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Thread: Good experience shipping a tuba via

  1. #1

    Good experience shipping a tuba via

    Had a good experience I thought I would share; this seems to be the best forum for it.

    I wanted to consign my tuba (a 1979 Conn 5J) for sale at the Tuba Exchange, which is about a 4-hour drive from here. My schedule is very packed right now, and I can't spare a day to drive it up there anytime soon. In its hard case, the horn weighs just under 50 pounds, so figure at least 55 when packed in a box for UPS shipping. A local box retailer has a box that fits my case fairly closely. It's 41" x 29" x 26" and costs $15. But you have to buy a bundle of 5. Perhaps the UPS store has a similar sized box; at any rate, finding a suitable box would be a challenge, and the shipping cost rises pretty dramatically with increased size in this size range. The UPS web site quotes $277 for a 55-pound box of this size valued at $2,000.

    Enter uShip, which is an online shipping broker that brings together senders and carriers of various kinds, from individuals running a business with their own smaller vehicles to freight companies looking to fill out a load. Hoping to find a carrier who did not need additional packing beyond the tuba's hard case, which is quite sound, I put my horn out for bid. I got offers in the $200+ range pretty quickly. After a couple of days I got a $100 quote from an individual who was just starting a uShip business with his own vehicle. A little risky, it seemed, but as far as I could tell from reading the cargo insurance policy (more on that in a moment), the "all risks" version of the insurance seemed to cover theft or fraud by the carrier. When we began to communicate directly on pickup details, his phone number matched the number published on the site, as did his email address. And when we met, I saw that his picture also matched. So I hoped this meant that he was on the level. For kickers, he also happens to be a former tubist (just high school band, from what I could tell).

    So he took the horn from me at 7 p.m. last night, and he was at Tuba Exchange's doorstep when they opened at 9 this morning, as confirmed by a phone call to the shop. It was a good experience.

    That cargo insurance is a bit of a bummer, though. For parcels valued below $4,500, it's a flat $45. And there's a $500 deductible, so that's pretty pricey coverage for a $2000 item. My total cost, then, was the carrier's $100, plus uShip's $10 fee, plus $45 insurance, or $155. Some carriers have their own insurance; I might well have been able to do a little better on my bottom line by going with one of them. But no better bids had materialized yet, and I decided that this one was good enough.

    Probably not everyone's experience would be quite so positive, but this one worked out fine for me. You have an opportunity to communicate with potential carriers who bid on your shipment; hopefully you can feel them out as to how they'll handle your parcel, and you can get some confidence before committing. One other detail: the way the payment system works is that your credit card is authorized (perhaps actually charged) when you book the shipment, but that payment is not released to the carrier until you've had an opportunity to verify delivery. When you're satisfied, you click a button on the site to release the payment; you apparently also have to provide the shipper a code that uShip gives you for completing the transaction. So you actually have more leverage, apparently, than you'd have with a standard carrier. I wonder how often it happens that somebody dies or gets incapacitated while the shipment is enroute and then the carrier has trouble getting paid? Or maybe the shipper just doesn't want to release the payment for some reason. There must be a way for a carrier to present proof of delivery and get the payment released if the sender doesn't come through. Just not sure about that side of things.

    I must confess that I wonder what's up with UPS charging almost $300 for such a parcel. I could buy the thing an airline seat for that price! Of course that wouldn't provide door-to-door carriage, but still. My impression is that UPS must be saying, "Well, we'll take a big box if you really want us to, but you're going to have to make it really worth our while." Maybe I just don't understand the real costs involved with a parcel this size and weight, which, I obviously must admit, certainly does require quite a bit of extra handling effort and cargo space.

    Not seeing any discussion of uShip on this forum, I thought I would post this as a potentially viable alternative that might interest some forum members. Probably not much if any money to be saved here on shipping a euphonium, but the savings looks meaningful for a tuba.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Central North Carolina
    An alternative for a tuba or other large instrument, suitably packed, is Greyhound. The cost is MUCH less than UPS. Several years ago my Mack Brass euph arrived at the Durham Greyhound terminal without any problems, and I think this is Tom's primary (maybe only?) mode of shipping. It's also the method preferred by most interested parties on Tube Net. There are some stories about delays and items being "lost" for a while in transit. But generally it seems to work quite well. However, I have no direct experience with it as a shipper -- merely as a shippee. The uShip approach seems very viable.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  3. #3
    Gary, I shipped a tuba via Greyhound to a guy out in LA a few years back. It was a little harrowing as, like you say, it got lost for a while, and Greyhound could not account for it. On both ends of the route, the tuba was left sitting out in the open in the terminal, apparently free for the taking by anyone who had the nerve to pull it off. The way the bus switches work at the various stations along the route, my impression and also reports I've heard from others are that the same thing happens: the tuba just sits in the lobby of the station during the layover period. I don't know how often that happens; it seems that they could easily enough pull it into an "employees only" area, so maybe sitting in the lobby is the exceptional thing. Anyway, I was left with a distinct impression that I didn't want to use Greyhound except as a last resort. Also, I just checked the website and confirmed that the maximum insured value is $1,000. So there's some risk.

    But $100 coast-to-coast (unless their prices have gone up since then) is certainly a good price. I imagine it would be hard to find a uShip bid anywhere near that low. If there's no big hurry, you can put a shipment out to bid at a price you specify and see if anyone will take it. I may try that the next time I want to ship something big, tuba or otherwise.

    By the way, Gary, I'm kicking myself for not thinking ahead about my tuba and going through the decision process about selling in time to take it with me when I was in Durham just a couple of weeks ago! Would have saved both money and no little bit of time. Oh, well.



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