UPS. Friend Or Foe?

Recently shipped two speakers and the stands all in very good (8/10) condition to a buyer in another state. One speaker and the stands were in the factory boxes. The other speaker was boxed by UPS. The buyer sent pictures and stated they arrived damaged. One of the speakers had a rattle but no visible damage, the other speaker, (the one UPS boxed), had visible damage. Not surprisingly, the stands arrived unscathed.

All items were picked up by UPS in that city and taken for inspection.

And the results were...UPS is not at fault because they have a policy, buried in very fine print, that it is the shippers' (sellers') responsibility to ensure proper packaging.

My wife and I also found out the local UPS stores are legally not affiliated with UPS!!!

We are currently attempting to discuss this with the owner of the local store.

Sad but true...


That stinks tomcarr!  I hold my breath anytime I ship or get shipped!  Good luck but sounds like they have an out.  

My UPS Store has always done the paperwork, and provided quick refund, on the few damaged items, out of many dozens I have shipped...

Where they packaged one of the speakers they should at least be responsible for the damage on that one. About 10 years ago I purchased a Parasound amp on Audiogon . UPS packaged it using those cheap air filled plastic pillows . Half of them were deflated. I contacted the seller to inform him the amp was damaged and I sent pictures. He contacted UPS who had a driver visit me. After inspecting it he couldn’t believe the packing. UPS honored the claim.

Fedex is no better. Where I live most of their drivers are independents. I have had packages that were supposed to be signed for just left on the porch and some packages were left in the rain.

@lwin Yes! Same here. Anything large, heavy or expensive is almost guaranteed to be damaged or destroyed by UPS or Fedex.

The speakers I sold were Vandersteens. My wife spoke with Richard Vandersteen and he told her they had so many problems with UPS and Fedex they went to shipping their speakers on pallets.

I had Audio Classics refurb my MR 78 a while back.

First I bought their dedicated shipping box, then I packed it properly and left it with local UPS to ship insured.

Audio Classics said it arrived with a broken glass faceplate.  But insurance covered it and they replaced it.  I got it back in perfect condition.

Glad the insurance worked.

Tom, Sorry to hear about you bad shipping experience.

UPS and FedEx just don't care. They are just giant robots that move packages from one address to another. They know packages regularly get damaged and have their fine print and cleanup crew that takes care it. They make more money jamming as many packages through their system as possible and them dealing with the aftermath as opposed to being more careful with people's goods and having fewer claims. That said, they have to deal with people trying to get away with false clams, too. It's a giant system that has us over a barrel.

We use LTL shipping for everything except for a few item that are relatively small and lightweight and they are over-packed. We have had good luck shipping this way.

Most manufacture's corrugated packaging is really good for only one trip, maybe two if it wasn't too beat up the first time. Some are better than others. Shipping has become so expensive, one would think the service would excellent.

@jwei Glad you had a good experience. Thanks for sharing. Nice when things turn out the way they are supposed to.

I've had mixed results with UPS. The one time I had a major shipment - including the maximum insurance - they damaged several boxes and lost 6. After 18 months of hassle, even securing 3rd party help, I gave up. They had no intention of honoring in insurance. I will not use UPS to ship items of value anymore. That said, USPS is worse.Good luck filing a claim much less getting paid. All that said, 1. if you use them, pay the extra to have them pack it, take pictures, and save documentation. Won't matter if it's damaged but maybe helps. 2. Don't use them with expensive stuff. 3. If ordering from a retailer, get in writing (email) their precise policy and get a person's contact name/email. 4. FedEx and or DHL are a tiny bit better but it's still a crapshoot. None of these folks care, that's the bottom line.  Last, I often pay more to purchase via Amazon.  When I receive a package that's crushed, I take pictures of all sides before opening but I must say, they have always honored a return or replaced a damaged shipment. 


