The risks you may not know when shipping packages
David Ames loves classic rock and for years he coveted his vintage prize possession that linked him to a piece of rock music history. It was a 1977 HIWATT SA-212 Amplifier – the kind of electric guitar amp used by some of the legends, like David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Pete Townshend of The Who.
It's the way the Hiwatt amps were built at that time that generates a sound that's hard to duplicate and highly sought after.
Unfortunately, Ames says he lost his job and was forced to sell his amp. It didn't take long to find a buyer after posting the amp for sale for about $2,400 on a music website.
Anthony Burns in Texas was excited to find the listing.
"It's always kinda been one of those wish list kind of things," said Burns.
The two settled on a price for around $1,900 and Ames took the amp to a nearby framing store in his downtown Vancouver neighborhood to help him ship it.
"We packaged it and we shipped it for him," said Kim Briscoe of Kimprints in Gastown.
It was packed it in bubble wrap, double boxed and put in a customer cover. An opening was left on top of the box for the handle to protrude through, to make it easier to pick up.
They even took pictures of the amp before it was packed.
"It was fine when it went in," said Briscoe.
Canpar was used to ship it. Everything seemed fine until it arrived in Texas.
"I could kind of tell with the box that something was wrong and I was really hoping that it wasn't going to be bad," said Burns.
It was. The amp had been badly damaged and Burns said it would cost more to repair than it was worth.
"It was very disappointing, not only for myself but also for David," he said.
"I was sick about it. Sick," said Ames.
Now he had lost the sale and the amp was worthless. Unfortunately, Ames had only placed a valuation of $800 for the shipment because he didn't want to pay extra to cover a higher value. But it wouldn't have mattered anyway.
Here's the catch – Canpar's fine print says it won't be liable for things like antiques, works of art, personal articles and used goods.
"The amount of time they have taken to deal with this has been an emotional rollercoaster for me," said Ames.
Navigating the terms and conditions of liability on shipped goods is tricky business. There are all kinds of limitations and exemptions. We couldn't get clear answers in talking with customer service representatives at various shipping companies.
A FedEx customer service representative said used goods would be covered up to a declared value of $50,000 for catastrophic loss, but a FedEx PR representative said the company did not sell insurance and sent us a link to its limits of liability, which reads like a typical legal document that some consumers may find confusing.
UPS said, "Because the value of used goods cannot always be established, UPS generally required that they be shipped at the shippers' risk." Yet their affiliated agency, UPS Capital, did call us back to say it could insure a one-time shipment of a guitar amplifier.
Which brings us to third party insurance – if in doubt and for greater protection, it is something you should consider for higher valued goods. You may also get straight answers about how to establish the value of the goods you are shipping and whether or not they will be covered in transit.
Canpar told CTV News that although not obligated, it paid the $800 declared value of Ames' amp and refunded the shipping charges.
Canpar used UPS to deliver the amp in the U.S. and Burns said he returned it to UPS when he reported the damage. He provided CTV News with the UPS drop-off receipt. However, the package hasn't been sent back to Ames. Apparently, it's been lost.
"It's a vintage amp. It's fubar, it's done," added Ames.
We asked Canpar if Ames had a right to have his amp back after a claim had been paid and were told the company didn't have an obligation to return it. We asked if they could send CTV News the terms and conditions that stated that fact. The company did not provide it.
Ames said another option would be to sue Canpar but he believes it wouldn't be worth the money, and since Kimprints was technically the shipper for him he would have to get them involved too.
It's a loss for Ames and for a piece of musical history.
"It's this piece of equipment that there was only a certain number made of and there won't be any more made of that particular era," added Burns.