On Saturday, May 21, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time, I paid $40.22 for three-day shipping in order to ensure that a birthday gift for my mother arrived at her home on time. The package did not arrive until mid-June. Today, as I write this, I am still out the $40.22.
Note the use of past-tense in the title of this article. It reflects the fact that I’ve given up on the forty bucks. For more than four months, I have been requesting a refund from either UPS or the UPS Store from which I shipped the package. Despite assurances, despite promises, despite multiple follow-ups that have literally consumed hours of my time, I have received no refund.
Needless to say, in the future I will never, ever, purposely and knowingly use UPS for shipping anything anywhere. This is because I no longer trust UPS. I don’t trust UPS to get the package to its destination on time, and I don’t trust UPS to issue a refund when the package does not arrive as promised.
The holidays are coming. You might be shipping gifts. If you use UPS, and the shipped gifts do not arrive on time, and you are unable to obtain a refund, consider yourself warned.
Mom loved Prince, and when he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in April, my stepfather suggested that I get her an original vinyl LP of Prince’s “Controversy” album. That was the record Mom listened to when I was a kid, the record that turned me into a Prince fan, the record that came with a sexually suggestive poster that I, as a kid, had ruined. Moms, I thought, should not have posters like that.
I found a mint condition version of the record with its poster on eBay, paid the “Buy it Now” price, and had it shipped to my home in California. The album was in excellent condition, as advertised, and when her birthday approached I repackaged it and brought it to my local UPS Store for shipment to her house in Michigan.
Located at the corner of Moorpark Road and Janss Road in Thousand Oaks, California, my UPS Store is convenient. The employee on duty told me that the package would not reach its destination by May 26 if I paid the standard rate. Because I wanted to brighten Mom’s day on her birthday, I paid for three-day shipping, and left the store.
On her birthday, I called Mom. She had not received the package. I asked her to call me when she got it.
I never got a call, because the package did not arrive.
After a few days, I went back to the UPS Store. The employee who had shipped the package put a trace on it, and promised to get in touch with me when the package was found.
I never got a call, because the package was not found.
Only because I regularly checked back in with the UPS Store, putting pressure on the employee who shipped the package to help me find it, was the Prince album finally found and delivered on June 15, 2016 — more than three weeks after I paid $40.22 for three-day shipping.
Naturally, I wanted a refund. After all, I paid for three-day shipping, not three-week shipping. You’d think a refund would be really easy to obtain. The package does not arrive in three days. The UPS Store employee either credits my card or pulls a couple of Andrew Jacksons out of the register. I go on my merry way.
Apparently, that is not how things work at UPS or the UPS Store.
Evidently, my case falls into some kind of paperwork “black hole” related to timing of the trace, timing of the found and delivered package, and timing of the request for refund. The details are murky to me, but my recollection based on what I was told is that I had 14 days to ask for the refund, but because I did not request a refund until after the package was found and delivered, which took three weeks instead of two, I am out the money.
That’s stupid. Had the package been lost and never recovered, I would have received the minimum $100 that UPS provides to customers who do not insure packages. That would have covered both the cost of the Prince album and the cost of shipping. However, because the trace was kept active beyond the 14-day refund period, and the package was finally found and delivered, the UPS Store cannot submit the refund paperwork that will get me a check for $40.22 because submission of said paperwork falls outside of the 14-day window.
Keep that in mind during the upcoming holidays.
Summertime was busy with trips and out-of-town visitors, and several weeks went by without making regular visits to the UPS Store to ask about the status of my claim for reimbursement, which the UPS Store employee who had originally accepted my package promised was being processed.
By Friday, August 19, 2016, I was tired of waiting, and made yet another trip to my local UPS Store, this time to demand my refund. New people were working the counter, people who did not know my story and the history of the problem. The guy who accepted my package, and who put the trace on the package, and who submitted the paperwork for my refund was gone. Ramin was no longer an employee. As in bye, Felicia.
Shit. Now I had to start over. Or so I thought. The owner of my local UPS Store and the one located next to the Ralph’s supermarket at Westlake and Thousand Oaks Boulevard offered to help. I told Mike the story. I gave Mike my tracking number (1ZW02A611287938217). Mike looked into the situation.
Not long after, he called and told me that UPS had denied my claim for a refund. He tried to explain how my situation fell into a procedural “black hole,” that package traces don’t usually take three weeks to resolve, and because this one did I missed the 14-day refund window. I wasn’t eligible for the minimum $100 in package insurance, either, because the Prince album was ultimately delivered to its destination in excellent condition.
