A Christmas story with a happy ending, thanks to a little self-advocacy

Sheryl and Greg Sneathen sent Christmas gifts that didn’t arrive on time. Instead of blaming Santa, they went after UPS. But did they forget a little something?

The Sneathens’ case is an important reminder that you are your most effective advocate. Our advocacy team asked for a paper trail, and it soon became apparent that the Sneathens skipped a step on their way to a resolution. It looked as if they wanted us to perform a little holiday magic without any help from them.

Of course, that isn’t how we operate, so Sneathen was directed to our executive contacts. Sneathen had claimed that UPS did not want to stand by its own guarantee when the package she sent never got to its destination.

Let’s have a look at what happened.

Four days before Christmas 2016, Sneathen mailed a package from the UPS store in Winchester, Va. It contained Christmas presents for an 11-year-old girl and six-year-old boy, who were without their mom that year.

“I had hoped UPS would ensure a guaranteed delivery,” says Sheryl Sneathen. “I paid the extra charge for guaranteed two-day air and received a tracking number.”

But the driver delivered the package to the wrong address and it was lost.

“We ended up making a trip we really could not afford to Florida and try to give those kids a little Christmas since they had no gifts under their tree,” she recalls.

Although UPS delivered the package on Dec. 23, the driver apparently delivered it to the wrong apartment. Sneathen then called UPS’s toll-free number, and the UPS rep said they would initiate an investigation.

After a couple of additional calls, UPS said the package had apparently been found, opened and empty, in a dumpster behind the apartment building in Florida.

On Dec. 27 and 28, Sneathen made several unsuccessful attempts to reach a UPS supervisor or store manager by phone. Then, on Dec. 28, she reported that “the intended recipient of the package received an email requesting he send a photo of the damaged box. (We did not understand this request which puts any burden of proof on the recipient.)”

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Between Dec. 28 and Jan. 6, Sneathen made several calls to the local UPS store manager, who, in Sneathen’s words, “stated it was out of her hands and ‘unfortunately this happens all the time with UPS.'”

On Jan. 6, the Sneathens drove to Florida to see the children and buy gifts to replace the ones that were lost. While there, they went to the UPS store in Florida, but she reported that the supervisor “would not come out to talk with us when the store clerk went to the back to show our receipt with the incident number to him.”

In mid-January, Sneathen emailed UPS corporate, asking for help. The same day, she received a call from a UPS rep, whom she described as “empathetic and apologetic”; the rep said she would look into what happened. The day after their first conversation, the UPS corporate rep told Sneathen that she would be reimbursed for the shipping and package insurance, and she needed only to visit the local UPS store.

Let’s hear from Sneathen what happened next:

[On Jan. 17] I drove to the local UPS store in Winchester to speak with the manager who was not happy to see me, and shoved the receipt back to me stating, “I already know about this, even though I disagree I had it processed.”

She was so rude in front of her staff and waiting customers and I was shocked, and when I did finally ask what [“processed” meant], she shook her head and asked who I had talked to about this. I replied that I had spoken with Kerry Ortega at corporate, which infuriated her and she turned and walked away. I left still not understanding why I was not refunded and more confused than when I walked into the store.

[On Jan. 18] I called Kerry Ortega to relay my frustrating visit to the local store and she was apologetic and asked if she could document the call.

Sneathen then reached out to our advocates to see if they could help. She hoped to recover money lost from her original payment to UPS for a guaranteed delivery, plus the cost of insurance on the package. She noted lost wages due to an unforeseen trip undertaken to make a subsequent hand-delivery herself, and she hoped to recover half of the travel expenses to do so — for a total of $900 — which she thought seemed fair. It took 73 days to resolve what should have been an easy refund process, and in the end, the Sneathens received compensation only for the shipping and insurance, a total reimbursement of $270.00.

Ultimately, UPS issued them three checks, since the local UPS store manager kept refusing to refund them.

The first check for the package insurance arrived within two weeks. The UPS store manager refused to issue a full refund even after numerous phone calls and emails to corporate, but finally, the Sneathens were protected under the UPS guarantee. The second check covered only half of the shipping costs. The Sneathens said they believed the local store manager was impeding the entire process. Either way, it was obvious to them that extracting the money due them was not going to be easy.

Sneathen documented her interactions with UPS and, because of this, she got positive results, later emailing us that she used the company contacts found on our website for UPS.

