about how they would throw around boxes marked 'fragile' for fun.
posted by delmoi at 8:05 PM on November 15, 2001

I just shipped stuff via UPS when I moved, and $100 of insurance per package is included with the cost of shipping. So if this guy isn't getting anything back, there's probably something else going on here.

(I had no problem with them, btw. Everything intact, even the boxes (more or less).)
posted by mattpfeff at 8:13 PM on November 15, 2001

Ok, I don't want to sound like I'm taking UPSes side here, BUT I've worked in IT for like 6 years, so I've done my share of shipping and I've recieved my share of broken equipment from other offices (I also broke the first computer I shipped).

If you're shipping a computer through anybody (let me tell you about when FedEx lost the $20,000 brodcast graphics computer that my coworker forgot to get insurance on!)..

1. Don't fuck around when you're shipping stuff.

That's pretty much the rule. If you're not 100% sure that it's not going to break if it gets thrown around don't ship it. I'll admit it's a pain to ship computers, but you gotta make sure that you take it seriously. The dude had freakin Tupperware to brace his monitor! I mean, come on.

Now granted I did once ship a computer in two boxes taped together using nothing but empty boxes and padded airborne envelopes for cushioning - but I felt bad doing it... I just didn't have too many options because it wasn't my office and those people were stupid.

It's not a bad idea if you have the space to keep the box and packing materials (especially for the monitor, they're usually a little less sturdy)...

I can tell you that IF the box was packed properly it would never end up looking like what that guy got...
posted by QrysDonnell at 10:26 PM on November 15, 2001

I'm with QrysDonnell.

I've used UPS for years and years and never had a problem. And this includes a year in which I ran a warehouse for a small manufacturing company--we would recieve and fill 1/2-1 truck/day.

Ya simply gotta know how to pack things and understand that your package does not get from point A to point B cause some white gloved servant gently carries it there, but rather it's tossed (yes, sometimes literally) in with lots of other packages and hauled like freight ('cause it is). So learn how to pack boxes for shipping.
posted by donovan at 2:03 AM on November 16, 2001

We too use UPS, but only cuz they suck less than the competition.

My experience with them:

-UPS handles cartons like Donovan says, like freight, nothing more.

-UPS handlers get wood dropping boxes on the corners, whick will often defeat the best packed plans of mice and men

-They self insure, so they use every trick in the book to keep their payouts low. This includes dragging their feet on claims, using excuses to disallow claims (and who are you going to appeal to since they self insure). Note to phalkin: your lottery is fraud, perhaps wire-fraud and besides, they ask for proof of value to process a claim.

Taking a meta-left turn--we just got notice that UPS are raising their prices 3.5% and keeping the fuel surplus in place and raising all their fees (e.g. $1.10 to deliver to a residence up from $1.00. Good news tho: Still just a $5.00 address correction charge if even one letter in the address is misplaced!) Being that Fuel charges have fallen faster than in the last 20 years, and inflation is still non existent, Aren't they the prototypical patriotic Made in America Corporation?- Beware the army of Brownsuits!
posted by BentPenguin at 6:32 AM on November 16, 2001

We shipped some newly-ghosted hard drives from Chicago to a field office in SF once, and when our fellow tech began installing them on Saturday morning, he found that some 15 out of 20 were .... fried. Dead. Unrecognizable. Unbootable. They'd been packed by the one of the three of us who'd worked in a mailroom -- so they were packed good and professional. I had to go in that Saturday, ghost 15 more drives, pack them up (doubly professional this time -- it was like a letter to Penthouse about a bubble wrap fetish), and we had to use FedEx's late pickup, early delivery, weekend overnight rate to get them there Sunday -- it was some godawful figure that would have served a wedding reception well, I'm sure.

FedEx disclaimed all responsibility because the drives were visually unharmed (and somebody from our company had accepted the shipment!), and my boss fought with their insurance representative for three months. We finally got a settlement worth a fraction of the cost of replacing the hardware, not to mention the cost of my time and the 2nd shipment. It seemed pointless at some level to spend all that effort fighting for a few hundred dollars for a Fortune 1000 corporation (my boss's time alone had to cost more than the compensation), but it was the principle of the thing. I've never had a shipment that got screwed up more than this, ever.

