11 How to destroy a recording console (or anything else): Ship it UPS

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3 Oct 2001

So I never ship anything UPS. Ever. They destroyed a computer of mine in 1993, and then refused to pay replacement cost on it. I eventually had to settle for replacement cost for Korean clone parts instead of the nice computer I had. This ended my relationship with UPS.

Then I sold my Behringer MX-8000A recording console a month ago. I loved the thing to death, but I needed money. The buyer specifically requests UPS 3-day, and wants it by the end of the week. I ask him if he's sure he wants UPS, and he says yes. Fine, whatever. I'm insuring it anyway, so it's not that much of a concern.

So I call UPS, schedule a pickup for the next morning, and ask about the packing for this, since it's obviously not your average cardboard box. I explain that it's packed in a custom flight case, and that it's got at least an inch or so of high-quality foam on each side. The woman I made the appointment with said that would be fine, except that they would charge me $10 for it not being in a cardboard box. This seems odd, but the $10 really doesn't bother me.

So the UPS guys show up to pick it up. I open the case, and ask them if the packing looks good. They also say it looks plenty strong and well-padded. I already knew this, since the case alone cost a few hundred dollars, but it's nice to hear it from them.

A couple days later, the case arrives. The buyer tells me that channels 13-24 don't work, and that the arms holding the meter bridge on are broken. This is clearly bad news, but I'm not that concerned, as I shipped it fully insured. He informs me that he already filed a claim, but hasn't heard back from them.

I call up UPS, and ask why they let the buyer file a claim in the first place. They say that they normally don't, but that if the buyer insists, they will allow it. I ask that they make me the contact for the claim going forward. They then tell me that they have no record of the claim. (Like I'm really surprised.) I tell them to open a new one, and ask them to pick the console up as soon as possible.

Well, I returned home from NYC and was waiting for the package when the terrorist attack ocurred on September 11th. I waited as long as I could (almost 2 days) for the package to arrive, and then I had to get up to NYC to take care of problems caused by the attack, and to meet with my employer. I called UPS on the way, and told them that I would not be home to receive the package. I did not have the current tracking number for it (they assigned it a new one), and the old tracking number wasn't enough for the representative to locate the shipment. She said she would sent a note to the local depot to not deliver the package until I came back on Monday the 24th.

A few days have past and I haven't heard anything. The buyer wants to know when he's getting his money back. I call up and throw a fit, and they tell me that they evaluated the claim and denied it, and were unable to reach me at my home number. Of course, I was at my employer's office in New York at the time, and gave them the number there when i filed the claim. They said they had no record of that number. They seem to have a lot of trouble with their computer systems...

I ignore all this, and demand to know why they have denied the claim. The CSR says they don't know, and they'll have to have someone from claims call me back. They said I should receive a call within the next hour. I waited an hour and a half, and called back. I am told that there is no record of my request in the computer. I was starting to get very tired of this excuse at this point. I re-request that someone call me back, and make sure that I get the person's name this time. She assures me that Carolyn will be calling me back within the hour.

Well, Carolyn called back after about an hour, but I missed the call because after 2.5 hours I _really_ needed to visit the restroom. I called back and left a voice mail. Carolyn then called back the next day. She was the first clued and polite person I had spoken to. She informed me that the claim was denied because of insufficient packaging.

I explained that I had asked the person who placed the pickup order and the two drivers who picked up and both had said the package was fine. Apparently they have a written policy describing the necessary packing for something to be packed properly. I was NOT informed of this when I asked whether the packaging was acceptable. Regardless of what their policy states, the console was packed perfectly well. Apparently if I had packed the console in a cardboard box with 2" of foam peanuts, it would have been "properly packed", but a aluminum framed case with wooden sides with 1" or more of high-quality foam is not acceptable.

I explained that this decision wasn't acceptable and that I wanted to appeal it. Carolyn promised me that Gladys from some other group would call me. I didn't receive a call from Gladys the whole time I was in NYC. I didn't press the issue, because I wanted to see the condition of the mixer before I spoke to her anyway, so that I could speak intelligently about exactly how it was mistreated.

I got back home on the 9th, and discovered my door plastered with UPS delivery attempt notices. I didn't even bother to call and ask why, because I'm sure they would have "had no record" of the request to delay the delivery. I called them up a couple of days later and was informed that the product had been "returned to sender." I explained politely, using very small words, that that was me. I was told that the sender was some UPS location in Kansas. I requested that they re-send it back to me. I got a call later that day from a second intelligent and politer woman, who was very understanding and told me that it was never sent to Kansas, but rather back to Wisconson. She put in a request to have the shipment turned back around when it got there.

Nothing else happened until today. This morning the console arrived with a single UPS delivery guy, who asked that I help him carry it up 3 flights of stairs. I stared at him blankly for a few moments, and then asked if he could please come back with another driver so that they could actually deliver it to me. If I wanted to carry packages for UPS I would join the union and be underpaid, overworked, and defrauded of my wages like all of their drivers are.

