Musicians rely on their instruments for their living. They are the tools of their trade. Much more than that they often take on the persona of an actual family member. So when a much loved instrument is lost or destroyed it isn’t just about the replacement value, it’s about losing something that is very personal. When The Kut’s Stella Vie sent her beloved bass on to Chicago from the UK she never imagined it would be the last time she would see it. UPS was the courier and this is her story
So can you explain what actually happened.
“I was sending my guitar from Scotland to Chicago in the US where I was going to be for a while. I didn’t want to take it on the plane with me because they’re so careless with baggage. I printed out the address and the return address. That was all on the label on the front of the case and I made sure it wasn’t coming off. It was all taped up with fragile tape so it was all secure. I dropped it off and got an email to say it had been checked in. Then I went off to Chicago and checked on it a couple of weeks later and it had never left Great Britain and it was on its way back to the return address. They said it needed a commercial invoice for it to be sent to the US. I did say that they knew what it was so they should have told me when I checked it in. By this time it was around Christmas so I thought it might be a while before it gets there. I wasn’t getting updates and no one had emailed me so I started to get a bit worried.
My dad was out of the country over the new year where the return address was. I noticed on the website I had been given an alternative tracking number and when I clicked on that, that was when all the information about that it had been destroyed in December was showing. I started freaking out and phoned my dad. I didn’t have enough international minutes on my phone to then phone them. Everyone at UPS in America just told me I had to get on the phone to the UK. They were really unhelpful. No one could give me even an email address. My dad was calling them in the UK and it took him about a week to get a straight answer out of anybody. Eventually he got on the phone to someone who told him there was no chance of it being recovered. It had been destroyed.
What we figured out it had got to Glasgow and had been delivered to the wrong address. They tried to deliver it to a few houses down from mine. This is with the address clearly written on the front. So the only way they could have done this is if some careless person had just entered the post code to a GPS device. It then says on the information I have that the receiver requested a temporary change of address, but how can that be because I’m the receiver and the sender? No one could give me any answers about that. It went from Glasgow to Preston and then to Tamworth. Then what it says is it was abandoned by both sender and receiver. I wanted to know why no one had called me? This was now two months after checking it in. My number and email address was on the front of the case. They said it’s not our responsibility to call you. I asked how it could be abandoned by both sender and receiver when I’m both and about the new tracking number and they said there’s a change of address. I said then somebody has obviously stolen it. They launched an investigation into the driver at my request but I’ve got nothing back.
They say they can only keep something for up to 30 days and that’s when they destroy things. They said nobody came to claim it and it was in Tamworth. But I didn’t know it was there. They said it’s not our responsibility to let you know. So it’s impossible to know where it is. Also they said it was destroyed after two weeks, that’s not even 30 days. I tried to get proof from them that it had been destroyed but they said that I needed to read their policy and they don’t have to give proof of destruction. Their argument is that I didn’t get in contact.”
But you did as soon as you could.
“It was Christmas time. I assumed no news was good news and it would reach my house eventually.”
They didn’t even give you the 30 days that’s stated in their own policy?
“Their argument was it says up to 30 days. I asked about compensation and was told I wasn’t getting any because it was my fault. They were totally unhelpful and didn’t give a shit about what I had to say apart from one lady I had contact with via email. Even then she was very dry and didn’t have much to say except you’re not getting anything back. They don’t understand it’s so much more than just a piece of wood.”
Do you believe they’ve destroyed it? It does sound like it may have been stolen.
“I think it might have been stolen. It was in a hard case and was clearly an instrument. Maybe it was a mistake to wrap it in fragile tape which would obviously alert people to the fact it was of value. It had a Fender sticker. It was clearly an instrument and I can’t see anyone throwing it into an incinerator or whatever they do.”
What make and model was it?
“It was a Squire Vintage PJ Bass. It was red.”
What happened afterwards, you do have a new bass now?
“Someone suggested a Go Fund Me and the results of that just blew me away. The musical director I was with shared it out and Princess Maha I play with in The Kut shared it which was amazing. People I didn’t even know were putting into it, it made me fall in love with music again. To be able to buy another bass so soon after what happened was like a dream come true. To have something so nice happen so soon after that disaster kind of lifted me up. I couldn’t forget about it but it helped me move on. Whenever I think about it I get angry all over again. I really want to squeeze something out of them.”
The Punk Lounge emailed UPS but as yet we have received no reply. We would like to know why they couldn’t pick up a phone to contact Stella or her father before destroying her bass guitar, if indeed it has been destroyed? And we would also call on UPS to provide full proof of destruction and to offer compensation accordingly as this debacle initially started with their driver being at fault for not attempting to deliver to the correct address. We feel UPS have made many mistakes and that it is their duty to make an apology and restitution to Stella Vie.
The Punk Lounge is horrified by Stella’s experience and would like to know of any other bad experiences related to what happened here. Have you had a musical instrument lost or damaged by UPS or any other courier? Or any bad experiences while travelling with your instrument?