Friday, December 16, 2005

Why Brown Makes Me See Red

I harbor a deep seated hatred of UPS. It started as a minor annoyance back in the days when I was living in a semi-shady neighborhood near the university and had trouble getting packages delivered because they would not under any circumstances leave the packages unless you signed for them in person, not even if you left a note telling them that another tenant in the same building was authorized to sign for packages (our unofficial building manager, Mitchell). Nor could you request a window of delivery narrower than 9 am to 7 pm OR find out a window of delivery when the driver would be expected to be in your neighborhood. But I just figured it was the price I paid for living close to the university. Of course, the U.S. Post Office had no problems delivering packages to our apartment. And Fed Ex was quite happy to leave packages with Mitchell even without written authorization from the intended recipient.

Then I went to work in a national service center for a Fortune 500 company. One of my tasks there was to take calls from sales representatives whose orders didn't arrive as scheduled or whose orders arrived damaged. Over the course of nearly two years there, I took a steady stream of these calls. We offered four choices for shipping: USPS, Fed Ex, UPS, and private carrier. Not every option was available in the more remote areas, but everyone had at least two choices. My very unscientific estimate is that at least 70% of the calls I took for missing and damaged packages involved UPS. Now hang on, you say: perhaps that's because UPS handled most of the deliveries. However, our default shipping-- the cheapest option-- was USPS supplemented by private carriers. UPS shipping cost extra, and most of the reps only used it if they needed something especially quickly or if a customer requested (and paid for) the extra shipping. So the high incidence of problems with UPS shipping can't be traced to that.

Even if the rate of problems was no higher than for the other methods, UPS still would have earned my hatred in those two years for their complete and total lack of customer service. Problem? Too bad. UPS doesn't care and certainly won't take responsibility. Boxes left on the porch in the pouring rain despite a "Signature Required" sticker on each and every one of them? Sucks to be you. Boxes ripped open? Must have happened before it reached UPS. Boxes obviously torn open, then re-taped shut-- and items are missing? Must have happened before it reached UPS? Boxes that were shipped a week ago and for which we had tracking numbers not showing in their computer system? Call back tomorrow and see if it shows then. No, there's nothing else I can do for you. Call back the next day and the boxes still don't show? Please call back tomorrow, maybe they will show then. No, there's nothing else I can do for you.

Ever since then, I've gone out of my way to avoid using UPS, even paying extra to use Priority Mail or Fed Ex. It's worth the extra money to avoid the inevitable hassle. And there's almost always a hassle. Even though I've moved into nicer neighborhoods, I still have trouble getting my packages delivered. Funny how Fed Ex and the Post Office have no problem finding my house. When I had my laptop repaired last year, UPS left it in another building on my street, despite the huge orange "Signature Required" sticker on the box. I knew that delivery was scheduled for between 2 and 5 that afternoon (according to the InfoNotice they left on my front door the previous day), so I was there, waiting anxiously. When I called at 6 p.m. to find out where the package was, I was told that I had signed for it. You can imagine my panic at that.

But every once in a while, I get stuck: A merchant only uses UPS, and my choices therefore boil down to "suck up and deal with UPS" or "don't buy from this merchant". On occasion, I've gone with the latter (and written to the merchant to let them know that this was the case), but usually I go with the former, since it's usually an item that I can't easily get elsewhere. And almost inevitably, I end up having to drive out to the UPS center to pick up my packages (which irritates the crap out of me, since part of the point of buying online, especially at Christmastime, is that the stuff comes to ME and I don't have to take the time and gas to go out and get it), or I end up wasting an entire evening waiting for the UPS driver, since he comes anytime between 2 pm and 9 pm, especially at Christmastime.

Don't get me wrong: I have every sympathy for the long days these guys put in at this time of the year. But there's no excuse for claiming to have attempted delivery when you didn't even ring the doorbell. And there were two of us here, so don't even give me this crap about "Maybe you just didn't hear the doorbell", Miss Customer Service Chick. Yes, my doorbell works. I tested it to make sure before I called to complain. No, I can't arrange to be here tomorrow all day. I'm sorry that your delivery volume is so high, but that doesn't change the immutable fact that I have other obligations that preclude me from scheduling my life around the UPS man. And no, I have no intention of driving over to the UPS center to pick it up. I don't have the time and I especially don't have the time during the hours that you are open.

And we haven't even touched on the ineptitude of their customer service hotline. Again, I have every sympathy. I've been there and done that and I know how frustrating the job can be. In fact, I suspect that it's not that the customer service agents themselves are inept-- with a few notable exceptions-- but rather that UPS does not train them properly or has a poor system for them to use. There are a handful of their CSRs like the one who told me that was only for big companies to use and that it was illegal for me to use it (Yes, she said "illegal". I almost lost it, but wasn't really sure whether to laugh or scream.), so I should not expect to find the information I was looking for on their website. This after I'd spent ten minutes on hold listening to a voice extolling the virtues of using to track my packages (which is what I was trying to do, but it kept telling me my tracking number was invalid) and get information about other UPS services. But usually, they seem like they're perfectly happy to help, they just don't know how. Or they think they're not allowed. What I really hate, though, is when one person does something and the next one claims that it's impossible, can't be done, no way, no how, and acts like it's simply impossible, even though I know from personal experience that it's not.

All I want is to get my package. I want it delivered with a minimum of hassle to me. I don't want to have to pick it up at a UPS center that's a half hour away in the midst of a rat's nest of one way streets. Is that so much to ask?


At 11:36 AM , Blogger EEP said...

amen! By Crom I can't stand UPS! So tricky when you don't own a car and they expect you to go to their location out in the middle of nowhere!


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