I have to precede the informational portion of this post with a few things. 1) I work for UPS, but I'm not in customer service. The information I give is practical in nature from my days in retail shipping. 2) I don't see a lot of damages in my current work capacity. In fact, the only obvious damages I've seen recently were glass bottles and jars(wine and rum in those particular incidents, and a horribly destroyed box of homemade jellies). 3) I'm not in the business of diagnosing how a package became damaged, nor am I allowed to take or pass responsibility for said damage. 4) It sucks to get a damaged package. I'm sorry for your frustration, and I totally understand why you need to vent about it. No UPS employee likes to hear about someone receiving a damaged package. Even if we didn't ever personally touch your item, it's still our collective reputation at stake and we want to do right by you.
I was delivered a damaged package. What do I do now?
If you saw your driver or signed for the package, it's best to refuse outright to accept an obvious damage. It saves you a few steps. However, most of us don't see our delivery person and find the damage well after they've left our area.
The first thing I advise is to photograph the package as you open it, making sure to get close-ups of things such as indented corners, water damage, places where the box has been re-taped, etc. As you open it and continue photographing the evidence, make sure to get good photos of the packaging inside. This may or may not be relevant to you, but it helps your sender once the process moves forward a bit. Finally, make sure to get good close-ups of actual damages to your merchandise.
Now, call or email your sender and let them know the shipment was damaged. The photographs will be helpful to you at this point and also in the future. It is also helpful if you can provide the UPS tracking number to your sender. This is important for them and saves the time it would have taken to find this information in their records. Your sender will likely send out replacement items as soon as their next possible pickup is, meaning you will likely get your replacement items before the rest of the claims process is done.
Do not, under any circumstances, throw away your damaged items or any of the packaging. This will come into play later.
Why contact the sender first?
In the world of UPS and most other major carriers, the damaged item is property of the sender until the claim is resolved. Because your sender holds insurance on your item, they are responsible for the majority of the claims process.
I contacted the sender. What now?
Now you will wait. Maybe a week, maybe a little bit more. In the meantime, a reputable sender would have gotten a replacement item sent off to you and filed a UPS claim on your damaged shipment.
UPS will contact you and attempt to come inspect and retrieve the damaged item and packaging. When UPS pays an insurance claim, they are technically purchasing that damaged item for retail replacement value. The insurance claim will be paid as a check to the shipper.
Your replacement item is highly likely to have arrived before you ever hear from UPS.
These tips work for all major carriers, not just UPS. I've been through the claims process on behalf of customers many times. UPS is very good about making things right with their shippers, making it easier for the shipper to get replacement items out to you before the claim has even been processed. If your shipper self-insures or uses third party shipment insurance, this process should be similar, but not exact.
At some point, I may make a post about packing tips for safe shipping. Packaging makes a huge difference in how your item arrives to the destination. As I mentioned in the beginning, all the damages I've personally seen lately have been items packaged in glass with less than ideal cushioning. I also advise to never ship carbonated beverages. They explode with heat and shaking.