Shipper's Profits More Important then Reputation?
Shipper’s Profits More Important Than Reputation?
With the dismal state of the economy nationwide and the recent departure of the Virgin Island’s largest contributor to the revenue stream one would think that existing businesses would do everything possible to maintain their customer base and strive for a positive public perception of their companies. Apparently though, profits are more important than reputation for two companies doing business here on St. Croix.
Five years ago I entrusted Crowley Caribbean Services & O’Neale’s Transport with a car to be transported from Pennsauken, NJ to St. Croix. Other than the car being a little dirty when I picked it up the move took place without a hitch.
Last September I again left a vehicle in New Jersey for the same trip. The results this time were very different. A 2006 Toyota Tacoma with 37,000 miles on it, in excellent condition, was left at the Crowley terminal in late September and arrived on St. Croix about 3 weeks later. When I went to pick it up it:
1. Was so filthy I did not recognize it as mine.
2. Had a dead battery (the light switch was in the “Parking lights on” position).
3. Had a fried fuse box (two 10 amp, two 30 amp, and the 140 amp alternator fuses were blown).
4. Had no reverse gear (automatic transmission)
5. Had a bent drive shaft, a dent in the muffler that lined up with the dent in the drive shaft, and dented exhaust pipe three feet away from the dented muffler. The shipping companies own pre-shipping inspection report showed “No Undercarriage Damage”.
After weeks of talking to numerous mechanics, transmission specialists, insurance agents, and shipping company officials the apparent sequence of events became clear. First, someone left the lights on thereby killing the battery. When the truck wouldn’t start someone tried to jump it but reversed the positive and negative terminals thereby frying the fuse box and rendering the truck immobile, stuck in park. Next the truck was dragged, either from a ship to shore or the shore to a ship (it changed vessels two times during the trip). Dragging a vehicle with an automatic transmission in park can cause serious transmission damage. Lastly, the truck was picked up with a forklift causing the parallel dents in the muffler, drive shaft and exhaust pipe. This is not just my opinion but that of professional mechanics. Total estimated damage, just over $7000.
As a result of more than a dozen claim forms, emails, telephone calls, and two months of back and forth I received a check for $364.00, the cost of the towing and electrical damage. The rest of the damage was denied because I had not purchased their “Optional” insurance for an additional $350 the day I dropped the truck off in New Jersey. I carry full coverage on the vehicle through a reputable insurance company. In the words of the claims manager, they could have dropped the $20,000 truck in the ocean and I would have been given a check for only $500 because I didn’t buy insurance to protect THEM in case they screwed up. I was also given a lecture by their claims manager in Jacksonville, FL about a 1936 Maritime Law that he claims protects them against such claims. The history lesson he included went back to English law that was intended to protect shipping companies against unknown perils at sea such as storms and pirates. His interpretation apparently includes careless or negligent dock workers also.
At no point in all my correspondence did Crowley actually deny responsibility for the damages. The closest they came was " The type of damage that has been described is of a mechanical nature and not what I could determine was caused by our handling of the unit". This was sent to me by another suit in Jacksonville who probably never left his chair while “investigating” the situation.
To their credit, O’Neale’s management was professional and polite and at least made an effort to investigate the situation as it related to them here on St. Croix (they are the local rep for Crowley) but as soon as it became apparent that we were talking about some serious dollars I was told not to talk to them any more and to direct my correspondence to Crowley. Crowley’s ultimate response was “Sue us if you think you have a claim”. That’s another story.
Let this be a warning to anyone shipping vehicles or goods on or off island. You are at the mercy of the shippers unless you enjoy the small claims court process. Proceed with caution.
If anybody read this, please give the rest of us a one-line summary!
He shipped his car with Crowley and didn't buy their optional insurance. The car was damaged by Crowley and they refuse to pay for it.
Sorry, two sentences. Still one line.
That's funny. I got:
I would call a lawyer at this point. And please let us know how it goes.