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What is normal when shipping furniture by freight?
December 10, 2013 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I think this situation is crazy, but maybe it's par for the course.

So, I bought a table and 4 chairs through eBay and chose to have them shipped to me by freight (truck, private company). It took the freight company more than a month to pick them up from Boston, and they're telling me now it will be another 4-6 weeks before they are delivered to me in California, meaning that by the time they are delivered it will have been 2-3 months from the time I paid them (the shipping company, not just the seller). I paid the freight company more than $500. This seems outrageous to me, and I'm ready to make a fuss, but I've never shipped anything by freight before, so for all I know it's totally customary, and being outraged about it is like being outraged about a 2-hour wait at the DMV.

TL; DR: What is standard and customary when shipping by freight? Should I have known to get a time quote as well as a price quote in advance?
posted by pocketfullofrye to Shopping (7 answers total)
Should I have known to get a time quote as well as a price quote in advance?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: I suspect your furniture is deadheading -- they're planning to put it on a truck that happens to be going in your direction but has a little extra space, and the next one they have that fits that description will be near California in a month, at which point they'll likely take it off that truck and get it to you directly.

Call them and complain. They should have explained the time to you better at the beginning regardless of whether you asked. You may be able to get them to make a better arrangement just to get you off the phone, or knock a few bucks off the price.
posted by Etrigan at 9:25 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

When I've investigated freight shipping for furniture, time estimates of six to eight weeks have not been even remotely unusual. (Etrigan has it: it's not worth it for the shipper to just stick your furniture on a truck all by its lonesome.) Three months might be worth querying.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:36 AM on December 10, 2013

There are express options; I know FedEx can do this in a few days. Thus the time component, like the price component, is part of the agreement. For $500, it should take about 20 minutes to get to you. That price is outrageous for anything other than express delivery unless the table seats 24 and is made of solid marble.
posted by Capri at 9:38 AM on December 10, 2013

I've never shipped new furniture by freight, but I shipped all my furniture/belongings from the West Coast to the East Coast via Greyhound's freight service this summer. For what it's worth, your experience is very much in line with mine; I think what you're experiencing is normal.

For comparison:

-- I was shipping about 7 packages, of approximately 100lbs/package, and if I remember correctly, the price was around $580. There wasn't any haggling with the price to be done, at any point in the process.

-- My shipment's estimated arrival date was 7-10 days after pickup, but it took about two and a half months for it to actually arrive.

-- They refused to ship one package (which was mainly a piece of furniture, bundled with a couple other items) once it was already at the originating depot -- they told me that if I wanted the rest shipped, I'd have to declare that package "abandoned property" and let it get trashed. I was on the other side of the country at that point, so I did so.

-- From the time the shipment left the originating bus depot to the time it got to the destination depot, I couldn't get a hold of anybody (online or on the phone) who could help me with tracking it (even to confirm that it did 100% leave the originating depot). Truthfully, I'd given up on getting my belongings at all by the time they finally arrived.

-- I'd paid extra to have my packages shipped door-to-door, and at both ends of the shipment it seemed to be "freelancers" who'd been hired to do the pickup and delivery from the depots, not people working for Greyhound or Package Express or either bus depot (they were perfectly nice, but couldn't answer any questions -- they just got the packages from Point A to Point B when called by Package Express or whoever to do so).
posted by rue72 at 10:17 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would call and complain (politely) about the long wait. Explain that if they had told you at the beginning that it could take this long you would've been fine with it because you could have planned around it (or gone with another shipping option) but that the way they've been handling it is really frustrating not just because it's so slow but also because you haven't been able to get a good idea of how long it's actually going to take. Tell them (again, politely) that you're pretty unhappy with the way this has been going and ask them what they can do about it. If they claim not to know what to do, ask them if they can knock a couple hundred bucks off the shipping fee and give you a firmer date for when your furniture will arrive.

I'd say there's a good chance they'll oblige, since it probably is costing them little to ship your stuff if it's being put on a truck that's going that way anyway. They might not, but as long as you are polite but explicit about your dissatisfaction and the solution you want to see, it won't hurt you. This is probably a smallish company and it will therefore be fairly easy to get someone on the phone who can make these kinds of decisions about your shipment.

Then in the future, don't use this kind of shipping again without a guaranteed-in-writing arrival date (or at least arrival window) that you are satisfied with from the outset, and a clearly-defined agreement for what happens if that date passes. It sounds like a lot more hassle than it's worth. Have it shipped through UPS or FedEx, or some other carrier that can provide fast, guaranteed shipping. Chalk this one up to a lesson learned.
posted by Scientist at 10:59 AM on December 10, 2013

For $500, it should take about 20 minutes to get to you.

You're kidding, right? Shipping big stuff is expensive. I used to recommend using Greyhound freight, but they recently upped their prices and lowered their limits on the largest items they'd accept. Back in the day, I shipped a couch from Florida to the west coast for $115 on Greyhound Freight. These days, their max weight for packages is 100 lbs and when I recently shipped two dressers (each about 2.5' by 4' and weighed 80-95 lbs each) from the west coast to the east cost, it ended up costing $375. On the other hand, they did arrive in a bit over a week.

This sounds a bit too expensive for the time involved for me, but not radically too expensive. At this point I think you're stuck, though. Sorry.
posted by arnicae at 12:07 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks all. I plan to call and ask (politely) for a shorter time frame and/or discount, but it's good to know that based on rue72's experience, my only alternative (Greyhound) wouldn't have been any better.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 8:34 AM on December 11, 2013

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