'What happened to our boxes?' Angry customers seek answers after shipping firm shuts its doors

Customers across Alberta who used a Calgary shipping company to send packages home to the Philippines say they're still waiting for their boxes to turn up many months after they were due to be delivered.

It's a tradition for many Filipinos who live in other countries to send home Christmas packages full of clothes, food, gifts and other treats to share with friends and families.

Many Filipinos from all over Alberta sent boxes to addresses in the Philippines last summer through Jenrich Fast Cargo in southeast Calgary, but say the boxes never arrived.

The company — which has since closed its offices — isn't responding to emails and phone calls, according to customers who each paid hundreds of dollars for boxes to be shipped.

The offices of the Filipino-owned company are now empty and have "For Lease" signs in the window. As well, their Facebook page now includes multiple comments from customers all searching for updates and answers.

"I sent boxes for my Mum for Christmas and her birthday in August last year and they haven't arrived yet. My husband sent a box too, and my brother in Medicine Hat. All in all there were five boxes," said Valentina Lorenzo, one of the many customers left wondering where their boxes are.

Lorenzo says they paid Jenrich Fast Cargo more than $500 to send their boxes — which were due to arrive in November — each one containing hundreds of dollars worth of gifts.

She says in her case, the Christmas boxes made it as far as Manila in the Philippines, but can't be released from storage until the company pays outstanding customs fees.

Dan McGarvey/CBC

"I was really pissed off and really mad and it's not just us, it's a lot of Filipino people who send boxes for Christmas," said Lorenzo. "I feel sad and mad. We don't know if these boxes will ever make it to our families," she said.

Lorenzo says her boxes included items like canned goods, chocolates, clothes, shoes and bags. 

She says she just wants some straight answers from the man behind the shipping company, Ricky Butron. She says she initially received some updates with promises to make it right but to no avail. 

"Now he doesn't reply to emails and phone calls anymore. The office is closed. Where can we find him? I don't know him," Lorenzo said.

"He needs to do his job and pay his dues in order for these boxes to arrive with our families," she said. "It's a lot of people in Alberta and I'm really, really mad."

'No one's answering'

Lorie Mutuc and her family in Edmonton used Jenrich Fast Cargo to send her mother's belongings back to relatives in the Philippines after she passed away last year. 

"We tried to call the numbers on the receipt and back in the Philippines but no one's answering at all," said Mutuc, who sent four boxes in August at a cost of $75 per box.

It should have taken two months but it's now been nearly six months with no answers or contact with the company.

"Nobody's answering the phone number in the Philippines. My friend who recommended the company are not getting any response too," Mutuc said.

"It's my Mum's personal stuff. Clothes, all her stuff," she said. 

Mutuc is hoping another cargo company will step in and help resolve the situation by picking up remaining boxes from a Calgary warehouse and get them to their destinations. 

"I just want to know what's going on. What happened to our boxes? And give us some explanation and what they're going to do about it," said Mutuc. 

"It's not about the money for us, it's about what's inside the boxes," Mutuc added.

Dan McGarvey/CBC

Ralyn Sillaba from Lethbridge sent two boxes for $125 each for Christmas in July 2019. They still haven't arrived after being told by the company it would only take two months. She has no idea what happened to them.

"I tried contacting them. October passed, November, then there's no answer no more," said Sillaba, who visited the Calgary office to find it closed. 

"The only thing I care about is getting my boxes to my family. We expected him to do what he said he would do," she said.

Sillaba says some of the items in the boxes were for her daughter's wedding this summer.

"I'm not the only one. I have a friend here in Lethbridge that did the same. If he can't do this business anymore then stop, but get these boxes that already left to the families," said Sillaba.

Owner admits financial problems

CBC contacted Ricky Butron, the man behind Jenrich Fast Cargo, via email.

Butron replied, admitting that his business hit financial problems in 2019 and he had been losing thousands of dollars per month. 

"We are losing money since day one," said Butron in his reply.

"I have faith in myself that I can grow this business but it doesn't happen because my overhead is very high. I lost $3,000 to $5,000 a month," he said.

Butron said he applied for a loan in the Philippines last year so he would have money in the bank to pay fees for containers still arriving, but says he's still waiting for that money to be released.

Butron didn't offer any update on any containers or boxes stuck in limbo and didn't respond to requests for an interview to answer questions. 

Customers now face working out how to pay the customs fees themselves.

Others whose boxes didn't make it out of Alberta say they hope to get their boxes back from the company so they can make other arrangements to ship them.