Wassup With.... Why USPS/UPS Suck
It Begins With A Purchase...
You spend hours researching the best deals on the internet, adding items to your cart. Deleting them. Adding them again. Double-checking shipping information. Finally, you click the complete order button and wait. Some time later, you get that rush of dopamine when BING!, you receive notification your item is on its way.
With excitement, you check to see when you can expect it to arrive… and then it all goes to hell in a handbasket once it enters either the USPS Informed Deliver or UPS tracking service. You might just have better luck getting Ned Jacobs, the local channel 7’s weatherman, to deliver a correct forecast via the Bird Box challenge.
...And Then Mismanaging Expectations
If it does, you might be one of countless people querying the interweb for “Why does USPS/UPS suck!?” Don't believe me? Look here for Google's results for USPS and here for UPS's. Now, I'm only one of millions of customers. If one single person is experiencing this many problems, then lord knows how many happen on a daily basis across the country.
But first, let me take a moment to preface this by noting this isn’t about delivering packages late. Both agencies, as well as FedEx, have invested millions and millions of dollars not only to get your package from point A to Point B, but to also MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
These tracking services are communication tools and, just like other forms of technology, have crept into everyday life to become harbingers of hate when expectations aren’t met. As I’ve readily imparted upon both parties repeatedly, “I’m only going by the information you’re giving me.”
Now, a little background.
In 2018, the United States Postal Service had an operating revenue of over $70 Billion, that’s billion with a capital "B", dollars. With close to 500,000 career employees, they handled over 146 billion pieces of mail, 6.2 billion of which were deemed “shipping/packages.” They have, according to their facts, more total vehicles (232,372) than actual delivery routes (231,843). More information regarding statistics can be found here.
United Parcel Service, aka UPS, has more than 1,800 operating facilities in the United States alone. Its delivery fleet is comprised of about 119,000 package cars, vans, tractors and motorcycles, with more than 9,300 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles.
UPS's revenue for 2017 was $54 Billion, with a global delivery volume of 5.1 Billion packages and documents. On average, their daily global delivery volume is 20 Million.
A website, UPS Sucks Because..., devotes itself to tracking, and mapping, user complaints.
While I’ve had relatively good success with USPS (and UPS) over the years, particularly Priority Mail, when they @#!$-up, they are second to none. A few cases in point:
The Case of the Wrong Lock Box
I once had several different deliveries being made on the same day. As my particular address at the time had a “Community” mail box for the neighborhood, there were any given number of parcel boxes for them to leave the packages in. The only problem? They put the key to the parcel box in the wrong mailbox.
For several days I thought my packages had been stolen. The website said “Delivered,” but there was no key in my mailbox. That they were sitting in the midst of several hot, Las Vegas summer days didn’t help ease my mind, either. When I finally noticed a parcel box with its key missing for the same number of days, I left a note asking the postal worker if they had perhaps left the keep in the wrong box.
Oooopsies. They did.
The antithesis of Priority Mail: Eight months to deliver a package.
One package sent via the post office took eight, that’s EIGHT with capital 8, months to arrive. When it finally did, I wondered how the hell such a thing could happen: it was labeled with stickers reading “Par Avion.”
My package spent months bouncing around Canada.
Because the label was somehow printed with Las Vegas, NV, CA. Did it really take that long for someone to actually bother to look at the address and come to the realization Nevada was not, nor has it ever been, part of Canada?
The Opa Locka Florida Black Hole
While one a trip back to New York, I arranged with an online vendor to ship a package there. Since I had a short window there, they upgraded to priority so that it would arrive while I was there. Unfortunately, the package continued to show in the Opa Locka, Florida, sorting facility by the time it was to be delivered.
Apparently, legend has it the Opa Locka USPS sorting facility is a black hole in which packages disappear and/or time slows down. When it's shipped Priority Mail and comes through this place, you might want to grab a Snickers or six, because it's not going anywhere for a while. Google search results show more than a few incidents, so feel free to browse; we're not going anywhere, either.
Back to my package: trying to navigate USPS’s website proved to be just as frustrating so my only action of recourse was to reschedule a deliver hoping I would catch their attention. What transpired was one of the most brainless, nitwitted responses I’ve ever encountered: I received a hand-written note to check with the vendor, that they had only created a label and not shipped it yet. This note sat on top of THE actual package in question. Yeah, for realsies. Talk about being Newmaned...
The Phantom Delivery
Another incident where I expected something to be delivered resulted in it being marked delivered despite it clearly not being so. I happened to actually watch the carrier and immediately went online and reported the package “not delivered.” About an hour later, a neighbor knocked at the door and brought the package in question, stating they had found it next to their garage and that it must have dropped from the carrier’s bag.
So, that begs the question, why knowingly mark it delivered when it wasn’t?
More recently, a package was not delivered after being marked “Out For Delivery.” Its update shortly afterward was “Held at post office per customer request.”
I went online and informed this I had not instructed anybody to hold it and that no attempt was made at all. Never got a response. I can only suspect the deliveryman, who has more than once circled the cul-de-sac titled to one side on two wheels having forgotten to deliver packages, got too far away and tried to CYA (that's short for cover-your-ass) by stating the customer requested it held rather than look like Clark Griswold circling the round-a-bout endlessly in National Lampoon's European Vacation.
Look! There's Big Ben, kids! Parliament!
When “In Transit” doesn’t mean in transit - AKA "The Last Straw"
The final straw involved a delay in which the package was marked “In Transit,” but went nowhere for three days due to inclement weather. However, upon reviewing the announcement on the USPS website, the delivery restrictions did not include the zip code the package shipped from, nor did it involve the zip code in another state it was being shipped to. Contacting USPS via e-mail resulted in no response, other than an obligatory survey a couple of days later on how the concern was addressed.
