If a shipment is late, does a carrier have any responsibility beyond just a refund?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Phillip B, Jan 1, 2015.

  1. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    In the past I have had carriers (the latest of which is UPS) lose or delay packages.

    When contacting customer service, the corporate lines seem to be:

    1. If we're late on a guaranteed shipment we will refund you
    2. If it's lost, we'll pay you after 30 days
    So my history with a lost shipment is that they would do nothing except recite statement 2 until day 29, when they suddenly found my shipment in the local terminal, as it had never left the city.

    This week, I had UPS send me a text and an email that my 2nd day air shipment was going to be delayed. It all turned out OK (after calling to complain, I got new texts telling me that my shipment was going to be on time. I do not think that my call prompted the messages - I just think that they were confused)

    But the thought that it brought up was that here's a situation in which
    1. A shipment has stalled in a city just a few hours from me
    2. UPS has promised it today (via their 2day guarantee on 2nd Day Air shipments)
    3. the customer service rep has told me that if it didn't arrive on time, my shipper would need to apply for a refund.
    My question is: If a carrier enters into a contract to supply 2 day service, are they morally responsible to fulfill that promise? Or are we all OK with the seller receiving a refund as the only action required by the carrier.

    BTW, I totally understand that there is no legal obligation from the carrier to do anything beyond refund the money (remember, they wrote the contract that was entered into when the shipment was accepted)

    In my business (albeit a much smaller scale than UPS) if we had made a promise to a customer and it appeared that we were about to renege on the promise, we would go to extraordinary measures to make it right.

    My experience with carriers (one in particular) is that if things go right, it is a glorious experience. But when things go wrong, they are content to let the system run its course, without any additional interdiction to try to straighten things out

    In my above example, even though the shipment was relatively close, the reaction was "please have the original shipper file for a refund if it doesn't come"

    A more customer focused business might have have empowered the customer service rep to call the terminal that was 2 hours away and spoken to someone who could have located the shipment, and seen if there was any possible way for them to get it to the recipient in the guaranteed time.

    But a large company must weigh the customer goodwill that such actions would generate vs the costs involved. And I found that those actions were not part of the playbook at my carrier.

    In particular those actions were not available to me because I was not their customer. If they annoyed me and I choose not to do business with them in the future... well, I hadn't paid for that shipment anyway, and who's to say that I would ever be a customer of the carrier! Annoying a non-customer doesn't really hurt your bottom line, right?

    And unless I complained to the vendor about a late delivery and the vendor then goes through the trouble of applying for a refund, it really, really doesn't hurt the carrier's bottom line - because remember: the carrier has already been paid. Wonder how many late shipments still get paid at full price because it's too much trouble for the vendor to do that paperwork? (especially since their customer really does have the product - it just arrived late)

    So I guess I'm curious - are we OK with this treatment?

    In particular, Does a carrier have any responsibility beyond just a refund to honor their promise?

    And I guess the real final question is: All carriers seem to be similar - Do we have any recourse? What could we do if we want some personal attention from an impersonal corporation?

    (BTW, I had another thread that was intended to be about this - but I had included too much info about my personal shipment and WAY too many people couldn't see the forest for the trees. They kept commenting "YOU eventually got your bass on time - what's the big deal?"...:rollno:...

    And so we're here at this thread, stripped of personal info)
  2. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    It's a business contract, in my opinion there's no obligation other than what's outlined in the specification of the shipping service you pay for. You may hope for some moral or ethical commitment from the shipper on top of what's in that contract, but realistically what you should expect to get when things go wrong is no more than the terms of service you paid for and what is legally binding. Tough maybe, but that is where it's at today.

    I found out that with regular postal service there is actually no guarantee at all where I live, not any compensation whatsoever even if the letter or parcel is lost. Nothing. I don't think most people expect that, but since no one reads the fine print people don't really know what they are buying.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
  3. Kingratt


    Dec 26, 2014
  4. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    And that's an very important point - the carrier deals with each shipment as a commodity, as a part of a business contract that has specific rules

    whereas to the recipient, the shipment may represent the final realization of years of hoping and dreaming, and legal contracts be damned - they want the carrier to fulfill the promised delivery!(or at least share some of the pain when it doesn't happen!)

    I guess my thought is that a brusque "if it doesn't show up, have your shipper apply for a refund" response is adequate if the carrier is dealing with businesses only.

    However, if the carrier is dealing with end users with expectations of hopes and dreams showing up on a particular day, then (at the very least) a "softer, kinder" customer service response might be worth crafting.

    Even if they don't actually do anything different behind the scenes, that could be a big step towards improving their image.

    But on the other hand, if non-business shippers really mattered - they would probably already be doing it!
  5. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    As to what they are required to do legally:

    Imagine you went to pick up your package at the depot. You can see it sitting on the shelf behind the counter.

    The counter person says "your package is not available to you on the date we promised. Please have your shipper file for a refund"

    Legally, this is correct. The only obligation for a non-delivered shipment is to allow the shipper to apply for a refund.

    But we would expect the counter person to "go the Extra mile" to get the package off the shelf.

    How much should we expect? Should the counter person have to go to the back room - or is that too much to expect?

    At what point should we stop expecting the carrier to "go the Extra mile"?
  6. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    I thinks that's what I referred to when I said "BTW, I totally understand that there is no legal obligation from the carrier to do anything beyond refund the money (remember, they wrote the contract that was entered into when the shipment was accepted)"

    Or is what you're saying is that Talkbass is an inappropriate forum for a discussion of corporate responsibility beyond the legally binding terms of the contract (as it applies to our community)? That statement I understand, and if I get no participants here on Talkbass, I will move the discussion to a business ethics discussion talk group! (At least they won't say "You got your bass, quit whining" on that board:D)

    But if what you're saying is that you're tired of discussing it, why even bother posting in this thread - why not just move on without comment, and let those that are interested discuss it?

