TSA, UPS Brutalizing Shipments. What Gives?

We keep reminding readers that the plural of anecdote is not data. However, we’ve just had two of two shippings go very badly awry, to the tune of >$1000 in damage in each case. So if nothing else, consider this a public service announcement as to the need to pack even more defensively than ever when using UPS.

In the case of the TSA’s vandalism, it’s less clear as to how take precautions.

First to the UPS perpetrating what sure looks like willful destruction of packages with “Fragile” stickers all over them. These were three boxes my brother sent to himself from Alabama. He came here last week to pack up heirlooms, some of them valuable, from my mother’s house:

Before you say, “Well, those were crappy boxes,” they were new study ones from Home Depot.

And the nature of the damage confirms the savagery of the handling. Yes, he was shipping items like these (my mother had eight shelves in kitchen windows with glassware):

But UPS broke not only a lot of glass:

But even wooden duck decoys:

From my brother:

Here are some pics of the box. There is very considerable damage to its contents, including the wooden shorebird, several of the decoys (heads cracked or severed), one of the ruby decanters (destroyed), and a number of the smaller glass items.

I’m going to put damages at no less than $1500.

I think that, for the severely damaged box, the local UPS office should have reached out to me before delivery and informed me of its condition. I could arrange with a supervisor to come to the office in the distribution center, and then we could go through the contents together. This is how I believe it should have been handled.

A friend confirmed that using UPS is a hazard to one’s finances:

I have an $1100 kitchen sink. It was supposed to be a $700 kitchen sink, but UPS kept dropping them on their edges, making them unusable, so we had to find another supplier who would not use UPS to ship to get a pristine sink.

Now of course one could regard this as class warfare: UPS drivers being forced to meet impossible driving schedules, and exacting their revenge by tossing boxes around. The originally $700 sink was going to a moderately affluent pocket (condos on/near a golf course) in a not well off area of the Midwest, so that could be a candidate for sending a message. But clearly hand-packed box, to the rustbelt town of Escanaba, Michigan? And my brother is not in the tiny fancy ‘hood.

As for the TSA disaster, I had flown a friend business class from California using American Airline miles to help empty the house and stage. She’s an eBay seller and so very good at searching to find comparables and determining what might be sold versus is only a donation candidate.

She initially did not understand my Mission speakers until she looked them up. They are still very very valuable (despite Bose saying otherwise, you can’t get a serious bass sound on a small box) but seemed to big to ship internationally (given I would also have to buy the rest of a sound system that would work on 220-240 volts).

We tried the various local listing services, but no one wanted to pay even a pretty modest price. Since she was flying front of the bus, she decided to meet the price and take them home on the plane. She knows how to pack and put all sorts of extra cardboard over them, even more so the front, and made sure there were no spaces anywhere inside.

This is what happened:

This can’t be the first boom box the TSA has ever seen. Why did they need to rip the front off a speaker, ruining it, rather than X-raying it or unscrewing the eight screws?

At best, if the TSA did not tear off the face, then they repacked it poorly and it was damaged in shipping.

On top of that, if they actually did suspect contraband and felt the need to look inside, why did they stop after they destroyed the first speaker? My friend took that as an admission of guilt: “Oh, we really messed up.”

She is putting in a claim for $1200. But the TSA does not make that easy. They provide a fax number, which has been non-stop busy every time she tried (often) over 48 hours, so she is having to mail it in.

To add insult to injury, she paid extra to check a third bag, which contained a full face respirator and the long Monster cables that went with the speakers. Despite checking the bag 1.5 hours before the flight in an itty bitty airport and her bag supposedly boarding early due to her front-of-the-bus status, it didn’t make the plane in Birmingham. Did the officialdom seriously think an industrial respirator in the hold was somehow a threat?

I’m probably more upset than either of them, since I find breaking things to be distressing, and even more so here, since I have been making a concerted effort for things of actual or sentimental value to find good homes. And it was a big task to deal with my brothers’ changing decisions as to what they wanted (including as they negotiated with each other), segregating their stuff, and then having to find it and separate it again after our disastrously bad painter moved things around without asking me.

Have any of your or people you know been victims of shipping savagery? Regardless, are now warned. Pack VERY VERY carefully.


