(April) Fool Me Once, Shame On You

James Matthews

May 17, 2016


You know that it’s coming. It happens every year without fail. No, I’m not talking about parcel rate increases (not this time, at least). Nope, this time I’m talking about April Fools’ Day. Maybe it’s just me (though I suspect not), but I am keenly aware of and anticipate April Fools’ Day. I expect to be pranked. My spider senses are on unusually high-alert, yet every year on 4/1, I read or hear some unbelievable news story and exclaim, “What the…??? How in the….???,” only to quickly find out that there’s a reason the story is unbelievable - it’s completely false and I completely fell for it. This year was no different. April 1st got me again!!


Some companies can feel similarly foolish after executing a new agreement with UPS or FedEx. Fresh from the throes of an exhilarating negotiation, they excitedly open their first post-negotiation invoice ready to celebrate their hard-fought price improvements; only instead of raising their fist in victory, they furrow their brow, scratch their head, and wonder, ”Huh, that’s higher than I expected it to be.”

April Fools!!!

Only it’s not a joke. Charges that were expected to be discounted were not, or the discounts have unexpectedly decreased. One of the more common surprises is a newly acquired inability to request refunds for late deliveries. At least in the case of such a surprise, the carrier can respond that the “refund waiver” language was included in the terms of the agreement (it might be in a very small font, but it’s there). The types of surprises to which I’m presently referring are the “omission” kind. Phantom discounts that appear to be there, but in reality are not. The following highlight a few of the areas for which to watch when negotiating with your parcel carrier (or soon-to-be carrier).

  • Residential Deliveries – Congratulations! You wrestled a discount on the surcharge, but wait… why isn’t the discount appearing on your invoice? Better check the service(s) to which the discount applies. You might be surprised to find that by having shipped that package FedEx Ground instead of Home Delivery cost you dearly. April Fools!!!
  • Delivery Area Surcharges – Similar to residential deliveries, discounts on this charge can be service specific. Not only that, but it can also depend on whether the parcel is delivered to a business or a residence. It can also be billing option specific. Prepaid? “Sure!” Third party? “Maybe not”. April Fools!!!
  • Returns – A shipment leaves your facility at one price, and if it’s returned, the rate is the same, right? Not necessarily. Most freight collect discounts for either carrier will match the outbound discount for that service; however, if you mail or email a return label to the sender, you might find that the discount is substantially less than the outbound - if there’s any discount at all. April… (you get the idea)

There are others as well, but they fall into a similar theme – there’s a discount listed on your contract; it just doesn’t apply to your shipments. When in doubt, ask the rep, but do so in writing – and insist on a written response. At least then if the response is incorrect (many reps aren’t aware of these issues either unfortunately), you can fall back on the written response to press for a resolution. Still in doubt? Ask an expert.

As for me and my annual April 1st dilemma? I swear that I will never be pranked again!
(…oh, who am I fooling?)

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