I was a UPS driver for 23 years and could spend the next week telling you stories. For the most part the drivers do care and try their best. Most of the damage is system logistics and how they build their sort centers snd conveyer belts. Rule one pack it like it’s you child then pack that inside another package and then inside another. Rule two never buy the insurance through UPS always use third party insurance. Rule three over insure by 1 1/2 total replacement cost. Rule four and most important, upon receipt of delivery and there is noticeable damage DO NOT OPEN PACKAGE CALL UPS TO PICK UP AS REFUSED DELIVERY! As soon as you open it is yours. By refusing delivery it goes back to sender and the damage is their issue not yours. Then you get your money back as never received product. I use to let people open and check for damage and if it was we would seal back up and send back refused delivery. Final rule never use UPS for anything valuable unless there is absolutely no other option.

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No one has mentioned our beloved United States Postal Service (USPS). Here they go under the bus.  Had to ship my XA25 to Pass Labs In Auburn, CA for a minor repair.  $276 later including $5000 insurance, it was shipped on Jan 3, with arrival expected Jan 6.  A couple of weeks later my dealer got a note from Pass that they hadn't received the amp yet.  In the meantime I tried tracking and it was in the Auburn PO.  I go to the PO that I shipped it from to try a trace without any luck. I called Pass Labs and was told that the USPS won't deliver unless it fits in a mailbox.  Also the PO won't answer the phone when they call.  Sure enough I tried and after 4 two minute rings that ended in a disconnect I surrendered and tried the dreaded 800 number call.  45 minutes and two service complaints later I was told that I would be contacted within 3 business days.  After two business days on a Sunday night I get a call from USPS that the caller was looking at my package and that it would be delivered the next day.  Sure enough it was...3 weeks late.  In one piece however. The question now is how does it get shipped back to me.  It will be interesting to see who Pass chooses.  

I’m sorry to hear of your experience. I would agree double box or triple box audio equipment…with adequate packing inside. The UPS stores I am aware of only sell plastic peanuts or bubble wrap for packing. As these are 99% air they have limited use. They are for light items and heavy items will typically not survive if they are the only packing. UPS guidelines require that packages be able to withstand a 3ft drop on any side, corner or edge.
If you paid a UPS store to pack and also insured an item, I would think the store is responsible to meet the UPS packing requirements. So if UPS doesn’t pay for the damage, then they should. Since they’re local for you, small claims court should be an option.

For any claim there has to be visible damage to the box. I would also guess that any damage to the contents that is not visible - like a rattle - wouldn’t be covered by insurance. I would add that to me it is very logical that UPS would require the shipper to adequately pack an item to receive an insurance claim. So I wouldn’t consider that to be ‘buried in very fine print’. To me as a shipper it is extremely crucial that I pack an item adequately to make the journey safely under normal circumstances. I try to go the extra mile. But then I don’t usually buy insurance.

Sorry to hear your'e going thru this. IMO they both suck.  Each company 'lost' an expensive integrated amplifier during shipment ... somehow. However, to  Fedex's credit they are  quicker to process claims. UPS customer service is the WORST to deal with and it's no wonder.. it's a leadership failure. I will never use UPS again.

I recently drove 4 hrs to buy an amplifier rather than risk it being damaged, lost or stolen via these two delivery companies. Hope it works out for you in a good way.

UPS was the most unreliable shipper that I (tried to) use(d) when I was shipping my products when I was in business.  Shipments arrived damaged, were late or just flat lost.  UPS blows big wads.

Domestically, USPS did less damage.  Internationally, FedEx delivered every time (300+ shipments).

Shipper, beware.

Whenever I ship, I always overpack using bubble wrap, solid styrofoam and double box. So far so good.

The Pro-ject Carbon 10 weighs close to 120 pounds. It’s packed in a three-quarter inch furniture grade plywood box. The box was smashed when I received it. I don’t know how they manage that. UPS dropped it at least 8 feet. I don’t know. It was ugly.  My UPS guy took it back. Refused.
After that experience, I would never ship anything UPS. I ship only FedEx.

