It’s incredibly ironic that one of FedEx’s many Twitter accounts is called @FedExDelivers. In my case, they didn’t.
I hope you’ll bear with me on the length of this post, as it’s something that’s caused me considerable stress and anxiety on top of the emotion of leaving my partner and family behind to emigrate.
On Monday 20 August, preparing to leave New Zealand for my new home in Melbourne, I shipped my editing computer via FedEx from Auckland Airport.
This is my personal computer I use for everything – it’s responsible for the documentary Men Like Us which is now playing in cinemas. I research and do graphics work for this blog on it. I was due to start editing my next film for the charitable trust Number 8 Films, Christophe’s Arc, this month.
After securing the tower in several layers of bubble wrap and sealing every seam with packaging tape, as per FedEx’s own packaging instructions; we did a similar job for the monitor and peripherals in a second box.
I had obtained a quote on shipping from the FedEx call centre before driving the packages out to the airport, and was annoyed to find on arriving that they had failed to tell me that there is a value limit on shipping items from New Zealand to Australia. The boxes would have to be shipped separately. Fail #1.
I filled out the appropriate forms and asked for “fragile” and “this way up” stickers to be fixed to the boxes, which was done. I also asked for insurance, and was told that insurance was not provided on FedEx shipments.
Having paid the sum of $655.16, I saw the items on their way and anxiously awaited for their arrival in Australia by the end of that week.
The packages arrived on Friday evening. First thing Saturday morning, I opened them to discover that my tower had panels missing from the front, as if it had been opened for inspection. The screws at the back were also loose, and the warranty seal split, also suggesting that the case had been opened. No paperwork accompanied the package to say it had been inspected by Customs in either Australia or New Zealand.
I plugged in the computer to find it powered up, but gave a disturbing series of beeps. At best, something had come unstuck inside. At worst, something essential was broken.
I immediately phoned the FedEx call centre, and had my details taken and recorded. The person I spoke to told me that someone from Australia would phone me on Monday and would ask me to send through photos of the damage.
I took photos and waited for the call on Monday. None came, so I phoned through first thing on Tuesday morning and spoke with a woman called Annie, who I was led to believe was in Australia. Well, that’s what her email signature said:
She asked me to send through photographs of the damage, which I did.
I phoned back first thing Wednesday morning and was told Annie was busy and would have to call me back. A few hours later, I received an email saying that neither Australian nor New Zealand customs had inspected the package, and that the delivery warehouse and driver said there was no damage to the outer packaging.
“We are now midst of checking with FedEx Auckland on this matter because package went through under “XRAY” before the shipment uplifted on flight.
Let me check with FedEx origin on this matter and revert.”
On Thursday, Annie phoned me back to say that Auckland reported no problems. I still have a broken computer, I replied, which was intact when I supplied it to you for shipping. I asked for my shipping charges to be refunded. She said she’d have to check with her manager and would return my call tomorrow.
By the close of business Friday, I had heard nothing. By this stage, I am 1 1/2 weeks into my new job so can’t afford to take breaks every five minutes to follow up a corporation that states in its Mission that “Customer requirements will be met in the highest quality manner “.
I emailed Annie at 5:42pm after finishing work:
Hi Annie, I was expecting a call from you today as discussed after you spoke with your manager.
I am still extremely displeased with the poor service I have received from FedEx, which has resulted in delivery of a broken computer with missing parts.
As stated, I expect to be refunded in full, for the shipping charges and this weekend I will be getting quotes for repair of my machine which I expect FedEx to reimburse me for.
If you are not able to resolve this matter, then please put me in touch directly with someone who has the authority to do so.
I received this in reply:
I’m still on duty and haven’t finish work yet.
Anyway thanks for the mail.
I have checked with my manager with my investigation report.
We need to know on what was the inner packaging was used to packed this computer. Can you please described and email me the photo of the inner packaging.
We have checked with origin FedEx, in Sydney warehouse and also our Melbourne warehouse and delivery department. All the info that I gathered was the package was in good condition and was handled properly.
Perhaps you also had confirmed to me in email that “no damage to the box”.
As such, can you please describ the inner packaging material that was used for this item and email me the photo of the inner packaging so that we can check and revert with final determination.
Now, a week after delivery of the computer, they want me to photograph the packaging, half of which has been binned and the other half is lying in pieces in the corner of a spare bedroom?
If this was required, I should have been told in the first instance. Most of this packaging has been discarded – it has been a week since the package arrived!
At any rate, packaging is somewhat irrelevant as there are parts missing from the machine. How did this happen unless the package was tampered with?
The item was secured in several rolls of bubble wrap on all sides, and also with packaging tape. The spare space in the box was stuffed with further rolls of bubble wrap and bath towels.
I note again there was no damage to the other package I sent, which was sent on the same day from the same depot and was packaged identically.
This incident reflects incredibly poorly on the FedEx brand, and I am prepared to go public with this (I am a journalist) if this is not resolved promptly with a refund.
I understand that there wasn’t any damage to the other package when you shipped out.
As you said that if any parts missing, the outer package must had been tampered with. However you had informed me that “no damage to box”. Are you refering to the condition upon shipping from your side or the condition of the box which was received by your recipient Mr George? [NB: she is referring to Dr George Forgan-Smith, the friend whose house I am living in and whose address I shipped the computer to]
Can you let me know whether your recipient (Mr George) received the package with tampered with or in good and intact condition?
If the package been tampered with, please ask the recipient to take outer package photo and email to me or let me know whether I can liaise with the recipient directly on this matter.