Well, put bluntly: I could have driven to the origin location and back 4.5 hours away no less than 8 times.
In transit means the package is moving within the system, however, a scanned package sitting on a truck which is, in turn, sitting in a parking lot for a couple of days from its origin point, is not in transit. It’s merely scanned.
Holding The Merchant Hostage
Fed up with years of frustration with USPS, I contacted the vendor who shipped my last package and let them know that, unfortunately, if it didn't arrive by the next day I would be "returning to sender." I expressed my frustration with USPS over the years and hoped it wouldn't come to this, but that it was, in fact, the ONLY thing as a consumer I could do: make them handle it twice and irk the vendor as well by the loss of a sale, minus and potential restocking fees.
Searching the interweb again, I found I wasn't the only person with this thought in mind:
You know what? It worked! The vendor took my suggestion of using another carrier service to heart and BING! I received the notification shortly thereafter that my package was en route and would be delivered the very next day!
Except it wasn't.
"What Can Brown Do For You?"
The next morning came when I received notification from UPS that my "package cannot be delivered as scheduled." For the entire next 24 hours, guess what the website had for a status?
Yep. Shortly thereafter, I stumbled through the UPS website which, mind you, might as well have been developed by the same people who did USPS's - there's simply no way to "contact" them without resorting to numerous predefined fields, of which none were appropriate. So I resorted to the same method as I did with UPS: schedule a redelivery despite having no idea where the hell my package was. After doing this, the status was updated to "We've incorrectly sorted this package which may cause a delay."
I'll say. The package ended up in a different state, 250 miles away from its destination.
I reiterated to UPS Customer Service that the ONLY reason why the item was shipped to them was because USPS kept screwing up - and now here they were doing the same. Their response was "Sorry," and "We appreciate your patience and understanding." Say what?! Thanks for the presumption.
Eventually, the package arrived a couple of days late (not to mention three hours past the MyChoice expected delivery between 8:15 AM and 12:15PM. It came arrived after 3:00 PM.)
I had never had an issue with UPS that I could recollect, so the following week I placed an order with the same vendor again and it was shipped via UPS (again) with the same next-day delivery date (again.) Back on track, right?
Logistics? What Logistics?
This time, the package was delayed once again because of a late arriving trailer. Now, slap my ass and call me Sally, but the location of this particular package was currently a WHOPPING 25 minutes away! UPS has, in their past marketing campaigns, expressed knowledge of "logistics." How a package traveling 4.5 hrs needs to make not one, not two, but THREE TRANSFERS before being sent out for delivery is not, uh-hem, all that logical.
So, the package sat there for another day until it made the transfer to the local distribution center 15 MINUTES away. Once the package was sorted and on the truck, MyChoice updated its estimated delivery window as being between 3PM - 7PM.
Except it wasn't.
It arrived on my doorstep at 10:33 AM.
So Why does USPS and UPS Suck?
As stated previously, the vast majority of time, packages, especially those delivered via 2-day shipping, arrive when expected. But, again, the root of the problem here isn't in the delivery of the package; it's in the delivery of the service itself.
As consumers, probably the most frustrating issue is there is absolutely no accountability. Package late? "Sorry" is about the most you're going to get. Chipotle once screwed up my order and, upon contacting them, they literally said "Our bad. Please accept these coupons for your choice of free meals while we investigate and sort his out." It's not like USPS is going to give away free stamps or free rides with Newman going around that cul de sac. Nope, and don't expect UPS going to give you free air-bubble wrap to those in need of satisfying their popping fetish.
You're basically SOL, shit-outta-luck, and as a consumer paying for a service, that's not acceptable.
As consumers, we also expect a modicum of customer service because, well, once again, we're paying for a service. Again, you're likely to get "Sorry," and that's it - if anything at all. When I followed up with UPS the second time asking for someone to please inform me what the purpose of MyChoice was, I received no response. Apparently, I was just someone bitching and they had better things to do. So I told them, hey, congrats, you've just earned some free press.
Techno-Dependence Can't Replace Good Customer Service
In an era where porch pirates roam the neighborhood high seas, consumers want more accurate information as to when to expect delivery of their packages. Millions and millions of dollars have been invested to help manage and communicate these expected delivery times, yet, they've arguably become THE single biggest source of frustration for many.
We've simply become a society that has become overly dependent on technology to manage everything, including our expectations. Coupling this with the inability to find relevant information regarding online customer service via these horrendously designed websites with automated, artificial intelligence, one-size-fits-all customer service programs with "human-named" agents is a recipe for disaster. The only thing I want more at that moment than my package is help. Fighting with a virtual assistant is only guaranteeing a virtual bitch-slap in return.
When consumers have to turn to merchants to complain with threats of taking their business elsewhere, you know there's a problem. And, once again to hammer it home with feeling, it's not about when the package is delivered; it's about the delivery of the service itself. That's where the priority in priority mail should reside.
Instead, these outfits, who can't even deliver consistently within their communicated time-frames - and let me be very clear, I'm only going by the information THEY provide - want you to pay them to narrow the delivery window within a couple of hours. Seriously. As the link earlier from The Consumerist, "the entire thing feels more like a protection racket."
If they can't hit the four-hour target, why on earth would I pay them to try and hit a two-hour target? I'd be more likely to believe Ned giving his forecast via the Bird Box challenge. Hey, at least that's free.