‘Trip of a lifetime’ ruined when UPS lost our passports, customers say (2024)

Fred and Natalia Brodzinski are world travelers.

They’ve visited 123 countries and another 30 colonies, territories and islands all across the world. But they had never been to western Africa.

“Natalia found a cruise that went from South Africa to Ghana and stopped at countries we had not visited,” said Fred Brodzinski, 75. “We decided as we were in that part of Africa, we should visit the neighboring countries. We selected Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Cape Verde.”

It would be a “trip of a lifetime,” the Hamilton man said.

They learned they needed visas for the Liberian part of the trip, so they sent the required forms, their flight schedule, a money order for $470 for expedited service, their passports and a prepaid return envelope to the Liberian embassy in Washington, D.C.

To make sure their package would be delivered on time, they sent it via United Parcel Service (UPS) on April 22, documents show.

But it never arrived.

THE FUTILE SEARCH

Time was of the essence.

They were scheduled to leave on May 3.

Brodzinski said they expected to get the visas, along with the return of their passports, by April 26 or 27, at the latest.

When nothing was received by April 27 and the online tracking system didn’t show any updates, they returned to the Hamilton Square UPS Store to try to get an update.

The employee said the package had been received by the embassy.

So Brodzinski waited. With no news on April 29, they went back to the store. This time, he said, they spoke to the owner.

“He said he couldn’t find any information on where the package was and gave us a letter that he requested an investigation,” Brodzinski said. “He suggested we check the hub in Hamilton.”

So to Hamilton they went on April 30, and the manager there said there was no scan of the package by the driver, so he believed it was still at the store.

Back at the store, the owner insisted all packages are picked up at the end of each shipping day.

By now, it was too late to get the visas, but they still needed their passports if they were going to salvage any of the trip.

They tried the manager at the UPS hub again, who said he’d have employees search around the conveyor belts and in the trucks, and then he’d call the couple back.

They never got a call back, they said.

‘Trip of a lifetime’ ruined when UPS lost our passports, customers say (1)

So they tried calling UPS headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., but all the recorded voice messages said they should visit the website, they said.

“We are now in serious difficulty as it is now May 1 and our once-in-a-lifetime vacation starts on May 3 and we can’t fly because UPS has our passports somewhere in their system but can’t find them,” Brodzinski said.

With the help of their congressperson, they were able to get emergency passports in Philadelphia the next day.

They ultimately went on a smaller version of the trip without the Liberia stop, losing money in the process.

The total losses were $2,735.24, they said. It included their canceled and nonrefundable flights worth $1,942, $450 for the emergency passports, $118.24 for the shipping and $225 to renew their passports again because the emergency ones were only good for one year.

“We suffered great distress, anxiety, worry and mental suffering,” Brodzinski said. “To not have a passport two days before a major lifetime trip that was a huge investment for two retired senior citizens was a nightmare.”

LOOKING FOR SATISFACTION

By the time they returned from their travels, their lost package still hadn’t been found.

They sent a certified letter, return receipt requested, to UPS chief executive Carol Tomé, which launched a weeks-long email conversation with a customer service representative who promised an investigation and a reimbursem*nt request to the UPS “claims department.”

They received a check for $118.24 — $100 plus the cost of shipping their package to the embassy — from UPS.

The last communication from the representative was June 13, when the representative said it could take eight days for the investigation to be completed.

That time passed with no word, so they asked Bamboozled for help.

We asked UPS for a status update on the missing package and reimbursem*nt request.

A spokesman apologized for UPS’ inability to find the package.

“Industry-leading service is what has defined UPS for 116 years and we will closely review this incident to learn from it,” he said. “As outlined in our terms and conditions, we have reimbursed the customer the maximum permitted as they did not declare any additional value when the package was shipped.”

Indeed, the company’s terms and conditions show that if a customer doesn’t declare a package’s value, UPS’ maximum liability is $100 plus the cost of shipping the lost item. It also says it is not responsible for “any special, incidental or consequential damages” from a shipping mishap.

So of course, if you’re sending any item of value, you should insure it properly. In this case, though, the lost travel costs would probably be considered “special, incidental or consequential damages,” leaving the Brodzinskis with what seems to be an unrecoverable loss.

Fred Brodzinski said he received a phone call from UPS saying the same.

“We worked very hard to earn every single penny we invested in this trip,” Brodzinski said. “We will tell everyone to never use UPS.”

‘Trip of a lifetime’ ruined when UPS lost our passports, customers say (2)

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‘Trip of a lifetime’ ruined when UPS lost our passports, customers say (2024)
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