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My name is Gerrie Wydeven doing-business-as Wydeven Designs. I have been conducting this small GREEN business since 2004. Wydeven Designs, based in the Atlanta, Georgia area, sells CHAIRS, LOVESEATS, CHAISES, SETTEES and other fine, well-constructed refurbished upholstered pieces. I love to travel, cook, take photographs and generally follow style and decor topics as well!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Greyhound Package Express Shipping - a Dilemma!

I have been using Greyhound Package Express for about eight years - link to website. It is available for freight shipping throughout the continental USA and is by far the cheapest AND fastest service around. The size limitation is that one side/reclining angle must be less than 30" but the other can be as large as over 80". I have found that most of my pieces can be shipped using Greyhound Package Express and have offered the service on my listings for a low stated price.  By now, the actual use of this service is in the multiple 100's.

Greyhound Package Express is a "space available" service and uses the cargo space in passenger buses. The pieces are loaded when there is space available which does sometimes mean splitting up multiple pieces but this has not happened a lot. It also means that it might take longer for those hauls that require many transfers from bus to bus. The average timeframe I have experiences is about 5-7 days (compares to 4-6 weeks or longer for freight door-to-door service). The longest timeframe was almost a month to California (from Georgia) and we never did find out where the two chairs that finally arrived safe and sound had actually traveled to in order to get to their final destination. I have had some shipments completed within 2 days.

The process requires that I package the chairs and deliver them to the nearest station (Norcross, GA). The personnel at this station have always been very helpful and professional and I have a long time ago gotten over any squeamishness about going to the station. The buyer picks up at the nearest (or preferred station) on their end - the list of available stations is on their web site on the "locations" tab.

Over the years, I have learned to package very well guided by the type of incidents/breakage experienced over the years. I have found that most damage is to legs and seems to be caused by "dragging" heavy furniture causing the leg to be abraded or snap off. To counter this damage, I made "footies" for each leg covering the bottom with heavy fabric and over coverings. My husband has made slats that help reinforce the strength of each leg when that seemed like a good idea. The damage to legs has gone down to almost nothing as a result of these additional cautions.
Last week's shipment to Grand Rapids, SD. I always include the "fragile" notification and the packaging here is typical including the slats on the legs. 
Packaging materials (other than fabric footies and slats made from scrap lumber at home) principally consists of commercial grade bubble wrap, shrink wrap and tape. I buy the bubble wrap on-line and it is very expensive - I figure that the packaging materials average about $15-22 per item and I always hope I've built in enough of a cushion to cover that cost. The cost does not differ significantly across the country which is why I can quote a fairly reasonable amount without knowing the piece's final destination.
This chair was shipped to Austin, TX, and arrived without incident in about 10 days. The customer could have used door-to-door shipping for just a little more cost but didn't want to wait the 4-6 weeks it would take to get the chair to her.
Now here is the dilemma!  In my descriptions, I always say when Greyhound Package Express is available and at what cost but always add "recommend door-to-door shipping for fine furniture". The damage rate that I (and my customers) have experienced with Greyhound Package Express is about 10% which is high despite all the packaging and precautions. Their claim process also leaves a lot to be desired. It is slow (90 days or more for resolution) and communications are poor. On the other hand, all claims filed by me have been honored for the insured value. That point is worth explaining - for long distances, $300 per shipment is the maximum. For multiple items such as a pair of chairs, I end up sending as two shipments in order to be able to insure for $300 each. So, many items are not fully insured in the event that the damage repair exceeds the value of the pieces.

I have been able to provide low-cost door-to-door shipping to most parts of the continental USA (Don Hill Transport) so have been able to provide a reasonable cost alternative to most customers. I do try to convince them to use this alternative if the difference in costs is not too great although some have expressed frustration with the length of time this service sometimes takes. For some buyers, however, this shipper is not an option (he does not travel to west coast or other hard-to-get to locations) and Greyhound remains the best deal around. The shipment above to Grand Rapids is a good example. I charged $100 for the Greyhound Package Express shipping which covered my costs and got the chair to this very happy customer in less than a week.

The shipping process doesn't always work out as well. A shipment of four chairs (treated as two 2-chair shipments for insurance purposes to get a full $600 of coverage) was sent to Tucson a week earlier than the SD shipment. Two of the four (one in each bundle) were damaged - one beyond repair. I wasn't happy. The customer wasn't happy! Now, I again wonder, if I should be stronger in my precautions and recommendations. And yet, for 90% of the shipments (a lot fewer in recent years than earlier) the process works fine and quick and at low cost!

This is a dilemma!

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