1 Yes, I bought one during peak Covid when I was having to fly to and from New York to deal with my degenerating hips; I should have returned it when I ascertained I could not wear glasses underneath. It out Darth Vadered the half-face one I do wear on plane when the C02 reading go over 1000.

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  1. rmcarnold

    When shipping electronics I always surround the item with 3/4″ rigid foam insulation, then build the box around that..never had a problem w/ that method.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      While his advice is useful in ordinary circumstances, as indicated, the problem was not the packaging. The second speaker, not opened by the TSA, was fine. It was either TSA destruction or improper repackaging by TSA after opening the multi-layered boxing around the speaker.

      1. ambrit

        What I find “curious” is that TSA opened the box supposedly after x-raying it. If the “technicians” cannot tell an audio speaker from a bomb in an x-ray, we are in serious trouble.
        TSA ‘grunts’ are notoriously underpaid. It has been a constant source of amusement that persons of the Neo-liberal persuasion cannot comprehend the idea expressed by the saying; “You get what you pay for.” The Cynic in me sees this as another data point supporting the contention that the TSA is purely for Kabuki purposes. Pay the “agents” just enough to show up in uniform, but not enough to actually do a good job.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I am highly confident they they didn’t X-ray it because the box was heaavy and an awkward shape to lift. Difficult for one person. If there was only one person tasked to getting the items into the X-ray, not hard to see them say, “Oh, I’ll have a look.”.

  2. Wyatt Powell

    My family owned company (Erm.. if anyone at NC likes Nascar/NHRA its CircleBDiecast xD) has used UPS for all domestic packages over a pound for 14 years.

    Quality has noticeably declined over that time. Yves, woman of the people as usual, correctly points out that the drivers are overworked, micromanaged* and are fed up.

    I write this comment because I am freinds with my UPS driver. Yestetday, after doing the pickup and chatting for a minute as we usually do, he pauses, looks me in the eyes and exasperatdly askes “Why am I doing this?” … “I hate to say it but I hate coming to work” This a no-nonsense, conservative, hard working man. He is far away from “anti-work” as you can get. He ownes 50+ acres of property and is always working his land, fixing equipment or baking/cooking. Yes baking lol, d@mn good at it too.

    The younger drivers are incompetent, regularly skip pickups with no consequences, will sign names with an “X” or a Nike-like “Swoosh”.
    The loaders and maintenance people should all
    Be fired. Make the job harder, should just let the drivers load their own trucks at this point. Evrything is out of order, wrong shelve, stuff meant for the back is buried upfront.

    Even in our small corner of Missouri we have a flaming homosexual man (used as a fill-in driver during “peak”) that regularly uses sexually explicit language while on the job. My driver has had him several times and has flat out refused to work with again after an incident last fall.

    *The dispatchers are beyond useless, they set up schedules that make NO SENSE. They are worse than useless they cause HAVOC. I have no idea how UPS thinks this is a good idea

    In February they stopped scanning packages at both my Missouri and my North Carolina location. I regularly get angry customers wondering where their package is.

    Ebay lowers your seller rating if your package isnt “shipped” within 48hrs. Well they dont go by when you create the label.. that would be easy to game ill admit. So they go by the scan(!!!). I haved been @$&%#*! repeatedly this year for something we have NO control over. Ebays response is always demeaning and obtuse. Making it sound like our fault. UPS is unresponsive at best and when they get around to it its flaccid and corporate.

    In the last month I have packages held for fraud. Apparently fraud is so rampant at UPS that theyve recently clamped down. Well for sometime my MO packages have shipped under my NC UPS Account, no one at ShipStation or UPS can explain to me why. Well since the packages come from Missouri, but on the back end say “originated from Concord, NC” they have been set aside as a fraud risk. Compunding my issues

    Crapification all around

    I told the driver “You do this for the pension, only have 4 more years” That was the best I could tell my friend. He is bidding on a route closer to home (actually would service his own home) this June. And as much as ill miss him, I hope he gets it. The current route is industrial/commerial and has become too overloaded and poorly managed.

    Personally, Im going back to Romania in August, I doubt ill be coming back. Good Riddance.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Make the job harder, should just let the drivers load their own trucks at this point. Evrything is out of order, wrong shelve, stuff meant for the back is buried upfront.

