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Indiana Jones and the Satinwood Latex Flat Wall Paint

By Widge - posted 08.01.08 @ 8:21 pm

Interior Latex Flat Wall Paint from a FedEx package

I receive a lot of packages here at Needcoffee. Mostly because we feature and review stuff and people have to send us stuff. Generally, once a month a package arrives with a lovely note saying something to the effect of "Package was damaged in transit." Which is CYAspeak for "Somebody in our organization thought your package looked tasty, opened it, took what they wanted (or didn't) and then taped it back up again." This is normally with stuff sent through the regular U.S. postal service. And I'm not being funny, "damaged in transit" can mean "sliced open cleanly at one end with a box cutter." But generally when you ship with one of the private carriers you didn't get any of that shit. And to be fair, it might just be an Atlanta thing, because I've heard from others that they don't have that problem. So generally when I'm shipping something that I can't afford to have "damaged," I send it through a private carrier. (I send out contest prizes through the postal service simply because if I did those through private carriers, I couldn't afford to run freaking contests--I'm sure you understand.)

Anyway, never have I ever, before today, had this happen.


I opened a box I received from FedEx and pulled out of a couple of DVDs and then saw what looked like a rusty lid of something. At first, I thought nothing of it, since you can get DVDs packaged in all kinds of weird shit. I thought it might have been a fake film canister of some sort or...something. In retrospect, it might have been the Limited Edition Paint Can "This Old House: The Complete Series." But when I pulled it out I saw it was what you're seeing up there: an authentic $4.99 rusty gallon can of Satinwood Interior Latex Flat Wall Paint (And please don't mock the wallpaper, it came with the house.)

I called the sender of the package and said, "What's with sending me a can of paint?"

He said, "What the hell are you talking about: a can of paint?" And you can guess where the conversation went from there.

Wall Paint from FedEx, can and box

Suffice it to say that he did not, in fact, send me a can of paint. Which is good, because the color "Satinwood" appears to be the antithesis of every color I hold dear. Anyway, someone between me and him decided that they wanted to "damage" the package in transit. But here's the part I've never seen before: they knew that if they just pulled a bunch of stuff out, apparently the weight discrepancy would raise some red flags somewhere in FedEx's process. So they pulled an "Indiana Jones" and substituted the weight of the stolen swag for the weight of a can of paint. I'm fairly certain this must have happened somewhere in FedEx's process because once it leaves FedEx, who's going to care or notice that it's suddenly lighter? And it was delivered straight into the hands of a FedEx driver when it started its journey.

Regardless, the claims process is supposed to be underway, and FedEx Claims was helpful when I got them on the line--after they inexplicably transferred me to somebody who worked somewhere else within the company and had no idea why I was suddenly on their phone and then...on the second call they transferred me into their internal phonemail system, where I was prompted for my mailbox number. But anyway, the third call was fine. Let's just see how they react to this.

Update: Here's some new information that makes the reasoning behind the whole "Indy paint weight swap" thing even more non-sensical: the person shipping to me wrote down one pound on the weight, knowing that it gets weighed and the real weight written in on the airbill when it gets "checked in" at whatever FedEx depot there is. So what was written over the number one and circled is the number "25." When we picked this up today, we were told that all of our packages combined weighed about 26 pounds, and the other packages we got were lightweights. So 25 pounds for this box with the paint can in it is apparently accurate. Which means that somebody did the Indy swap before it was weighed in the first time. Which means that there would be no need to even do an Indy swap at all--just weight it with whatever's actually in there. Now WTF is that about?

Update Again: The shipper called FedEx--because they never called him--and said that they had no record of me calling. Nice.

Also, welcome to readers from The Consumerist. Thanks for joining us. To answer some questions on that post, because I'm sure others are asking themselves the same things. Did I steal the DVDs? No. It would be pointless for me to fake theft of DVDs. These are product samples that were being sent to us to give away at an event. If I really wanted them I would have received the box as it was sent and then pocketed them. There's no trail to throw off with this that would be served by me staging this with a can of paint. Did the shipper steal the DVDs? No. First of all, I know him personally. Secondly, he and I both already have these DVDs in our collections. If you look around the site (which I, of course, encourage you to do), you can see we do pop culture coverage, so all this stuff gets sent us by studios. If he wanted to steal them, he would have just not shipped them in the first place and pocketed them. Again, this isn't an eBay purchase or something like that where one of the two parties involved can screw the other. These were DVDs that were going to an event to be given away and there's no motive for us to fake a theft because no one's going to be looking for these. Except for us, because somebody screwed us out of some prizes were we going to have at our event. As for why I think this must have happened at FedEx, it was given to a driver. It did not leave the possession of FedEx until it was dropped off at the place that handled my shipping and receiving. And they didn't make the switch, because the airbill has the weight-with-the-paint-in-it on it, corrected by someone at FedEx. If it had been corrected to the with-DVDs weight, THEN with the paint-weight, there would be evidence of somebody else writing another number on there--but there isn't. I applaud everyone for being suspicious, because I would be the same way in your shoes.

