Help! I'm A Victim of Shipping 'Bait-And-Switch'

ABC News Fixer investigates when one carrier hands your package to another.

January 24, 2014, 10:00 AM
PHOTO: U.S. Postal Service delivery trucks sit at the Brookland Post Office in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2013.
U.S. Postal Service delivery trucks sit at the Brookland Post Office in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2013.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jan. 24, 2014 &#151; -- Dear ABC News Fixer: I am a victim of a shipping bait-and-switch.

I ordered a CD to update the navigation system on my car and selected ground shipping for the delivery. On Dec. 12, I received an email stating my order had shipped and giving me a FedEx tracking number.

When I tracked the package, it had an expected delivery date of Dec. 20. I took a day off work to stay home and wait for the package. It never came.

I checked with FedEx and was told they did not have my package anymore. The package was delivered to the U.S. Postal Service for delivery. I checked with the post office and they couldn't tell me anything.

I was promised FedEx service but the seller used FedEx SmartPost, which is an arrangement between FedEx and USPS. There is no exact tracking of your package from FedEx. According to FedEx, once they give the package to USPS, they are not responsible. USPS' response is you have to wait on delivery – which in my case took an additional three days.

- Travis Edwards, Virginia Beach, Va.

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

Dear Travis: The ABC News Fixer remembers back when FedEx meant only one thing: a white truck with the FedEx logo was going to pull up in front of your house, and a worker would dash out, ring your doorbell and hand you a package.

With the rise of online retailing, FedEx – as well as competitors UPS and DHL – now has alternate shipping methods for getting high-volume, low-weight, less time-sensitive shipments across the country cheaply.

FedEx's method is SmartPost, a low-cost shipping option by which the package is carried across the country via FedEx's system, then handed off to the U.S. Postal Service for the last mile or so, said Erin Truxal, a FedEx Ground spokeswoman. (When people get free or very inexpensive shipping from online retailers or catalogs, it's often because one of these alternative methods is used.)

After the package leaves FedEx's system, the delivery time depends on the local postal system and how quickly they move. In your case, it was a little unclear exactly when your package was at either location. FedEx's records show it was handed off to USPS (and signed for) on Dec. 19, Truxal said. But USPS spokeswoman Toni DeLancey said their information shows they had the package beginning on the morning of Dec. 21 and delivered it on the 23rd.

Who knows where it was on Dec. 20. Stuck in a time warp?

Our advice for consumers: Ask the retailer specifically what type of shipping program they're using. With some methods, you won't get FedEx tracking all the way, and you won't get guaranteed delivery.

Truxal suggested consumers with a very time-sensitive shipment use FedEx Express and consumers who need delivery guaranteed for a certain date choose FedEx Ground. FedEx SmartPost can only estimate the delivery date – not guarantee it.

- The ABC News Fixer

[The ABC News Fixer will appear this weekend on ABC News Radio. Tune in to Perspective, airing on your local ABC News station, to see how she helped an ABC News reader and how she could help you.]

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