      Decades ago I worked as fast delivery driver for the local postal system (telegrams, express mail, special deliveries/pick-ups etc). Even when I occasionally had somebody on the shotgun seat, it was always the driver planning the route and packing the van.

      Even with only a few weeks experience any driver can optimize the route like nobody else. You quickly learn which way the traffic flows and which way it hinders depending on the hour – especially the bottlenecks. You know the “difficult” places to get to, and you learn the best time windows of the regular clients. Five minutes of thinking could save an hour and a half on the road.

      1. Louis Fyne

        I did a delivery job too. My version of solving the “7 Bridges of Koningsberg Problem”:

        overlay an imaginary 2×2 grid on your destinations. tackle one quadrant at a time by: avoiding left turns on big streets as much as possible, and cutting a path that looks like a starfish or cloverleaf.

        Was this optimal? Who knows, but it sure felt that way, lol

    2. SD

      For packing and shipping materials, I like Uline, although purchasing from them requires a good deal of advance planning. You can buy from Uline’s website, of course, but they also publish a wonderfully thick and comprehensive bound paper catalog, which I still receive because my late mother used to buy from them. If you’re nostalgic for the Sears or Spiegel catalogs, then you’d probably enjoy Uline’s.

  3. John R Moffett

    We have known all our UPS drivers well. The service always had problems, but it has definitely gotten worse. The way the drivers are overworked and micromanaged is despicable. The fact that many packages get damaged is just about what you’d expect when the drivers are treated so poorly. That’s capitalism in the US for you… workers unhappy, customers unhappy, while the people at the top are happy as clams (well, probably a lot happier than clams).

      1. Louis Fyne

        And working the graveyard shift, during sorting while bombarded by blue light at the warehouse.

        Then going home where everyone else is on a “normal” day-night cycle.

        A set-up that is shown to literally kill you via higher cancer and chronic disease rates as your body chemistry get stresses beyond reason.

  4. Mark Gisleson

    Not sure how long the Monster cables were, but they’re almost entirely made of copper and probably very easy to resell. I’ve never weighed mine but at $4/lb they might have caught someone’s attention. There is a tutorial on YouTube on how to strip heavy copper cables.

    1. digi_owl

      Would not surprise me if true. Years back i read about a old lady in eastern Europe that manged to snip the major fiber trunk to of the nation while digging for copper cables in her back yard (or so it was claimed). And more recently i read about rail lines having replaced copper overhead wires with aluminium (crazy when one consider that at one point the priced possession of a bishop was his aluminium cutlery), thanks to rampant theft.

    2. britzklieg

      I had to reconfigure my water heating system a few years back which required new copper piping and new routing for the new pipes which rendered the existing copper pipes unusable. Part of the deal with the plumber was that he got to keep all the old copper.

      1. ambrit

        When my Dad was head plumber for HUD of Dade County, Florida, they had over 12,000 units to oversee. This included single family houses, full city blocks of them in South Dade. After Huricane Andrew, many of those had to be gutted and refurbished. One problem was thieves coming in at night and stripping the copper water lines and the electrical wires from out of the walls. Mucho collateral damage. One of Dad’s Journeymen figured an angle. Put attack dogs in the prime target houses overnight. One morning soon after, they found doggy sitting patiently on the front steps of a ‘target’ house, waiting for ‘Daddy’ to come and pick her up. There were several pools of blood in a line from the kitchen to the back door. Doggy had done her job and let the crook go. Word of it soon got around the “proper underground channels.” A bit later, Upper Management made them stop the “service” due to, it was claimed, “liability issues.”

  5. Brian Beijer

    When I lived in the States, I bought a bronze statue from London on the internet. When it arrived, the box had clearly been opened. I opened the box to discover that customs had cut the statue open in order to see if it contained drugs. I was left with a bronze statue of a german shepherd with a gaping hole where it’s chest should have been. The effort it must have taken to cut through bronze, versus the numerous other ways they could have “searched” the statue, still boggles my mind. Of course, the statue was ruined and there was no recourse. How could I prove definitively that it was customs and not a damaged item to begin with? I learned my lesson.