This leads me to the next bit I can see coming, which is: "If you didn't pay for the DVDs, why are you bitching?" I'm not actually bitching, I'm just amused and a little disappointed. Amused because this mystery doesn't make a lick of sense. I'm disappointed because those DVDs were meant for the event and to give away to folks there, and as you can see, we like sharing the freeness. Also, I'd like to point out that the weight was much greater with the paint in the box, so my friend the shipper paid for shipping a can of paint that he didn't put in the box. So he's out that coin and should bitch. And it's just not cool for people to steal stuff out of people's shipments. Especially when if they had just asked us, we might have given him or her a copy just for the asking.

Update the Third: Shipper says that FedEx says that he should hear something by "the end of the week." That's about all that's new.

Update the Fourth: I see we have a bunch of people coming from The Consumerist again because somebody else had FedEx issues. Thanks for stopping by. Sadly, I've got no news to report. The shipper was never able to get squat out of FedEx as far as reimbursement for the amount he shouldn't have been billed nor even an explanation, which is what I was hoping for. It's just a mystery that will remain unsolved, sort of like Judge Crater, Amelia Earhart and why a second Deuce Bigalow movie was ever greenlighted.

Read More About:

Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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A Mob Numbering 26
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    1. 

    I think the needless complexity is just to throw you off. Like a Rube Goldberg of theft.

    Comment by Blank Mage — August 2, 2008 @ 2:14 am

    2. 

    Probably need some more data points to understand what is going on here.

    But surely a gallon of paint is 8 pints of something approximating the density of water pus the tin = 10lb?

    Comment by PHB — August 4, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

    3. 

    PHB: Thanks for the comment. And yes, we are definitely missing some data points.

    One thing I should point out that I don't think was clear from my post--not EVERY DVD was missing from the box. It was just the boxed sets and recognizable titles. Some lesser known British titles were left in there. Also, a stack of books. So the paint--which I just carried upstairs and weighed--is 12 pounds. So 13-14 pounds of material was left in the box. They just cherry picked out of there, I'm assuming to try and re-sell.

    Comment by Widge — August 4, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

    4. 

    I think you are :
    A) Making it all up for the free publicity
    2) Intentionally had it shipped like that for the free publicity
    *) Just want the publicity / diggs / stumbles consumerist links

    Comment by Dectective Joe — August 4, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

    5. 

    Well, Joe, that's the beautiful thing about a free society: you're free to think whatever you like, even if it's wrong.

    Good luck with your dectecting.

    Comment by Widge — August 4, 2008 @ 7:19 pm

    6. 

    Methinks Detective Joe is a nimrod.

    That's waaaay too much trouble for minimal positive return.

    Comment by CountSmackula — August 4, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

    7. 

    Thank you, Count. Exactly. I'm all for paranoia and conspiracies, but let's try and maintain some perspective. :)

    Comment by Widge — August 4, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

    8. 

    That's Dectective Joe to you!

    Comment by Blank Mage — August 5, 2008 @ 12:31 am

    9. 

    I knew I could count on you, Mage, not to be recticent about chiming in.

    Comment by Widge — August 5, 2008 @ 12:33 am

    10. 

    Methinks det. joe might be on to something. The story got me to visit this unknown-to-me blog. I wonder how many others fell for it.
    In any case, great story. Keep it up.

    Comment by Iagree — August 5, 2008 @ 12:41 am

    11. 

    Was this Fedex ground or air? Back when I used to know anything, FedEx air had tight enough controls you could ship mundane classified material with them (this mostly meant that packages weren't left unattended and each hand-off was receipted—same as registered mail). I'm given to understand FedEx ground is still fundamentally still just RPS.

    Comment by FPC Craig — August 5, 2008 @ 12:56 am

    12. 

    Iagree: Let me get this straight: you think we're frauds but you want us to keep it up? That's right, wait till next week, folks: we plan to try the mouse in a bottle routine up at Elsinore Brewery...

    Comment by Widge — August 5, 2008 @ 1:10 am

    13. 

    FPC Craig: I've never known anything, so you're in better shape than me, but it's a good question. This was shipped FedEx 2Day, which I assume means air. I usually do my shipping with UPS Ground, so I'm not aware of the ins and outs of how FedEx works things. Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by Widge — August 5, 2008 @ 1:11 am

    14. 

    Widge: Yep, I think ya tell a good tale. Might as well do something to get the traffic. I wouldn't have found you any other way. The way I see it, it is way more likely that you are making this up then what you are describing actually happening. Either that or someone has played a pretty good joke on you.

    Comment by Iagree — August 5, 2008 @ 1:24 am

    15. 

    Iagree: Well, I don't think it's a joke, I think it's just a poorly constructed theft. But regardless, you and Dectective Joe are welcome to believe whatever you like. Stay tuned for more "imaginary" updates while FedEx does their "staged" investigation.

    Comment by Widge — August 5, 2008 @ 1:53 am

    16. 

