Why do I hate thee? Let me count the ways: A review of UPS (Oh! And I got my Airborne Skyhawk Mountain Bike)

[Update 02-02-2013: I was recently in contact with Airborne because they wanted this tracking number for a conversation they were going to have with UPS. As it turns out, they decided to switch to FedEx because of poor shipping experiences with UPS. I think that it’s awesome they followed up and decided to switch companies!]

She has arrived!

My new MOUNTAIN bike: an Airborne Skyhawk.

Airborne Skyhawk Mountain Bike Bicycle

Airborne Skyhawk Mountain Bike

The Purchase

A few weeks ago, I posted that we both purchased two new mountain bikes online at a great price. For more on how that unfolded, read this.

The Arrival

The bikes were delivered via UPS Freight while our normal UPS guy was on vacation. J was away at class, so it was just me and the dog. I waited anxiously all day for the doorbell to buzz, checking the window about every hour. Even though I was waiting, the buzzer still managed to scare me and I just about jumped a foot off the couch. I dashed to the door and buzzed them in, then dragged the dog into the bedroom and shut the door. (I could not have him dash out the door and knock over the delivery person today)

I peek out our apartment door (we’re on the second floor) and see that the UPS delivery person propped open the main entrance door.

woman peeking around corner

Can’t believe I actually found a picture for this (source)

I stood at the door, lightly hopping up and down out of joy. It took some restraint on my part not to start clapping and singing a happy song. But my joy quickly disappeared as the UPS delivery man carried in the first box. I did not simply see a man carrying a box, as it should be. No. I saw a UPS man carrying a box with a bike hanging out of it.

Yes. I saw the bike actually hanging out of the box.


He dragged the boxes upstairs and shoved them into the apartment. “Looks like the bike poked outta the box?” I inquired. “Sign here” he huffed as he shoved the electronic box in my face. Good to know he cares, I guess. I signed and texted J the update, then immediately snapped some pictures.  The boxes looked like they have been thrown around and stabbed.

Then stomped on.

Then thrown out of the truck.

Damaged box thanks to UPS

What did UPS do to these poor boxes?

Damaged box by UPS

More scrapes and holes

Box damaged by UPS

Nice attempt at taping it back together

Box damaged by UPS

And this is where the bike was hanging out of the box

Box damaged by UPS

You can see how the flap is not holding up

UPS damaged box

Way to go, UPS.

When J arrived home, we began unpacking. Him pulling the bike parts out of the box, and me snapping pictures along the way. We started with the box that looked the least damaged (i.e., the bike was at least not poking out of the box). We saw that Airborne did a nice job of protecting the bike.

Bike with packaging on it

Thick paper and cardboard pieces were used to protect the bike

Unfortunately, the first bike did get scuffed. It wasn’t a big deal, and it didn’t look like it would impact the performance (and is barely noticeable), so we were happy. We weren’t sure whose bike it was yet, as J got a slightly larger one than me. After we unpacked the other one, we realized that this one was mine. So we knew that at least I could ride my bike.

bike wheel

Small scuff, thanks to UPS

Then it was time to unveil the second bike. This bike was not so lucky. Here’s a picture of it fully packaged–you can see that Airborne took this job very seriously.

Airborne Packaging

Well packaged bike for shipment

But, unfortunately, when a box is torn open and the merchandise is hanging out of the box…there’s not much one can do to prepare the item.

gash in bike

Gashes on the fork

gash in bike

Gashes on the fork


Another scratch

Bent and scratched derailleur

Bent and scratched derailleur

twisted derailleur

Twisted derailleur hanger

Contacting Airborne

Once the damage was assessed, J placed a call to the Airborne company. Voicemail. Eric (awesome dude from Airborne) called him back the very next day and left a message asking J to call him back so that he could arrange to ship him a new bike. (Wow!) When J spoke with him (the day after we received the bike), J offered for Airborne to just send the new parts because he could replace them. Eric said that it’s actually just easier for their system to send a new bike, plus it’s possible that there is something wrong or broken with the bike now. So, he arranged to have a new bike shipped to us and to have someone pick up the damaged bike. A new bike was shipped to us in 1-2 business days–we don’t remember as it was getting close to Thanksgiving and things got a bit hectic. But it was quick.

My Turn to Ride

While J was waiting for his new bike, I had a chance to ride mine. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this post I have only ridden her once, and it was just on a bike path, so my “full” review is still forthcoming. This is more of a “preview” review, I guess. And what I have to say is that so far, I’m in love.

The bumps that I’m used to…The cracks…The tree roots breaking through the path…all the things that I avoid when I’m riding Mildred were trampled over with THIS beauty. I barely felt them at all, it was smooth riding all the way. I felt a connection within my first few pedal strokes. As much as I love Mildred now, it took two summers to get there with her. With this bike, the connection was instantaneous. I rode on the grass on purpose. I sped through the fallen wet leaves on the bridge. I was fearless. It was amazing. I actually almost thought about doing a cyclocross race…how crazy is that?!