  6. Barking Tribe

    I generally don’t comment, as most are more erudite than me, but regarding this issue, concur. Purchased $2K computer, ground shipped from Cali, live in GA. Arrived, the motherboard connection to the video card was bent, inoperable. Videocard bent. Box packaged by OEM. Returned, new shipment arrived, box crushed, one side opened. Cautiously opened the container, heavily wrapped with 3/4″ rigid foam insulation, redundant, plus foam inserts. Unbelievably works. Have pictures. Via UPS.

  7. Randall Flagg

    It’s not just UPS (though I’ve noticed that getting worse), deliveries of materials from suppliers like lumberyards and other outlets are on a downhill slide. Even Ray Charles could be loading the truck and notice a lot of items that should never be put on the truck first place. Forklift damaged, crushed boxes containing sinks and other items like that mentioned in the post…
    It seems there is no care, accountability or consequences anymore. I speculate companies figure most people just throw their hands up and take it, and the cost of dealing with returns and the few irate people does not hurt their profitability.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Yes, that is the “magic formula”—–MBAs finally discovered that it is more profitable to not care.

      What you are going to do? Go to the Orange guy instead of the Brown guy, or the Light Blue Mega-Lo Mart instead of the Dark Blue Mega-Lo Mart?

  8. jackiebass63

    I frequently shop on Amazon and never had a problem with damage. Probably 75% of the packages come via UPS. They carry the package 100 feet up my drive and put it in my garage. The same is true for USPS and FEDEX.I don’t believe it is luck but workers that care. In the past few years UPS has pushed their drivers to work much faster. They will no longer visit but quickly leave. Often I see them almost running with a package.This may account for some damaged packages.When I send a package, usually a return, I make sure it is securely packaged. Often I use newspaper to wrap an object so it can’t move inside the box. I also securely tape the box with wide tape designed for sealing packages. I would give all of them an A+.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Amazon is a corporate shipper. This is not about corporate shippers but individuals shipping. While you may have had success with newspaper, my brother used dense bubble wrap and newspaper.

  9. Louis Fyne

    2nd the comment’s above, particularly Wyatt’s (source: talking to my USPS mail man and days when my mail man is on vacation)

    And a public service annoucement: I have the exact same Home Depot boxes above in the kitchen right now—I would NOT use those boxes for shipping without extremely excessive packaging.

    The box does not list the “crush tolerance” on the bottom, but a 4 year old can/did easily crush one by playing with it.

    I presume that those Home Depot boxes are literally meant for storage and moving, not shipping (which would mean more sturdier cardboard and $$$$$).

    1. Louis Fyne

      Wyatt’s comment re-cr@pification has hit the USPS too.

      Then add the same at Home Depot….selling a “lowest bidder” box that is only meant for a discrete purpose, but not mentioning it on the product description via a big disclaimer.

      Then disaster strikes when people reasonably use said box.

    2. JCC

      I agree, and if it’s fragile, double box it.

      FedEx has a very good downloadable pdf file on shipping, costs, and best methods/requirements for safe packing. I followed their advice on shipping a very expensive, used, amateur radio transmitter/receiver from CA to FL just a few weeks ago. Double-boxing (the inner box was a home depot box) with plenty of cushioning inside both boxes made the difference. The outer box was designed for shipping and purchased from a local small shipping retail outfit. The box was only a dollar or two more than the home depot box.

      The buyer was pleased and even though it cost me a few extra dollars it was worth it.

      I hate to say it, but I always figured that putting a fragile sticker on anything shipped was an invitation to an unhappy worker to abuse the package, whether USPS, UPS, FedEx, whoever.

  10. Ernie

    My wife and I have definitely noticed the ever-increasing crapification (thank you Lambert for introducing us to that descriptive and useful word) of UPS delivery services over the nine years we have lived in our current small town location. The first several years were really great. We got to know our regular UPS delivery man by name, engaged in short conversations with him when we were home for a delivery, had a card and small tip for him around the new year. It was really good. Then suddenly things changed. Though the drivers were still nice and professional, we never seemed to get the same driver for two deliveries in a row. Not as friendly, but still overall good service.

    Then over the past two or three years (pandemic related?) it seemed to increasingly go to heck. We regularly received damaged packages, looking like they had received rough handling. Usually not bad enough to damage the contents, but product returns due to shipping damage have become a regular occurrence. We joked that the warehouse gang were playing football with the smaller ones. It especially seemed that any package marked “fragile” got “special treatment”.

