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When Does My Package Arrive?

By   /  July 17, 2013  /  1 Comment

by David Plotkin

I occasionally purchase something that requires me to be present to sign for it when UPS delivers the package. Since I travel a lot, I have to be careful about scheduling when the package arrives. Unfortunately, that can turn out to be harder than it should be. And therein hangs a tale. Because, after all, given that UPS is actually in the business of delivering packages and can predict with considerable certainty when the package will arrive, you would think that they would be able to adjust the schedule when necessary. In addition, given that it actually costs them money to attempt delivery unsuccessfully and thus have to come back (maybe multiple times), you would think they would WANT to work with the customer to make sure someone was available to receive the package.

I recently ordered a laptop computer, and after placing the order, I got a notice from UPS that it was scheduled to be delivered on the following Monday. Since I was due to be out of town until Thursday evening, I called the shipper (as I was advised to do by UPS) and requested that they reschedule for Friday. They obligingly did so. However, after two days I saw no evidence (when I tracked the package) that the date had changed. At that point I logged in with my MyUPS account and requested the date change to Friday. I had to pay $5 for that. Shortly thereafter a note appeared when I tracked the package that the delivery date had changed. But it didn’t say what the new delivery date would be. Hmmm. Not unreasonably I assumed it would be the date I requested (and paid for). Shortly after THAT, I saw a series of status changes that indicated that my request had been canceled because it was overridden by the shipper’s request. So apparently they HAD made the request when I asked.

I didn’t think anything more about it until I got a note from UPS (through my MyUPS account) on Monday that delivery was scheduled for the next day (Tuesday). I called UPS to confirm, and sure enough, they were getting ready to deliver it the following day. UPS customer service stated that they could not change that because that was the date requested by the shipper. So I called the shipper right away. The shipper insisted that they had requested Friday. While I was on the phone, the shipper once again requested Friday through their system and got a confirmation from UPS.  Great, all was well.

Actually, not. Tuesday I got a notice that delivery was scheduled for the next day (Wednesday). At that point I gave up. UPS attempted delivery on Wednesday, and Thursday (two failed attempts) and finally managed to successfully deliver on Friday. You know Friday — the day I had been insisting they deliver it all along.

Clearly, there are a few things going wrong here. Data was being either improperly stored or transmitted (or both). The tracking information should show the projected delivery date even after a reschedule. Why it did not is a mystery. Business processes were failing as well, which is not surprising since bad data is often a symptom of broken processes. In the end, though, the basic problem seems to be that UPS doesn’t  know who its customer is. Yes, the shipper is the customer, if you define “customer” as the person who pays. But the transaction cannot be completed without the recipient! If the recipient “customer” cannot reschedule the package to be delivered when the recipient is actually there to receive it, there is a problem with the process. Failed attempts cost money. After 3 failed attempts UPS supposedly sends the package back to the sender (or at least that is what it said in the notice I was sent after the failed attempts). Returning the package to the sender costs money too. But what UPS customer service told me actually happens is that they store it at their facility until the recipient (I almost typed “customer”) calls and schedules another delivery attempt.

And quite frankly, this was such an incredible hassle to me that I will look for another delivery option next time. And that costs UPS money too.

About the author

David Plotkin is an Advisory Consultant for EMC, helping clients implement or mature Data Governance programs in their organizations. He has previously served in the capacity of Manager of Data Governance for the AAA of Northern Ca, Nevada, and Utah; Manager of Data Quality for a large bank; and Data Administration Manager at a drug store chain. He has been working with data modeling, data governance, metadata and data quality for over 20 years. He serves as a subject matter expert on many topics around metadata, data governance, and data quality, and speaks often at industry conferences.

  • Sunni

    Wow, what a great article. I’ve always wondered how UPS handled deliveries requiring signatures. Your experience showed how much room for improvement there is.

    Signing for packages doesn’t happen often in my house, but I wonder if FedEx or other couriers are really any better. These guys are *extremely* smart about their operations, so there’s no doubt they’ve got the know-how to fix the issue.

    Anyhow, I’ll quite my head-scratching now. Plenty for *me* to go get better at. 🙂

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