She doesn’t have a name yet. I have one in mind, but I have to see if it fits after I ride her on a trail. The forecast says this Saturday is supposed to be nice!!

Waiting for his Replacement

Stood up by UPS

So Airborne shipped the bike using UPS again on Monday, November 19th. The estimated delivery date, according to the UPS online tracking system, was Friday, November 23rd. On Friday morning we checked the UPS online tracking system and it was official! “Your shipment will be delivered by the end of the business day.” UPS said. “Fantastic!!” we replied.

…2pm rolled around and nothing from UPS. We started getting annoyed, as we refused to go out anywhere just in case we were to miss the UPS delivery person.

…5pm rolled around and we started googling what “end of business day” means to UPS. Apparently, it means midnight, but they usually try before 7pm, or at least don’t usually deliver past 9pm to residences. So, yea…that was helpful.

…7pm hit. Still nothing from UPS. For the five-thousand-hundreth time that day, we checked the UPS website, the warehouse hours for the location by us, and the tracking system. No change.

Okay, we thought. It’s Black Friday–they just must be super busy. We’ll wait.

…9pm. Nothing.

…10pm. Still nothing.

desk flip meme

…11pm…Fuck it. Let’s go see a movie.

The Morning After

Saturday morning…The UPS tracking information said exactly the same thing as the day before–That we’d receive it by the end of yesterday’s business day! Ugh! J was ready to call UPS and looked up the number. But something was different this time.

NOW the UPS website said that UPS was closed on Friday!! Gee. That sure would have been nice to know on Friday, don’t you think? It also would have been nice for the online tracking system to actually state the correct delivery date as well.

The Arrival, Part 2

But we finally received the bike on Monday afternoon. Our regular UPS guy delivered it (along with a biscuit for the dog! He’s so cool) and even though there was a gash in the box, J’s bike arrived in fine condition.

Concluding Thoughts

All in all, I must emphasize that we are extremely happy with Airborne so far. The customer service was excellent, and it was a breeze to deal with this problem, which was not their fault. So far, I love my bike and she rode beautifully, so that’s a good sign. Unfortunately, UPS can be a complete nightmare to deal with and we refuse to ever voluntarily use them again for anything important.

15 responses to “Why do I hate thee? Let me count the ways: A review of UPS (Oh! And I got my Airborne Skyhawk Mountain Bike)

  1. WTF? This is what UPS are paid to do, and that is why their shipping costs to the buyer are so expensive. It is a good thing that Airborne took care of you guys. Tight chains and cool riding to both of you.

    • I know! It’s quite amazing. I guess that’s why it’s good to get insurance on expensive items. And it’s good to work with a stellar company like Airborne.

      Yes, yes! The weather warmed up so it looks like we’ll both be taking our new bikes for a REAL ride. I’m so excited!

  2. I have just had one with UPS as well. 20 items were missing. The box was cut open and re-taped back. I have photos from before shipping and the weight as proof – yes I am careful like this. UPS says because there was some “damage” of the box due to the “poor packaging” so UPS can not be held liable for the damage. The truth is there was no damaging on the box, but missing items from theft.

    How much longer can UPS go on like this before 60 MINUTES discover the thieving business?

    • Oh my goodness!!! Very smart to take before-shipping photos, and I certainly hope that you are able to successfully dispute the case and get your money back for the items! That’s just awful. And so many people are complaining about them, too. You’d think that something should be done. I wonder if people have as many issues with the post office? So many people claim that privatizing is the way to go, yet I find that public services–like the post office–provide a much better experience!

  3. With UPS it’s always “Hope for the best, expect the worst”…I type this as I am waiting for some pedals from Dan’s Comp that have been held for several days at the last scan point in Indiana.
    “Due to local operation disruption, packages not unloaded from trailer, expect a one day business day delay”
    This message showed up about 3 days ago and hasn’t changed since. Sigh.

    Glad Airborne hooked you up though.

    • That’s exactly right. Ugh, that’s so annoying! Hoping that you get your pedals ASAP. Probably tomorrow–they seem to not update things starting sometime on Friday, unless the shipper paid for the extra cost of Saturday shipping. That’s at least my guess.

      Yes, we were very happy with Airborne’s customer service, and so far the bikes as well!

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog and so sorry to hear your tales of lousy service. Hope you’re enjoying riding the bikes now. I’ve never really done much off road riding. I’ll keep reading your blog to see how you find it.

    • Thanks for leaving a comment (Sorry it took me so long to reply, but maybe I didn’t actually click submit??). Anyway, thanks for wanting to come back! =) I haven’t done much off road riding either, so I’m looking forward to learning!