    Then, in the last year or so, it became a regular thing for us to get UPS deliveries from persons wearing street clothes and driving their own (frequently run-down) cars and trucks. One had scrawled “UPS” on the side windows in soap in an attempt to have some identification. We joked that UPS had started using Uber for deliveries. The drivers seem to be nice, friendly, and doing their best with an old station wagon, but really, UPS, is that the best a multi-billion dollar corporation can do?

    We have also seen declines in service quality in FedEx and USPS delivery services (including increases in damage to packages) but UPS is by far the worst.

  11. Randy

    I sold vintage stereos on ebay for a while. USPS was the best, UPS damages boxes and contents and FedEx is prone to losing them entirely.

    You have to package your items so they and the box can survive a 5 foot drop to concrete. Sturdy outer box lined with one inch foam. Sturdy inner box with plenty of room for bubble wrap around item(s). Lots and lots of tape. “Fragile” stickers are just like waving the proverbial red flag in front of the bull. After all that if they get stabbed by a forklift you are still screwed.

    The drivers mostly aren’t the problem. The damage occurs in their automated distribution centers. Your package rockets down a conveyor belt and flies into a container similar to a dumpster. Then my 50 pound stereo receiver in bulletproof packaging lands on top of your flimsy Home Depot box at 20 mph. e=m(v squared) You are screwed.

    Interesting story about the quality of shipping service in the ’70’s compared to today. I bought a Sony preamp on ebay from a seller in Washington state. It came with the original factory box which was securely packed in a sturdy outer box. The original factory boxes were meant for placement on a pallet for shipment by truck to retail stores. The original factory box had a UPS shipping label with a destination address in my little Wisconsin town. I spoke to the original owner. He bought that preamp at his PX in Germany. When he left the service in 1975 he shipped it home via UPS in the original flimsy box. Today that preamp would never have survived the journey packed like that.

    That was a “high mileage” preamp. The original owner sold that preamp in the late 1970’s. It then made it to the east coast and from there it went to Washington state before making its way back its original stateside destination. I ended up selling it to a buyer in Colorado.

    1. Joe Well

      I was wondering if USPS wasn’t the better, if slower, alternative. Is that still true?

      Remember all the corporate media propaganda against the USPS? “Snail mail” and all of that?

  12. Displaced Platitudes

    I made the mistake a few years ago of calling in praise for our UPS driver, who often went out of his way to make sure our packages arrived intact and on-time. He chastised me the following day because his supervisor was placing a letter in his file indicating his violation of company rules and waste of time conversing with customers. The letter stated that drivers should not be on a first name basis with customers as that indicated excessive conversations were taking place during work hours. I assume the coming strike will be long and contentious unless the Biden effect occurs again…

  13. NoOneInParticular

    Like most commenters, I sense shipping quality to be deteriorating. I have no experience with TSA handling, other than routine luggage. So these comments are based on my experience selling through eBay and buying from various sources. And none of this is meant as a critique of Yves’ situation.

    In general, when packing, assume the box will at some point fall to a hard surface from a height of three feet. Assume corners will be crushed. Pack tightly enough so that a heavy box on top of your box will not push into your box.

    Glass: anything involving glass objects should be double-boxed, and bubble wrap should never be used to wrap glass (the air in the bubbles could expand due to changing atmospheric conditions.)

    Serious electronics (stereos, speakers, etc.): also double-box and reinforce the corners of the objects. Protect knobs and connectors by using tough cardboard in front of them separated by stiff foam or carboard standoffs.

    I have no general conclusion about which service is best. My feeling, based on my limited experience, is that individuals on my particular route are the key to success/failure. Some are good, some are bad. The UPS guy might outclass the FedEx guy and the USPS guy might be the best or worst of all. In another area, with different people, the ranking could be different. My USPS package guy is great. Fill-in on his and the letter carrier’s route are hit-and-miss.

    After one especially bad experience with repeatedly receiving and returning a particularly heavy object through one of the commercial services, I managed to get through to a real live human in the service’s local office, who let slip that some of these drivers are really bad.

    In the last few years, it’s clear their workloads have increased significantly. No one has time to say hi anymore. This must have a cost. Crapification is everywhere. I believe it’s all numbers-driven. If volume is the prime goal, condition of items takes a back seat.

