KPRC 2 Investigates: Holiday return headaches, third-party shipping issues

What you can do if you are having shipping or return issues

A combination of online shopping records, the pandemic, and supply issues means the holiday returns season is shaping up to be a challenge. KPRC 2 Investigates is looking into what you need to know about third-party shipping issues.

HOUSTON – If you are returning something you got over the holidays - it might not be as easy as in the past especially if it’s a larger item. A combination of online shopping records, the pandemic, and supply issues means the holiday returns season is shaping up to be a challenge. KPRC 2 Investigates is looking into what you need to know about third-party shipping issues.

Weeks waiting for delivery pick-up

Terri B is stuck with two huge, heavy boxes sitting on her front porch in Southwest Houston.

“I can’t pick it up myself. And I don’t have a truck to take it to a drop-off location,” she explains.

Seven weeks ago, she ordered a desk online from Target. Terri paid extra for someone to come out and put the desk together. When the assembly team arrived the crew found a problem.

“One of the packages, the first one he opened, was damaged. And he said he couldn’t put it together because it was damaged,” Terri explains.

KPRC 2 Investigates third-party shipping issues. Customer waiting for weeks for company to pick up huge boxes on her porch. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

First, she was told to bring it to a drop-off location.

“I explained to them, I can’t lift the boxes. I had to get a neighbor to bring them in. So they said they will send someone out to pick it up,” she said.

From there, it’s been a game of phone tag and missed appointments with third-party shipping company EFW. Target won’t return her nearly $600 until they get the desk back.

“I don’t know what else to do,” said Terri.

KPRC Investigates third-party shipping issues. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Why are there so many issues with shipping right now?

“All of our shippers are basically shipping more than they ever have,” said Brian Gibbs, owner of Refund Retriever.

Brian Gibbs, the owner of Refund Retriever, helps businesses with shipping issues. He explains shippers like UPS and Fed-Ex charge businesses more for the bigger, bulkier items because they don’t want them.

“FedEx and UPS want packages that can go down their conveyor belts or with automation. They don’t ever want to have someone physically put their hands on a box,” said Gibbs.

That’s why bigger items are often hired out to less expensive third-party shippers like EFW.

" They’re just having difficulty doing it,” Gibbs said.

In a statement from EFW, the company blames “national transit delays” and “capacity constraints” for the delays.

We’ve also received complaints from viewers about smaller regional shippers. When Nina Jimenez ordered something from Sephora on November 8th the retailer used a company called Lone Star Overnight to ship her order. But when she emailed us on December 1, she still hadn’t received her package and she couldn’t reach anyone at Lone Star Overnight. Lone Star Overnight started as a courier service delivering interoffice mail downtown now managing hundreds of packages.

“I don’t think they were built like that, to begin with. And they’re trying to be more efficient than two of the most efficient companies around,” Gibbs explains.

What to do if you have issues with a third-party shipping company

If you are having similar shipping or return issues, Gibbs recommends reaching out to the retailer first.

“They have account reps with those companies. So they know they have a little bit more push with the actual shipping company because they’re the client,” said Gibbs.

You could also ask the company to send a replacement now while you wait for the return shipping issue to be worked out.

“Just say, ‘Ship me another one and get with FedEx or UPS.’”

“I just needed to go and I want my refund,” said Terri.

After we called Target, they worked out the shipping issues and the refund for Terri.

When buying a larger item online, look for other options

As a customer, you often won’t know a third-party shipper is involved until after your purchase. If you need to buy a large item online and want to avoid having issues, Gibbs says there are a few things you can do.

During checkout, don’t go for the “free shipping” to your home option. Gibbs suggests paying for an upgrade on shipping. Also, if possible have the item ship to the store for you to pick it up. Not only will it be faster but you will be able to inspect the item.

“If it’s damaged, you just saved yourself hours and hours of headache, because this is what I ordered but it’s already damaged. I’m not taking delivery of it. Give me a new one. And it’s that’s the way to go,” said Gibbs.

We worked on this story thanks to a tip from our viewers. If you have any tips, questions, or other ideas, send them our way! Our tipline number is 713-223-TIPS.


About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.