My housemate is a disabled American who, among other things, has a prosthetic leg and multiple neck and other spinal injuries from a past motor vehicle accident. He is also a highly skilled guitarist and a craftsman of the instrument, assembling top quality replicas of classic electric guitars that match the performance of the best examples of the original products. I’ve purchased one of these guitars from him, and it’s as good, and as beautiful, as any I’ve ever played.
My housemate sells the guitars he makes, often through E-bay, for the cost of materials plus a very modest markup for his time and effort, which are not insignificant matters for him given his physical difficulties. For quite some time now, he has used FedEx to ship these guitars to their purchasers, and in the past, he has apparently had few complaints. However, the quality of FedEx’s shipping and service is, apparently, not what it used to be.
My housemate recently sold a replica Les Paul model electric guitar. He took the guitar, in a case, to the local FedEx office to have it shipped. There he paid for insurance for the full price of the guitar, and he also paid extra to have FedEx pack the item themselves, so there could be no question about the responsibility for any inadequate packing of this expensive and fragile item. Speaking of fragility, he also specifically requested that the item be marked “Fragile,” “Handle with Care,” and so on. This latter request was not fulfilled, as is demonstrated by photos taken by the purchaser of the guitar when it arrived. These photos also showed creases and indentations in the packing materials of the shipping container, including a long crease along the mid-section of the box.
It should come as no surprise to anyone, given what I’ve just stated and the title of this post, that the guitar arrived damaged, with a crack/break at the base of the neck. As someone who was partial witness to the assembly of the instrument, to the work it entailed, and to the wonderful sound of the finished product, I find this damage heartbreaking. The guitar had obviously been subject to incautious packing and shipping that allowed leverage to be applied across the middle of the box. That leverage was not enough to break the case—which is somewhat flexible, and was not designed to protect from such external torques but from minor bumps and bangs while being hand-carried—but enough to strain the weakest point in a long, wooden structure such that it cracked.
The guitar purchaser was quite polite about all this, and my housemate is going to replace the guitar with another one that he has made—and into which he has put his time and his very limited money—but he obviously asked and expected FedEx to live up to their agreement and reimburse him for the price of the guitar.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that my housemate paid for insurance and also paid to have FedEx pack the guitar and to mark it as fragile, and despite having seen photos of the damage to the instrument and the surface of the box (I’ve seen these photos, as well), FedEx claims that their investigation finds that they were not responsible for the damage and they are not going to pay.
Let’s think about that. My housemate paid for insurance and for FedEx to pack the item, and it arrived with damage. It was not damaged when it was sent, I’m personally able to attest to that, since I was there when my housemate took it to FedEx, and I saw (and heard) the finished product, which was exceptional. To have FedEx say that their investigation has cleared them of wrongdoing is rather like having Vladimir Putin say that his investigation has revealed that his government has never carried out any operations to influence the elections of any other countries, or to have Bernie Madoff say that he’s looked into things and found no evidence that he’s ever been involved in any kind of “pyramid scheme”.
Why would FedEx ever want to find themselves responsible for such damage? Only because not to do so would hurt their reputation, which has—in the past—been important to them as leading figures in the world of high-quality, fast shipping.
Now, though, it seems that the formerly mighty have fallen very far indeed. FedEx is perfectly willing to charge a disabled person extra money to pack the instrument he is—as a loyal, long-time customer—shipping with them, and they are also willing to charge him for “insurance” against damage accrued during shipping. But it seems that, when such damage really occurs during shipping, to a fragile, expensive, fine quality musical instrument, which FedEx was paid extra to pack, the company does not live up to their end of the bargain, but instead forces a disabled craftsman and musician to try to satisfy his buyer out of his own, very shallow, pocket.
My housemate is not a man of words, and he is not especially internet/social media savvy, but words are my life blood. In addition, as a musician myself (of sorts), and as a friend, I cannot bear to have the Philistines at FedEx carry out this double-cross cheat of my housemate without at least making public—as loudly as I’m able—the fact that they have done so.
I encourage all of you who might consider using FedEx’s shipping services to engage other providers, such as UPS, or the United States Postal Service, or G.O.D., or some similar organization. There may have been a time when FedEx was the best at what they do, and when they stood by their services, but it seems that time has passed if they willingly cheat a disabled craftsman out of insurance coverage for which he paid to compensate for damage for which FedEx is responsible.
I’m sure that FedEx puts a great deal of money into marketing their services, including their shipping insurance. Apparently, their budget—both financial and ethical—for actually fulfilling the promises they make is simply too small. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time they got out of the shipping business entirely.
ADDENDUM: Here are a few pictures of the damage to the box and the instrument as they were when they arrived. It may not look like much, but musicians will know that it ruins the sound of the instrument, and it certainly is NOT the way it was when shipped.