I own a company which distributes items all over the country since 1984. I've dropped UPS about 3 months ago for damaging items and then backing out of the insurance claim--you have to take it to a different authority since UPS is self insured. I also know of 3 other big companies, unlike mine, that have 7 figure shipping costs that have dropped them recently as well for the same reason.
Currently--and this changes from time to time and none of these guys do a good job anyway--the best selection is the post office. For heavy items, ctx is a good choice. for lighter items, airbourne is a much better choice than federal express. Federal express is good for documents, very bad for items.
In most case, I suspect the damage is caused by seller's packaging method rather than handling by UPS. If you are a buyer, ask seller to use professional packaging service. Double box with no shifting space inside is a must! You can put as much as styrofoam peanuts inside, but If they get shifted to the one side you don't get protection to the other side. that's the side where the box will hit the floor first if it get dropped. As I'm also involved in shipping business for long time, I deal with UPS, Fedex, DHL, Airbourne, US Postal service & most of trucking service everyday. I've been to most of above mentioned shipping company's facility, where they all have very same equipments such as conveyer, material handling trucks. Do you know UPS & Fedex use exactly identical trucks with different color & logos only? Just think about how manufacturer packs their product. Many are double boxed with exact fitting. You need to expect the kind of handling from all of those shipping company. Your expensive high end equipment need professional packaging before it's handed to someone who only knows to deliver to the ship to address. Remember, UPS rejects the claim if it's caused by poor packaging. If you can proof UPS's mis handling of the professional packaging, they will pay for the claim.
KRELL agrees. They demanded that I not use UPS to ship to them....too much trouble with damage.
I would never send an item like a tuner without double box system as described by Ysim. If I knew a seller intended to send me an electronic piece or speakers without this packing method, I would refuse to buy. This is not a comment on your situation in particular Joegio, just something I have learned from observation. I have built a box within a box when I did not have one available. It is very simple to do. There is no sure thing when shipping, but I gotta believe the double box method would facilitate an insurance claim!
I just bought some speakers from a gent, and I insisted they were in their orginal box, then the orginal box bubble wrapped, peanuts, and in another box. I paid the extra $20, it's worth it. Whenever I sell, I strongly suggest the buyer consider the same thing. I'll take it to MailBox Etc. for the wrapping and double boxing, then over to Fed Ex for shipping. MailBox Etc. wants a ridiculous amount for shipping, do the work and take the double-boxed item to Fed Ex yourself. I also insisted on Fed Ex ground, UPS is beyond brutal. I'll NEVER use UPS for anything.
I've had more trouble with FedEx than UPS with misdelivered and damaged packages. Considering the considerable size difference in these two companies, I only ship UPS as do a clear majority of companies.
My experience was fedex damaged a pair of amplifiers and totally denied any responsibility despite full value insurance. They said the damage was due to faulty packaging. When I pointed out that the items were shipped in the original factory cartons, they said that the packaging was used and therefore not adequate. They also said that all their packages had to sustain a 3 foot drop on their conveyor belt system despite fragile labels. They were rude, arogant and totally unresponsive to a reasonable claim for damage. It looks like bad service is the norm.
UPS had to pay the one time I made a claim. They had no defense. The package never arrived at its destination.
While occasional shipping damage may happen it is their attitude and refusal to pay legitimate claims that makes UPS a poster boy for bad business practices.
My experience is that UPS damages packages more frequently than FEDEX, but handles the claims better. FEDEX routinely denies claims that UPS pays without a fight. The problem is that UPS is more likely to damage your package. A friend of mine had two amplifiers shipped to him from different locations within weeks of each other. Both were totally destroyed in shipping. Then he shipped some amp stands using UPS. The buyer refused the delivery. When he got them back, only a small portion of the box remained. It used to be, and may still be, that UPS drivers were allowed to roll heavy boxes end over end to get them in and out of there truck instead of using a dolly. I had a pair of Mirage OM-6 speakers delivered to me that way. I was horrified to see the driver rolling this box to my door. When I confronted him about it, he explained what their rules are. The box was destroyed, and one speaker was slightly damaged. I try to use FEDEX because they have never damaged anything I have shipped. But I don't trust them to make good on an insurance claim if and when the time comes. Bax Global is very good, especially with heavy items and shipping internationally.
The fact is that ALL shipping companies have rules about how something is packed. I try to overpack my stuff as much as possible and use the original cartons. Sometimes it isn't possible due to lack of space but when it is, I pack so that Godzilla couldn't break it if he stepped on it.
Think the drivers, packers and movers care about your stuff? Think again! These folks are under TIME constraints i.e get it to you as fast as possible and don't worry about damage. What was that Jim Carrey movie where he posed as the UPS guy? It was funny because it was a satire of something that actually happens, albeit not as obviously.
Protect yourself and pack carefully. Double box when you can but also put some bubble wrap between boxes. As someone said above, peanuts can shift. Use them only when space constraints restrict bubble wrap.