  14. Jokerstein

    In 2002, my wife and I bought an absolutely pristine set of 18th C rosewood dining chairs – that had actually been through the Battle of Trafalgar – in Bradford upon Avon in England – price: UKL65,000. They were packed up in custom-made wooden boxes – plywood panels, with 2×4 edges. When they arrived in LA, they were uncrated and put in cardboard boxes, presumably for easier/cheaper shipping. When they arrived in Seattle, seven out of the eight had been broken, three almost to matchwood. We had a skilled cabinet maker do his best, and managed to get five OKish ones out of the original eight.

    Took us two years to get insurance to pay out – “we don’t pay for the value of a set, so each chair was worth maybe UKL500 tops, plus we don’t believe the provenance of having been at Trafalgar.” – but we got it in the end.

    The most heartbreaking thing, though, was that a wonderful piece of historical craftsman ship is gone forever.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘When they arrived in LA, they were uncrated and put in cardboard boxes’

      Unbelievable. And it was a tragedy as some of those irreplaceable historical chairs were destroyed.

  15. Alan F.

    We are seeing the same decline in UPS service. In our area Fedex is even worse, by a lot. We’re in a decent sized but very remote town, and both shippers now attempt to service the area from bases more than 100 miles away (in different directions). It’s a bad plan on perfect days, and it collapses if there is any slight issue (weather, road construction, highway accidents). Worse yet, if you have a “missed signature” delivery, which is phony half the time, you can’t just stop at their office to get the package. Rescheduling signature-required often takes 1-2 weeks and makes a mockery of any timeline.

    We had A to A+ UPS service through the end of 2019. We also had a local UPS warehouse center through sometime last year, which probably helped with the reliability.

    We actually have pretty good USPS mail service, in and outbound, but I understand that’s fairly rare across the US these days. Hopefully it will continue.

    Shipping is another area where the pandemic response seems to have broken things. I’m not saying it’s the sole cause, maybe not even the primary cause, but it was the needle that popped the balloon. The whole USA seems to be on an express elevator to third-world “nothing works” status.

  16. ACS

    I recently retired from FedEx Ground after working there over 10 years. It is extremely rare that packages are damaged by delivery drivers. Most damage occurs loading/unloading trailers as packages move through the system. Package handlers cannot pay a lot of attention to “fragile” or “this end up” when required to load/unload 1000+ packages per hour. These productivity goals are the root of the problem. Of course if people didn’t demand “free” shipping perhaps things could be better.

    That said, I have had hundreds of packages delivered here in the last 10 years by FedEx, UPS and USPS and not one damaged, but many torn/retaped boxes.

  17. 10leggedshadow

    As a former UPS store employee, every box that goes through UPS is brutalized. I would recommend that if it is electronics or something valuable, insure it because that is the only way to get your money back. Having transitioned from the moving business to UPS moving boxes crush easier than packing boxes which are rated for crushing and have certificates on them.
    At one time UPS may have been good but their service has deteriorated a lot. When calling customer service you are forced to speak to a robot that frequently hangs up on people. The best way to contact UPS is through Twitter.

    1. JP

      My UPS driver told me packages all come off a conveyor. Packages can weigh up to 150 pounds. No one pays especially close attention to the pile at the end. If your precious glassware has a 150 pound box land on top of it lots of foam packing and double boxing wont help much.

      He also said they drop kick boxes with fragile stickers on them.

    2. TimH

      I built a house and had the number changed. After 3 successful UPS deliveries, I got a letter from UPS (to my correct new address) stating that they couldn’t deliver the 4th because the new address didn’t exist.

      I get a few “Couldn’t deliver because no-one there to receive” notices on tracking when the reality was the driver ran out of time and didn’t even try.

  18. Hillary

    I work in logistics (as a shipper and software person, not a carrier) and am admittedly biased, so take this as you will.

    Most of the damage we see comes from packaging that isn’t sufficient for the automation. At most ups and fedex locations packages are only handled by humans on or off the truck. Look at the slide around 0:42 of the video linked below. Now imagine one around 10 feet tall and 100 feet long. I’ve watched a 70 pound flat pack furniture box slide down one of those into a box of flowers during a tour. The flowers were probably fine but the box took a beating. Tubes get caught on conveyor belt curves, envelopes slide off, so many opportunities for loss and damage. They’re trying to get heavy boxes that cause damage out of their network by dramatically increasing pricing for overweight while lowering the threshold at which it applies. It will probably be 40 pounds in a year or two. UPS still has much better on time and loss & damage rates than Fedex or usps, which doesn’t help if it’s your stuff.