    If it's a topic of non-interest here, it will die a lonely death!
  7. Goatrope


    Nov 18, 2011
    Sarasota Florida
    A business contract does not create moral responsibly. The answer is no.

    Do we have any recourse? Yes. Stop doing business with the business in question.
    Winoman and AaronVonRock like this.
  8. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    So what I'm hearing is that all we expect from a business is the bare minimum of their legal responsibilities?
  9. Goatrope


    Nov 18, 2011
    Sarasota Florida
    It's not about what we expect, it's about what we accept.

    Businesses change when they realize poor performance is impacting revenue.

    Now go play that new bass!

    Phillip B likes this.
  10. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Sadly, I fear that this is true. Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised, but you can't expect it.

    Here in the U.S., at least, to label/categorize something as "business" seems to imply that the usual considerations of morality and common decency that govern "personal" relationships simply do not apply. It means that the rules are different: It is permissible to do whatever it takes, within the technical confines of the law, to maximize the bottom line. Even a mobster knows that it is generally wrong to murder people, but he has no qualms about snuffing someone out when it's "just business."
    AaronVonRock and Phillip B like this.
  11. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    Thanks for the on topic input!!

    If only I could go play that new bass - unfortunately my New Years is devoted to developing a presentation about "Branding" for a company I'm consulting for. So "what is expected of a brand beyond the pure legal requirements?" is very much at the forefront of my mind .

    But maybe I should either go work, or go play, but (in any event!) quit trying to gather info here for that presentation. :thumbsup:

    I guess this topic is not "bass specific" enough for this forum - taking about it seems to anger an unusual number of people here!:help:
  12. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    Fantastic comment! Right to the meat of the matter!

    With your permission, I'd like to steal it and paraphrase it for a presentation I'm working on?
  13. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    I think it depends on what business we're talking about. I may expect more from a mom and pop store I have a long history with compared to an impersonal global shipping company. With the latter anything more than what's in the business contract would be a bonus, and remember the grass roots people in those organisations have little leeway to do anything other than follow the procedures they are hired to peform, they may even get in trouble for going your "extra mile".
    kennyZ and Phillip B like this.
  14. mapleglo

    mapleglo Ancient Astronaut Theorist Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    We live in a world in which corporations are legally given the same rights as people, with none of the responsibility. A world in which an individual can work for a company for 40 years under the guise that they will receive a pension when they retire, only to be told that the pension benefit is no longer available. A world in which a corporation can contribute to the political candidate of "their" choice, but when that corporation breaks the law, "it" does't (and can't, really) go to jail. The only "currency" in which corporations deal, is dollars. Corporations have no morals, as they are not human. The human's behind the corporation, running it, gleaning profit from its operations, are shielded from responsibility by the laws under which we, as a society, agree to - or at least the representatives we vote for, agree to.

    So in short, no, the carrier has no "moral" responsibility. Corporations (and people too) breaks contracts every day, with little or no backlash. Welcome to the matrix.
  15. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Hey, it's just business, so feel free to steal whatever you can get away with! (But seriously, permission granted.)

    As long as I'm on a roll here, let me add this. The rules governing agreements ("contracts") provide a good example of the difference between "business" and ordinary interpersonal relations. If you make a personal agreement with someone -- you "give them your word" -- you would feel obliged to hold up your end of the bargain as long as it is within your power to do so. But if it's a "business" agreement, it is considered acceptable to break a contract whenever the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs. The purpose of the contract isn't to prevent one from doing anything, but merely to make it costly for them to do so.

    Just to be clear, BTW, I am in no way endorsing this way of thinking. I personally believe that businesses should treat customers, and each other, like people rather than merely as potential cash flow. I'm just describing what I think is the reality, like it or not.
  16. matti777


    Dec 13, 2007
    Edmonton, Canada
    I would sue. The damages must be staggering...annoyance, hurt feelings, inconvenience :)
    Dominic DeCosa likes this.
  17. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    So are you saying that after all that you didn't even need the bass for a NYE gig?
    hdracer likes this.
  18. I respectfully disagree with Lobster ^. A personal agreement is an informal matter, and only as good as the "word" of the involved parties. {EDIT: And thus falls more into the realm of morals; it involves a personal commitment.} A business contract is a legal agreement, and the parties to that agreement have at least some legal recourse if either one fails to meet the terms of the contract.

    When you ship a package with ANY carrier, you are effectively entering into a legal contract with them. In exchange for a fee, they agree to deliver your item subject to certain terms. You can be sure that the fine print states that if your delivery is not made on time, their legal responsibility goes no further than reimbursing the delivery fees.

    So, sorry; it's not a moral issue. It's an imperfect world, stuff happens.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
  19. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    Actually, I never needed it - it was yet another Lakland 5 string to add to the 4 other Lakland 5 strings I have.

    But once UPS surprised me by promising it to me on Wednesday, I got excited about using it because I wanted to show it to someone that I might not see till next New Year.

    So did I play it on New Years Eve? Yep! It's way cool - a 55-94 body shape with 2 Ultrajazz pickups and a Pope preamp!

    What's confusing you is that when I said "New Years" for the presentation development I should have actually said New Year's Day (i.e. right now!)

    No rest for the wicked!:laugh:
  20. Phillip B

    Phillip B Chilling in the Sunshine State!

    Aug 3, 2014
    Tampa Florida
    +1 on that - the carrier writes the contract, and you have to agree to their terms (which will always favor them) to even get them to accept your item.