More than a year ago I wrote a blog post about shipping insurance where I gave details about the first and only shipment damaged during transit at Rare Puzzles. Since our puzzles always travel in First Class because I pack them very carefully, the chances that they get any damage are very slim, except, of course, when a major catastrophe takes place. So far, we have only had one package that received damage during transit. Fortunately, the buyer bought insurance and we recovered (after some work) all the costs.
When shipping puzzles, there is a lot of backstage work that buyers are not usually aware of. Packages normally arrive to their destination within the estimated delivery time. However, there is always something happening that requires attention.
Problems with shipping companies and Customs
One package needed 4 months to reach to its destination in the USA. We were able to track it and watched it cross the Atlantic Ocean three times until it finally arrived. Another box went to Italy, but they sent it to a storehouse of the shipping company… 300 km away from its destination. No wonder that they kept saying they couldn’t find the street. In another occasion, they returned a box to me for no reason, the company refused to issue a refund, and tried to charge the return costs. There are many stories like these, which require attention, phone calls, complaints, disputes, emails, and a lot of time.
There is also a whole set of horror stories related to Customs, which belong in their own category, and I have a blog entry pending about this topic. Indian Customs held a package for several months and we almost lost hope of retrieving the box until they finally released it and delivered it to the buyer. Turkish Customs charged several times confiscatory fees and we ended up abandoning the puzzles. Swiss Customs requested fees three months after they had released a package. In most cases, I have been able to solve all the problems in the most favorable way for the buyer, but in other cases it was a lose-lose situation.
One package lost in three years
I have shipped puzzles to a lot of the corners of the globe. In three years, not one single package was lost… until now. They all arrived in perfect condition, except for the box that I mentioned before. However, very recently the company SEUR lost a package that was going to the United Kingdom. My experience with most shipping companies has been generally positive because they have (almost) never failed. It was SEUR in this case, but I am sure it could have been any other company.
Shipping companies fail sometimes. The most common incident is that they don’t collect a package on the date I schedule. When that happens, sometimes they make up an excuse to avoid responsibility and log in their tracking information that nobody was at home, or I didn’t have the package ready, or they couldn’t find my address. Then I have to write complaints and clarify the situation, an eventually sort things out. However, as long as the package arrives to its destination, I tend to understand human fallibility.
Old puzzles are irreplaceable
But the worst thing about losing a puzzle from Rare Puzzles is the fact that nobody can replace it easily. To a certain point they are all irreplaceable. Most sellers have only one copy of the puzzles in the store, and very rarely more than one. You cannot simply make a phone call to a magic warehouse and request a copy of certain 25-year-old jigsaw puzzle. For that reason, if a buyer loses a puzzle because it gets lost in the mail, it is not enough to issue a refund, so that she doesn’t lose any money. That doesn’t replace the puzzle she was looking for.
In this case, our buyer wanted a very particular puzzle. It was the 1500, Nathan, A Cat With Oranges. He had been looking for that specific puzzle for more than 20 years, after he left the original one framed in a friend’s house in France. So, it was not just any puzzle. He wanted that particular puzzle and not any other one that he might find anywhere else. I must say these personal or emotional reasons are not uncommon among customers at Rare Puzzles.
A little bit of bad luck
So, among the many puzzles that I have shipped, this one was precisely the puzzle that we lost. Precisely a puzzle that the customer had been looking for 20 years. Call it bad luck.
Several weeks after collection, I receive an email from my buyer: “There is no tracking information. When did you exactly send the box?”. The puzzle has not arrived yet, but there is no reason to get into panic mode, since I have seen longer delays and similar problems with the tracking before. I tell him that there is no reason to be worried. Then I contact the shipping company and request information and they tell me they don’t know where the package is. They ask for details and a description of the box and the contents, since they are going to try to find it at the last location in the tracking. Some reason to be worried now, but not too much, since it has happened before and the package eventually followed its route.
After waiting the necessary time according to the company’s protocols and after many communications with them, they confirmed that they couldn’t locate the box, apologized, and facilitated the information necessary to file an insurance claim. Now there was a reason to be worried… or not. As Forrest Gump would have said: “(Sh)It happens”.
A little bit of good luck
Barely one month before selling this puzzle I had found another copy in similar condition. Call it good luck. I communicated with my customer at all times and I kept him informed about every single step of the process. He knew that I had a second copy, so there was no reason to worry after all. When the shipping company confirmed that I could file the insurance claim because they couldn’t locate the package, I gave my customer two options: a full refund or getting the second copy.
He preferred the second copy and I sent it using the same shipping company: SEUR. I thought that it was unlikely that the lightning would strike twice the same place, and the puzzle finally arrived to the United Kingdom, to the satisfaction of everyone. Later, the shipping company resolved the insurance claim in my favor, since I was able to provide the invoice, the bank receipt with the payment and all the required documentation. I recovered every single cent.
But from now on, I won’t be able to say “No package has been lost so far”.