The Sandwich Shipping Incident

I used to work at the UPS Store. It was there that I learned just how interesting of beings people were. I think I’m armed with more strange shipping stories to last me a lifetime, but one particular one sticks out in my mind and gives me a bit of a chuckle every single time I think of it.

It was June, just going into July. The Pennsylvania heat wave was in full swing, making it disgusting just to go outside, because you usually ended up soak and wet minutes later due to the high level of humidity. In walks a woman in her mid fifties with two sandwiches, sandwiches that need to be frozen, both about a foot long, a cooler, ice packs and a cardboard box. Immediately, I was wondering where this was going.

As it turns out, this woman’s son was in college and taking summer courses. She decided that, since he was on the whole other side of the country, to ship out his favorite sandwiches that were only made at a local restaurant for him to have. She wanted to put the sandwiches into the cooler with ice packs and ship them. When things are shipped through UPS, they go through a conveyor belt to be loaded onto the trucks at the main stations. Because of this, we couldn’t allow her to ship a cooler, being as it had a rounded lid and would get stuck. Plus, there was just no good way to tape it down. The shipment would never make it onto the truck.

I explained this to the woman, and also explained a few other things. For starters, the sandwiches would be extremely expensive to ship since they had to go one or two day air per UPS rules to assure they had a chance of making it without going bad. To top it off, they had to follow guidelines of frozen food and be shipped a certain way, on certain trucks and planes. She said that she didn’t care, she just wanted them to sent out no matter what the cost. From there, I explained to her that we had a regulation shipping container that both of her sandwiches would fit in and that would keep her sandwiches cool that she could cheaply purchase to put them in. If she did, they would be gauranteed to get there in edible condition or she would be refunded all of her money for both shipping and the sandwiches. If she chose not to use it, that the insurance would be null and void if the sandwiches did not make it in edible condition per UPS rules. If she chose to customer pack the sandwiches, she would be entitled to no money back.

She chose to customer pack them, rejecting our box. Though, now that the cooler was out of the question, she decided to put them, with ice packs, into a regular cardboard box. You can see where this is going, and even though I tried to explain this to her, she couldn’t. The thing that really topped this situation off was that her box was larger than the regulation cooling unit that UPS suggested. At this time, shipping didn’t go by weight, but by dimensions, so it would have actually cost her more to ship her box, the one the ice packs were predictably going to melt it and ruin, than it would be to buy the regulation cooling box and ship it in there.

She insisted that I get my manager, because I was trying to up-sell her. I did. My manager explained everything to her that I just had, and she still decided to ship using her own box and paying more money. We made her go through and sign paperwork saying that we had explained this to her, and she understood that most likely her sandwiches would not make it and that we were not responsible for that, nor would UPS refund her any costs if they did not make it. She happily signed the forms and left in a huff, all proud of herself that we didn’t “up-sell” her.

Predictably, she was back in the store a few days later demanding her money back. The sandwiches hadn’t made it. One not at all, and only part of another one as a result of the gaping hole in the box due to the melting ice pack. On top of that, the sandwich that did make it didn’t stay cool, so it wasn’t any good. She had paid nearly $100 to ship and $26 for the sandwiches. She wanted it all back, and when we showed her the papers she had signed, she still insisted she hadn’t signed them. Long story short, when I quit working there, she was still calling, saying she was going to sue. She tried. She lost. Sometimes it does pay to listen to the person at the UPS store. Sometimes.

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