Books damaged in transit

4 April, 2018

This is not at all a new story but I am just sharing the story for posterity’s sake. And while there is a tiny part of me that is still bitter about the whole experience, I’m basically now over it. In retrospect I’d also say this was also a learning opportunity and I won’t make the same mistakes with my next move.

The sucky bullet points:
I don’t know what the worst part of this whole thing was:
1) That I paid significantly more money for insurance, which required “professionals” to do the packing;
2) That the “professionals” rudely rebuffed my requests to be please careful with my precious books;
3) That numerous books were significantly damaged in shipping; or
4) That in the end I wasn’t able to even make an insurance claim.

Well, clearly these all suck, but #3 is the worst. Ideally nothing would have been damaged in the first place.

The full story:
I relocated from Berlin to Mumbai on October 1st, 2014 and I brought a small selection my favorite possessions with me. After 7 years in Germany I had acquired a massive amount of stuff. Some of that got packed, a small fraction was sold, and most was just given away. I ended up carrying 3 bags with me on the plane and had 50 boxes of other items shipped by sea – about half of which were books. All the things I had shipped were personally very special/valuable (many irreplaceable) and therefore it was an easy decision take out full insurance for the shipment. Part of the insurance’s requirement was that the moving company must to do the packing – the idea is they are the experts and they will do it properly.

Unfortunately, the brutes that were sent to do the packing were anything but careful with my books. I was only allowed to tell what to pack or not, but I could not help. On several occasions I politely requested they be more careful with my books, letting them know how many are quite valuable, and they snapped back saying things like “we know what we are doing” and “stop telling us how to do our job.”

Aside from the rough handling of the books, I was actually trusting that the packers did in fact know how to safely pack everything. So I basically just left them to pack the bookshelves, and I focused on sorting all the other things that should stay or go.

Three and a half months later my shipment arrived to Mumbai at the end of December. Kimya and I had already assembled a massive new shelving system and were eager to begin unpacking the boxes. To our dismay, you can see what we found when we cut everything open. Every box looked like these few shown above. The photos here illustrate only a fraction of the problems, but at least not all books were damaged. Some of the bends and deformations were able to be pressed out, and after a few days or weeks the books many were somewhat better. But dozens more are still permanently damaged, many quite seriously.

The problems got magnified when I tried to contact the shipping company to make a claim. We exchanged numerous emails and I had to make several calls to them back in Germany. For a few weeks they tried to simply say that I didn’t have insurance. Eventually they acknowledged I did in fact have insurance but that I couldn’t make a claim. Many weeks went by and different excuses were given – none of which had merit. Finally in the end, they cited a specific page of one of the contracts, (oddly enough I didn’t have a copy of this page, but I had copies of everything except this one), and it said the claim must be made within 2 weeks of delivery. Because of the shipment’s delay (by over a month), it arrived only two days before my parents were coming for their first visit to India – for our wedding. Once they were there, we were occupied with hosting duties, last minute wedding preparations, our huge Indian wedding, and a brief honeymoon. When we returned, we immediately emailed the shipping company, 15 days after getting the shipment; i.e. 1 day late too late. The terrible cherry on top was just how rude and uncaring the shipping company was. Not only did they give me a run around for weeks, using any excuse they could, they never had any sympathy or apology for any damage caused. They were absolutely the rudest and most uncaring company I’ve ever worked with. If you are moving in or from Germany, let me know and I’ll be happy to not recommend them to you!

P.S.— A draft of this post has been sitting around for years, but it’s finally been published because new moving plans are again forming. More on this soon. For now I’ll just say that we will be packing the books ourselves this time! And hopefully the next move will yield a positive story.




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