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Weblog Entry

UPS Delivery

October 11, 2005

One for the “This is Broken” files.

In the tradition of Mark Hurst’s This is Broken and 37 Signals’ ongoing focus on customer service, there’s something bugging me about UPS.

In the past year, I’ve moved both home and office. Keeping the addresses straight was tough for a while, but I think I’ve finally got a grasp on it. Occasionally though, I still get packages delivered to my home address. Naturally, I’m not there during the day.

Most of the time I can simply pass along the office address to those sending the packages, but sometimes it’s not that easy. In those cases, after receiving the first delivery notice, I phone up UPS to redirect. (I never seem to remember the automated customer-service line shortcut [for most systems, press ‘0’], so I get stuck listening to their tediously comprehensive, non-skippable set of tips that cover everything from what to do if you missed the third delivery attempt to what action you can take if you accidentally ship your prize schooner-in-a-bottle to Mongolia.)

When I get through to an actual person and request the redirect, the first thing they’ll ask for is my forwarding address, complete with postal code (US equivalent being the ZIP code). Given the moves, I now have two to remember and a few to try and forget; they continually blend together, and I always end up telling the rep to hold on while I Google my own damn postal code.

An aside on postal/ZIP codes: does anyone else get the feeling that these have outlived their usefulness? They exist for an extra level of precision when street naming is an inexact science at times, but isn’t that a relatively easy problem that software should be solving these days? It seems to me that the using a postal code in 2005 is akin to exposing a unique database ID to a user; there should be better ways.

But that all brings me to the real problem — how come UPS doesn’t remember my forwarding address from the last time I redirected? I asked last week whether this were possible, and received assurance that it was not. It’s a pretty safe bet that every time I choose to redirect a package in the future, I’ll be sending it to the same address. I really shouldn’t have to give them the same address every single time; software can do that for me.

I don’t necessarily mind having to take action and inform UPS of the redirect, since I can see a lot of ways the system could potentially be confused or abused were the redirect automatic. But it should take a lot less effort on my part to make it happen.

Keep in mind that I’m not the shipping party, and I didn’t choose the shipping company; when I see obvious customer service holes in the response to what I’d assume is a common action, the next time I am the one making the choice I may just dial up the other guys first.

October 11, 02h

In the US, the ZIP code tells postal carriers quite a lot about where you live and what office your mail needs to go to.

I also find it handy when getting directions online. It’s faster to type a 5 digit number to get the nearest movie times than it is to browse by state and city.

Dave S. says:
October 11, 02h

Mark – Ah, interesting point. I never use my postal code in my searches, since I never remember the stupid thing. I would guess that the ##### format is a bit easier to memorize than the L#L-#L# format we’re saddled with.

October 11, 03h

“how come UPS doesn’t remember my forwarding address from the last time I redirected?”

Probably for the same reason that you have to go to each government agency to change your address, rather than just change it once with the Government of Canada. That annoyed me the last time I moved.

October 11, 03h

As a quick note (unless it’s different outside the UK) I always hold when presented with a “press 1 for this thing, press 2 for that thing” menu, taking advantage of the fallback to put you straight through to an operator if you don’t press anything, because not everyone can be guaranteed to have a touch-tone phone. That’s probably going to go away soon, but for now it works.

Jonathan: the “tell the government once about my new address” trick only works if you trust the government to keep the One Big Master Database With All Information About Jonathan Eckmier In It, which I, personally, don’t. :-)

Dave S. says:
October 11, 03h

Stuart – generally works fine over on this side of the pond, too.

The specific problem with UPS in this case is that in order to hold, you first have to listen to a minute or two of automated messages dealing with a number of different circumstances before you even get a menu to hold through. It’s a bit excessive.

eric says:
October 11, 04h

I’ve simply had horrible luck with UPS in general. “Guaranteed second-day air” that in practice was fourth day ground tops it off. If I have a choice between UPS and any of its competitors, I’ll choose the alternative in a heartbeat.

