Trans-Union Container Line and OEC Shipping
Do Not Deserve Your Business
and other Observations.
The Journey of the Ironically Named "Happiness" Bookshelf.
If you bought a bookshelf in Korea and paid $250 to get it shipped to Virginia, would you expect to be notified when it was ready for pickup at the warehouse? You might think so. But the California based freight shipping companies Trans-Union Container and OEC Shipping don't think that's their job. The receiving warehouse claims it can't contact the customer. It's up to the customer to find out when it arrives. If the customer patiently waits for notification he doesn't receive, warehouse storage fees rack up. After fifteen to twenty days, the shipment goes into "general order" as mandated by the Customs Service and fees really start to build up. Fortunately, by the margin of only about a day, it didn't come to that point. How did all this happen? Lets start at the beginning.
The Confusion Begins
When we bought the bookshelf in Korea, the furniture salesman had said he would need to wait three weeks to a month and a half to get a big enough shipment to send. We were pleased to receive papers in mid October confirming that the bookshelf had left Korea. Several days later we received an envelope from Trans-Union Container Line with a single sheet of paper. It indicated that the shipment had arrived in Long Beach, California. It listed Norfolk, Virginia as the final destination and gave an E.T.A. of November 8th. A vague paragraph in the corner implied that they needed a cashiers check for $50, although it said only payment from a broker would be accepted. This odd paragraph was the first major sign of weasliness. Only accepting cashiers checks is an obvious sign that the whole industry is shifty at best. Despite annoyance at this unexpected charge, we sent a cashiers check.
Being reasonably intelligent, we concluded that E.T.A. meant estimated time of arrival. The ETA of November 8th came and went. Maybe the shipment was stuck in a railyard somewhere. How would we know? We run a Christmas Tree Farm, and soon we would be working twelve hours days every day for a month. If we didn't get the bookshelf soon, we'd have to wait until after Christmas.
The first of many toll telephone calls began. Trans-Union referred us to RHP Transportation in Portsmouth, which was briefly mentioned on the single sheet of paper they sent. RHP couldn't let me pick up my property because they hadn't received a freight release from Trans-Union. RHP was charging for keeping the shipment longer than their grace period, and within a few days the shipment would be put into "general order" as mandated by the Customs Service. When this happens additional fees are charged. Release of my property was contingent on payment of the unexpected $50 charge. After several more calls, Trans-Union corresponded with a company called OEC Shipping and finally got my freight released. OEC had "co-loaded" with Trans-Union, which I take to mean did their job for them for a fee. I called both Tran-Union and OEC to determine who was responsible for informing me that my shipment had arrived. Both told me the other company was responsible and both refused to pay the warehouse storage fees. To add insult to injury, while on hold talking to OEC a background recording bragged about the company's excellent customer service.
Picking Up the Bookshelf
Before picking up my property, first we had to go to Customs. It would have helped if someone involved had sent instructions on how to clear customs and where to go. Only by calling the warehouse were we told. We had to set up an appointment with customs. Our time had run out, and we had no choice but to arrange for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the last day possible for us. If we couldn't get all the way across the state of Virginia by 11am, it was too bad - we'd have to come back some other day. Surprisingly, clearing customs wasn't a problem. Upon questioning, the customs man told us that the whole industry was shifty and that he'd seen a lot of irate people like me. The next stop was the warehouse.
On arrival at the warehouse we were told the bookshelf wasn't there. With everything that had already happened, this was no surprise to me. The ladies called Trans-Union and learned they had incompetently shipped two crates with the same IT Number. My bookshelf was there after all. The warehouse ladies sympathized and tried to get Trans-Union and OEC to pay my storage fees to no avail. I paid the $110 to the warehouse and had the crate loaded on the truck. The crate had taken a blow on the corner and I strongly suspected it was damaged. I asked if they could open the crate for inspection. That would cost extra I was told. If there was damage, I should call my "broker," which of course I didn't have. Apparently a broker is needed to deal with weasels.
Damage, Revenge, and Lessons
Upon opening the crate we saw no major damage. Closer inspection revealed minor damage where the top doors close, nothing major, but after spending $410 plus phone calls, gas money, and plenty of frustration, I expect my property in perfect condition. The time for revenge has come. That is what this web site is about.
These are the lessons I pass on to you.
Firstly: When on vacation, do not buy anything you can't take with you in your luggage. If you find a large item you want, find a domestic retailer.
Secondly and Most Important: Tran-Union Container Line and OEC Shipping do not deserve your business.
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