Every year more and more businesses and consumers are turning to online shopping for their purchases. This means that more goods are shipped from long distances direct to the customer via UPS, FedEx, and various freight carriers. Sooner or later you'll be asked to receive and sign for a package or a shipment. You may need to sign for something you ordered for your office or for at home, or maybe youíll need to receive something that a co-worker ordered for home and had shipped to their place of work. Signing for a package is an important task with potential liabilities and consequences, so it's important to understand the process.
Don't sign for something unless you see the packages, count them, and understand what you are signing. It's tempting to just sign for a shipment if a driver says that the packages are "out in the hallway", "at the dock", or "downstairs inside the door". When you sign at the dotted line, whether it's on a piece of paper or on an electronic handheld device, you are certifying that the quantity of packages shown were actually delivered. Remember that the quantity of packages shown on a UPS or FedEx electronic handheld device is not always obvious, but it is there. Be sure to look at the quantity shown next to where you sign. You don't want to sign without counting packages and then discover that you signed for three packages when only one package is "out in the hallway".
Signing for truck shipments requires even more caution. Items ship via truck because they are too large or heavy to ship via parcel carriers such as UPS and FedEx. This also means they are probably of higher value and more difficult to replace. Like a parcel shipment, be sure to count the cartons or units to be sure they match the quantities shown on the receipt. Make note of any shortage and have the driver initial it. For example, if the receipt says 4 cartons on 2 skids and there are only 2 cartons on 1 skid you should write "2 cartons / 1 skid short" on the delivery receipt and have the driver initial it. Keep a copy for your records. It's not uncommon for freight carriers to deliver a partial shipment or for the employees at a previous delivery to mistakenly unload more than just their own shipment. You don't want to sign for a complete shipment if the complete shipment is not present because your missing goods may never be found and the freight carrier will have no liability even if the shipment is insured. Remember, the insurance applies to when the shipment is "in transit". Once you sign for a shipment it is no longer in transit, so insurance will be of no value for missing freight if you certify that you already received it.
The second consideration in signing for a shipment is to look for damage. If a UPS or FedEx package looks crushed, especially dirty, punctured, or torn open be sure to have the driver make note of it. You can also add a word such as "damaged" or "punctured" next to your signature to be extra sure. Do not delay in opening the carton. If damage is found after opening the carton you need to contact the shipper of the goods immediately. They will be able to provide a replacement shipment or replacement part and take care of any claim with UPS or FedEx if appropriate.
Checking for damage in a truck shipment is even more important because the items are larger, heavier, more numerous, and probably more valuable. Freight damage MUST be noted at the time of delivery on the delivery receipt and initialed by the driver. Keep a copy for your records. The line where you sign the freight receipt says "Shipment received in good condition except as noted", so you must make note on the receipt if that is not true. Look at all sides of all cartons and note any that are crushed, dirty, punctured, wet, torn open, etc. The driver can't leave until you sign, so there is no reason to rush no matter what the driver may suggest. Pay special attention to large assembled items or items with large parts -- in other words, items that don't have small replaceable parts. If in doubt, call the retailer while the driver is still there. A shipment that is so severely damaged that the merchandise inside is obviously irreplaceable or irreparable should b e refused. Mark "Refused due to damage" on the delivery receipt, ask the driver initial it, and keep a copy for your records. Also, donít heed a driver who says, "Donít worry, just sign here -- if anything is wrong the shipper will take care of it." If indication of damage is not noted at the time of delivery it's too late if the damage is found later.
What if there is no indication of damage to a truck shipment, but damage is found later? Be sure to keep the original carton and packing materials. The freight carrier will send out an inspector to check their condition. If there is no indication of damage to the carton then the damage will become a matter between the freight carrier and shipper. However, and this is very important, if the inspector finds the carton has a puncture, gash, crushed corner, etc., but no notation was made at the time of delivery, then the freight carrier will have no liability, as they will assume the mishandling and damage happened after delivery.
Over the years we've encountered customers who have described and sent photos of severely damaged freight including shipments soaked in chemicals, a partially burned carton, and cartons split open or punctured by forklifts. Some of these incidents were not reported until weeks or months later. In each of these cases the customers signed for the shipments in good condition, so the freight carriers would not accept any liability. This is understandable, as freight carriers would be forced to pay for any incident that happens after delivery if they accepted liability for a shipment signed for in good condition. Damage like this MUST be noted on the delivery receipt. Photos, comments by the truck driver, statements from office personnel, etc., will be of no use in establishing freight carrier liability. Remember that in most cases in the Uniform Commercial Code the title to the goods transfers to the recipient as soon as it is picked up by the freight carrier, so it is imperative that the recipient thoroughly inspects their shipment.
To summarize -- always count your cartons, inspect, and don't sign until you have done so. Call if you are unsure.
We welcome any of your questions concerning the receipt of your office furniture shipment. Please call us at 1-800-443-5117.Back to Office Furniture Buyer's Guide