What Can Brown Take From You?

One of my local shops has a particular ball-buster of a co-owner, the sort of person I’ve described as “the guy everyone wants in their company—just not on a sales floor.” He’s meticulous about going over bills and contracts to make sure he’s not getting screwed. In the bike business, where many brick-and-mortar stores are hanging on by the narrowest of margins, that makes sense.

Recently he decided to take a look at his UPS bill, something he’d never audited before. This store ships a lot of bike boxes in a year because they do a heavy amount of use bike trades and sales. It’s probably fair to say that they move more than 100 bike boxes a year. Now keep in mind that the conventional bike bike is specifically designed to fit within the UPS shipping guidelines. Aside from things like tandems and massive downhill bikes, just about everything fits within the UPS standard size. That’s good because like with airline travel if you should go over the dimensions by just a fraction you end up getting a hefty penalty.

This quick look at the invoice revealed that many of the bikes that had gone out in the month were being tagged by UPS as oversized, which incurred a $70 up-charge. Reportedly he called UPS and they explained they used a laser-scanner to measure boxes, but (and this is now third hand) those can sometimes be inaccurate. Usually that wouldn’t be a big deal but a fraction of an inch in this case makes for $70. Needless to say he and his rep are going to be having a conversation this week, one that involves a lot of checking of invoices.

So, to the shop owners out there—have you seen this? Have you been charged for oversized boxes when you’re shipping something that you know is a standard UPS-approved bike box? I’m curious as to whether this might be a local shipment processing center needing an alignment in the scanners, or a systematic issue.