    I worked for FedEx CS and getting the run around is just the CSR's way of saying they do not want to deal with you. Remember, if you do not like what the person on the other end has to say... hang up and call back. FedEx has call centers all over the USA and parts of Canada the likelihood of you getting the same CSR is slim to none.

    Comment by BustangBetty — August 6, 2008 @ 6:42 am

    17. 

    I hope they find the thief who did this. I would be mad as hell if they went into my package and stole something. I wouldn't care if it was only worth $2.00.

    Comment by tracey c — August 6, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

    18. 

    Good luck with FedEx!

    I have had two horrible experiences with them:

    1) A $700 Belkin KVM switch being returned to Belkin for service. The switch was in a box within a second, outer box. The package never arrived at Belkin, and when I called about it, they stated it was received in their Compton, CA facility "damaged". After further investigation, it was found that the inner box was removed, switch and all, and the outer box was re-taped shut, but was damaged enough on the outside to be registered as "damaged". After tons of going around in circles, they could not offer up any solution or answer as to what happened. My company was refunded a measly $100 because we forgot to have it insured, which was clearly our fault.

    2) I had a pair of Cubs vs Red Sox tickets from the year following Boston's first championship that I wanted sent out of town after selling them on eBay. This time, I insured the package, burned from my last experience with FedEx. The package was taken in at a retail store in the Chicago Loop, and disappeared once it hit the Chicago sorting facility. They were never heard from again - FedEx actually came through and refunded my money, but not without the headache of having to refund the eBay buyer, and going around in circles with FedEx for a week. I also had to get the tickets reissued with the Cubs box office.

    Thanks FedEx, for employing a fleet of thieves!
    (Clearly this is sarcastic and applies to only a seedy subset of their employed workforce)

    But seriously, can we get a little more security and reliability when it comes to shipping packages?

    Comment by Mike — August 6, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

    19. 

    Betty: Thanks--yes, I think that's the case with just about any call center these days. I know I've had to pull that trick with Comcast before.

    Tracey: Thanks for the comment--I agree with you, but sometimes time and agony override the need to get justice just on principles. Sad but true.

    Mike: Yeah, I've seen some other horror stories on the Consumerist thread--ours is minor comparatively speaking, at least for value of stuff lost. I will say this, though--Jeff Jarvis over at Buzz Machine made an interesting point a long while ago. When paying for delivery confirmation (I think he was speaking to that specifically), why are we paying you extra to make sure you're doing what we paid you for the first time? By extension, I can understand insurance being necessary if something happens beyond the control of FedEx--a delivery van is involved in a wreck and as a result something is damaged--that sort of thing. But why should we have to pay to insure that if someone internal to FedEx wants to pilfer our stuff that FedEx will pay us for the stuff lost? That seems nuts. Now, granted, I'm certainly willing to hear about theories where this was NOT FedEx's fault, but so far none seem to make sense. Granted, the whole damn thing makes little sense, but you get where I'm going with that.

    Thanks to everybody for the great comments. And horror stories are welcome. We can commiserate.

    Comment by Widge — August 6, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

    20. 

    If you get to keep the paint. You should give it away as a prize at Dragon*Con

    Comment by Gavin — August 6, 2008 @ 6:35 pm

    21. 

    Gavin: Don't think that hasn't crossed my mind, amigo...

    Comment by Widge — August 7, 2008 @ 1:45 am

    22. 

    I'd buy it. Add it to the collection, next to the signed Strong Bad picture and a plastic dinosaur from Alan Tudyk that I may, or may not, have elbowed a fellow browncoat in the face to obtain. I'm sure he'd understand.

    Comment by Blank Mage — August 7, 2008 @ 5:05 am

    23. 

    I think it was a governmental subsidiary plan to secretly transport various paints strategically through the United States for nefarious purposes.

    Who goes to the Dollar store for a can of paint as "filler"?
    Why bother at all? ust slap the sticker on it and send it on it's way.
    Obviously they knew what was in it to open it and take stuff out.

    Comment by RainyDave — August 8, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

    24. 

    Dave: Yeah, that's what's weird...how the hell did they know what was inside. One thing FedEx told the shipper is that they're only supposed to open (in order to check the contents) international packages. Hmm. And one other kind that I admit I can't remember. But not this kind. But people do things they're not supposed to all the time, I figure. So yeah. Still a mystery. For all I know, they didn't call the shipper today. We haven't discussed it yet today.

    Comment by Widge — August 8, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

    25. 

    What makes you think they knew what was in it? They might have just picked your package at random. It's not like you need to premeditate the affair.

    Comment by Blank-Mage — August 9, 2008 @ 4:13 am

    26. 

    First of all, I figure if somebody sees enough packages with Universal Home Video, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and Paramount Home Video on them, they're going to think "Stuff sent to these guys might be worth opening up." Secondly, it seems just sort of ridiculous to see somebody in a FedEx facility, can of paint at the ready, opening up package after package until he finds something worth taking. The whole thing seems ridiculous, really, so we can't know that they didn't know what was in it. It's all up in the air, really.

    Comment by Widge — August 9, 2008 @ 4:24 am

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