Dozens of Amazon customers were disappointed in mid-November when the long-awaited PlayStation 4 game consoles they had pre-ordered finally came, but their units were dead-on-arrival due to shipping damage.
The unhappy buyers reported on a Play Station forum that the sensitive machines were packed with only a bit of bubble wrap or packing peanuts on top, and no other support or protection on the bottom or sides of the unit. When the boxes got dropped, the PS4s were damaged.
This is the season when many of us are either waiting for items ordered online to be delivered, or shipping gifts to distant family or friends. Unfortunately, a recent study by Stella Service found a one in 10 chance that a package will be damaged during shipping.
Stella Service reviewed a total of 3,234 package deliveries from January to September of this year from the point of view of the companies selling and shipping out their products, and found that 313 (10%) of the packages arrived in poor condition. Of those 313, 16 of the products inside the boxes were damaged.
UPS had the highest rate of damaged packages in the survey, with 11%; the US Postal Service was at 10%; and FedEx came in at 7%. The good news is that 19 of the sellers -- such as Abercrombie.com, Dell. com, Target.com and Walmart.com -- reported zero damaged packages in the study.
Only 16 damaged products out of 3,234 packages may seem like a relatively low number, but what to do if your long-awaited item is the one that shows up badly beat up?
If you receive a damaged package
- Take pictures, so you have a record of how the package looked when it arrived.
- If you notice the damage when the package is delivered, one option is to refuse it entirely, having the shipping company log it as "damaged, return to sender." If you do this, immediately contact the company who sold you the item, explain the problem, and tell them whether you want a refund or a new item shipped to you.
- The other option is to notify the delivery company immediately to list the package as "received damaged, subject to further inspection." Typically this must be reported within a day or two of delivery. You must keep the box (or boxes) and all packing materials, and when you call you will need to know the tracking number on the box, a description of the damage and its value. After reporting the problem to the shipping company, notify the company that sold you the item about the problem, and whether you want a replacement, refund, discount or other compensation. The shipping company will typically deal directly with the retailer who sold and shipped your item.
How to protect items you're shipping
- Packaging is crucial. Whether it's the post office, UPS, FedEx or another carrier, most shipping companies will deny a claim for damages if they determine it was not properly packed. A basic rule of thumb is to visualize what might happen if the package were tossed eight feet across the room, and pack it appropriately. Many experts recommend packing the item in a small box inside a larger box, with lots of padding surrounding it. Packaging tips are provided by the US Postal Service, FedEx and UPS.
- Take photos while packing the item. If you do need to file a claim, you will be able to show exactly how it was prepared for shipping.
- Insure it, especially if it will be expensive to replace. UPS and FedEx insure items for up to $100 for free; for items worth more than $100, they charge about $0.80-$0.90 for each $100 of coverage. The US Postal Service only includes $100 worth of coverage for items shipped Priority Mail Express; otherwise insurance starts at $1.95 and goes up based on the item's value.
- Keep all receipts until the package is safely received-- the receipt for the shipping and insurance charges, and the invoice(s) or register receipt(s) showing how much you paid for the items shipped. Carriers will deny a damage claim if there is no written proof of the value of the item.
The odds are in your favor that your package will arrive intact -- but damage does happen. How lucky do you feel?