    On the people side pandemic demand has been brutal and it never let up. The ups teamster contract is up this summer and everyone’s expecting a strike.

    My favorite tsa/cbp story came from a friend. He was running a warehouse at the MX border and the fbi showed up. Queue standoff about opening a bonded shipment owned by a fortune 50. When it was opened they found an astonishing amount of drugs inside the big stretched canvas art.


    1. playon

      I refuse to use UPS as they still owe me money from an express shipment they botched some years ago. They guaranteed delivery within a certain time frame, my customer was visiting another city for a day and wanted the item (an expensive guitar) shipped there instead of his home address. It was a “we deliver on time or your money back” but I never got the money and it greatly inconvenienced my customer. UPS is notorious for treating its workers badly.

      I’ve had pretty good luck with FedEx but sending USPS “parcel select” is a crap shoot, you need to pack items extremely carefully. Priority mail is better but they are obviously trying to push people into using the more expensive service.

      in my experience USPS is the only carrier that will actually pay out insurance claims for damage, Fedex and UPS will stiff you unless you get an attorney which in most cases is not worth it.

  19. Arizona Slim

    Last time I had really valuable stuff shipped to me was after my mother died in Pennsylvania. That was during the summer of 2019.

    Well, there were things that I really wanted to keep, and I needed to have them shipped to me here in Tucson. So, on the day I had the family home emptied by a cleanout crew, I had my mother’s ex-caregiver drive me over to the UPS Store.

    Believe me, I was very nervous when I walked in there. I mean, come on, I was asking them to ship things like my late father’s chemistry beer mugs. My father’s chemistry beer mugs, for family blog’s sake!

    Well, let me tell you, that UPS Store did a great job of packing my stuff. Good grief, I paid them a small fortune, but everything came through just fine — including those beer mugs.

    The Slim family home is now owned by another family, and, yes, I still cherish and use those chemistry beer mugs.

  20. Robert Gray

    Since no one has mentioned it yet in this thread, I will: Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You (2019) is 100% à propos. It might not be one of his very best but it’s Loach — i.e., well worth watching.

  21. Dave

    Try throwing a truck some day. A 40 foot trailer holds about 2,000 boxes with an average weight I’d estimate of 40 pounds. It has to be loaded/unloaded floor to ceiling, front to back in about an hour. So, that’s about a ton of boxes every 90 seconds.

    There is no time to consider how to stack the boxes for the journey that could be thousands of miles in some pile that might be re-thrown several times along the way.

    Most product companies know this. Those that don’t know this and pack for it have breakage rates that will teach them fast.

    And it is heavy work that you need to be in shape to do. It’s just reality.

    As for the TSA, that’s government, so why would anyone go that route if there is any other option?

  22. antidlc

    I don’t ship much via USPS, so I can’t comment on their lack of service.

    However, I will complain about letter delivery.

    Two checks that I mailed two weeks ago (one a fundraising check to NC and the other a bill) still have not cleared the bank, so I assume neither have arrived at the destination.

    The bill only had to go across town about 35 miles away.

  23. Janos

    Yves, your experiences are very troubling, but not at all unique, sadly.

    I never use UPS anymore, and when shopping on line I always use USPS if given the option (most reliable and least expensive). Strangely, in the race to the bottom for delivery services, USPS has been slower to drop to the bottom than than others. Here is an article that may provide some insight as to why your packages were damaged: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/04/18/upsi-a18.html

    If I am forced to use UPS I always request delivery to a UPS store, as drivers tend to not deliver packages unless they can leave them on the doorstep, which is not an option in my city.

  24. some guy

    This sounds like Job Rage. Job Rage on the job is like Road Rage on the road. Reading these examples makes it not seem “class-focused” but rather generalized.

    Is the percentage of packages vandalised and sabotaged by USPS less than by UPS or whomever? Use USPS. And try limiting one’s remote-buying things to companies which will ship by USPS. Avoid companies which use UPS.

