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45 minutes of hell
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, it's a 'cross bike but I thought people ought to know about UPS ...

Abstract: Don't use UPS to ship bikes, use FedEx instead. Buying insurance is a waste of your money since they don't pay anyway. Bike boxes aren't designed to ship bikes "one at a time."





In May of this year, I bought an Eddy Merckx cyclocross bicycle through Ebay. The purchase price of the bicycle was $1,500 plus shipping. I suggested that the seller use FedEx Ground since that is the cheapest method to ship bicycles. He told me that he had heard some of his acquaintances complain about FedEx Ground and that he preferred UPS. He had a UPS account and had used UPS for many years without incident. I assented.

On Monday, May 17, 2004, the seller shipped the bicycle to me using UPS. He insured the bike for the full purchase price of $1,500. I received the bike on Friday, May 21, 2004. When I unpacked the bike, I discovered that there was damage on the down tube. The damage amounted to two dents and some scratches to the decals and finish. The damage occurred when the shipping box was compressed and the hub of one of the wheels was pressed into the down tube. Each dent must have occurred during a separate compression event. It would have been very upsetting if the damage were merely cosmetic. However, the damage may have compromised the structural integrity of the bicycle frame.

A frame is tolerant to some dents but a dent on the down tube of at least the size of a quarter will seriously compromise the frame integrity. I purchased this bike to race. Racing, especially cyclocross racing, puts high stresses on bicycle frames. Racing this frame will cause it to fail.

The seller has shipped bicycles before. He packed the bicycle in a box specifically designed to ship bicycles (a bike box). He put padding on all the frame tubes, bagged and taped all loose items, and cut cardboard baffles to prevent the wheels from shifting. In other words, he packed the bike very well. In fact, he put padding around the down tube and there is a hole in the padding where the hub was pressed through. There is no question that the damage occurred in transit.

The seller and I talked about the damage and he filed a claim with UPS. The seller also formulated a plan to repair the bike. He would be able to purchase a new frame through his sponsor's bicycle shop for cost. He would then ship me the frame for a total cost of about $750-$800 - far shy of the insured amount of $1,500. A UPS employee came out to my house and inspected the bike and the packing materials.

On June 22, 2004, one month and one day after I received the bike, UPS informed the seller that the insurance company denied the claim. He appealed. After playing telephone tag endlessly with the insurance representaive of Crawford and Co. (the insurance company UPS uses), he finally found out July 15, 2004 that the claim was still denied. The insurance agent stated that UPS stipulates that all packages must be buffered by 2 inches of foam packing. The agent further claimed that bike boxes were designed to be transported en mass on pallets and that they were unsuitable for standard shipping.

I am very disappointed that the claim was denied. The bicycle was well packed. In fact, a bike shop owner saw the packing job and commented that it was more than they do when shipping bikes. The bike was obviously damaged in transit through significant compression loading. No matter what monetary resolution the seller and I agree to, the bike frame is unusable for racing. It took us almost two months to learn of the final resolution. Nothing about this experience has been good.

Going into the claim process, I speculated that there would be three possible outcomes: 1) UPS paid the claim in a timely manner and everyone was happy, 2) UPS paid the claim only after some prodding, or 3) UPS denied the claim. I thought that the third outcome was the least likely. At this point, I have no recourse other than to let as many people as possible hear about my poor experience with UPS.
 

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giddy up!
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3,249 Posts
Yup...

...UPS sucks when it comes to stuff like that, BUT, the seller did not do a few key things that you ALWAYS need to do when shipping a bike.

If you are shipping the wheels in the same box as the bike(which is a terrible idea, BTW) you MUST ziptie the wheel to the frame so it won't shift, and cover both axles with plastic covers that are made for that purpose. These are tricks that are well known in the bike mail order biz, usually learned after one too many frames have been damaged by the brown clown.

Sorry to see that happen to such a nice bike. I've ridden (and shipped) that bike a few times, it does ride really nice. I guess I probably shouldn't mention that now that it is a goner....sorry:)

Best of luck to you next time....
 

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crossdresser said:
At this point, I have no recourse other than to let as many people as possible hear about my poor experience with UPS.
Yes you do. Go to small claims court. Probably cost you less than $50 to get to court. This will be a really big hassle for UPS and/or their insurer.