Do not let anyone package boxes for you. When your package, use 2 inch extruded, polystyrene foam. Do not use bead board, bubble wrap, paper bags, layered cardboard, or anything else. The object must not move within the box. Add additional pack to the manufactures, if necessary, so that I cannot move within the box. I’ll say that again. The object must not move within the box. Double box just as the former UPS employee suggested. I also use foam between the manufactures box and my outer box. 
I wouldn’t think of shipping without insurance.  

This is an expensive way to package your boxes. The advantage is, they will actually get there without being damaged.

Good luck to you on getting your refund from those clowns!


Agree with most comments and will add a couple suggestions: 1) palletize, pay the extra money and ship via a reliable ground trucking company (not UPS or Fed Ex freight).  2) Talk to your dealer and ask them how they ship product.  3) Talk to the manufacturer and ask them what "common carriers" they use to ship product. 4) MOST IMPORTANTLY, IMHO is to take pictures as you pack your product at every stage of the packing process.  5) Insure as if it is new. 6) when packing place "FRAGILE" and "Do Not Stack" after you wrap up the pallet and product with plastic wrap and secure with straps (about $10-$15 at Home Improvement store) Yes, this will cost you extra money but trust me the extra money is worth the "piece of mind" you will have after it leaves your possession. 7) most common carriers will pick up at your house for no extra charge and they have pallet jacks to load into the truck. 8) take pictures/video as it leaves your possession going into truck.  

This seem like a lot of work but I would rather spend the extra time on my end while it is in my possession than conversing over the phone after it is in someone else's possession and I have no control over the situation.

Hope this helps and good luck.

I’ve had good luck with ups, but the best I feel is FedEx. USPS come in last. I just shipped three audio components via usps because the customer requested and paid for that and I’m bitting my nails. I purchased insurance myself as well. 

I will not use UPS again, ever. Had a pair of speakers sent to the factory for refurbishment. Original factory packaging and boxes, sent insured for 4K. Got to the factory unscathed but upon arrival back home there was visible box damage to both boxes. Both speakers were trashed, broken cabinets, pieces rattling around inside speakers a total loss.

   Put in a claim with UPS and was denied. There fine print at the time lists UPS as a third party shipper and. Or responsible for damages. I fought it for close to year before finally getting any reimbursement, and ONLY after a good frien who was a comptroller at UPS put a bug in someone’s ear about it. Never got the insured amount, them saying it was a used product and subject to wear and tear, etc.

   on the other hand I’ve never had a problem with FedEx. Just my two cents worth.

Thanks for all the responses and excellent advice.

Hopefully will turn out as it should...

I have a good amount of transactions between here and a couple of other sights and can say with certainty that over the years UPS has been the worse BY FAR for damage, and not making good on insurance. I once had a pair of (heavy) mono blocks delivered to me- both damaged. UPS said they were not packaged properly so the claim was denied. They were both in the factory cartons with factory packaging. No UPS for me ever again. I use Fedex for the heavy stuff and USPS for everything else.

I’ve had the same experience.  My nephew who worked for UPS has large conveyor belts in their warehouses to move packages.  Regularly packages drop off the sides and fall considerable distances.  I received my smashed amp in a torn box.  Looked like. Someone took a sledg hammer to it.  Wouldn’t claim responsibility in not so many words indicated I could take them to court!  Never again.


Funny, in hundreds of deliveries I've never had a damaged box, except when a 'FRAGILE' sticker is on it, had an amp packed by Conrad Johnson sent to me, appeared to have been rammed by a forklift prong, no amount of overpacking protects that.

Agree that the drivers both UPS and FedEx are concientious, seems most of this manhandling occurs before the drivers get stuff, a FRAGILE sticker is a bullseye

We ship hundreds of packages a year and last year only had one "lost" but nothing ever far lucky, I guess. BUT there's a little secret I've been told by my local UPS rep (and I'm assuming FedEx). If you insure the item for a minimum $2,500 they then place the package in a secure cage that must be signed off from employee to employee so it's handled a bit different. When we ship cables that are almost impossible to get damaged in shipping, we still place this dollar amt of insurance, even if the cable isn't worth the stated amount. This is a kind of insurance policy and piece of mind for us. Again, never have had to place a claim to verify and hope we never have to find out.

what @arion said.

