[YAK] UPS theft

Hello to all,

This is a heads-up! A client sending a high value package to me for
photography had it pilfered at the Oakland terminal. Yes it was insured,
but these were jury pieces that can hardly be replaced overnight. The
package was not stolen but, broken into at the terminal. Little brown boxes
are targets. Take care not only to insure valuable objects but, a little
deceptive packaging may be wise as well. Labels that say JEWELRY may be on
the one hand professional in appearance but, they make the little brown
boxes even greater targets. This is of course an anomaly. I receive
packages from across the country on a daily basis from all carriers and
this is a first. Just be aware and look over your shoulder, it’s not a
friendly world outside of the studio.

Hap Sakwa

You know, this theft brings to mind a question I have had . . . When we
send an international insured (and also a registered insured as I recall)
package through the US mail - it is required to list the contents of the
package. That seems like an invitation to trouble. Has this ever been a
problem or does anyone have any wording recommendations on how to list the
contents in an accurate but less obvious way? I’m aware of not mentioning
the jewelry business in the address field in any way - but the insurance
forms make us list the contents - and they are taped on the outside of the
box. Certainly packing the work in a camouflaged larger box makes sense.
Thanks ahead. Cynthia

    deceptive packaging may be wise as well. Labels that say JEWELRY may
be on the one hand professional in appearance but, they make the little
brown boxes even greater targets. 

One fantastic trick that seems to work well – I have an associate who
sends me the ugliest boxes you have ever laid eyes on. These carboard
boxes look like they have been driven over by a truck, and for all I know,
they could have taken the flat boxes and done just that! Lack of fancy
label is always good too. A sharpie marker and blocky handwriting is a
good choice. Use boxes with all kinds of old tape and packaging stickers
all over them, lots of pen marks, whatever you can think of to make that
box look like it couldn’t possibly contain anything but greasy engine parts
or worse! Hey, why not spill your morning coffee all over it for extra
flair!?! Boxes like this do not scream, “I am carrying a shipment of gold
and jewels - take me!”. The more frightened the theif is to touch it the more likely your piece is to
make it to its destination. Your client may have a chuckle, a gasp, and
perhaps make a special trip to get some heavy duty rubber gloves and salad
tongs, but they will be extremely happy when thier article of fine jewelry
arrives safely.

Heather Sickler
Intrica Fine Jewelry

I lost 1897dwt gold scrap for a client. G-d bless my boss at the time.
He covered my independant contractor/salesman’s butt. My own damn fault
too. got in a rush and didn’t insure or register the package. It never
made it to the refiner. USPS declined to try to find the package. So I
guess there are “sticky fingers” at the USPS as well as UPS and others. Mike
PS: Silvermouse, if you are out there, please contact me.
@Mike_Fritz in reference to your silver “washers”

Cynthia, I highly recommend you meet with an official representative of
the shipping company you choose to use: US Post, UPS, FEDEX or other and
get a detail list of what and how they will insure. Each has its special
rules for all sorts of variations of trouble. I also suggest you look into
shipping insurance puchased from a third party, posibly your jewelers
block or Parcel pro they might be less expensive and or more inclusive.

Good Luck,
Etienne Perret

Hi Gang,

Most folks usually take the ‘list the contents’ to literally; listing
exactly what it is. Try the advertising depts method in reverse, make a
sow’s ear out of a silk purse.

If it’s a piece containing stones as well as metal, list the contents as
’Geologic Samples’, after all, the stones & metal did come from the earth.
I’ve even just used the term ‘Merchandise’ on occasion. Another good one is
’Machine Parts’. Some times you have get creative. The trick is to not get
to specific & don’t list something that may require an extra handling fee
or is a substance banned from shipment via the mail or whatever service is
being used.


Dear Cynthia,

I have used the Postal Service extensively over the last 20 years and when
I would list the content on the Registered item I would put “gift” or
"award" on it. They always took the parcel.

I also have a PO Box for all of my deliveries. Nothing can be just left
vulnerable then.

I have never labeled any of my packages with anything but initials for a
business name with the PO Box for a return address.

Most recently I have UPS pick up at my shop. We ship every day and UPS now
requires online hook up so I can track my own parcels. This last week a
COD was not delivered. We are tracking it and because it was so late. UPS
is involved. They don’t just leave COD deliveries. Someone has to sign for

So far after two years of UPS deliveries I have not had a problem with any
deliveries. That’s a pretty good track record as far as I’m concerned.

I drop over dead every month at the bill, but it has saved me time and

Best Regards,

TR the Teacher & Student

Actually, this is the BEST way to void any kind of damage claim. If the box
looks like it’s been through the wars, then UPS can quite easily say that
the packing was not sufficient, and the dmaage is the fault of hte person
who packed it.

