News10NBC Investigates: The missing $8,400 Nikes and missing signature

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — This story starts with the sale of a pair of Nike shoes for $8,400. That in and of itself is a story. But when the shoes went missing and a receipt showed up with no signature, News10NBC was called into action.

What our investigation found is the delivery insurance policy bought by the owner of the shoes to release the money wasn’t used.

The kitchen counter at Valerie Catalano’s house in Greece was covered in all the paperwork she printed out since she found herself in this mess.

All she wanted to do was sell a pair of Nike SB What The Dunk size 8 shoes she bought for $1,500 five years ago. Right now online, similar shoes are going for as much as $165,000.

WEB EXTRA: Curious about this sneaker market? Hear an expert explain why it works.

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Catalano and I spoke in early March.

"So, probably about four weeks ago, I looked online and saw that they were going for anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 depending on size," she said. "So, I think, ‘oh, this is the perfect time to try to sell them.’"

Catalano put the shoes up on eBay and accepted a bid she got from a buyer in Florida. The sale price? $8,400.

Catalano mailed the package from the UPS Store in Gates on Feb. 15.

The receipt she showed to News10NBC Chief Investigator Reporter Berkeley Brean indicates she paid hundreds for overnight delivery and extra insurance, including signature verification.

The receipt says "signature required (with delivery confirmation)."

Catalano mailed the package, believing the money was locked in a PayPal account.

Catalano: "The funds would not get released until confirmation of delivery."

Brean: "With the signature?"

Catalano: "With the signature."

Brean: "And photo ID?"

Catalano: "Correct."

The UPS delivery notification receipt shows the shoes were delivered on Feb. 16, but the signature line on the notification says "COVID" followed by two initials.

It’s not the buyer’s signature. When the money wasn’t released later that day, Catalano says she called UPS.

"I said, so I’m just supposed to assume to trust your driver that they delivered the package to the correct person, and they said yes," Catalano said. "And I said well, that’s not enough verification for me to get paid through PayPal because this was the agreement."

By then it was too late. Emails and messages to Catalano from PayPal show the payment was canceled on Feb. 16 at about noon Eastern Time, approximately two hours after the UPS delivery receipt says the package was delivered.

Brean: "Where do you think these shoes are right now?"

Robert Wood, Catalano’s attorney: "They could be anywhere. They literally could be anywhere."

Even if Catalano was somehow scammed, Wood is concerned about the protections UPS Stores sell and the actual services UPS drivers provide.

"The average person walking into the UPS Store thinks they’re dealing with UPS," Wood said. "They think, hey I’m doing business with UPS right now as soon as I walk into that UPS Store. But you’re not. You’re dealing with a completely different company." says, "The UPS Store locations are independently owned and operated by licensed franchisees of Mail Boxes Etc., Inc., an indirect subsidiary of United Parcel Service, Inc."

UPS wrote in an email, "While independently owned and operated by local franchisees, each The UPS Store location proudly operates as a licensee of The UPS Store brand and therefore works closely with UPS to deliver for our customers and communities."

We went to several UPS Stores in the Rochester area, and employees at every single one said they sold that service.

News10NBC Producer: "Do you guys offer any ID check or signature verification on deliveries?"

UPS Store employee: "Absolutely."

The service costs $5 to $6.

I requested an interview with UPS and called and emailed the general manager of the Gates UPS Store.

My question is, why are you selling signature services when drivers aren’t taking them?

My interview requests were declined, but in a statement, UPS wrote:

"The vast majority of UPS packages are delivered "driver release" which means the recipient does not have to sign for the shipment. However, customers can choose to ship a package with "signature required" to confirm delivery by the receiver. During the pandemic, signature-required deliveries are confirmed by verifying the recipient’s identity through a government-issued ID while complying with social distancing measures. Once identities are confirmed, the drivers write "COVID" in the signature line for record-keeping.

And so the UPS Store can make all kinds of promises, they can say oh yes we’ll get a signature. We’ll give you insurance and we’ll make sure the item gets delivered," attorney Wood said. "But at the end of the day, they have no control."

Wednesday evening, I received another email from UPS spokeswoman Casey Sorrell, who wrote:

"The UPS Store locations ship millions of packages every year, the overwhelming majority of which are delivered safely and on time. If a package is misplaced, we investigate to try to determine the cause and an appropriate resolution, which may take some time. We appreciate Ms. Catalano’s patience in this case, which we resolved with a full reimbursement of the package’s stated value, as well as her shipping costs." (Emphasis added)

Catalano says she received a check from UPS on May 13.

Does the United States Postal Service and FedEx sell and get signatures?

The USPS says, "In the interest of employee and customer safety and to limit exposure to COVID-19, carriers note "C19" in the scanner to indicate the carrier entered the information. We continue to communicate and reinforce this policy with our employees."

FedEx sells signatures, but because of COVID-19, does not actually get them. FedEx’s website says, "In efforts to minimize physical interactions, customers may be asked to verify recipient name in lieu of a physical signature. FedEx is still collecting recipient information; therefore, surcharges for these services will continue to be assessed. For shipments with the adult signature service option selected, couriers will still request a physical signature and require a government-issued photo ID they ask for photo ID."

FedEx still gets a signature if the sender buys an "adult signature required" service, which guarantees that the recipient is over 21 years of age.

Why do some shoes fetch so much interest and money?

Ryan Chang, who invests and buys in the market points to several reasons. There’s a move to casual fashion, sneakers are a status symbol, like driving an expensive car, and notwithstanding Catalano’s story, the ease of buying and selling from verified sites that can root out the fakes.