    This also looks like a market opportunity for boxmakers to sell vandal-proof armored boxes. If American Tourister still exists, they could start making American Tourister UPS-proof boxes and businesses which have no choice but to ship by UPS could offer to ship the goods in an American Tourister UPS-proof box for an extra price.

    About TSA vandalism, I have no advice. I would never suggest something as illegal as to send decoy packages through TSA . . . designed to entice and solicit vandalism and coated on the inside with poison ivy oil or some such thing. That would be Wrong and Illegal and every other bad thing, so I will never ever suggest it.

  25. Jeremy Grimm

    What will be left after Postmaster DeJoy finishes of the U.S. Postal Service? Is there any evidence Biden’s majority on the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service seems inclined to replace DeJoy or rein in the destruction of the Postal Service. The same forces crapifying the U.S. Postal Service seem devoted to crapifying all alternatives. I guess no more snail mail bills, we will be forced into all automatic billing and banking, and packages will have to go by courier? I am not sure what might happen to all the web-based sales. Perhaps we will have to go to Corporate warehouses to pick up orders? As for TSA and the crapification of air travel and shipping I do not know what to say or think.

    1. some guy

      It would appear that Biden’s majority of Clintobamacrat members of the USPS Board of Governors support the abolition of the USPS, and show their support of that goal by keeping DeJoy on the job so he has time to destroy what he can.

      1. Tom Doak

        They left DeJoy in place so they can blame all of the destruction on DeJoy being a Republican guy, and lament that it’s impossible to reverse.

        1. some guy

          But they also left DeJoy in place so as to get all the destruction they hope that leaving him in place will get.

          So which is more important to the Clintobamacrat Democrat majority on the USPS Board of Governors? Being able to blame the destruction on a Republican-nominated Postmaster? Or making very sure the destruction happens by making very sure a Republican-nominated Postmaster is kept right there?

  26. tawal

    The only item that I ordered that was ever lost was by UPS. They said they delivered it. It was an ordeal getting my money back, but fortunately I used a credit card.
    Recently I ordered something, and it was “delivered” by UPS. It was baseballs, I ordered 2 dozen. I received approximately 15; the box was damaged and didn’t appear to be the right size. I called the company from which I purchased the balls. I sent them pictures and told them that UPS probably messed it up. They shipped me another 2 dozen, no charge at all. They shipped them FEDEX. I received them as promised, no damage appeared to the box.

  27. Eric

    TSA is awful. Period. And good luck trying to file any kind of complaint. They make it difficult and pay no attention.

  28. Cine Tee

    A friend’s laptop in checked baggage recently had a hole in it that looked like it was hit with a hammer. There was also a note that said they opened his luggage and his items were treated with the utmost care.

    A hammer doesn’t seem like a good way to check for explosives.

  29. Shleep

    2 anecdotes, or may I say, datapoints?

    It was related to me by someone who knew Aussie-equivalent TSA: “Oh look, a laptop in checked baggage. Insurance will cover that. Yoink”.

    When I retrieved my ski case from a domestic flight to Calgary last Monday, it was explained to me by the baggage handler at oversize that the clasp securing the bottom to the top of the case somehow did not make the flight.

    I was able to unwind a spare key ring enough to secure the halves and restore dragability.

  30. Cocomaan

    I ordered an iPhone from apple two Fridays ago (0% financing made it a no brainer). Delivery notification for Saturday from apple.

    UPS driver got to my house and told me it wasn’t on his truck. A week later and I still don’t have the phone, after apple filed a claim with ups.

    My guess is a worker stole it.

  31. Hayek's Heelbiter

    UPS lost Express Shipped $400 worth of books I needed for my book tour. After days and hours on internet and phone, I at last managed to speak to a human being who said that the boxes had indeed made it to the Raleigh Depot, but they did not have a clue what had happened to them once they had been received.
    HUGE WARNING: UPS stores are FRANCHISES, they are NOT owned by UPS, and as far as i could determine, there is little, if any communication between the two entities.
    The books finally turned up two weeks after I had returned to the UK, and of course, there was nobody in town authorized to collect them.
    Do you think any remuneration was available? Get serious.
    Ps. Check out TrustPilot. NOT EVEN ONE SINGLE Two Star or higher Review. Why the company has not be been such down under RICO is a miracle.

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