In North America (in particular) UPS, FEDEX, etc. actually hires A LOT of incompetent delivery drivers. It doesn’t matter of they are an outsider refugee (bush- the people that we love, great song) or a person who has lived here their whole lives.

Best pratice is to call them right after your parcel has arrived at their warehouse, as per their website/tracking.

Let them know it is a gift for a client or a close relative.

They will notify a deliver driver and make it their responsibilty to handle with care.

I’m actually serious. I’ve had deliveries in the past where the driver who brought the box to door asked me again: so this an important parcel, eh? Well don’t worry, we handled it gently.

End result - nothing is damaged.

Want even more reassurance, pay for additional packing materials and/or have it double boxed + insured delivery. Yes, totally worth the addtional cost. Also have them include a "this side up/do not turn over" label on the box. Sometimes they can pick up boxes backwards and walk up your steps!!

I’ve known folks who worked at FEDEX, UPS etc. and especially, during the sorting process, they have been known to treat parcels like bowling equipment lol.

Not audio related, just my experience with UPS.

1) Received a WWII .22lr training rifle. A rare model with only a few survivers in this condition. It was double boxed and inside a hard case, we got it with the barrel sticking a foot out of the box and both sights sheared off and the stock in three pieces.

2) AK47 clone packed in two boxes in hard case with tire tread print across the box. Upon opening, it had bent barrel! They managed to break an AK!

3) They lost a transfer containing a HK mk23, they could not account for it's whereabouts. Told us "Too Bad" they will look into it. 3months later , nothing. We got BATF involved and low and behold, they "found it behind some machinery" it had been opened and had several rounds fired through it. 

Shipping with either UPS or FEDX ground is the same- damage when things are loose and can be stacked or tossed. Things on pallets fare better, but only marginally so. The thing about insurance with UPS or FEDX is if you pay insurance but don’t follow the packing regs, they will deny payment. So buying insurance does not protect you.

THose UPS offices that are also mailbox places? They are not UPS they are a private business and just get UPS pick up. They have NO IDEA how to pack an expensive thing or a heavy thing. They are a business of shipping, not packing. If you want to get real UPS service go to the REAL UPS office- usually near an airport or in a major facility. UPS main offiices don’t know how to pack things either so don’t count on them. DO it yourself. You need 2 inches between whatever you ship and the outside of the box for the entire trip or the insurance doesn’t work.

Packaging- I see expensive stuff sent to us for repair improperly packed constantly. NEVER use peanuts as peanuts settle and whatever is floating in it settles to the bottom of the box, now sitting directly on the bottom cardboard and subject to whatever strikes the bottom. DON’T use styrofoam! It turns to dust and coats everything in the box with styro dust. If anything on your item is sticky or tacky, the dust will stick to it forever.

Always use the box within a box method (as mentioned above by the UPS driver) and use chunks of foam or bubble wrap between the boxes.

If all else fails use bubble wrap, the big bubble kind (not that tiny bubble kind they sell at office stores). Wrap the thing you want to protect with 6 inches of bubble wrap on all sides and turn it into a giant ball if you have to! Then put that in a box and not the crappy cardboard at lowes or Home depot, (that stuff instantly comes apart) go get real cardboard boxes at UHaul. Using two of them, box within a box and bubble wrap between them to 2-3 inches works well.


Rant over.


I’ve used UPS many times without a problem, and when I read these horror stories I wonder if I’ve been playing Russian Roulette.

Whenever I ship, I always overpack using bubble wrap, solid styrofoam and double box. - pureclarity

I bought a CD player from an outfit in Florida that rolled it up in a mile of (big-bubble) bubble wrap; there was almost a foot of padding on all sides.

Simple and impressive: you could have dropped it out of an airplane and it would have survived.

I’ve had good luck with ups, but the best I feel is FedEx. - dinov

I agree.

