Why it’s a bad idea to ship $9,500 golf clubs without insurance

David Martin recently moved from Bermuda to Manila, Philippines. But his golf clubs didn’t — and unfortunately for Martin, they appear to be gone forever because he didn’t insure them.

Martin’s story should serve as a warning to anyone planning to ship anything valuable. Have your goods appraised, insure them and keep the paperwork. Had he done so, his financial loss might not have been so severe — and our advocates could have helped him obtain a larger reimbursement payment from Air Canada Cargo.

During his relocation, Martin had 31 packages, including the golf clubs, air-freighted by a moving company called Best, which arranged with Air Canada Cargo to ship them to Martin’s new home.

The other 30 items all arrived. But the parcel containing the golf clubs didn’t. One was an irreplaceable putter that belonged to his late father.

Air Canada declared the parcel lost over a month later, following a number of discussions with Martin. At that time, Martin filed a claim for his golf clubs for $9,500. Air Canada processed the claim, and a month later, offered Martin $492 and asked him to sign a waiver of further liability.

The letter noted that Martin had had the opportunity to declare a value for his goods, which would have been noted on the waybill. Alternatively, he could have purchased insurance coverage for the goods. As he had done neither, Air Canada’s liability was limited to 34.19 Canadian dollars ($26.62) per kilogram.

Martin rejected Air Canada Cargo’s offer and asked our advocates for assistance. (Our website contains executive contact information for Air Canada.)

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Air Canada Cargo’s conditions of contract for shipments outside Canada limits Air Canada’s liability for cargo based on the weight of the shipments. Although the conditions of contract do not specify monetary limits on its liability, the claims page on Air Canada Cargo’s website mentions a liability limit of 19 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (about $27) per kilogram for lost or damaged goods shipped by Air Canada Cargo. The claims page also contains the notation “Note that Air Canada’s liability may be limited if the goods were not insured or if the shipper did not declare a value for carriage.”

Martin provided our advocacy team with two documents: Air Canada Cargo’s letter containing the $492 offer, based on a weight of 18.5 kilograms, and a “Household Goods Descriptive Inventory” from Best.

The document from Best lists a number of shipped items, including the golf clubs, and their condition at the point of origin. But there is no other information listed on the document, such as monetary value, date of delivery or the identity of the party that assumed possession of the goods being shipped.

Our advocate asked Martin for a copy of the shipping contract with the value he declared at the time he turned over the parcel for shipment. Martin responded that Best never asked for a valuation. He had also never insured the items. And he provided no other documents.

Unfortunately for Martin, without a paper trail that establishes the value of his goods and that Air Canada had custody of them, we’re not going to be able to help him. And it’s unlikely that he can expect anything more from Air Canada Cargo than the $492 it offered him. Without insurance or supporting documentation, his quest to retrieve his golf clubs won’t make it onto the fairway.

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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