Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Broken up by broken family heirloom

Shipment of chair doesn't sit well with city woman

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Monica Huisman wanted to surprise her mother this Christmas with an antique chair from the Netherlands that's been in her family for more than 100 years.

She got the chair all right -- in pieces.

"They sent it in bits and pieces every day," Huisman said this week. "I was sick to my stomach when I got it. All I was trying to do was get that chair under the Christmas tree."

The chair was willed to her by her cousin Irene, who died in March in the Netherlands. Irene's husband, Gerard Dirske, shipped it to Canada using the online service uShip so Huisman could give it to her mother, Anna, for Christmas.

The chair has great sentimental value for Anna because she often sat in it while visiting with the man who would become her husband when they were dating just after the Second World War.

What's been arriving in small boxes since Tuesday, however, does not resemble the beautiful chair bought by Huisman's grandmother in the early 1900s.

"The pieces keep arriving in Canada... mainly broken pieces," Huisman said. "There is no semblance of the beautiful antique that was packaged on the other side of the ocean."

According to emails documenting the shipping order, it cost Dirske close to 570 euros, or C$750, to ship the chair to Canada.

The chair was picked up in the Netherlands completely intact, protected by bubble wrap. Huisman believes the chair was dismantled to drive down the cost of shipping a larger, fragile item.

A chair repair specialist will be required to reassemble it -- although she's worried some parts will be missing.

"It was an antique chair, not a piece of IKEA furniture that you can put together," Huisman said.

Internet-based company uShip, which has its head office in Austin, Texas, allows customers to post what they need shipped, and shipping companies then bid for the job.

On Friday, a uShip spokesman said customer services representatives in Amsterdam are looking into the matter.

"Unfortunately, in working with this particular carrier, this shipment did not go as planned and, understandably, this is very upsetting for the family who shares value in this heirloom," Dean Jutilla said.

"We regret that the transporter using our site did not deliver the item as expected -- we have since taken steps to restrict the carrier's activity on the site and are working to do all we can to get this resolved to the satisfaction of both parties."

Jutilla said uShip generates a 98 per cent positive customer-feedback rating, with 355,000 registered transporters and 1.6 million shipping customers on the site.

sarah.petz@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2012 A4

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