I just received a beautiful Marantz 2265 (NYC to Cali) shipped USPS that was just wrapped with one layer of bubble wrap and put in a old box with no ther packing material. Lots of tape on the outside of the box though. ( Like that was a big help :) )
Anyway I was horrified when it arrived as I specifically had gone over double box packing instructions with the seller. God must be a fan of Marantz as it arrived in perfect shape with no damage. Whew!
So glad to read of that result. I had a seller of a mint 2325 with original wood cabinet do the same but with a vastly different outcome. He took it in the shorts, but that did not rectify the sin IMO.
I predict that the really good vintage gear will continue to appreciate as exemplars are perpetually destroyed by clueless sellers with the complicity of UPS, etc.
I personally haven't had any problems with UPS. However, this is a perfect example of why one should keep the original manufacturer's packaging.
I fortunately have a garage where I have installed large shelving all around the garage where I store all my equipment boxes with the internal packaging.
The box can take a beating, but seriously, that is the purpose of the box and packaging in the first place. To protect the component.
Also, any loose item, such as a remote, power cord, etc. should be bubble rapped and placed in such a way that it could not move around.
Audio Research ships their amps with the tubes in foam surround and that itself is actually stuffed inside the amp. Smart. it can't move around at all.
I purchased a vintage Pioneer turntable for my Daughter (yes, she loves albums). It arrived damaged. The seller didn't take into account that the metal platter could actually come off. It did. It destroyed the cartridge and the tonearm clamp. I managed to find a replacement cartridge and vintage tonearm clamp. you can actually find just about any vintage part for pioneer gear.
The seller was a very nice person and was absolutely embarrassed when I told him what happened. He actually credited me the price for all the broken items.
He just didn't think that the platter could come off. Honest mistake and lesson learned.
It arrived via UPS, but this absolutely wasn't UPS' fault.
The key to shipping is the right packaging. And, the more fragile the piece, the more important the packaging is. I always wrap everything very tight and always double box the orginial mfg box.
And, I will triple box if I feel it needs it (very heavy, fragije, large item, tubes, etc). I have my audio pieces packed by a professional and have never had a problem regardless of the carrier. I watch him pack to ensure it is done correctly. And, he makes suggestions to ensure a safe arrival that I always agree to.
It is my opinion that spending money for packaging is very important. My goal is the safe delivery of my package and I do everything possible to ensure it is packed correctly.
The packaging is very important and not necessarily the carrier. I have shipped fragile items using UPS and FedEx and they always have arrived safely. They were packed correctly.
It's good to resurrect this post, as we obviously ship a lot of gear in this hobby.
As someone who's worked in importing and manufacturing high-end audio gear, I've made a lot of shipments. Here is where I've landed as a result of my journey.
1. USPS Priority Mail. If at all possible, this by far stands out as the preferred shipping method. The Post Office gets a bad rap, but they're the cheapest, fastest, safest, and best overall. If you ever file a claim, they are the easiest to deal with, and will pay out. ALWAYS ship tubes and small items this way. Also best for shipping between USA and Canada. Not practical for larger items
2. FedEX. Either Express or Ground. Best method for shipping any item too large for USPS Priority Mail, or as they used to say, "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." Faster, cheaper, safer, and far more friendly to deal with than UPS. Night and day better handling of claims than UPS, though also night and day better if you have your own company / account with them, as opposed to being an individual
3. UPS. AVOID. The slowest, most expensive, most apt to damage, and worst method of the major carriers. Couple that with the normal refusal to pay out a claim, especially, for expensive items. And if you don't want to follow my advice, PLEASE don't ever use them to ship between Canada and the USA. They get your shipment hung up in Customs, take forever to clear it, charge the by far the highest brokerage rates, (again) have the highest rate of damage coupled with the most steadfast resolve to honor your claim, then bleed you as subsequent bills trickle in for months for additional charges related to the misery you've just endured
+1 trelja on your rankings and comments. minorl and hgeifman: you know that, I know that, but many (eBay) sellers seem to think that the carrier is going to handle that precious rare vintage piece of electronics like it is a touchy explosive device. lol Can't fix stupid and that is why so many vintage pieces are being destroyed.
The best one on UPS so far was when a seller sent me a pair of Apogee Duetta Signatures in the original packing. Despite being marked "Extremely Fragile" in big red letters on every surface of the boxes, UPS tried to cram both boxes through a belt-driven conveyor and completely destroyed both speakers, then tried to welch on paying the claim (as always), saying that they had a magic machine that used a phone pic of the destroyed packages to do a complex scientific analysis of the packaging's structural adequacy and found it lacking even though all of their published packaging requirements were admittedly met. Ridiculous and dishonest beyond belief.
They ended up paying, but it was ugly and happened only because my employer's Traffic/Logistics VP threatened to pull $100M+ annual business and award it to FedEx. Shoulda seen the UPS VP's come rushing out of the woodwork to honor the claim then.