Saturday, February 7, 2009

Consumer's Beware

We have all seen them around north Texas. A business that you can use so that you don't have to go into the United States Post Office. First let me say I have nothing against the USPS. I just did not want to stand in line when there were so many things on my list to do and if I could pay a little extra and have someone else do it for me then I was willing to do that.

Before we came to Egypt I started using one of these services that was on my way to and from work and was not out of the way if I was not going to work. I think I am a fairly intelligent person and THOUGHT I understood how these business work. I have to also add that some of them do offer great services that protect both the consumer and the owner/employee. There are however some that do not. I used this business for at least 6 months before we left the country. The owner is the person that I dealt with each and every time and I felt like I knew him to an extent of course. I know he used to be an engineer at Lockheed. What I did not know then was that he was the owner not that it made much of a difference. I thought he was very nice and pleasant each and every time I used his business. So here starts the reason for this blog.

In September of 2008 we ordered Kief (my son) a new laptop from Dell. Had it built specifically for gaming and school since as you all know he is home schooled. The only reason that I mention Dell by name is that they will not ship to an APO and that is what kind of address that we have in Egypt. So we had the laptop shipped to our house and when it arrived had our oldest son drive from UNT to our house as soon as his classes were over for the day. Chris went home picked up the laptop and per my instructions took it to one of these postal service business. Now here comes the important part.

I was told that everything is shipped first class (USPS) and insured for the value of the item $ 1,000 + in this case. There were actually 2 boxes. In the original shipped boxes from Dell. One small box contained the mouse, the other clearly marked Dell was the laptop.

In about 10 days we got the mouse. So we call the to locate the laptop (USPS) they say give it more time because from the paperwork we provided from the postal service it shows to be sent parcel and what that means is that when they have a flat full then they will ship it. What????

Needless to say there were many calls to my son and to this postal service. My sons response was I took it in there handed it to the guy and he filled out the paper work. The mouse was sent first class insured and the laptop (clearly marked) was sent according to the paper work parcel uninsured. So we have our son mail the paperwork to us so that we can look it over. Sure enough that's what was marked on the paperwork. We call the postal service and inquiry why the paperwork that he filled out was done that way. His response was that he filled it out incorrectly and that it was his mistake. The laptop still has not surfaced and we are into December.

Here is a side note and after I tell you this if you see my husband he will tell you that this is a correct character assessment of him. God love him and I do to. He trust and takes everyone at their word. No questions asked. Believe you me he has been taken advantaged of more times and by people who would shock you because he is very easy going and laid back and yes so very trusting. If you know him you know this is true. Me on the other hand not so much. Very few people have I ever meet that I trust. It takes me forever to let someone in close to me because it has been my experience that people are generally takers and not altogether honest most of the time-but that's a different blog- by the way I love that about James always have even when it cost us a lot. Would never want him to be like me. Believe you me during this time I spent a lot of time praying about me not having faith in people.

All the while I am getting angrier because at this point after the new year that someone clearly is being dishonest about something because not only could the postal service not locate the package, the US Embassy/APO was trying to track the package and the local USPS in Texas was looking for it.

The US Embassy instructed us file a claim through the originating USPS office. After doing that we were told that you can't file a claim on an item that does and has never was in the system. What?????
I am sure your all coming to the same conclusion then we must contact that postal service that we used and so we did. Now remember that each time we contacted him we were told by him that we needed to contact the USPS.

The last time we contacted him it was apparent that he felt he had no responsibility for proving that the laptop was in fact taken to the USPS, but he did direct us to contact the postmaster at the local USPS.

James call the postmaster at the local USPS and speaks with her and explains the whole sorted story and this is what she says to James.

You are paying that service to physically walk whatever item you are mailing to the counter of the USPS. It has been the USPS experience with this particular mailing service that they choose to let the USPS carrier pick up from their business instead of walking it up to the counter. What's the difference you ask? Well I will tell you. The difference is that per the mailing service business' own insurance company "His insured states that HE gave the laptop to the USPS carrier and they (the insurance company for the business) stands behind their insured and sorry that we lost our laptop". How do you like those apples. So in a nutshell let me recap. If you take anything into this business hand it over because you think they are responsible for it until it reaches the USPS and there will be documentation to protect you and the mailing service. That is not the case. It's his word against you and if you think the consumer is always right think again.

So the postmaster says that she will be happy to speak to the insurance agent of this business so we give her the information. A day later the mailing service owner/employee calls and says that the insurance agent that we spoke with will be calling us the next day to settle this matter.

The insurance company for the mailing service called and very matter of fact said that "It is in our insureds best interest to settle this claim and while they will not except liability they are offering to cover the amount we paid for the laptop because it was brand new". My first response was thank you God for them doing the right thing. My second response is that I have to talk about it because I want everyone to know that this could happen to them.

So here is my warning:

Please don't assume that you the consumer are protected. There are a number of these postal service that operate in a manner that protects both the owner and consumer. Even the USPS postmaster said that there are some in that town. The mailing service that I had been using had several complaints about it and there is another customer looking for their package. I did check the BBB and there were no complaints filed with them. We can not file a complaint because we accepted compensation for the laptop.

The other thing I want to tell you about is that while they did pay us the exact amount of the laptop they did not reimburse us for the shipping fee that we paid the postal service company to ship the laptop. So we paid over $20.00 for them to do whatever they did with the laptop.

Here is the other thing I want to share with you. Had we had any tracking software on the laptop they would have been able to track it ONCE it's booted up. Dell has put a flag on the laptop so that if someone calls in and gives the serial number/smart tag Dell will notify the authorities that it is a lost/stolen laptop. I am sure that you can figure out how to get around that as I did during the conversation with Dell. Also having tracking software is not a a guarantee that you will recover you laptop.

I am not anti mailing service now. Have you stood in line at your local USPS? There are some that are in north Texas that are horrible way under staffed for the amount of traffic. Just ask questions, find out the procedures.

A laptop at any amount is a lot of money to us, but just as important I don't want to do business with someone who doesn't care if I am unprotected. Your local USPS can give you a list of mailing service that operate in a way that you are protected. And one final thought. Had the laptop be scanned into the USPS center they would have covered it after 45 days of the original mailing date.


Deborah said...

I'm sorry you had to go through such a hassle, but I am glad that you were able to get your money back. My husband and I use a UPS store to ship packages that can't be sent directly to our APO--the drawback is that they can't insure items that are sent USPS. Luckily, my husband has a 4- or 5-year history with them, and we are well-known by all the employees, so when we ordered my laptop, one of the employees was willing to drive it over to the post office and mail it from there so that it could be insured. (They usually have the mail carrier pick it up at the store, which was explained to my husband when he first opened his mailbox there.)

Another couple of suggestions when having someone ship a laptop for you, to help minimize chances of it disappearing en route: (1) have it re-packed into a bigger, unlabeled box, even though it's more expensive that way; and (2) on the customs form, call it "computer parts," not "computer" or "laptop." You're not lying--you're just not pointing out that the computer parts are pre-assembled--but it makes it a less attractive package for people who may be less than honest.

The Noles Family: USA to Egypt said...

thank you for your good advice I appreciate it.