“We would like to thank you for providing the UPS corporate emails on your site and for the encouragement to address the issue directly with UPS. We contacted the entire list and within 30 minutes received our first call.”

We always encourage readers to first try self-advocacy. It often works.

We love to hear stories about successful self-advocacy using our tips and contacts and, while the chain of events in those frustrating encounters with companies can be a lot to keep track of, it is important to keep detailed notes and save any paperwork or receipts when going through the process. Get the names of the people with whom you interact along the way, and make detailed notes of phone conversations. Documentation plus a calm and polite demeanor are key to a favorable outcome. For many people, what’s important is not that a company made a mistake, but rather how the company ended up fixing it. Sometimes we customers just have to help them do what’s right in order to reach that end.

“I would like to let all consumers know they are ‘Protected under The Pack and Ship Guarantee.’ This means the shipping, packaging, and insurance is refunded if UPS fails to deliver,” adds Sneathen. “We would love to let others know never give up. We almost did but we hung in there, thanks again!”

You can do it, too.

Since this story appeared earlier this year, we’ve had several other UPS cases, but all of them — like this one — were successfully resolved. Thank you, UPS.

Jeff Filipov

Jeff Filipov is a destination planner and a frequent commenter on this site. He became interested in advocacy when his father died on American Airlines flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Alan Gore

    I’ve never heard of treatment this nasty from UPS. This seems to be a rogue franchise.

  • MF

    Another case of small minded terminal stupidity?

  • Mel LeCompte Jr.

    I hate UPS with a passion. My house address is out of sequence with the rest of the block (an issue I’ve complained about to the mayor, but that is a different story). The only entity that can locate our house is USPS. I’ve been through all the red tape I could go through at UPS to see if they could notify drivers as to my home location and maybe put a permanent note as to this for all future packages.

    When I finally spoke to a live person, I was told I’d actually have to order an item, have it sent and resent to my address until it finally would get marked as ‘undeliverable’, Once that item would sent back, THEN maybe they could do some kind of permanent notice for the drivers.

    I am disabled so there is no ‘alternate’ work address to send packages to. I have to have packages sent to relatives one town over, and drive myself on days I am healthy enough to do so. Real fun around Christmas.

    (Side note: Years ago, before I moved to my current location, I lived in a 2500+ square foot home that was the site of a former lawyer’s office — this home was on a corner lot of a major U.S. highway. When I was renting the home, the address post — with numbers 10 inches high — stayed installed on the corner for the world to see. UPS flubbed up several times then, too, saying on several occasions my home didn’t exist. So I can’t say my confidence was all that great with them in the first place.)

  • e santhin

    We own a condominium in a resort in Florida. Owners in this resort rent their units out and the management has a front desk to check renters in and out, issue key cards, handle pool towels and handle mail delivery. There are no individual lock mail boxes and UPS does not deliver to individual condominiums. Shortly after moving in we purchased a new kitchen stove. When it was delivered it did not have the broiler shelf. With the paperwork was a notice that the shelf was not included but would be shipped directly from the factory when ordered by phone. We followed the directions and the shelf was shipped by UPS. Following tracking we knew when it was delivered and went to the front desk to pick up the package. It was not there. Someone else had entered the mail room and took the package. We were not aware of that at the time and called UPS to report the package had not been delivered. UPS checked and advised the package had been signed for by the front desk clerk. That is when we learned anyone could simply walk in the mail room and pick up their own mail. A serious lack of security. We called the original factory number to report the problem and were advised no worry they would send another one at no additional charge. It arrived and was picked up with no further problem. The stove manufacturer we Frigidaire.

  • joycexyz

    Is there anything that can be done when a franchisee goes against company policy? It sounds as if that manager went above and beyond nastiness and stonewalling. Such behavior and attitude can certainly harm the parent company.

  • NorthtoSouth

    GiftTree.com is the same way. Very good company to buy gifts from as well as Foster and Smith pet supplies.

  • cscasi

    Looks like the condo management needs better safeguards on its mail room; i.e., installing a video camera to record those going in and out might solve the problem.

  • jah6

    I wonder why UPS doesn’t deal with this manager. Sounds like she needs to be fired.

  • Bill

    I don’t think the UPS Store is wholly part of UPS. I thought they were franchises, and although clearly associated with UPS, not actually employees of UPS.
    I have had similar incidents with car rental places, and some are corporate and others franchises. Their ability and desire to resolve issues varies widely. But when you call corp, you sometimes get the “Sorry, they are a franchise; there is nothing we can do.”

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