Always…ALWAYS… over pack. I work part time at Mail Boxes ETC, and we’re
taught to pack to survive a ten foot drop, and we still have UPS damage
claims. I’ve also toured to UPS hub in Baltimore, and they do NOT take any
kind of care of packages. Things are thrown onto and off of conveyoer
belts. Small packages are sorted by small, low powered catapults(!). The
only kind of special handling is for packages insured at over a thousand
dollars, and we just recently had a claim where a $3000.00 printer was
damaged because a forklift puncutred the box.

My two cents.

Silverhorn Designs

Hi again - Thanks for the feedback - and the names of the two insurance
possibilities. I will check out the companies that Etienne mentioned :
Jewelers Block and Parcel Pro. They were easily found in doing a search on
the web. I do like the generic “merchandise” title - for listing the
contents on customs form. Although the value does still need to be
disclosed on the customs form (taped to the box) - at least someone would
not know it is jewelry right off. More related questions . . . When we are
responsible for a valuable heirloom repair or even a piece with only
sentimental value - how can we best protect ourselves from an unfortunate
theft or loss in the mail - other than say, the insurance as mentioned
above or through the carrier. For a non-valuable sentimental piece of
jewelry - insurance won’t matter - so, how can we protect ourselves if the
work is lost? Is there a form to have the customer sign - like a waiver of
responsibility? Also, is it acceptable to ask if the customer has their
own insurance coverage on a piece of jewelry - or even a stone to be
included in the work? In an earlier string on a similar subject (I think
it was on damaging a stone while doing a repair) - one jeweler said he does
not accept work that he cannot afford to replace. That has pretty much
been my choice as well - but it does limit what pieces I could comfortably
work on. This may be more a legal question - but as an independent, I’m
just trying to get a sense of what is the norm in the industry. Insurance
is an expensive reality. I may just stay with original work and leave
repairs to others. Thanks again. Cynthia (with more questions than answers!)

Some more suggestions. The jewelers block is a policy type that insurance
companies offer jewelers that includes all of their insurance needs,
liability, theft, fire etc. Never use jewelry or gems in the title or
address of where your package is coming from or going to. Don’t send your
creation to


Our insurance company requires us to double box all our jewelry shipments
so that if a crook slits the box to tke the jewelry out and then try to
reseal it they find that there is another box inside. This tends to make
it too complicated and they move on to someone elses package. You can put a
sticker on UPS packages asking for an adult signature. That way the
package is not left behind the screen door unattended. Always use boxes
bigger than a shoe box. That way they can not be put into someones pocket.
UPS and FEDEX will supply with their boxes free of charge. Take advantage
of it, your boxes will then blend in with the millions of other boxes they
use. The little Mason boxes with the sticky flaps say valuable all over
them to those that steal. UPS and FEDEX now have tracking systems on the
internet that allow you to track your packages and see where they are. If
any have not arrived by their scheduled date it should be a red flag that
their may be trouble in that delivery. Good luck, Etienne Perret

Cynthia, Sorry this response is so delayed to your post on liability for
jewelry that has sentimental value but I was away on vacation. Hopefully
not too many other people have already responded to this issue and I won’t
be repeating a lot of what they may have said. There are all kinds of
disclaimers you can use on your take in forms which may help in the event
of a loss. You have to check with a local attorney to see that you are in
compliance with your own state’s laws. However, any good attorney will
also tell you that no matter what you write and have the customer sign, if
someone is intent on suing you (or threatening to sue you in order to get
a larger settlement), they will find a lawyer who will help them and it
will cost you something. I think I was the guy who said that you shouldn’t
handle anything you couldn’t afford to replace and I think you need to
keep that in mind at all times. You might check with the Jewelers
Vigilance Committee and see what they have to say on the matter. You
should also check with your local Better Business Bureau. Many of them now
offer an arbitration service to their members and this should be a good
backup solution. We subscribe to this. Fortunately we have never had to
use it. Hope this helps. Danny

Cynthia and Daniel: I must have missed the original question but
your answer, Daniel, causes me to comment that in California
jewelry items with known sentimental value can be the subject of
"emotional distress" damages - ie, damages beyond replacement
value. This is not always true, but is something that should be
discussed with the attorney. Arbitration clauses are being
upheld and enforced at least in this part of the country. Sheridan
Reed in San Diego.

Thank you for the delayed response, Daniel. Actually, no one had
responded to that question! Really appreciate all of your feedback
and especially from those of you who have been down the road and take
the time to stand by with great suggestions - like having a tow truck
pull us out the the big pit with our flat tires! Am working on
prevention here - hopefully I would never need to use the services of
arbitration either. These are great suggestions. BTW with the
assistance of the SBDC - there is an opportunity for legal assistance.
Highly recommend anyone to connect with their local Small Business
Development Center. Cynthia ( . . . Wait now, what is a vacation?