Global Shipping Program - Item arrived damaged (poorly repackaged)
May 13, 2014 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Hello all -- I had purchased an expensive antique item from a US seller on Ebay about three weeks ago. (I asked him to opt out of the GSP, but he insisted that he didn't want to opt out of it. Since this antique item was a rare collectible that couldn't be purchased anywhere else, and since I haven't used GSP before, I decided to go along with it (despite hearing all the negative accounts of GSP on the internet). I was charged around US$85 for the GSP "import fees" on the ~$500 item.

Yesterday, the parcel arrived (I live in Canada), and lo and behold, I was utterly aghast when I came home from work and found that the parcel had been left outside in the mailbox in the heavy rain by the lazy GSP postal delivery employees. I've used many other shipping companies before, and ALL of them always left a pick-up notice in place of the parcel if 1) the item is of a value over $40 or 2) it is snowing, raining, or otherwise extreme temperature outside. The contents and the parcel box were soaking wet. Keep in mind this was an expensive 19th-century collectible watch with delicate metal casings -- rust develops easily when exposed to moisture, and rust can and will completely destroy an antique such as this.

However, perhaps the biggest slap in the face was when I opened the parcel -- there was almost no protective packaging materials, as if most of it had been deliberately removed. There was an outer cardboard box and an inner cardboard box, and ONE pathetic layer of bubble-wrapping that wasn't even properly enclosed around the watch! The watch itself (and its key) were hastily thrown together in one small zip-lock plastic bag that the GSP employee didn't even bother to close! Furthermore, there were random boxcutter knife marks all over the two parcel boxes and bubble-wrap. All of the tape holding the box flaps together had been cut loose as well, and the GSP employee in question did not even bother to properly tape the parcel back up again! The fragile antique watch was literally bouncing around freely inside the box from one end of the box to the other -- with no protection (save for the thin, single layer of bubble wrap).

I contacted the seller, and he told me he had shipped out the item wrapped up and packaged very carefully and meticulously with a lot of protective packaging material. He was genuinely surprised when I explained to him the condition of the parcel I found it in. No doubt then, that the parcel had been opened up and VERY POORLY re-packaged by the GSP employees at the GSP shipping center in Kentucky.

At the moment, I am very concerned about two things: 1) water damage from being left out in the rain, and 2) impact damage to the inner watch mechanism from the antique watch bouncing around so freely inside the box that it was re-packaged in (which was too big for it), and from having most of the protective packaging material deliberately removed by the GSP employees (WHY THE HECK does GSP do this?).

As I work long hours, I haven't yet gotten the chance to have the watch checked out by a watchmaker for any signs of the two aforementioned damages (and doing this will also cost me even more money!). (And if there turns out to be no damage, then it will just have been because of LUCK, considering how shoddily the parcel had been re-packaged by GSP.)

Needless to say, I am absolutely LIVID right now. It's severely stressing me out. I don't even know how a company with such sub-par service and standards has managed to stay in business. I want to file some sort of claim against GSP and Pitney Bowes, but from the information I've gleaned on the internet so far, it seems that the only route of action that is available to me is to raise an Ebay dispute against the seller for an "Item Not Described" case. I feel this isn't fair at all -- it's not the seller's fault, and he shouldn't lose out over the stupidity and negligence of the GSP employees. Believe it or not, there doesn't appear to be any existing option to file a claim DIRECTLY against Pitney Bowes and the GSP. Isn't this ridiculous? (Then again, the seller had originally insisted that I use GSP, so I'm not entirely sympathetic to his lack of foresight either.)

At the very least, even if it miraculously turns out that the item was not damaged, I feel there should be an option for me to file a claim for a refund of the ~$85 in "import fees" I had paid to Pitney Bowes. I do not think they deserve this money, because they simply did not do their jobs properly -- they re-sent my parcel and item to me in a WORSE condition than it had originally been packaged in by the seller. (If only the seller had just simply used USPS or something, this dilemma would have never occurred.)

Has anyone had a similar experience from parcels received through GSP? And does anyone know if there's another method for me to file a direct claim and/or official complaint against Pitney Bowes and the Global Shipping Program?
posted by vanizorc to Shopping (12 answers total)
If you get frustrated trying to use various companies' internal dispute resolution systems, you can deal with them in small claims court if you find their agent in the appropriate jurisdiction.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:43 PM on May 13, 2014

Did you pay through paypal? If so, file a dispute under one of the categories...I believe one of he, is "item is damaged".

Also, I'm surprised that the seller did not have any kind of signature confirmation. That's kinda a requirement if it's over $250.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:52 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

So just to be clear, the item does not appear damaged and you know of no such damage?
posted by ryanrs at 11:02 PM on May 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

Having dealt with ebay a lot, both as a buyer and seller since the early-mid 2000s you have essentially two options, or well 2.5.

1. lump it, keep it as is
2. start a dispute, and start the process of harassing ebay and essentially being the online version of that screaming customer at the CS counter in a department store. you WILL get your money back this way essentially 99% of the time if you raise a big enough stink

2.5: ask for a partial refund, which is entirely up to the seller, and threaten to do #2 if they don't. #2 can very likely end up with them being out the item and the money and they'll probably know that.

Personally, i've had so many bad experiences with expensive/rare stuff showing up in shitty packaging like this, but on a quick mk1 eyeball inspection appearing OK... but turning out to be completely fucked in some way later that i would be going straight to #2. And you better get right on it too, because ebay has a statute of limitations on this sort of thing and it can get annoying if you roll into that right as your just starting to send messages and attempt a resolution.