Argue: Even with the correct 2 inches of padding, the bike frame would have been damaged. The force needed to dent a frame will not (nearly) be stopped by 2 inches of "padding". Even packed correctly, this bike would have been damaged.

I'd look really closely at all the written materials UPS provided re: shipping, insurance, boxing... If you or the shipper didn't get specific instructions re: 2 inches of padding, bike boxing, I'd say UPS owes you some money.
 

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Lucky One
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If possible ship in name of the buyer.

The small claims court might work but I think the seller would have to make the case. UPS only had a contract with him.

I don't know what it takes but in the future you should try to have items that you are buying from privite owners shipped in your name. This allows you to deal directly with the shipping company if problems occur.
 

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The small claims court is a great idea. IF that doesn't work, or if you don't want to go that route, you might send the corporate offices (personally, I'd send it to the customer service office, copy to the President of the company) a letter documenting the damage, packing, insurance, etc. Tell them you expect them to replace the frame. Also, mention that if they're comfortable that the frame structure hasn't been compromised, you'll ride it... but if it breaks and you are injured, you will be back with a rabid dog of a lawyer and looknig for a helluva lot more than a new frame.
 

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skiahh said:
The small claims court is a great idea. IF that doesn't work, or if you don't want to go that route, you might send the corporate offices (personally, I'd send it to the customer service office, copy to the President of the company) a letter documenting the damage, packing, insurance, etc. Tell them you expect them to replace the frame. Also, mention that if they're comfortable that the frame structure hasn't been compromised, you'll ride it... but if it breaks and you are injured, you will be back with a rabid dog of a lawyer and looknig for a helluva lot more than a new frame.
That's a good idea too! Probably not only send it to the individuals above, but also cc: it to some of the major mail-order bicycle companies i.e. Performance, Nashbar.... as many companies as possible. I'd really like to know (and I am sure someone does) if Performance et al. package their bikes in the manner described by UPS????
 

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fred³ said:
Never had a problem with ups. Sounds more like it was packed improperly. Always shipped my bike "one at a time". Don't know any other way to do it.
Didn't you read the description of how it was packed? I don't see how much more could have been done, sans a hard case, to prevent this damage???
 

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Box looked like it had been dragged behind the UPS truck...

The shipping department of Progressive Suspension had packed it. Many parts were damaged and the rear triangle destroyed.
Lucky for me Progressive Suspension stood behind the incident and reimbursed me. Thanks, Progressive and thanks, for the Fifth Element Shock.

When the adjuster (normally a salesman for UPS) looked at the destroyed box and the excellent packing job, he said, "people ask me what they can send. After looking at your box, I think I will be more cautious in the future."

USPS and FEDEX has always worked for me.
 

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Perpetrator of Lawsuits
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Go with the small-claims idea. The fact that you were not an original party to the insurance contract with UPS does not matter. The contract was made for your benifit, which makes you a third-party benificiary. As such, you can sue on it.

Also, UPS's assertion that the contract specifies there needs to be 2" of padding is likely B.S. More probably, their contract requires that the goods be "adequately protected" or some other such language. The 2" language is probably that adjusters interpretation of what is adequate. Fortunately for you, once you're in court, nobody cares what his interpretation is. Further, if there was no mention of this when the insurance was purchased, they're screwed.

Additionally, you said something to the effect that your LBS said the packing was great and he ships bikes all the time. Great, get an affadavit from him or better yet, have him go to court with you if possible.

Also, someone above advanced the argument that 2" of padding would have made no difference. That's a great argument, use it too.

You'll find that small-claims is an EXTREMELY favorable venue for consumer-plaintiffs--especially against a defendant like UPS. This is a typical move for UPS--indeed, I would bet they deny virtually every claim--that's how insurance companies work (trust me, I know what I'm talking about). The judge will know this, and more likely than not any argument from UPS will fall flat.

Seriously, sue 'em. The a$$holes richly deserve it, the cost is minimal, and you're very likely to win.

The agent further claimed that bike boxes were designed to be transported en mass on pallets and that they were unsuitable for standard shipping.

