shipping a large, heavy package
November 15, 2012 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I am considering purchasing a large and heavy item on Ebay that is listed as "local pick-up only," and then finding and paying a shipping company to pick up the item and ship it to me. Good idea or bad idea? And, if feasible, what would be the best way to manage this?

I'm hoping to buy a large musical instrument on Ebay. There's a huge divergence in price on these, largely because of the size; a particular "local pick-up only" sale I'm looking at is a full eight hundred dollars cheaper than any that a seller is willing to ship.

It occurred to me that it should be possible to accomplish the pickup and shipping remotely for less than eight hundred dollars. I am wondering whether I'm right on that, and also how much money I could save if I did this.

Dimensions: this instrument would fit inside a 3' x 4' x 5' crate, and weights 313 pounds. It's only moderately fragile - no glass or easily-breakable parts, and the thing seems pretty sturdy, although I wouldn't want it dropped repeatedly or anything. I guess it should be insured.

Geographical specifics: I am in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The particular item I'm looking at is in Maryland.

So, questions: is this a terrible idea? I guess I should be worried about scams - what should I watch out for? If this is something that's possible, how should I go about it? The seller says they will take Paypal payment, so it seems like I wouldn't necessarily need to show up personally. I have a few friends sort of nearby, but they both live at least a hundred miles away, and asking them to drive several hours for this is something I'd rather not do if I don't have to.

Also - how do you have large, heavy items like this one shipped? The Post Office won't do anything over 70 pounds; I've looked at a few options, but I'm kind of lost in the face of all these shipping companies that I don't really know and don't know if I can trust.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me!
posted by koeselitz to Shopping (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would suggest that before you get too invested in the idea, contact the seller to see whether this is even something that would fly with them. If I were selling something for local pick-up only, it would likely be because I didn't want to have to deal with shipping at all; that would include having to arrange/wait for UPS or movers or whomever to come get the thing to ship it to the buyer.
posted by looli at 10:32 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

To be totally clear, I wouldn't be asking the seller to arrange anything beyond waiting for someone to pick it up exactly the same as they'd wait for me to pick it up.
posted by koeselitz at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2012

(That's a good point, though - thanks. If I were to try this, I'd email the seller first.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2012

Keep in mind that if you send a shipping company to pick up this item, you may be waiving some rights - are you essentially accepting the item in whatever condition it is, and accepting the liability for transport, etc? The ebay buyer protection may or may not still apply, I don't know.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:49 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like maybe a Leslie speaker? Anyway, try calling music stores in the area, perhaps especially ones who deal in used instruments such that they might have dealt with this before, or could possibly act as a shepherd for your purposes.
posted by rhizome at 10:56 AM on November 15, 2012

That's a good idea. If it helps, this is a portable grand piano.
posted by koeselitz at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2012

A friend of mine bought a large heavy milling machine this way. It came all crated up and he had to pick it up from some trucking depot here. When he finally got it home and uncrated it, it turned out that some internal part had shattered in transit. The crating itself showed no sign of damage. It ended up costing a couple hundred to get a new part made.
posted by mareli at 11:02 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend calling some shipping companies and asking for a quote on the item. Shipping companies should be able to quote the item with dimensions and weight.

It's possible that there's a company that is local to you that does a Maryland to Albuquerque run. I used to work with Classic Design Services in Atlanta, and they would do regular runs up the east coast. (Classic Design Services offers a white glove service, which costs more, I think, but means they treat the object more carefully, I think. Sometimes used for expensive art, etc - not sure if you would need this or not.)

Generally, when we would have items picked up at our store, the delivery guy would do an examination of the item, mark any scratches/scrapes etc of the item on the form, and have us sign it to acknowledge any damage. Once they deliver to you, you will examine it, and if there is any damage to the object that was not signed off on at pickup, it means they damaged it (or it was damaged while they had it). The process of an insurance claim isn't fun or fast.

Yes, you absolutely want it insured. You can do UPS Freight, but it's tricky and I think that you have to have a dock where they can drop it off - some people have trucks with lift gates, but other companies just have semi trucks (like UPS Freight).

