Rochesterians paying steep international fee to ship supplies to family in Puerto Rico

October 11, 2017 07:02 PM

ROCHESTER — Tens of thousands islanders have left Puerto Rico for the US mainland to escape the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria. About 85 percent of residents still lack electricity and 40 percent are without running water; neither is expected to be fully restored for months. Many folks in Rochester have family and friends in Puerto Rico and are desperately trying to get them supplies and essentials but they’re running into shipping nightmares.

Almost all of Sarita Rivera’s extended family lives in Puerto Rico. They made it through Hurricane Maria but a few of their homes did not and none of them, including her two 90-year old grandmothers, have power. "Yes, they survived the storm but... they're surviving day-to-day and the day-to-day is really hard with no power, they have to go to get the drinking water,” she tells News10NBC.  

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Rivera has been sending baby formula to her nephew. She also paid $850 in international shipping rates to send two generators through UPS but so far, nothing has made it into the hands of her family. "The frustration for me is where is the transparency?  As a consumer, you're charging me for something and yet I cannot give my family a sense of when they're actually going to get what they need and... I just feel like I'm failing them and I want to help,” she says.

Rivera says she realizes there is widespread devastation. "People don't expect it to be perfect but you can't tell someone one day and have it be two weeks later…also, it's US citizens, sending shipments to US citizens, there should be no international fees,” she adds.

Noel Wilfeard owns The UPS Store in Baytowne Plaza. His shop has been busy with those like Rivera, trying to help their families. “People trying to send a lot of batteries, generators, canned goods, really the basics for survival,” Wilfeard says.

Local UPS stores are independently owned so they don’t control the shipping rates but many of them have been donating packaging and supplies. They’ve also been on the phone with corporate trying to get answers. "They announced this morning that most of the routes are kind of up and running again and some of the areas that are more effected, they're going to have central hubs in place... ready for people to come and pick up their packages,” Wilfeard says.

For Rivera, it’s all about communication and having a plan in place when so many people are relying on shipping companies, “Take a step back logistically at what is there and give people some real information,” she says.

This week, UPS announced it would start offering discounted rates from the U.S. to Puerto Rico and select Caribbean destinations for some shipments until the end of the month. The discount amounts to about 35 percent off of what Rivera paid. The company has not said whether it will reimburse or credit customers that have already paid the higher rates.  It did warn customers who are shipping to the island that they should anticipate delayed service at this time because there is a backlog in UPS facilities throughout the island and on the mainland.


Jennifer Lewke

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