A Battle of Wits and Wills


You'll excuse me for being a bit more raw and less polished in this post; it is upon one of the few topics that has the power to make me genuinely livid with rage. That topic is, of course, package delivery.

To put it simply, package delivery to residential customers in the US as carried out by the two major private parcel services, UPS and FedEx, simply does not work. Back in my apartment in Berkeley I would go to great pains to try to get businesses to send me packages through the US Postal Service. Most of the time they refused, apparently because UPS offers great deals to business customers on ground shipping. This makes sense; UPS and FedEx are both primarily targeted at business audiences, and really, from what I've seen, couldn't care less about residential customers, particularly as receivers of packages.

Typically, when someone would send me a package through UPS, I would find out about it when I got one of those yellow slips on the door. This was always a harbinger of doom, because inevitably, no matter which boxes I checked and no matter where I signed my name, I would be greeted by another such slip the next day informing me that they would not leave my package for me, and I'd have to be there to receive it in person. Oh, and by the way, since this is the second attempt, you'll have to be here to receive it tomorrow or it's going back to Weehauken, New Jersey.

This policy, I'm sure, works fantastically for businesses that can afford to hire people whose whole job is to sit and wait for package deliveries. This works less well for residential deliveries, as UPS and FedEx appear to labor under the misapprehension that the vast majority of Americans have no jobs and nothing better to do with their time than sit around all day and wait anxiously by the door in case a package gets delivered. It bears noting, at this point, that the time they mark down as their anticipated next delivery time is never, ever anywhere close to the time they actually show up. And if you do stay home and wait for them all day, they won't show up until 7 o'clock at night.

My worst story in this regard occured a few years ago. A friend had one of her friends send me a package from San Francisco. I came home to a heinous yellow slip. I went onto UPS's website and attempted to set a time for delivery that I would be home. I clicked the wrong button and was informed that the package was now being routed back to the sender. After several angry calls to UPS headquarters and the shipping location, I discovered that in order to get my package I would have to hotfoot it to the UPS store by Pier 39. Needless to say, I was not happy about this, though I would have been much less happy if the package had originated in, say, Peoria, Illinois.

Here in New York, there's a grocery company called Fresh Direct. They're an internet grocery; you pick your items on-line, and they deliver them to your door. Prices are actually quite reasonable for New York, and there's only a $5 delivery fee. You don't get to pick out the fruit and such yourself, but it is damn convenient.

Here's the point: When you're done picking your groceries, they send you to a page that lets you schedule a delivery time. It can be any day in the next week, and any two-hour block on those days between 9 AM and 11 PM. Most people opt for the evening, after they're home from work.

I know they're different business models, I know it's a whole different kettle of fish, but still: If Fresh Direct can deliver between 6 PM and 11 PM, why can't UPS? I know evenings are no good for businesses, but it's the best time for residential deliveries, particularly if your drivers are going to be sticklers about not leaving packages.

Having said all this, I've discovered that UPS and FedEx experiences do differ widely from customer to customer. For me, living in an apartment in Berkeley, it was always a herculean struggle to get my packages, because the drivers would never just leave them. For my parents, living in a house in San Diego, the drivers would never even think of leaving a delivery slip; They drop the package on the doorstep, ring the doorbell, and are driving off before my parents can open the door. At first I thought that the difference was that my parents had a house, whereas I was in an apartment. But now things have been thrown into sharp relief by my experiences in New York.

The UPS guy who handles our neighborhood is super-nice. He comes around 6, rings up, if you're not there he waits for someone to let him in (given the number of tenants this doesn't take more than 10 minutes, usually). He goes all the way up to your apartment, rings your doorbell, and if you're not there leaves the package on your doorstep. He's also friendly and likes to chat. An all-around stand-up guy.

The FedEx guy is a different story. For the last week I've been locked in a bitter battle of wits and wills with him (finally we come to the point of the post!). He tried delivering a package on Saturday, but I was out. He left a note, with no mention of when he'd be back. No delivery Sunday, no delivery Monday, no delivery Tuesday, for some reason. Wednesday I put out the slip with my signature, but a janitor took it down while I was out. I put up a note asking the FedEx driver to please leave my package, signed and everything. I came back after classes to discover he had stopped by not ten minutes after I had left, wrote "No can do" on my note, and left another package slip, again leaving secret the time of his next visit. Yesterday I finally got my package, but only by luck. He made the mistake of coming while I was home eating lunch. He was surly and seemed disgruntled that I was actually getting my package.

So I think the lesson in all of this is that UPS and FedEx have silly rules that don't serve their residential patrons well. However, if you get a good driver, who understands that his job is to make life easy for the customers, things work out all right. On the other hand, if your driver is bureaucratic and officious, who knows no higher purpose than the meticulous enforcement of the rules, getting packages becomes a living hell.


"No can do"? It sounds like your delivery guy is fucking with you and enjoying it.

I've recently started hating UPS and the USPS equally, as a result of being forced:
a) by my employer, to wait around for the shipping entities' respective delivery people, and
b) by the delivery people, to put up with their goddamn pointless tiresome small talk, which they like to drag out as long as possible while ignoring the fact that I hate it hate it HATE IT AAAGGGHGGHHH SAVE ME!

Maybe it's punishment for the fact that at home I have a porch, in a rear mother-in-law unit, where delivery services are generally perfectly pleased to leave things and no complicated negotiation of yellow slips is required (knock on wood).

I don't have to put up with small talk much, but then, I don't deal with delivery guys nearly as much as you do. Frankly, small talk for me is a refreshing change from curt delivery slips.

I had an immensely long comment here, but I've decided to turn it into a new post.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on September 9, 2005 8:44 PM.

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