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Aug. 30--Ocean Gate resident Denise J. Stiebris was pretty upset when her grandmother's heirloom buffet table, shipped from California, arrived with a broken leg in April.
"The leg was gone," said Stiebris, who filed a claim with FreightCenter.com, the broker that arranged the shipment.
But what happened about two months later just made her more angry and more frustrated.
FreightCenter.com, which she initially had paid $638.70, charged her debit card another $900.02. Stiebris said she did not receive an invoice, notice or reason for the charge beforehand. It blasted into her bank account weeks after the shipment, which also included a small table and a jewelry box, arrived.
"I got nothing and then it bounced my account," Stiebris said. It resulted in $175 in overdraft fees.
Stiebris asked Press on Your Side to help figure out what happened and obtain a refund and reimbursement for damages. Why was she charged? What happened to her claim? It's not clear.
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And while it's all still unresolved, we're hopeful that Stiebris will obtain some satisfaction in the end.
First, a little bit about what happened.
In March, Stiebris used FreightCenter.com, a Palm Harbor, Florida-based freight logistics company, to find a carrier to ship the buffet and table from her mother's home in Mission Viejo, California, to Ocean Gate. FreightCenter hired Pilot Freight Services, a global transportation company based in Lima, Pennsylvania, for the job.
On April 1, FreightCenter withdrew $638.70 for the shipment, which arrived at Stiebris' home on April 10. But when it was unwrapped, she discovered a leg on the buffet was broken and missing. The small round table's top was off too.
Stiebris filed a claim with FreightCenter. She later found out that it would cost about $750 to have a new leg made for her buffet table.
On June 3, FreightCenter debited $900.02 from Stiebris' bank account, according to her bank statement.
Stiebris said she tried to get some detailed information about the charge from FreightCenter.com. She was told Pilot Freight Services invoiced FreightCenter.com because her shipment was 549 pounds over what was initially estimated. She contested the weight difference. "There is no way my shipment weighed a total of 709 pounds," Stiebris said.
Next Stiebris contacted Press on Your Side and shared some paperwork, including her bank records of the charges and information about her shipment and claim. "They are not responding," she said.
Press on Your Side reached out to FreightCenter.com, but initial calls were not returned. Next, a message went out to Pilot Freight Services. Maybe someone there could provide some answers.
Actual vs. estimate
Tom Drake, vice president of domestic/Canadian operations and traffic at Pilot Freight Services responded quickly and provided some information about the shipment.
The shipment was quoted for a price without knowing the exact size of the packaged cargo, and based on approximate dimensions instead of the actual weight. When it got to Pilot's station in Newark, the actual dimensions were verified and the information updated in the company's system, Drake wrote in an email.
A new bill went out to FreightCenter.com for $963.89, which was $325.19 higher than the $638.70 Stiebris previously had paid for the shipment. The invoice replaced the initial invoice and did not supplement it. According to Pilot Freight Services' records, the $963.89 is paid in full, Drake said.
It's not clear where the $900.02 debit from Stiebris's account comes in.
"As our billing was submitted directly to FreightCenter.com, we are not aware of how they processed the additional charges with Denise Stiebris," Drake said.
Drake made it clear the issue is between Stiebris and FreightCenter.com, which is Pilot Freight's customer.
"The issue of additional funds being debited from Ms. Stiebris' checking account well above the final invoiced amount to FreightCenter.com should be resolved between those two parties," Drake said. "We are open to help resolve this issue in any way possible, but clearly there is a misunderstanding between the FreightCenter.com and Denise Stiebris concerning this transaction."
Regarding Stiebris' claim for the damage, Drake said Pilot Freight Services wasn't notified by FreightCenter.com about the claim for "concealed damage" until June 25. A formal claim was filed by FreightCenter.com on Aug. 8, he said.
(Stiebris did not take out additional insurance. A FreightCenter customer service representative told Stiebris in an email that the carrier's liability is 50 cents per pound, and the refund would not exceed $50 based on 100 pounds of declared damage.)
Pilot Freight officials reached out to FreightCenter.com to try to help resolve the problem.
Getting a response
More than two weeks ago, Press on Your Side called FreightCenter.com again for some information. This time, a spokeswoman responded.
"The matter is currently being worked out between FreightCenter and Mrs. Stiebris, in cooperation with Pilot," Fiona Smith, director of marketing, said in an email.
The correct weight of Stiebris' shipment was updated and FreightCenter was charged by Pilot for the additional weight and dimensions on May 28, Smith said. "On June 2nd, as laid out in our terms and conditions, Mrs. Stiebris' account on record was charged for the overage in actual size," she said.
Stiebris contacted FreightCenter about the damage on the day it was delivered. FreightCenter and Pilot have accepted all of her documents and are working to resolve her claim, Smith said.
"We will continue to work with Mrs. Stiebris and Pilot to resolve the issue to the best of our ability," Smith said.
Last week, Press on Your Side asked for an update. A customer service representative sent Stiebris an email.
The company is working with Pilot on the damage claim and the weight dispute, the representative wrote. "Pilot has advised us that the claim review process for these two claims will be finalized in mid September," the email said.
Press on Your Side will stay engaged with this story and will update it when a decision is made.
Meanwhile, Stiebris remains upset over the ordeal. "It's a bad situation and they don't want to make it better," she said.
Do you have a consumer problem that needs solving? Contact David P. Willis at 732-643-4042, [email protected] or facebook.com/dpwillis732.
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