Fedex Follies: Part One

The Fugitive. MIA 1960 ES-355 mono. These are not cheap and you really don’t want to lose one. It eventually arrived after a month on the road.

On March 20th or so, I bought a 1960 ES-355 from a seller in Europe. Nothing unusual about that. I paid for the shipping and Fedex was the shipper. The guitar was properly boxed, the paperwork completed (including the form that is supposed to notify customs that it is a USA made product returning to the USA so that no duty is collected) and off it went. The guitar was scanned in Sweden on March 22nd. next stop was Denmark, the same day. At 3 AM on the 23rd it was in Paris. Then it disappeared. Now, I’d love to spend a month in Paris but the idea of my guitar spending a month there (without me) isn’t what I had in mind. No scans as of March 27th. It should have at least left Paris by now, right? It was shipped International Priority. Online tracking said “operational delay” whatever that means. I hit the phones.

Them: “Fedex, please describe the reason for your call.” Me: Missing package.” Them: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.” Me: Missing package. Them: “You want to ship a package.” Me: REPRESENTATIVE. Them: “Please say or enter the door tag number.” Finally I get to the international folks and the rep tells me that there is an airline strike and no planes are leaving Paris. I go online to check flight schedules out of Paris (you can see the Fedex flight schedule online). Plenty of flights. I call again. After the usual ordeal of talking to a recorded voice, I’m back at international. This time I ask for a supervisor. The guitar is now 12 days on the road. Them: “The guitar is in Paris” Me: Why hasn’t it been scanned in the last 10 days? Them: “It’s in a container.” Me: How do I know it didn’t walk out the door with one of your employees?” Them: No, it’s definitely there.” Me: “I expect a phone call every day until the package leaves Paris.” Them: We’ll be happy to do that. They don’t.

I get in touch with the shipper to get him up to speed and ask him to talk to Fedex as well. He gets a similar story. It’s now more than two weeks. No scans, no calls, no guitar. I’m back on the phone. Me: “Where’s my package?” Them: “We’re not sure. I think it might be lost. Maybe the label fell off.” Me: “oh crap”. I should mention that this happened once before. That time it was a 345 coming from Greece and the guitar was lost for about 3 weeks. It did finally arrive though. I wasn’t so sure about this one.

You should know that Fedex will take your money if you write in the actual value of the guitar supposedly “insuring” it for that amount. BUT, in their terms and conditions, they state that the limit on vintage (more than 20 years old) in $2000. So, they’ll take a huge pile of money from you if you don’t know that and then, when they lose (or break) your guitar, they will tell you to “read the terms and conditions”. I’ve been trying to get this changed for at least 8 years now. The declared value on this guitar was, if I recall, $2000, the limit for vintage. That’s all I could possibly get from them even though it was worth more than ten times that. I have an outside policy so it was fully insured but nobody likes to make a claim because the rates go up.

After another 3 or 4 phone conversations, the guitar turned up. The guitar was finally scanned again on April 20th, nearly a month after it was shipped. It appeared to be on the move, finally. Customs had it for a day in Indianapolis and it was delivered, intact, on April 22nd. It doesn’t end here though. You didn’t think I was going to pay the $500+ bill they sent, did you? Tune in for Part two soon.

6 Responses to “Fedex Follies: Part One”

  1. Craig says:

    It had never occurred to me to think about this aspect of your business. I don’t think I could deal with that kind of stress on a recurring basis.

  2. RAB says:

    Charlie, what a nightmare. Very disturbing and stress we don’t need in our already stressful lives. Thank goodness the guitar finally arrived. I hope you had a nice glass of a warming liquid to celebrate! Red wine would match the guitar’s finish! Best, RAB

  3. Rod says:

    There is a European carrier called Hermes. They are the worst for damaging or plain losing items. Take ages to deliver as well. They are so bad they have recently rebranded as ‘Evri’ to try to lose their reputation. If you want to use them to send aguitar they happily accept the package knowing what it is. When (not if) they lose it, they cheerfully tell you they are not liable because in their terms and conditions (which nobody sees until it is too late) that they do not accept musical instruments. Some years ago I bought a Heritage from Arizona via Ebay and was forced to use their ‘Global Shipping Programme’ which cost nearl double the standard shipping. Although the guitar did finally arrive, it took something like six weeks. Six days to get from the senders to the UK distribution hum and the rest of the time to be delivered maybe 200 miles in the UK. By Hermes. Since it was Ebay who decided on the use of Hermes, would they have been liable if Hermes had lost or damaged it and then repudiated libility because they do not cover musical instruments? I wonder if Ebay know, or care, about this?

  4. Bone Idol says:

    I’ve had mixed experiences with carriers over the years, (I agree with Rod, Hermes were absolute pants).
    After boxing up a guitar recently, the carriers website asked for the dimensions, length, breadth, height etc. Which got me thinking…. Which way up is a boxed guitar meant to be from a carriers point of view?
    I entered the dimensions as if the guitar was standing upright and duly got my quote for the carriage…. Then I thought…. “Hmm I wonder?”…. I went back into it and changed the dimensions as if the guitar was laying flat on the floor and received a cheaper quote…Result!… I then marked the box “This Way Up” in the upright position… Ahh… Little victories…Little victories!

  5. Len Kovalsky says:

    Glad the guitar made it safely to Charlie. DHL is considered the “specialist” for international shipping and I’ve used them with success for business related shipments. But shipping vintage guitars international is a challenge for many reasons, another of which is CITES paperwork that may be needed because this guitar has a Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard. It sounds crazy, but I know of one vintage dealer that gets on a plane to retrieve the guitar in person once it is in that $60K+ range. This also allows him to authenticate the guitar in person before closing the deal. He then buys a plane seat for it for the return trip, personally escorting the guitar home so it gets through customs OK. Indeed, there is a lot of behind the scenes overhead going on that fully justifies why vintage dealers need to charge some extra $$$ to compensate.

  6. okguitars says:

    DHL lost a 57 Stratocaster (it was refinished but still valuable) and reimbursed me based on the size and weight of the package. $315.52. I never cashed the check. And then they had the nerve to charge me for the shipment. I will never ship anything with them again.

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