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.

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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.

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“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.

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