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USPS lost/destroyed our books (or was it Createspace?)

Oct 19th, 2010 | By | Category: CG Blog

On September 23, I placed an order through Createspace for 80 copies of the print version of the Science in My Fiction contest winners. These copies were to be re-shipped to the winners, the judges, and the people who pledged to the kickstarter drive.

As of this past Friday (10/15) we still hadn’t received them. I sent an inquiry to Createspace, and the next day (10/16), they replied “The tracking number confirms that your order was delivered on October 4.”

Since I knew damn well that we hadn’t received the books, I checked the order number myself on usps.com. What it actually said was “Estimated Delivery Date 10/4”. The status updates had nothing since a Sort Facility in Greensboro, NC on 10/2.

I called USPS. They didn’t know what was wrong, so they started an investigation and informed me that they’d contact me “within 2 business days”.

On Monday 10/18 at 2:50 pm, I got a voicemail from the manager of the local post office, informing me that she’d gone to the trouble of looking at the tracking on their website, and “you should receive that item today”.

When we got home after work, what was waiting for us was not a package of 80 books. It was this:

The sticker says “Received without content”. The generic label says, in essence, “We damaged your box. Sorry. We’re not going to do anything about it.”

This morning, I sent this message to Createspace:

On Oct. 16 you replied to my problem (Case #[removed], about order #[removed]) claiming that USPS’ website said my order was delivered on October 4. This was not true; it said ESTIMATED DELIVERY DATE 10/4, but still not delivered as of the 16th.

I called USPS, they started an investigation. I then got a voicemail on Monday 19/18 saying my package would be delivered that day.

What I received was a 7-inch chunk of cardboard with your shipping label on it, which says “received without content”. And a generic printed apology which apparently expects me to just accept that I won’t be receiving my 80 books for which I paid $[removed]. Books which, I might add, my customers have paid for and have been waiting almost a month for at this point.

I will be contacting USPS but I expect you to do your part to make good on this order as well. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t received the books which I paid you for in good faith and I expect the situation to be rectified.

Then I called the local USPS. I was informed that the person who’d called me was unavailable and I should call back later. I asked the person who answered what they would do about this and was informed that, because the package wasn’t insured (Note: Createspace does not give the option of purchasing insurance), they weren’t going to do anything. I asked if they seriously would not be held accountable for their mistake, and the woman said that they had no proof that they’d failed to deliver what had been sent. (This despite the fact that their own generic message says “We sincerely regret the damage to your mail during handling by the postal service.”

I said “I don’t think that this big company mailed me a chunk of cardboard when I paid for 80 books,” to which the woman actually replied “We don’t know that they didn’t.” I told her I would be calling back and talking the the manager because this was not acceptable. Her reply was to say “You do that. Have a nice day.” and hang up on me.

*****

I’d like to take a moment to contrast this experience to one I had recently with Staples. I ordered some bubble-wrap mailers in bulk (incidentally, to be used to reship the very books that are now gone). They were to be delivered to a nearby Staples where I could just pick them up. The date of expected delivery passed and I didn’t hear from them informing me that the box had arrived. When I called them, they discovered that the box had vanished en route.

Here’s the big difference. While I was on the phone with this guy he called my local store and had them search for the box. When they couldn’t find it, the guy apologized; then he found a similar (but more expensive) item, discounted it to match what I’d bought, redid the order and arranged a refund of the original order, and shipped the new item to my house, next-day express, at no extra charge. Not only did they accept responsibility for their mistake, they immediately did the best they possibly could to rectify the situation.

*****

So. Either Createspace shipped me a 7″ x 4″ chunk of cardboard, or USPS lost and/or destroyed our books. I will continue to fight this but USPS has a pretty wretched track record for actually accepting responsibility for their mistakes. Why is there no accountability for a huge, government-backed business? …actually I think I just answered my own question.

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6 comments
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  1. That’s outrageous. I can’t believe USPS can actually get away with treating customers like that. My response would be to plaster this story all over the internet- nothing tends to get through to a company like bad press.

  2. A friend passed this along to me:

    “Unfortunately the shipper is responsible to purchase insurance, and to have the goods delivered to the customer….Createspace must refund the purchase or send new books….and then deal with USPS for the claim.”

  3. Okay. I work Customer Service for a large web & catalog company. (Oriental Trading Company, thankyouverymuch!) I get this kind of call on occasion. (Now, keep in mind that I’m Customer Service, so I tend to get all the bad calls in the first place…) Createspace is responsible for getting your purchased product to you. Period. Even if USPS lost it (which is possible), they still have to send you 80 bright shiny new books or give you a full refund. THEY make the claim with USPS, like Sumayyah said.

    Your encounter with Staples exemplifies what we would have done the first time. “You didn’t get your package? Here, have another. We’ll get it printed as fast as possible and send it to you UPS Next Day.” I do that every day.

    And by the way, USPS does do a lot of stupid stuff (which is why they’re so cheap), but in my experience, they do NOT deliver a 7×4 piece of cardboard in place of a box. Doesn’t happen. Hold on to that envelop in case you need to go to Small Claims Court. That is, most likely, what Createspace sent, somehow. Maybe an error in the warehouse, I don’t know.

  4. […] about 5 pm today I received a phone call from a representative at Createspace, in response to the Science in My Fiction books that were lost. This was kind of surprising in and of itself, since Createspace doesn’t make a phone number […]

  5. […] No Comments We had a bit of a scare earlier this week when a shipment of 80 books we’d ordered got lost by USPS. Fortunately yesterday we got a satisfactory solution to the problem, but for a day there I was […]

  6. […] in My Fiction contest winner books. This is the replacement shipment that Createspace sent after USPS lost/destroyed the first shipment. They arrived safely, in great shape and super-fast. Kudos to Createspace for their handling of the […]

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