Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Dear Fed-Ex: Why do you hate my book?

A few weeks ago, a bookstore out in California asked if I would sign a bunch of books for them. The thought fills me with joy. Someone out there likes my book. That means, by extension, they like me.

Even better, it means the bookseller is probably going to give my book some extra publicity. That fills me with childlike delight. So I thumbs-up the idea and the people at Penguin tell me to keep an eye out for the delivery.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I wake up at the crack of afternoon, look out onto the porch, and here's what I see:

(Yes, the picture is blurry, but this is actually a pretty good representation of what things look like to me when I wake up.)

There is the box of books, utterly manhandled, abused, and dumped on my porch.

How do I know that this box actually contains my books?

Simple, the box has been busted open along most of its seams and I can actually see the books inside.

Everyone, wave to my book. "Hello book!"

(For those of you that have been wondering what my leg looks like, now you know.)

I don't have children, but this is what I imagine a parent must feel like when they see their kid fall off a jungle-gym or take a really bad digger on their bike. I look at the box and find myself being desperately optimistic. Maybe the books are okay in there, I think to myself. Maybe it's not as bad as it looks.

It's as bad as it looks.

Witness the dead remains of six of my books, their spines broken. My only hope is that they didn't feel much pain. Most of the other books had their covers ripped and their pages bunged up pretty badly.

So why am I telling this story? For one, because I'm pissed off and need some catharsis. If I just repress this shit, everything will seem find on the surface. I'll smile, go about my day. Then, eventually, I'll snap and vent my rage in an inappropriate way. Trust me, in a few months you don't want to read a news story about how book three will be delayed because I'm in jail for punching a fluffy kitten.

My second reason for telling you this is to pass along a warning. This isn't the first time I've had my books manhandled and destroyed by Fed-Ex. It's not even the second time. In the last several months I've had at least three packages treated this way.

I could call and complain, but the only real outcome of that is that I'd end up tongue-lashing some poor helpless wageslave on their complaint line.

So instead I'm telling you. Fed-Ex are a bunch of book-killing choads. Don't ship your stuff with them if you give a damn about how it arrives.

From now on, I'm a UPS man.

Here endeth the lesson,


posted by Pat at


Blogger Matt H. said...

Your analogy of books to children was touching. I DO have kids, and I've learned a valuable lesson from your story. I'll never ship those little rascals through Fed-Ex again!

July 4, 2007 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Josie said...

Seeing those books mutilated like that hurts me. Of course, this coming from the girl who yelps any time somebody folds a paperback all the way arouns, like a magazine. I just can't stand to see books hurt in any way. I can only imagine what it would be like to see my own book abused in such a fashion. My heart goes out to you Pat!

July 4, 2007 8:21 AM  
Blogger Hob Gammidge said...

Well well well, what freaking bastards. I know there's some way that you can complain and not tongue-lash a wageworker, that it'll actually have an effect on the people who manhandle the packages.

I'm sorry Pat :( I hope it didn't really affect the deal with the bookstore and that you had enough books.

Oh! I have a question. On the whole, how would you say that your first book has done? How many copies have you sold (worldwide)?

July 4, 2007 9:36 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Oh man, that's just .... inhuman!! I know calling to complain usually doesnt work, but you've got pictures! Maybe you could send an email to their customer support, because technically any package has up to $100 insurance. That doesn't cover all your books, but I think if you show them the picture, they should pay for new books, and the shipping.

Actually, I'm gonna send you a quick email, it will be short!

July 4, 2007 9:40 AM  
Blogger Mary J. said...

Oh no! Those pictures hurt my heart! I used to work at Borders and I absolutely refused to do the cover ripping off the paperback discards because I couldn't stand it! I didn't even know those books! Those are your books!!! Completely yours!
I think this is a pretty suitable protest btw. You should post it in your myspace blog too...

P.S. Nice partial gams pic. ;-)

July 4, 2007 10:29 AM  
Blogger Althalus said...

Holy crap, that's just crazy, it's wrong!

Anyone who is a true book nut would flip a nut if they saw that. I hate it when my brother dog-ears me books!

I always hated I've got an even better reason.

July 4, 2007 12:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Pudifoot said...

I always preferred UPS anyhow. But I admit I just like the delivery girl's rear end in those brown shorts.

I think beating the Fed-ex people to death with the ruined books falls under justifiable homicide. But I am not a lawyer, so please consult one before doing anything like that. But thank you for not punching fluffy kittens (but i am ok with smacking around those silly Mexican chiwawas.

p.s.: Happy 4th everyone!!!! *hugs*

July 4, 2007 12:17 PM  
Anonymous jeff hotchkiss said...

Are you sure you want to switch to UPS? See Cherie Priest's blog entry here:

She's had an ongoing beef with UPS; this is just the latest. Seems if you go with either, you're screwed.

July 4, 2007 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Nick said...

Well, apparently funny comercials do not a good company make. FedEx may be great for cavemen, but my money's on UPS from now on too. I can just imagine if my copy, which I bought online, had shown up like that. -the pain!-

July 4, 2007 1:25 PM  
Blogger K said...

Unfortunately lodging a complaint does not usually work even if you reach a supervisory level as a package is not delivered into one person's hands who then delivers it... it gets shuffled and thumped and banged and stacked and handled and abused by sorting departments, loading departments, shipping departments, etc.