Best way to ship any electronics is in a Pelican Case packed with dense foam and not loose fill. As far as speakers LTL in wooden crates on a pallet. UPS, Fed-X, USPS are parcel carriers and not freight. Why would anyone attempt to ship anything over the weight one person can lift is only asking for trouble. These shipping companies have adopted the deny and ignore policy like many insurance companies hoping you will give up and go away. Once I delivered a Sony tv just before the new style flat screens came out. It was an eBay purchase and the seller wrapped it in a blanket and it arrived destroyed. I told the new owner, UPS will never pay a claim while his face was in shock. Retired Teamster

Having shipped large heavy speakers and smaller packages for over 2 decades, we have witnessed some real freight abuse and have learned a few things along the way. During the first couple of years importing Analysis Audio speaker we spent more time redesigning the shipping crates than on anything else. During one of the first shipments I witnessed the UPS driver slide the crate to the back of the truck and push it off the end. The crate did an end over end barrel roll. I couldn't believe what I saw. I had words with the driver and he still wouldn't let me help him with the second crate. The first crate was destroyed with the speaker exposed at one end. Miraculously the speaker was not damaged. It confirmed to me just how rugged Analysis speakers are. In good faith, after witnessing that abuse, I ordered the customer a new pair and kept that pair as a demo. Thankfully they never had issues.

To survive shipment we ended up using 1.25" plywood around the perimeter and 5/8" plywood for the large flat sided with cross-braces. Internally we use strips of high density polyethylene foam in strategic locations. The foam does not contact the entire perimeter or sides, only in spots. It's all about minimizing and distributing the shock loads transferred to the speaker.

Most stereo equipment is not designed and built to withstand any significant shock load so the packaging has to lessen that load. For example: Imagine a  50 pound amp with an 8 pound transformer in it held in place by 2 #6 screws. Now place the amp in a box sized large enough so there is 3" of space around all sides. Add 3" of very ridged hard foam all around. Seal it up and drop it from 3'. It's likely the outside will look OK but the transformer has detached. Now take the same amp (with transformer in place) and box and substitute the ridged foam with 1" thick softer foam then 1" thick medium foam and the outer layer 1" thick high density foam. Drop it from the same 3' in the same orientation. It's very likely the transformer will still be attached and outside of the amp will be OK. That said I wouldn't use 2 #6 screws to hold a 8 pound transformer but you do see lots of weird construction in audio. Foam being expensive, you don't see packing as described. What is more common is the use of high density polyethylene foam in strategic locations in varying cross sections. Think of it as damped spring system designed to minimize the transference of the shock loads applied by the shipping abuse. The box or crate has to be designed to handle the weight deal with intrusion.

Even with using substantial wooden crates, we almost always have to repair or replace parts after receiving our gear back from shows. The main thing is that the equipment inside is well protected.


I had bought some totem forest years back...first pair damaged voil coil ?...Told him to ship me a undamaged pair...again another speaker boogered.Pallet is the way to go.Yeah saw one driver roll my new sim Cd/amp ? down the steps once.Driver knew i wanted to do something to harm him too...Gave me an f’u snicker and said anything damaged write it he went.

For all the bad buzz about “the Amazon effect” on the economy, they are genius in effective delivery customer support. My take is that they’ve done the math that prompt shipping claims resolution, no questions asked is best for their bottom line. I suppose it’s possible they force suppliers and drop shippers to take the hit.


Just last week the brown truck guy comes to my door and he's carrying an old tube amp I purchased. The box has Fragile written on it, arrows pointing this way up. He's not carrying it the way the arrows would like him to, as I open the door he drops the box on its side from about knee height so he can pull the electronic signing box off his waist. I could literally hear the damage being done. I just look at him and say That's kinda fragile. He says My's kinda heavy...sign here. Damage wasn't too bad, all the bolts holding the base plate and top of the amp together had snapped though. 