They returned quite soon, after only an hour or two. As they carried it into my apartment, I noticed that the case was hanging open on one corner, and foam was falling out of it. This was not a good sign. I moved it to the largest open floor space I could find and started taking photos as I opened it.

The damaged corner of the Calzone custom flight case. Note the large dents in the very heavy metal corner piece, the cracked side of the case, the bent frame, and the latch that wasn't closed.

A closeup of the corner piece. This is heavy metal, and it would take a fairly firm blow from a hammer to dent it this bad (or a drop 5' out of the back of a UPS delivery truck).

A closeup of the unlatched latch and the huge crack in the case.

A closeup of the crack.

A closeup of the latch.

After taking these photos, I opened the case. I almost cried. The meter bridge was torn off the console, and wasn't even seated evenly to protect it during return shipping. Notice the bits of foam scattered around the control surface.

A closeup of the bent meter bridge arm.

A closeup of the bent screw that still barely held the arm to the meter bridge.

A closeup of the cracked plastic overlay on the meter bridge.

The other arm from the meter bridge, completely torn off and lying loose on top of the console

A closeup of the side of the console, where the it was cracked when the meter bridge was torn off.

The main mix fader was bent. Considering that there was nothing loose when the console was shipped, I can't even imagine how this got bent. My best guess is that perhaps someone opened the case, or that the case flew open when it was dropped hard enough to warp the sides, damage a couple of latches, and dent the corner piece.

Closeups of where the foam was simply torn off the side of the case. I don't see how this could be caused by a drop. The flat edge of the meter bridge or console slamming up against the foam would compress it, but it would not tear it off the side of the case. The amount of shock this console must have experience is amazes me.

Top-down shots showing the warping of the aluminum frame. The warping is almost all outwards, meaning that it was not caused by a direct blow, but by distortion of the case when it was dropped onto a side perpindicular to these. That is consistent with the one extensively damaged corner.

I have not disassembled the console or tesed it yet. I imagine there might be some internal circuitboard damage which is responsible for the failed channels. Hopefully it will be visible so that I can photograph it.

I called UPS and eventually managed to explain the whole situation to yet another CSR (since very little of what has transpired so far seems to be recorded in their computers). I asked her a few questions she couldn't answer, explaining that I needed to gather information to file a lawsuit against UPS in Maryland state small claims court. This seemed to end the conversation rather quickly. Carolyn called me back in about 10 minutes, and Gladys (who never did call me before) called me back about half an hour after that. I guess things move faster when you threaten legal action. UPS seems to work like most HMOs -- deny the claim and make getting information difficult, and 90% of the people will never dispute it effectively.

So Gladys told me that the claim was denied because the package wasn't damaged. (HAH!) This is different from what I was originally told, which was that the packing was insufficient. I guess they don't even know what the official corporate lie is on this claim. She's supposed to be getting photos from the UPS location that evaluated the claim.

I also called up the main switchboard for UPS (404-828-6000). It's apparently not listed with directory services. You gotta wonder about a multibillion dollar company that doesn't list its phone number. Luckily the fine folks at UPS Logistics (770-698-9455) were kind enough to give me the number. I asked for the office of James Kelly, the CEO. I spoke to his assistant's assitant, who said that he was out of the office. His assitant, Maureen Sullivan, is supposed to call me back. I said it was in regards to "an insurance claim and pending legal action."

4 Oct 2001

I called UPS's insurance agency today, Glenlake Insurance Agency (877-242-7930). They're a subsidiary of UPS Capital (*snicker*) -- Glenlake is the street that UPS headquarters is on in Atlanta. They're actually quite professional and polite over there, unlike the UPS customer service company (apparently outsourced to APAC Customer Services). I was transferred to Hathaway Jones (x8335). I asked whether the Excess Value Insurance contract required arbitration or initiaing legal action in any particular venue. It turns out it doesn't, which means that I can take them to small claims court locally here in Maryland. This is a good thing.

At Mr. Jones' suggestion, I spoke to Lisa Steel (x6187) over at Crawford & Company (877-225-7625), who does claims adjustment for UPS. It turns out that this is where the mysterious Gladys works. They're both part of the "UPS Shipper Interest Program," though to date they hasn't shown any interest in me. Gladys was at lunch, and was supposed to call me back right after lunch (she's been at lunch for about 4 hours now).

The conclusion I called for Gladys a few more times and left threatening messages about taking them to small claims court if the matter was not resolved immediately. I eventually received a call back from her and she asked for and address to mail me claim forms. I received them around mid-October. I had already gotten a quote on a replacement console at $2600 (if only I had been smart enough to ensure for replacement cost...). I filled out the forms and faxed them in, along with the quote. After a few days I had not heard anything else, so I called Gladys again. She never did respond to my calls after after I faxed in the forms, but I did receive a check for $1612.29 ($1500 insurance plus $112.29 shipping refund) on October 22nd.

That's almost exactly two months after I shipped the console. Better late than never, I suppose. On the upside, I still have the console. Who knows, maybe I can repair it and ship it with UPS again. This time I'll be sure to insure it for the full replacement value. If I ship it two or three times I'm sure they're bound to destroy it again. :)