--I just noticed this quote from your post. Point this out to the court, and note that (1) that's how bikes are shipped all the time per LBS guy and (2) if the container itself was so plainly unsuitable (thus being obvious to anyone who looked at it), why did UPS take it and insure it in the first place?
 

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Complete Bastard
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If UPS accepted the package then they're approving the manner in which it is packed. That said, I've never had good luck with UPS, they are the absolute worst shipper in the business. I've had steve3's experience several times, been on the phone to the corporate office with various members of their management and nothing ever changes. Their assertion that the bike box is only for groups of bike is complete bs. No normal sized bike shop buys bikes by the pallete, they get them shipped in a few at a time and they're all packed the same way. Take em to court.
 

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Take them to court

First, let my start by saying sorry for your loss of time and of frame. That sucks.

I went through the same thing, only for a Dean Mtb.

I also worked at UPS part time in college, and I'll tell you this much. It was damaged w/out a doubt at one of the hubs. Here's why it was damaged, and the 2" of foam is crap. When the big boxes come down the belt (the 18 wheelers unload at a sorting station and the packages are sent down an assembly line with zip code being the way of sorting) you have to pull boxes for your truck. The belt moves fast, and you have to load your truck w/out missing packages or you're fired. So when boxes like that come down, they're usually heavy and you just toss them in the truck and clean and sort the truck when the sort is over. I used to pull big boxes all the time and just stand on them (hence why the hub dimpled the down tube) due to lack of room. It's 100% the fault of the truck loaders, you have to understand how they work. Most of them (who aren't college students) aren't suitable to change oil in a Jiffy Lube, and two or three of the guys around me were on work release if that tells you anything.

Take them to small claims court, their insurance company will pay out rather than have to incure the cost of a lawyer and cort costs.

Good luck!
 

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I'll throw in my two cents that UPS sucks. Without running throught the stories, I have had problems with non deliverly, dropped packages (last time the delivery guy threw a box with a child car seat over the fence instead of opening the gate), late deliveries. USPS has been unreal in how fast and well they deliver packages, including bike frames.
 

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fred³ said:
When my bike is shipped the hard points are wrapped with bubble wrap. This prevents the sort of thing that happened. ergo: lousy packing job.
Bubble rap will stop a force capable of causing a dent the size of a quarter in the down tube?

You must know about some whoop-a$$ bubble rap that I have never heard about?!?!

Come on man, it seems clear that in the absence of a hard-sided case, this guy's bike was going to be damaged no matter what.
 

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We get titles?
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I blame the insurance company

Yes, since UPS uses them as their insurer, they're partially to blame.

But really, you have to blame the insurance company. What scum. Don't you buy insurance in case something like this happens? What does it matter how it was packed? If you buy insurance in case of damage and it is damaged, you should get paid. The insurance industry truly is the worst of the worst. There's another thread on the 'best deals' board where some people question the integrity of car dealerships. Insurance company's are 100 times worse. They sell you insurance in case something happens. As soon as something happens and you file a claim, they go to work denying it. Nevermind the huge percentage of policies where there are no claims, they want 100% profit. Screw them. You should sue the insurance company on general principal.
 

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Please consider this, Crossdresser....

I had a very similar problem but with FedEx. They did nothing but give me the run-around over 3 months and repeatedly told me the claim was denied because of 'improper packaging'.

In the end I finally got them to accept the claim and I believe it was for a single reason: Holding them accountable through the Better Business Bureau.

I went to BBB's website and filed a complaint that in my opinion was unbiased and factual. Well, I did state that the only way 'proper packaging' would have prevented the damage was if the original shipper had filled the box with concrete once the bike was placed within it.

From my understanding, a company must respond to a complaint filed with the BBB within a given time frame to avoid receiving an unsatisfactory mark from the BBB. I think that by stating the facts, describing the packaging, and quoting the responses I had received from FedEx that it was impossible for FedEx to reply to BBB and myself with a satisfactory reason as to why the claim was denied.

I would strongly recommend taking this approach before going down the small claims court path. The BBB approach is free and is relatively quick to get a response from the company in question and the BBB.

Good luck!
 
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