Fed-Ex, UPS, regular post even, it doesn't really matter unfortunately. The drivers/delivery men are all just shmoes doing what they need to earn a buck - they could care less what state your package arrives in. After all, it's not theirs. I just pretty much assume any time I have something delivered someone will work it over pretty good Ace Venture style before it gets to me o_O

Poor Books :o(

July 5, 2007 5:52 AM  
Anonymous Sienged said...

If you really care about them, fix them up with glue or even duck tape. Then when you sign them right. Repaired by or go into detail and explain how they should treat your books or something. Now that would be a book a fan would want.

p.s. And when you ship them back buy some bubble rap(wont help much but everyone likes bubble rap) what ever you do don't put a fragile sticker on it, "shudders"

July 5, 2007 11:30 AM  
Blogger Betse said...

wesa hates FedEx!

I very much prefer UPS, or even just the good old United States Postal Service.

July 5, 2007 10:18 PM  
Blogger I. M. Bitter said...

Inquiring minds want to know if you made FedEx pay to replace the damaged books…

July 10, 2007 8:18 AM  
Anonymous kristin said...

As someone who is actually a package loader for UPS (in MN, no less), it's pretty much safe to say that it can happen with any company. We get our share of crushed boxes too, but it mostly has to do with the how many packages are coming down the belt at any given time and how the box was packed. Bubblewrap is a wonderful thing.

I've seen boxes of books burst open before, (as they're notoriously heavy and cardboard is oftentimes not as sturdy as people believe. I can see this might have been part of the reason in your case) but I've never EVER seen the actual books be damaged. It pains me to view it.

Best advice I can give, no matter which company you use, is to pack things well and to ship during the middle of the week, since Mondays and Fridays are by far the busiest.

July 10, 2007 3:23 PM  
Blogger Pat said...


Thanks for the middle of the week-tip. That'll be useful to me in the future....

July 10, 2007 9:11 PM  
Anonymous kristin said...

No problemo. Just trying to rescue future literature from the evils of delivery services everywhere. It still irks me that they didn't even try to tape up the box. At UPS, we have a group of people who go around just doing that.

July 11, 2007 8:46 PM  
Anonymous jef said...

you're lucky that Fedex didn't just repack it into a clean carton and let you THINK your books were intact.

the only recourse is to have the bookstore file a claim, which is pretty painless [it's just paperwork] and with the documentary evidence, Fedex should cough up the reimbursement without incident.

it sucks, but it happens in shipping. both companies have problems. the only recourse is to pack with extreme care. and even that ain't gonna help if they run the damn box over with a forklift.

working in the book industry, i'm too inured to the site of damaged books [i organize the pulping of whole pallets on a regular basis], but i can understand your pain...

July 12, 2007 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Jules said...

What weight my words carry I don't know, but take it from someone who worked at a job in which I receibed UPS shipments daily; UPS is the single worst of the major carriers, by far. It isn't close.

I hate to see your property in such condition, but the first time you get a UPS box completely opened, filled with sand, and without a single intact corner, you'll know what I saw routinely.

Not to mention how UPS will deliver things on an apartment doorstep without a knock or any notice, and has several times delivered a package by throwing it over a fence. Not to mention those things! I am NOT mentioning them!

Don't let one bad FedEx experience ruin it for you. UPS is far, far worse.

July 13, 2007 3:47 AM  
Anonymous Teri Pettit said...

To tell the truth, I think the biggest fault lies with the bookstore for packing that many hardback books in a single box with no bubble wrap.

When you get books from Amazon, they always have lots of bubble wrap, and sometimes the books are in an inner box with the little folding ends to keep the actual book away from the box corners, and then that box is packed inside another larger box with bubble wrap between the two. And if you order more than four full-size hardbacks, they nearly always split them into two boxes so that neither box is too heavy.

With sufficient care taken in the packaging, it matters much less that package handling, like suitcase handling at the airports, is nearly all done by mindless machines and conveyer belts, no matter which company.

The choice of one shipping company versus another isn't so much in which one is least likely to damage your shipment (I really think they're all equivalent), as to which one will give the least hassle about reimbursing you when it happens.

July 14, 2007 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, no, not UPS!!! UPS is horrible!

The thing about UPS is, they won't deliver your package, and then they won't refund you for having not even remotely done their job. I've tried to get a well-deserved refund from them and they just kept saying I'd have to talk to someone else who wouldn't be in for a week, and then someone else, and then just saying no, and then I'd have to start over... Others have blogged about items arriving damaged and UPS refusing to pay them for it, despite their having been guaranteed or whatever.

September 15, 2007 8:47 PM  
Blogger Brian Blomlie said...

I actually hope my book will look like a rag one day. It's always a sign that a book has been loved.

(Sort of like that story you cited... Don't remember the name right now, but I'll read it once. Same goes for the last unicorn.)

I don't want it to look like a rag because someone from payex, ups, usp or whatever manhandles it though. But because it's been read passionately.

That reminds me, how much do you think it will cost to send my book from Norway and back?

October 29, 2007 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Vinny K said...

It's a crime for books to be treated that way. Anyone who does that to a book should be punished severely. I love books and I hate when they're damaged, so I understand your pain. I sincerely hope that never happens to a book you're delivered ever again.
Sincerely, Vinny

June 19, 2009 9:31 PM  

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