Evelyn Juan of the Bronx, N.Y. peeks at the window of the now closed Jermac shipping business.
A New Jersey-based balikbayan box shipping business is in hot water amid angry complaints by numerous Filipinos in the New York tri-state area and Pennsylvania whose boxes have remained undelivered for many months now to waiting families and relatives in the Philippines.
The Belleville, N.J.-based business identified by complainants as “Jermac/Umac Forwarder Express” reportedly continued to pick up balikbayan boxes despite failure to deliver to consignees.
At least two large containers carrying Jermac boxes are said to be in custody of the Bureau of Customs at South Harbor Pier in Manila for several months now.
Jermac’s store, located at 71 Franklin Street in Belleville, N.J., has been shut down for sometime now and its owners — identified as Rosalinda Cariño and Juan Cariño — are said to be in the Philippines.
The store sign says “UMAC Forwarder Express,” with the name Jermac barely visible on the side of the store.
Many of the undelivered boxes, which contain items from clothes and toiletries to canned goods and vitamins worth thousands of dollars, have reportedly been picked up from senders in the early months of 2010.
Complainants said Jermac charged them from $55 to as much as $75 a box and promised a door-to-door delivery within 45 days.
“We’ve been calling them many times over and we’ve been leaving messages, but they never returned calls,” an irate client, Evelyn Juan of the Bronx, told the Filipino Reporter.
Juan, whose son is a New York City police officer, said she and others have filed formal complaints on Oct. 12 before the Division of Consumers Affairs Office of Consumers Fraud and Protection.
“We’ve been going back and forth to Jermac office to personally confront the owners, but with no luck,” said Juan, who has been trying to track down her two boxes addressed to her relatives in Taguig, Metro Manila.
“It was May 24, 2010 when Rey Cariño and Romel Cariño pick up my boxes,” said Juan. “We availed of their promo of one regular box plus a smaller box for free. Our boxes have goods worth approximately $1,500.”
“We paid HSBC check number 647 drawn to the order UMAC/Rosalinda Carino, dated May 24, 2010, in the amount of $60 and was deposited in the Valley National Bank account Number 041277228 with the signature of Rosalinda Carino posted dated May 26, 2010,” Juan said.
She added that she’s now preparing to bring the case before a small claims court.
Rosalinda Cariño’s UMAC Forwarder Express is also known as Jermac. (Filipino Reporter photo by Albert Ignacio)
Juan told the Reporter she recently run into Meredith Cariño, a daughter of the Jermac owners, as the daughter was retrieving mails in the closed store.
“She (Meredith) admitted that many clients have been looking for her mother regarding their boxes,” Juan disclosed. “She told me my two boxes are in the second container being held at the customs in Manila. She said she too can’t understand why her parents continued to receive or pick up boxes even if they were already having problems with the customs in Manila.”
Another claimant, Florida Santos of Oakhurst in Monmouth County, N.J., said she’s at a loss of what to do next.
“I leave it up to God but I’m still hoping they’ll be able to deliver the box or return it to us,” she said.
Santos said her box that was picked up in May contains mostly vitamins for poor relatives and neighbors in Bustos, Bulacan.
It’s also filled with used clothes and canned goods, she said.
“We’ve been contacting them (Jermac) every now and then, but their phone has been disconnected,” she told the Reporter. “I hope somebody could help us.”
A store clerk at Masagana Food Mart, a Filipino grocery store across Jermac, confirmed that dozens of Jermac customers have been desperately trying to get in touch with Cariños.
“They keep on coming back and many of them are really upset,” said the clerk. “Some of them are regularly calling us to check if Jermac has opened or if there’s any new information about their boxes. Some have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau.”
In her web blog addressed to “our valued customers” and dated Sept. 25, 2010, Jermac owner Rosalinda Cariño sought “understanding and patience” as she tries to have the “20-foot container” released by the customs.
Cariño implied that the money meant for the release of the containers was misused by the consignee-broker she identified as one Mario Bernardo, prompting the Cariños to fly to the Philippines to solve the matter.
She went as far as writing President Benigno Aquino III an open letter for the release of the container.
Cariño said in her blog that the customs bureau will continue to hold the containers for the next six months until the “$2,000 customs duty” is settled.
Meanwhile, UMAC Express Cargo has issued a disclaimer against Jermac’s alleged ties with UMAC.
In its website, UMAC issued an advice to customers against Jermac.
The notice reads: “if you see a business operating as UMAC Express Cargo in New Jersey, they are doing so illegally. Their address is 71 Franklin Street, Belleville, N.J., and it is NOT a UMAC company.”
The original UMAC has U.S. branches in Florida, Southern California and Washington, it says, adding that the real UMAC Cargo has over 19 years of experience in the balikbayan industry with a mission “to provide the Filipino community with utmost value for their shipping needs.”
For authorized UMAC locations or agents, people may call authorized UMAC offices at 866.588.8622 or 904.470.7501.