  5. Maybe the thing to try is using USPS. At least they sponsored a pro bike team for a while (you know, with that mysterious guy in the yellow jersey all those years when Nobody won the Tour). Anyway, great to know you’re on your bike and starting to learn its characteristics. Happy riding!

    • Agreed! Actually, when I read this comment my first thought was, “But didn’t I say that in my post?” Nope. Looks like I edited it out before posting it. Yes, I love USPS and that’s the only thing we use when we ship things out. Haha Yea I think I know the guy 😉 hehe

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Pingback: Yup. She’s a Screamer… | women.cyclists·

  7. I’ve gotta blame Airborne. I had two bikes shipped Fed-ex and both were damaged. It these guys can’t engineer a box with some high density foam to protect your bike what does that say about their engineering in general? If they are too cheap to include it then what does that say about their desire to cut corners? Either way, there is enough of a web base for them to have identified a problem and FIXED it to prevent problems for people in the future. Maybe that’s not in their business model.

    • Thanks for commenting! Sorry to hear about your damaged bike 😦 that really sucks!!

      I think there are other reasons besides being cheap for not adding in high density foam, etc though. One being that it’d likely add to the shipping cost–something that is already high because bikes are heavy. So it could then become too high for people to purchase.

      So it’d likely add to the cost of shipping…plus I’m not sure how much it’d actually help. Foam wont do much if the box is treated as indestructible by the shipping company. If other heavy boxes are piled on top, crushing it, or if it’s dropped from high distances, foam won’t help much.

      For example, I worked at a company where we shipped and received shipments of stringed instruments (violins, etc). We went through extreme lengths to protect instruments as did those who were sending them–crates, high density foam, etc etc. yet, sometimes, they would arrive damaged. Sometimes in SPLINTERS! Devastating! We noticed that it was happening much more often with UPS and strongly encouraged customers to use FedEx or dhl.

      I also think that Airborne is probably losing money–either directly through merch costs or indirectly through time and potential customer loss–when this happens. They are a small company and I’m sure they’d rather the bikes arrive in one piece.

      maybe more packaging material would help. But I can say for sure that extra foam would not have anything for my bike–that box was CRUSHED. It would be nice for it to arrive without any damage, but honestly…if they fix it without any cost to me then in my book that’s a pretty decent company. Not all manufacturers have this policy…

  8. We’ve shipped thousands of bikes over the last 3 years with less than a 1% damaged bike rate.

    We switched to UPS late in 2012 in an effort to keep our costs down (we actually still lose money on shipping when we charge $75 because of the oversized box). But we quickly found out that Fed Ex is much more reliable and handles our bikes with more care……….so we switched back to Fed Ex recently to keep damage to a minimum and ensure customers are happy with the condition of their bike when it arrives.

    Unfortunately bad things can happen when shipping large items no matter how well they are packed. We do our best to pack the bikes in a way that they will arrive safe and in one piece.

    It sucks when someone gets a bike that is damaged, but on the rare occasion that happens we do work with the customer to make it right. That IS in our business model.


    Airborne Bicycles

  9. @ Jeremy: Thanks for posting with this information. Less than 1% damage rate is pretty impressive! And I was only thinking about shipping costs in terms of weight–good reminder that large boxes also cost more. Also, thank you taking a hit on the shipping costs. We really shouldn’t have purchased the bikes given our budget, so if the costs were even higher we probably wouldn’t have been able to get them. It really does help those who are struggling have better access to quality bikes that are most often out of our price point.

    And in general…

    Yes, I am posting about another rare occurrence that happens whenever a bike gets shipped (or ANYTHING, for that matter). But this really shouldn’t make anyone think that it happens all the time. First, people tend to be the most vocal about the most positive or the most negative experiences–the things that are the most interesting to others. That’s why you don’t use the news to really determine what you’re at risk for, otherwise you’ll think shark attacks are rampant in certain areas…

    …ok, that’s a tangent. Back to the point…What I wanted to achieve with my post was NOT to indicate that getting a damaged bike is normal. No, my point was to let people know about the amazing customer service provided by Airborne–hassle free, no interrogation, no problems.

    Besides, if you look at the pictures, there are a lot of things done to protect the bike — cardboard pieces, etc. We’ve had other parts shipped to us, like handlebars, and they have come with NOTHING. Just rattling around in the box — even shipped overseas!! And guess what — they came fine! It depends on how they’re handled. So, I think because we had those other experiences (plus my own background with UPS in particular), we knew that it really is a rare thing to get something damaged.

    So yea…I guess I hope that the take home message from my posts is that (a) Airborne CLEARLY tries to protect the bike (b) but that does nothing if the box is sliced open and then thrown out of a truck*, and (c) what really matters is if/when something bad occurs, it’ll be handled properly.

    *I have no proof that is actually what happened to the poor box…this is my attempt at making a joke.

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