Mailboxes Etc can sometimes help with this type of coordination, although you might pay a little more for it. They can tell you what your options are, as to shipping items. We used them in Charleston SC a lot, as our store was too small to keep customer items in once they had sold, and they handled the pickup and crating of items, and then coordinated to get it to us.
posted by needlegrrl at 11:02 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sounds like just the job for these folks. As seen on TV's Shipping Wars.
posted by Gungho at 11:13 AM on November 15, 2012

There are a number of pitfalls:

1) Perhaps the seller just doesn't want the hassle of dealing with someone remote - there is the potential for misunderstandings about the condition of the item, damage in transit, etc. Unless you are willing to accept the item completely as-is and sight unseen, this likely won't fly (and even then, I'd want a more permanent payment method than Paypal, which you can fairly easily chargeback through).

2) Dealing with shippers is a pain. They often don't show up when they say they will, so if you are counting on the seller to be around for a certain period, make sure it is a reasonable length and that your shipper is absolutely clear on this. Most are used to dealing with businesses, which are open all day.

3) You have two options here for the shipping: either you ship it in a crate, in which case you would have to pay someone to crate it up, then get it to the freight depot (i.e. you get lift gate service from the seller's house, where someone comes with a lift-gate truck and a pallet jack), then for the freight to a depot near you, then the same on your end. The actual freight is cheap, but paying someone to crate the thing will be expensive and lift-gate service to a residential address can be expensive too.

The other option is to hire someone like a mover, who will pick the thing up and arrange to deliver it to you. This is just plain expensive.

I'd guess that the second option will be cheaper, but the best thing to do is call around. I'd check with the seller and then try calling around to moving and freight companies in Maryland. You can try Uship as well, you might get lucky, but it seems that most of the businesses on there are hot shot services (i.e. people who move your one specific item for you directly, which is very expensive).
posted by ssg at 11:33 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

It can most certainly be done. I just sold an old neon sign from the 1950s on ebay. Dude from Denmark bought it for a pretty sum, contacted out local signage folks (who also took care of the initial shipping to a company in Texas), and they shipped it out for him. The thing got put on a boat and arrived unharmed. There were issues with shipping something full of old neon and on top of that seriously, this thing was gigantic but all went well.

Nthing calling around in the area and inquiring with shipping companies about the cost. I called the one we used and they were supremely helpful. Also, fwiw: I sell lots and lots of insanely large and odd shaped things on ebay and we're always happy to work with buyers who want to arrange for shipment of the item. Basically, I just tell 'em, heck yeah, go for it. We have always assumed that even if the item is damaged in transit we did not arrange, we'll still take the hit for that but again, insure that sucker and you should be fine.
posted by youandiandaflame at 4:00 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Specialist piano movers exist.
posted by flabdablet at 2:20 AM on November 16, 2012

Datum: I'm divesting myself of an old upright piano (basically giving it to a shop because I'd rather it be restored than passed along to another family who will put their child in front of it and then yell at the child when s/he gets frustrated because the playability is objectively abysmal), and the shop mentioned that it costs them $500 to ship a piano in state. And these are people who move instruments all the time.
posted by disconnect at 8:07 AM on November 16, 2012

flabdablet: “Specialist piano movers exist.”

disconnect: “... the shop mentioned that it costs them $500 to ship a piano in state.”

The point of getting a specialist piano mover is to deal with several things: (a) the inherent fragility of pianos; and (b) more importantly, the inherent unwieldiness and awkwardness of the shape of pianos. To put it bluntly, this is not a piano in either of those senses. Also, if I were to pay a specialist piano mover on this job, it would cost me about five grand. Yep. More than ten times the worth of the instrument.

It's best not to think of this as a piano at all, really. What I'm talking about specifically is a Yamaha CP70b. It's basically two hard gig cases with 150 pounds of keys crammed into one and 150 pounds of strings crammed into another. I think this is pretty much the coolest thing every – it actually is a portable piano, with none of the unwieldiness and difficulty of full pianos.

More to the point – unlike any upright or baby grand piano, it can easily fit into a 3' x 4' x 5' crate and be shipped as is. Because it does not have a soundboard, it's not as fragile or as heavy as a full piano. And I can put it on top of my car and do gigs on an actual piano, instead of hauling around a tinny, painfully unsonorous digital piano like everybody else is forced to use. I think that would be incredibly cool, especially since I'm planning to start gigging around town. So while I probably won't get this particular one, I'm kind of weighing my options.

Thanks for all the advice, everybody! This thread has been very helpful in thinking through how I'm going to approach this. I'll try to update once I actually get one to let you know how it went down.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 PM on November 16, 2012

That's a totally cool toy.

It's only 1900 miles... ROAD TRIP!
posted by flabdablet at 10:30 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Winter reading recs?   |   Corporate America is sucking the life from my very... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.