I truly feel bad for the OP. It is such a headache to deal with, plus the loss of any money as well as the damaging of good speakers. Hope everything works out for you in a positive way. I will say that even with the few bad instances I've had with shipping companies I couldn't live a happy life without them lol. I depend on them for many things...I just wish they would be a little more careful. 

Sorry to hear this story and claims etc. are always a pain in the ass.

I pack all my gear myself. Recently sent a pair of B&W 802D3 to Washington from Florida, using the larger B&W 801D4 boxes.

It is completely possible to ship anything if you take the time to properly package it. Speakers should wrapped in multiple layers of protection and then I ratchet strap them to a wood pallet. I have five cross country shipping scenarios with heavy speakers and never had a single problem. I only Reg Bennett of Blue Sky Traders in Noble OK to manage the shipment. He calls the drivers and ever so kindly asks them to be careful. And yes, always insure to the max value.

For a big set of speakers I'm spending around $100 for packing and straps and it takes me about 2 hours. Huge pain in the ass, but no where close to dealing with damaged gear.

Never had a problem.  



Best practice- drive to pick up gear rather than have a Parcel service molest it.


Happy Listening!

I had to mention the likelihood of litigation in order for UPS to finally pay out my recent claim. IME with carrier insurance, their default policy is to deny each and every claim and make the process a nightmare in hopes of discouraging the claimant. If the items shipped were insured for a high value, it’s worthwhile to just bypass their runaround after the first denial and pay to have an attorney send them a letter.

UPS trashed a pair of Revel F208 speakers that I received a couple of years ago.

The delivery guy was dragging them then dropping them on the ground while I watched.  I told him those were $2500 each and just shrugged like he didn't care.  I took pictures as he was "delivering them" which he didn't like.

I contacted UPS for a return and the driver who came stated the previous guy was a P.O.S.  Hopefully he doesn't work for them anymore.

Now anytime I ship or have something delivered of high value, I request FedEx  and hope for the best.

Many years ago I bought, from a private seller, a used pair of (in excellent condition) B&W Matrix 802 speakers. Since it was before Pay Pal and Zelle and as the seller had an excellent rating with Agon and Ebay, the speakers were paid for plus shipping, and insurance, into his account. The seller brought the speakers to UPS for packaging and shipment. Long story short, both speakers were completely destroyed in shipping. UPS said they would only pay 1/2 of the cost of my speakers and only to shipper. After going round and round with UPS for a week and getting no where, I called my lawyer. For $50. he sent them a letter saying that since the speakers were bought and payed for by me, they were legally my property, regardless of who sold them or payed for ins. He said if payment, in full for the speakers wasn't immediately rendered, we would sue them (UPS) for improper handling and destruction of My Property in their care. and would be for full amount of the speakers plus expenses and layer fees. I had a certified check in three days for the full amount I payed for the speakers.

The problem is: they count on the fact that most will not take action agains them and their refusal to go good for the damage caused by their carless handling of our valuable goods - even when the items shipped are fully insured.

Even if one in ten stands up to them and follows through with a suit, they know they are by far the winner and have no intention of changing the way they handle our precious goods - the faster and more careless, the better for them. By and large, insurance is just a ploy to make you think your merchandise is fully protected against breakage or loss when, from the beginning, they have no intention of making a reasonable, much less a full settlement, regardless of fault.

Unless it is something unbreakable and of little value, or can be packaged good enough to survive a ten foot toss from the back of a truck out onto the pavement - I’ll not ship anything UPS......Jim

I just had a computer delivered by UPS. I was not home this past Thursday to sign for the package so I got a message from UPS they delivered the computer to a local drop off point where I live at CVS?? Well I called CVS when I got off work and the young guy at the store stated they didn’t have it. I waited another day and again UPS had a signature for the package at the CVS store and I should pick it up there. I called the store again and the same young guy said "nope" no package with my name or address on the UPS shelves??

A third call to the assistant manager revealed the package was not properly singed in by TETLER (who is the manager of the store) and in another place at the same store. I signed for it and was on my way.

Yeah UPS delivers your package to retail stores..... it sucks!