Because yea, unless it was shipped insured(and i've been fucked on this too!) the only real resolution for either of you is that you mail it back to him, and he refunds the money. There's no partial refund where those fees are going to be refunded that doesn't come out of his pocket, unfortunately.
posted by emptythought at 2:00 AM on May 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

vanizorc: it seems that the only route of action that is available to me is to raise an Ebay dispute against the seller for an "Item Not Described" case. I feel this isn't fair at all -- it's not the seller's fault, and he shouldn't lose out over the stupidity and negligence of the GSP employees.

The Seller's responsibility is to ship you the item in such a way that it arrives in the same condition it left in. If the contractors the Seller insisted on using were negligent, then the Seller was negligent. I would return the item and demand a return of all fees paid.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:40 AM on May 14, 2014 [9 favorites]

Get the watch checked out before you take any further action. Don't overreact and everyone wins.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:39 AM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

To me, given the opening and rewrapping, the shipper and the shipping company may not have had a lot to do with it. The poor repacking job was likely all done by the CBSA agents who inspected the package. I've never had a shipper take it on themselves to repack even the worst hack job that the customs agents can do.

The high charges are some combination of import duty, GST and brokerage fees. You should have a break-down of that somewhere on the shipping documents. If the bill says duty and taxes, there is not a lot you or the company can do about that. High brokerage fees, on the other hand can be negotiated sometimes.

Do get the watch checked out. It's going to be hard to get action if there was just a poor packing job, but the watch is still in good condition. If you have real monetary damages, you can likely go after the shipping company for those. Was there insurance on the order? You may want to check that too, with the seller.
posted by bonehead at 9:00 AM on May 14, 2014

Don't get the watch checked. Why throw good money after bad? When dealing with eBay (and all of the shady vagaries of sellers and shippers), it's in your financial best interest to take the path of least resistance when something arrives possibly damaged or in poor condition, i.e. demand an immediate refund on all charges.

Emptythought is 100% right on this one, especially for such an expensive item:
"...start a dispute, and start the process of harassing ebay and essentially being the online version of that screaming customer at the CS counter in a department store. you WILL get your money back this way essentially 99% of the time if you raise a big enough stink."

The reason why you should take this route is if you don't, you'll waste time dicking around with the seller (who will promise you the moon) and the shipper (who will insist that it's not their problem and if the seller is unsatisfied HE, not you, will need to file an insurance claim with them)... until your return window has expired and then eBay/Paypal will basically say, "Sorry, you're SOL. You should've returned the item when you had the chance." Now you'll be stuck with a broken/damaged item and no refund because the seller now has zero incentive to assist you; he's already been paid.

I know it's disappointing to have to return something you were looking forward to -- especially when it's rare and/or expensive -- but take my advice because both eBay and the seller will give zero fucks if you let that return window expire.

Also, in the future, when something arrives damaged, if you're not home to refuse delivery, don't ever open it. Just take pics or video of the box and send it right back to the seller for a replacement if possible, or a refund if not. This goes triple for anything ordered from eBay.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:11 AM on May 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

are you sure it wasn't customs that opened it, rummaged around, and repacked it poorly? us customs at least gives no shits at all.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:32 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is almost certainly customs/CBSA who opened the package. The description of the package's state in the question is entirely consistent with my experiences with them.
posted by bonehead at 2:35 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry I'm late to respond -- I've been very busy over the past week with a new training schedule. I'll add in my reply in case anyone stumbles across this thread in the future.

I am sure that it is most definitely NOT customs who opened and poorly re-packaged the item. I have purchased many, many items internationally from online sellers (including Ebay) before, and NONE of the packages ever showed up at my door in this condition. Out of the possibly hundreds of online international items I've purchased over the years, only a tiny handful have been opened and checked by Canadian Customs. In these cases, there was an official note left inside the parcel saying that my parcel had been officially inspected by customs, AND all of the original packaging materials were properly and respectfully put back together.

This is the first time I've had something shipped to me through the Global Shipping Program -- and this case is completely different: there was no note on or inside the parcel whatsover saying that the parcel had been opened and inspected (even when it obviously had been, as confirmed in exchanges with the seller); and most importantly, most of the packaging materials were removed and the parcel was poorly and carelessly re-packaged. This is the FIRST time I've experienced such a thing in all my years of using international shipping services and couriers. Hence, I stand by my assertion that, indeed, the GSP employees are to blame.

In fact, after having done some further reasearch on reviews of the GSP, it seems that GSP has a nasty habit of opening parcels and removing much of the original packaging materials in order to decrease the weight -- and thus cost -- of shipping the parcels. There's even some Youtube videos complaining about this very same thing. It's a completely ridiculous and unethical business practice.

At the moment, I have a claim with GSP on file, still ongoing. I intend to at least get the money I paid for GSP's "shipping & import charges" back.
posted by vanizorc at 1:50 PM on May 22, 2014

UPDATE: Hello all; this is just an update for those who stumble across this page. I initiated a Paypal claim with Pitney Bowes and Ebay, and was refunded the total amount I paid to Pitney Bowes (shipping fee + "import fees") on my antique Ebay item. In my claim, I specifically asked to be refunded *only* this amount, but on hindsight, I *should* have also requested to be appropriately compensated for the repair costs to the damaged antique watch, as now I'll STILL be shelling out money from my own pocket for these expensive repair costs, due to Pitney Bowes' mistake. That was indeed a stupid oversight on my part...

Anyway, this comment was just intended as an informational update for those who stumble upon here with the same questions/dilemma.
posted by vanizorc at 7:11 PM on July 10, 2014

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