There was the laptop that got left on someone's front stoop ("signature required"; full insurance compensation, and quick), and the one that didn't show up before a regional sales manager's flight to the West Coast (generated some dozen calls, the FedEx van had been in an accident and was upside down in a ditch -- heck, that time, the equipment survived). Those are entertaining, but they aren't as annoying in retrospect.
posted by dhartung at 8:35 AM on November 16, 2001

There are horror stories for any and all shipping companies, but UPS *does* seem to have the worst reputation of the lot.

Here's my horror story, about Airborne Express: one Thursday afternoon last year, I packed up six boxes of computer equipment belonging to a client, worth about ten thousand dollars in sum. The office building next door was huge and had a vast mailroom operation to match, and so I left those six boxes of equipment right in front of the Airborne dropbox about 40 minutes before their last pickup for the day (they had to go out that day and it was too late to schedule an Airborne pickup as we normally did).

So on Tuesday following the client calls. They didn't receive their stuff. I call Airborne and give them the tracking numbers; they don't have any of those boxes. I get all agitated and walk next door and check the mailroom---my boxes were still there. But shoved against a wall so the Airborne guy could get into the dropbox they had been blocking and pick up the packages that were in it... the ones it wouldn't strain him to have to carry to his truck, I guess.

I was livid, man. Called up Airborne and made them send someone out special and I sat in that damn basement mailroom and waited for the guy to show up. First thing he said when he showed up and saw me lying in wait was "this isn't my usual route, I wouldn't have done this, the other guy musta just not felt like picking them up." Oh, that makes me feel better.

But what are the other options? I still hold a grudge against UPS for that messy strike several years back; I'm not shipping anything FedEx due to the Bill Maher fiasco---I guess I could send USPS but who knows what being particle-bombed or whatever will due to valuable computer equipment ;>
posted by Sapphireblue at 10:58 AM on November 16, 2001

The Royal Mail and Parcelforce get all my business. I quite honestly wouldn't know how to send a parcel with UPS or FedEx when I'm in the US, or with another courier service here. (MetaPinions, anyone?)
posted by holgate at 11:15 AM on November 16, 2001

I used to unload trucks for UPS. Let me just say this: The more your package stands out, the harder it will get kicked. Don't put any happy faces on the side. Don't write fragile an excessive number of times. The shipping label is the first thing everybody is required to look at, so if you write fragile on the top of the box, that's probably plenty. If it isn't actually fragile don't write anything.

It's hard damn work, and not particularly gratifying, so sometimes the packages act as a stand in for the superviser's face.

Oh, and if your package is heavy, forget about it. You're fucked.
posted by etc. at 11:36 AM on November 16, 2001

I used to work in a high-end hi-fi store. Shipped a lot of stuff, all over. One lesson learned: if you care about it, DOUBLE box it. It needs to survive (at least) a fall off the back of a truck.

If you don't have the original packaging, or can come close to reproducing it, you're asking for shipper-induced destruction. The key is not to allow your stuff to slide around inside the box, by packing it with something strong enough to hold it in place. It has to support the weight of your stuff, plus impact G forces. Bubble wrap is worthless if the bubbles are popped. Once you have a solid inner box, find one a few inches larger, surround the inner surfaces with bubble wrap or foam or whatever will support the weight, and seal it with packing tape.

This guy appears to have done a very halfassed job. Tupperware is not a UPS approved packaging material. And it looks like he may have packed multiple heavy items in one box? Bad, bad, bad.
posted by groundhog at 1:28 PM on November 16, 2001

I was a primary sorter for UPS. (united pot smokers indeed) My job was to sort packages as they came off the plane. They would get loaded onto giant conveyer belts and get dropped down a huge wide slide literally 1000's at a time. If you were unlucky, some guy that overloaded box past the weight limit amount came sliding down after your package. It was a pretty bad sight. Little packages get completly squashed. No fault of the person sorting, just bad luck on the place your fragile package was in relation to 6 bigger 150lbs packages. As a primary sorter I delt with 1050 packages per hour in a 5 and a half hour shift. At the time pay was 8.00 hour. Now 6 years later, 8.50.
I don't care who you ship with, as long as employees get paid crap, you are going to have problems. Because for 8.00 an hour we frankly could care less about your package.

Don't act so shocked, you wouldn't either.
posted by andryeevna at 4:22 AM on November 17, 2001

I'll never forget watching in shock from my balcony as the UPS guy ROLLED a 25" TV box off his truck. My neighbor found the glass broken, of course. (Not speaking to the judgment used in sending a large TV via UPS.)
posted by abosio at 8:23 AM on November 20, 2001

« Older Putin taking questions on from American call ins...   |   Personal Edition - Linux for the whole family. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments