Smart Warehousing Review: My Problematic Experience with this Fulfillment Service Provider

I’ve decided to start documenting the problems which I’ve been having with Smart Warehousing.

I’m too busy with my business to construct a long essay all at once so I’m going to use this page to make some notes that will help me remember everything about my experiences with Smart Warehousing.

The Eye Opener

There have been a lot of erroneous and, to my mind, questionable charges on my invoices from Smart Warehousing since I started using them in early 2016. First, here is a summary of the problems which I had in the first few months of using Smart Warehousing:

  • Pallet In / Pallet Away: I’ve been charged for receiving pallets and putting them away on inbound shipments where there were no pallets.
  • Monthly Storage: I’ve been charged inbound monthly storage charges on inventory for which I’m already paying storage charges. This amounts to being double billed on pallet storage.
  • Unreasonable Charges on a Customer Return: A customer returned a single item in a single box and I was charged $31.43 just for processing this single consumer return.
  • Pick Up Charges: I’m being charged a monthly flat rate of $12.29 for “small parcel daily pick up” despite this charge never being listed in the contract which I signed with Smart Warehousing. I told Kyle S., Director of Customer Experience, on the phone that I wouldn’t pay for charges to which I had not agreed. Nevertheless this charge keeps appearing on my invoices.

“Watch Your Back”

This company will eventually implode due to a serious lack of integrity. Nothing better then intentionally over billing customers for services not done.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 11.18.08 PM

Source: Indeed


Now I’ll start listing problems as they occur going forward. Here we go:

  • May 26, 2016: I ship an order consisting of 8 units in a single carton and get charged for 36 bubble sheets ($4.68). This seems unreasonable and disproportionate to me.
  • June 3, 2016: I’m trying to figure out how and why 36 sheets of bubble wrap could be used to ship 8 units of a material that is unbreakable, unbendable and cannot be dented. I inquire as to the size of the box which was used to ship the order. Lauren P. replies to tell me the box was 18 x 18 x 18″. I point out this is impossible as the product is 24″ long, and I ask for an explanation. Lauren P. invites me to “to discuss this with the local operation.”
  • June 6, 2016 / Invoice #139479: Another invoice with the monthly fee for small parcel pickup that wasn’t part of the agreement which I signed with Smart Warehousing.
  • June 29, 2016: I get an email telling me I must pay the small parcel pickup fees (which I have refused since they weren’t in the contract) “to keep your account active and in good standing.”
  • July 1, 2016: After several months of protest, Smart Warehousing finally agrees to honor our contract by dropping the monthly Small Parcel Pickup Fee.
  • July 5, 2016: Concerned I’m being overcharged on UPS rates, I request more transparency on shipping charges by being provided with the dimensions of cartons in the outbound shipments. Kyle S. indicates that Smart Warehousing has this information in their database and can technically include it in the spreadsheet backups which they send along with their invoices, but he says that I have to pay for access to data about my shipments.
  • July 8, 2016 / Invoice #142203: I receive another monthly invoice that still has the disputed small parcel pickup fee.
  • July 8, 2016 / Invoice #142774: I receive an outbound shipment invoice that includes a charge for “Trash/Dunnage” in the amount of $5 – yet another “charge” that was never in my contract.
  • July 15, 2016 / Invoice #143374: Despite telling Smart Warehousing to stop using bubble sheets to package my orders, I am invoiced for 40 bubble sheets at a cost of $5.20 to package 15 items, 9 of which are unbreakable items that require no bubble wrap.
  • July 20, 2016: I asked Kyle S. for the dimensions of the bubble sheets which they are using and did not receive a reply.
  • July 25, 2016 / Invoice #143896: I have felt the UPS charges appearing on my invoices from Smart Warehousing to be overly expensive. For each shipment, I get charged twice and the charges are spread across 2 separate invoices, usually a few weeks apart.
  • Let’s consider one example. A particular shipment consisted of 1 carton with dimensional weight of 12 lbs. In the first round of invoicing, I was billed $13.50 for this shipment. Several weeks later, I get this second invoice with an additional $12.27 in “adjustment” charges for a total of $26.29. Inputting the shipment details into the UPS website, I get a quote of $18.22 at the small business rate.smart warehousing review excessive UPS charges evidence
  • In short, I have been charged 44% more on UPS rates compared to what I would have paid if I shipped this on my own account.

The Promise

Prior to setting up my account with Smart Warehousing, I discussed UPS shipping rates with Lauren W., who in an email dated August 18, 2015 had said the following:

We have very good UPS discounts because our volume is so high. We pass those discounts to our customers. Generally you will see a 25%-40% discount off published shipping rates.


  • August 18, 2016 / Invoice #146597: Order stated warehouse should ship goods in existing manufacturer’s / bulk containers but warehouse used & billed for new cartons without authorization.
  • August 25, 2016 / Invoice #147154: Several weeks earlier I sent an email to numerous people at Smart Warehousing indicating that they were no longer authorized to ship any of my orders on their UPS account. In my order comments, I indicated shipment should go out on my own UPS account but my directive was ignored and I have been billed for UPS shipping charges without my authorization. Furthermore I have been billed again for bubble sheets despite the fact I have told Smart Warehousing they are not to use bubble sheets for any of my shipments.
  • September 6, 2016 / Invoice #148172: I continue to be overcharged for pallet storage, a problem which I brought up with Kyle S. several months ago. I have photographic evidence that Smart Warehousing placed multiple SKUs together on a single pallet, and yet they bill for 1 pallet per SKU even when there is only 1 carton of some SKUs.
Smart Warehousing Multiple SKUs on Single Pallet Storage
One of several images showing multiple SKUs being stored on a single pallet
  • In August I removed several SKUs to test to see whether they would adjust the pallet count, and they didn’t decrease the pallet count. They have invoiced me for the same number of pallets despite me having removed several SKUs and several pallets of consolidated goods.

“Lie to their Customers”

As an employee of Smart Warehousing, I would never suggest to anyone to use their services. The most common business practice they use is to lie to their customers (…) They overcharge for their services and are full of themselves.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 11.18.40 PM

Source: Yellow Pages


  • September 15, 2016 / Invoice #149306: When I removed the inventory discussed above, I asked the account manager to add a few cartons to the order at the last minute. She asked me to input a second order in order to keep track of the inventory changes. I called her and inquired as to whether putting a second order into the system would result in me getting double billed for the per-order charges. She told me that I would NOT get double billed, but here we are: an invoice where I am double billed for the International Surchage and Order Charge. I am also billed for 10 new cartons, when the order clearly stated that all the goods were to ship in the original manufacturer’s cartons and not be repacked.
  • September 21, 2016: Warehouse staff make case pick errors and send the wrong quantities of cartons per SKU to an Amazon warehouse.
  • October 18, 2016: Back in July, I told Kyle S. that I would no longer pay any charges that I deemed to be questionable and/or erroneous. At that time I gave Smart Warehousing this notice:

We have a business disagreement here, since I continue to believe you have been (edit – word choice: overcharging) me on the pallet storage. You can offer me compensation now or I will deduct what I think you owe me from future invoicing and pay only what I believe is reasonable.