He offered me $40.22 of in-store credit. I didn’t want in-store credit. I didn’t want insurance money. I wanted my refund for expedited shipping, because the package did not arrive in the promised three days. Store credit had no value to me because, as you will recall, I will never, ever, purposely and knowingly use UPS or the UPS Store for shipping anything anywhere.
It was time to take this issue to the next level: directly to UPS.
Through a customer service number, I reached a UPS representative to discuss my situation. Based on my tracking number and the associated facts of the situation, as reflected in the company’s own system, she agreed that I deserved a refund. She directed me back to my UPS Store so that they could process the paperwork to obtain the refund.
Thrilled that someone at UPS agreed with me, I drove to UPS Store owner Mike’s other outlet. Sandwiched between two of the most affluent communities in Ventura County, Mike’s UPS Store at Westlake and Thousand Oaks must be a lucrative location, serving lots of rich people shipping lots of expensive things that require expensive insurance. You know. Just in case.
Mike didn’t think that what the UPS customer service representative told me was accurate. He patiently tried to explain the nonsensical “black hole” theory to me…again. Together, we called UPS customer service. For an hour we got bounced around to different departments, waiting on hold each time. Briefly, while on one of those holds, I overheard a UPS truck driver who had arrived to pick up packages regale Mike with a story about how hungover he was, and how drunk he’d gotten the night before, and how he couldn’t wait for his shift to be over because he was so wiped out.
Ultimately, someone in some department at UPS said that no refund would be issued. The mind boggles.
Again, Mike offered me in-store credit. No thanks.
I drove home, liked the UPS Facebook page, and posted my dissatisfaction for all to see. This ignited some action, first with UPS Facebook team members, and then with other UPS employees. The heat rapidly dissipated, though, and once again I was told that I would not receive a refund.
But then, on August 23, 2016, I got a call from Susan in the UPS Store’s San Diego office. Susan told me that claim paperwork could be filed to reimburse just the shipping charge. She promised to file the paperwork that day, and that I should hear from the UPS Store about my refund within 10 business days.
On September 6, 2016, I called Mike, the UPS Store owner. He had not heard from UPS. I called Susan and left her a voicemail to this effect.
On September 7, 2016, Susan returned my call, explained that there was a problem with the paperwork on UPS’s end, and she promised me that Mike the UPS Store owner would send me a check.
By September 14, 2016, I had not received a check from Mike. Maybe he paid extra for three-day shipping.
That afternoon, I filed an official complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC also advised me to file a complaint with the Ventura County Attorney General’s office, and to call my credit card company to dispute the shipping charge.
After filing the FTC complaint, I called Susan at the UPS Store’s San Diego office to let her know that I had done so, and that the FTC had advised me to further pursue the matter with the Ventura County Attorney General and my credit card company. Fighting rising anger in my voice — because after all, who has time for this shit? — I explained that all I wanted was my $40 back. That’s it. Give me forty bucks, and I go away.
On September 15, 2016, Susan called back. She left a message telling me that Mike would reimburse my money right away. He would send a check to my address. He would then pursue reimbursement directly with UPS.
I also received a call from the new person running the UPS Store from which I originally shipped the package on May 21. She told me something similar, except that she indicated that before they could cut the check they would need to wait for UPS to process the paperwork.
Then I traveled for work for two weeks, and when a check still had not arrived by October 1, I decided that I didn’t want the money anymore. I have found a greater purpose.
This Medium publication, “The Complaint Department,” was birthed from my experience with UPS and the UPS Store. We all have horror stories like mine, and we need a place to vent our frustrations, in sweet, cathartic detail. So if you’ve been financially bent over a table by a company that failed to provide a service for which you paid, or you’ve been the victim of terrible customer service, or you’ve witnessed something that just isn’t right and just, get in touch. Write about it. Publish it here. Perhaps “The Complaint Department” will gather some traction and effect change.
In the meantime, I’m planning to pursue every path I can to make sure that UPS and the UPS Store understand just how short-sighted their policies on refunds are and how ridiculous this situation is. Sincerely, I’m over the forty bucks. My mission now is to advise as many people as I possibly can not to use UPS or the UPS Store, lest they expose themselves to a similar time-consuming bureaucratic disaster.
Got a complaint? Voice it here! Submit your story for publication to The Complaint Department.
About The Author: Christian Wardlaw is an automotive journalist who has sought to inform and entertain car buyers for more than two decades. Helping people find the right car, and for the right amount of money, has been his life’s work. He is currently the editor of the Autos section at the New York Daily News, and is a contributor to J.D. Power Cars and Car Gurus.