October 11, 06h

I used to work for the UPS Store, and yes we did have some trouble with on-time delivery and packages getting damaged. But I think the problem seems to be concentrated. UPS moves 16 million packages a day at last count and has a smaller error rate than FedEx who only moves 9 - 10 million packages a day.

Glad I wasn’t a driver.

As for customer service, yeah, they took forever to answer claims, and even though we’re branded like them we got treated like all of you - which customers never understood. UPS was always being the big bully, buying Mail Boxes Etc, turning it into the UPS Store, and then doing nothing special with the franchises.

Oh well, now for your amusement:

a geek says:
October 11, 07h

Type the infonotice number into, change the address. Don’t bother with phone trees, humans, etc. Use something like autofill in the Google Toolbar if you tend to forget your current address.

October 11, 08h

Like a geek said: why not just do it online? I get married in 2 days so I have some people sending gifts to our house, which of course, we are not at during the day. When I come home and see the UPS tag on the door I just go to the website and tell UPS To deliver it to my office address.

Easy as pie.

Paul D says:
October 11, 10h

I always liked how in England - in books, at least - someone’s address can be the name of his house or manor. With modern databases today, that should be even easier to do. If you live in Willow Cottage, Smallburg, Virginia, why can’t that be your mailing address?

October 12, 01h

I have nothing but good things to say about the service we receive from UPS here in the UK.

For example, when I moved house across town a few years back, the local UPS guy managed to intercept a parcel addressed to me at my old address and bring it across town to my new place. He just recognised my name and knew the new address and so re-routed. That’s just one example - they’re great, consistently.

Doj says:
October 12, 04h

Not only are postcodes usefull for finding directions online but also on GPSs and Tom Toms.

Chris ZS says:
October 12, 07h

My personal favorite is FedEx. They are almost always cheaper (for the basic service) and usually seem faster. Today I’ve been tracking a laptop delivery on a 5-7 day shipping service, they got it from Shanghai to Pittsburgh in 2 days. 2 day delivery on a 5-7 day service price from Shanghai, that is service.

Scott V says:
October 12, 08h

We use FedEx at our office, and it’s not particularly spectacular; lesser of two evils maybe…

Have you read the UPS guidelines for preparing packaging?

“Each item should be surrounded by at least two inches (five cm) of cushioning and be placed at least two inches (five cm) away from the walls of the box. This will protect your items from product-against-product damage and shield them from the shock and vibration that can be conducted from the exterior of the box to its contents in transit.”

Two inches is a LOT of bubble wrap, but then UPS should know better than anybody how to protect a shipment from damage, right? What with all that testing in the field with your packages…

October 13, 07h

I had someone ship a FedEx package to me, but he wrote down the house number wrong on the address. The package got delivered to a neighbor across the street and a few doors down. FedEx left the package on their porch. I called FedEx with the tracking number and told them that it was my package and not my neighbors package, that no one name “Dave Woodward” lives over there. They just said, “Its was delivered to the address on the label.” How hard could it be for them to do a simple check of previously shipped-to addresses under my name in my zipcode? It still bothers me that they will deliver a package to a person who doesn’t live at the address and not even care. After all, ultimately they’re delivering packages to people, not addresses.

Rob Waring says:
October 16, 12h

With the post codes being a good thing or not, it can be useful to be able to shorten your address to your house number and post code.

LL## #LL

will get your letter to the right destination on time.

Gary says:
November 23, 08h

I just had a very odd thing happen. Local UPS now has you fill out your info on a computer screen, and then confirm the addresses. I did this, confirming my box to Heath / Zenith, Bowling Green, KY. I was very carful here and did NOT confirm thier substitute address, which had the extended zip, because the address had recently changed. SO what happened. Well my package was just sent across town. My only saving grace was the tracking. I knew I didn’t send it to “nuts to you”, Irene Ave, Salisbury, MD. I’ve never even heard of nuts to you! The other odd thing was I checked my recept and it even said “nuts to you”, Irene Ave. Very strange. I called, they offered no explaination, or appology. They just said they would pick it back up and remail it. I asked if this was a common problem since switching to the computer system, vs the old fill the form out with a pen! They said it happened every now and then! Well lets hope the person is home, so my package can continue on its way.