  • I never received a reply from Kyle S. to the above notice. Since that time, I have kept a record of all these questionable charges and have remitted only the amounts which I have felt to be fair & accurate. With each remittance I made a note of the difference and the reason for rejecting the charges. Today I received an email from Kyle S. threatening to freeze my account if I do not pay the disputed amount.
  • After the email from Kyle S., I received a follow-up reply from the new Head of Customer Experience, Sam S., asking to have a telephone conversation with me.
  • October 21, 2016: I never received a phone call from Sam S. and he didn’t respond by email either. I sent a notice to Sam S. and Kyle S. stating that I would be paying the amount which I felt to be fairly owing but that I would not be paying the disputed charges. If they did not accept the condition of my payment, they should return the check. Otherwise we would proceed on the basis of that understanding.
  • October 26, 2016: I discovered some interesting information in the Smart Warehousing order system that I hadn’t noticed before. The order pick lists show where the items are being picked from. Reviewing these pick lists, I see that multiple SKUs are being stored together.
Smart Warehousing Multiple SKUs / Single Location
Pick list showing multiple SKUs being stored in a single location
  • The above details corroborate the photographic evidence I already have showing multiple SKUs stored on a single pallet; this is yet more data supporting my belief that Smart Warehousing inflated the pallet count on my invoices.
  • November 7, 2016 / Invoice #153834: I have been billed for the storage of 10 pallets, but according to the inventory report I downloaded on November 1, there were only 8 SKUs & 22 cartons left in storage at the beginning of the month. 4 of these SKUs only had 1 carton remaining; 2 of these SKUs only had 2 cartons remaining.
  • Even if you allocated 1 SKU per pallet, I was overcharged by 2 pallets or 25%. 4 of those pallets would have had a single solitary carton sitting on them. 2 of those pallets would have had just 2 cartons on them.
  • If you were to stack those 22 cartons together, they would combine to occupy approx. 53 cubic feet or 83% of a single standard pallet (4 x 4 x 4′ = 64 cubic feet). That means that these 22 cartons occupied a mere 8.3% of the billed storage volume, given 64 cubic feet per pallet.

Leaving Smart Warehousing

It didn’t take long after signing up with Smart Warehousing to realize I made a terrible mistake in choosing Smart Warehousing as a fulfillment provider. I put together a plan to unwind my position and began executing it through the summer. I sold & shipped out my A-rank and B-rank products, paying all reasonable charges that appeared on the invoices while withholding payment for any disputed charges.

By the middle of November, there were only 14 cartons remaining in Smart Warehousing’s facility. It’s at this juncture that Smart Warehousing seized and confiscated my property in an attempt to force payment of the disputed charges.

Inventory Seized

  • December 1, 2016: I had YRC Freight arrive at Smart Warehousing to pick up a pallet of merchandise. According to YRC records, they arrived at 15:16 but were not allowed to pick up the pallet as ordered, instead being turned away and forced to leave at 15:21 empty handed.
  • December 5, 2016: I emailed the warehouse manager, Troy T., asking for an explanation for why they turned YRC Freight away but did not receive a reply.
  • December 6-8, 2016: During this 3-day period, I attempt in vain to explain to Brian S. that I am happy to pay all amounts rightfully owing but that I cannot disburse funds to Smart Warehousing while they are arbitrarily withholding in-transit goods against my will.

The Retrospective

During the above 3-day exchange, I record a total of 7 messages from Brian S. regarding the seizure of my inventory.

In early March of 2016 when I first started using Smart Warehousing and was still excited to use Smart Warehousing for my USA distribution, I did not get a response from Brian S. to a simple, polite inquiry about an unexpected charge on my invoice.

Here’s what I wrote on March 8, 2016:

Hi Brian,

I don’t see the last charge (“Monthly fee for small parcel daily pick up charges”) in my quote. Can you check that?

Callum

Brian S. never responded to my inquiry. As I would eventually find out, being ignored was just one of the negative experiences I would have as a Smart Warehousing client.


Plainfield Police Department

  • December 8, 2016: I call the Plainfield Police Department to report the confiscation of my property. The police officer engages me in a detailed conversation about what has transpired and tells me he will pay a visit to the Smart Warehousing location at 909 Whitaker Rd.
  • December 12, 2016: The police officer calls me back on Monday to say he attempted and failed to connect with the managers of the Smart Warehousing facility in Plainfield to discuss the issue of my seized inventory. He suggests I pursue the matter through the civil court system.

I’m Not Alone

Since publishing this post, other clients of Smart Warehousing have reached out to me on LinkedIn to share their experiences. People have contacted me to tell me how their experience with Smart Warehousing is similar to what they have read here. I have received reports by email, social media and telephone of clients who say there were overcharged, charged for services not rendered, or had their inventory frozen to force payment of disputed charges.

 


This page will be updated with new information as I experience new problems with Smart Warehousing.