I do understand also that inner packaging had been discarded now, however your description about the inner packaging material like bubble wrap or bath towel is not sufficient inner packaging material to ship out computer.
You may see our guideline about computer packaging at
My blood pressure getting close to bursting, I took a deep breath and replied again:
As I have already explained several times, I am at the address in Australia where the package was shipped to, the house of Dr George Forgan-Smith, the listed recipient. Both packages were received intact and signed for by Dr Forgan-Smith.
I have read the guidelines you attached for shipping. These were not supplied to me at the time I shipped out the items from Auckland. However, it clearly states there are three options for shipping without original manufacturer’s packaging, one of which is bubble wrap and packaging tape. I quote:
Using Air-Cellular Cushioning Material
Wrap the computer or peripheral on all sides with at least 3″ to 4″ of air-cellular cushioning material. Place the wrapped item inside a sturdy outer box. Accessories that are wrapped in appropriate amounts of cushioning can also be placed in any open spaces of the box. Fill all spaces with additional cushioning so that the wrapped item fits tightly inside the box. If no open spaces exist, pack accessories in an additional box.
Close and seal both the top and bottom of the box with three strips of pressure-sensitive plastic tape that is at least 2″ wide. Tape all seams or flaps.
This is precisely what was done. The bath towels were *in addition* to the above.
And, I reiterate, *parts are missing* from the machine. Where are they?
It is clear from the photos I sent through that panels were removed for the purpose of inspecting the inside of the machine.
So here is the situation thus far:
1. I pay over $600 to ship a computer to Australia through FedEx.
2. The computer arrives with parts missing and in a non-working condition.
3. Customs and FedEx staff deny tampering with the package.
4. You accept that at face value.
5. I have no working computer, and am out of pocket for a $600 international shipping service.
The amount of staff time spent on this ludicrous exchange, which has stretched over multiple emails and phone calls, will already add up to more than the cost of refunding my shipping charges, as I request. Given that you have failed to provide a service, namely the safe and intact delivery of an item, this is the least I would expect from a company of your reputation.
If this is not resolved and a refund processed by close of business Monday, I will be taking this matter up directly with Kim Garner, Managing Director of FedEx Australasia.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I don’t know Mr Garner, I looked up his name on LinkedIn because I was desperate. As I’m not a premium LinkedIn member I’m not able to send him a direct message.
Over the weekend, I had an IT guru friend inspect the machine and try to get it working again. After checking all the requisite parts, nothing could get the machine to boot up. It wasn’t simply a case of a component falling out its socket – something had been broken in the ham-fisted handling of transit.
Monday came and went, and it was another busy day at work so I did not have time to phone FedEx again. I decided to try them on the tram as I travelled home.
I was told that Annie was away and no-one else could help me. Utterly exasperated by this point, I said that surely there can’t be only one person who can deal with a damage claim. What if a staff member has to be off work for five weeks? On hold I went.
I eventually spoke to another woman, who again told me only Annie could deal with my claim. She said she had no access to the correspondence, data or damage photos that I’d emailed through.
I asked to speak to someone who had the authority to process a refund. I was put on hold again, and got cut off as the train I was on entered a tunnel.
The phone rang a few minutes later, and I found myself speaking to Isaac. He didn’t have access to any of the information either, but told me that I wouldn’t be getting a refund, because the package damage was not “visible” and it was up to me to prove that it was damaged.
He also said I should have taken out insurance, which is on the form I signed at the time of shipping. There is no such option, and I was not offered it.
I then asked if there was someone I could speak to, face-to-face, in Australia, to resolve this complaint. I was told that the call centre deals with everything and there was no-one in Australia who could help me.
Really? There’s a managing director of FedEx Australasia, and presumably a corporate office to go with him. What do all those people do?
Isaac told me to send through the photos again to him and he would make an assessment. What would he do that was different to what had already been done? He couldn’t tell me, but promised to phone me today.
As well as being out of pocket for $655 of shipping charges, I am now looking at over $1,000 to replace the broken computer. Thankfully, the data is backed up and retrievable.
But for a low-budget, independent filmmaker whose work doesn’t turn a profit, this situation has been a considerable blow, and has put the completion of our next Number 8 Films documentary, “Christophe’s Arc”, in jeopardy.
FedEx lists six corporate values on its website: people, service, innovation, integrity, responsibility and loyalty.
Having happily used FedEx for years to ship items around the world for film festivals, their reliability of “service” has taken a big dent with this incident. Their integrity is a joke, given the conflicting information I’ve been given at every stage of the complaints process. And responsibility? It’d be nice if they took some.
For a company that reported US$550 million in profits this financial year, you’d think refunding a paltry $655.16 for not providing the service I paid for would be a no-brainer.
Yes, there are problems in the world millions of times greater than this, but the values on the line here are simple, universal ones. You pay someone to do a job, and you should rightfully expect them to deliver. That’s how I’ve always operated. If I screw up (and I often have in life), I take responsibility and apologise.
Being such a fan of film, I should have seen the warning signs early on. FedEx stranded Tom Hanks on a desert island in “Cast Away” for years with nothing more than a volleyball to talk to.
If that’s how they treat an Academy Award winner, then I guess I shouldn’t have expected better treatment for my humble little PC.
UPDATE 1:20pm – A senior FedEx rep contacted me after two friends found an email address for the managing director. They have agreed to refund my shipping charges.
UPDATE: 5/9/2012 3:45pm – FedEx have now agreed to reimburse me for the declared value of the damaged computer in addition to refunding shipping charges. Thanks readers for your support on this.