Tim Cook Says:

“We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.”

–Tim Cook, coming out in an editorial in Businessweek.

Tales of Incompetence: UPS

Over the years, I have had many, many causes to be annoyed with UPS. I wish now that I’d written them down each time because being able to point to a laundry list would make this story better. Alas, I didn’t, so all I can do is say, “A lot of annoying stuff happened…and then this.”

As I am wont to do, I ordered some Apple stuff recently. As it turns out, it was scheduled for delivery on the day something else was delivered. So, needless to say, I wasn’t home. Fine. My bad.

UPS, as per usual, left a ticket explaining that it would attempt two more deliveries on consecutive business days. Problem is, I wasn’t going to be leaving the hospital in time. No problem, thought I, for UPS has a system whereby one can reschedule delivery.

From the hospital, I called UPS and — after some confusion brought about by my sleeplessness and the UPS rep’s not seeming to understand what I wanted — I arranged to have the package delivered on Monday, October 27. There was a nominal fee for this, but that was fine by me. Everything seemed great.1

Monday rolled around and I woke up, eager for my new toy. I checked UPS.com and saw, with puzzlement, that my package was not slated for delivery that day. I called UPS and was told that someone from the local center would get in touch with me, but that my package “might” be delivered to me that day.


A little while later, the local center called to confirm that, yes, there’d been a mistake and my package had not been placed on the truck. Now I was peeved. The fee had been nominal, yes, but still — I’d paid to have that package that day. Somewhat snidely (considering she’d owned up to a mistake) the woman at the center said, “What do you want me to do?”

“I want my package delivered today, like I paid for. Like I was promised.” It was still mid-day, and the center wasn’t in another time zone or anything like that. I figured some adjustments could be made and I’d have my package.

Nope. My only option was to have it delivered the next day. So, sure, OK, whatever, I relented, though I told her my fee had better be refunded. Again, it was a small amount, but the principle mattered.

Late Monday night, with my Spidey-sense tingling, I decided to check UPS.com. What I saw when I tracked the package shocked me: UPS had scheduled the package to be returned to Apple!

I immediately called UPS. The automated phone system confirmed the return to Apple. I spoke to a live human being. “Why is my package being sent back instead of delivered to me?” I asked.

“It isn’t,” the rep said.

“I’m looking at your system right now,” I told her, “and it’s scheduled for return to Apple.”

“Well, it isn’t,” she snapped. “There’s a note in the system that you’ll get it tomorrow.”

“Then why does your system think it’s headed back to Apple?”

“It isn’t. The scans are wrong. It’ll be delivered to you tomorrow.”

Now, to say that at this point I was skeptical is understating it. No one I’d spoken to had been able to tell me the truth, whether from incompetence, malice, or apathy I can’t say. So, in frustration, I said to the woman, “What am I supposed to do tomorrow when it doesn’t get here?”

“That won’t happen,” she said dismissively. “You’re getting it tomorrow.”

Well, you know what happens next: Woke up on Tuesday, tracked the package…and UPS.com told me it had been returned to Apple. In case I thought this might be a glitch, I soon thereafter got an email from Apple saying, basically, “Hey, dude, we just got back that sweet, sweet Ive-crack you ordered. Are you sure you don’t want it? Let us know if we should send it back to you.”

So, I called UPS again to tell them that they’d screwed up, to ask them why and how, and to ask them how they planned to fix it. I knew they wouldn’t be able to fix it and I knew that their explanation would amount to “oops,” but I was curious as to what they would say and what — if anything — they would offer to do to keep me a (theoretically) happy UPS customer.

This time I got a very nice rep, who seemed genuinely distraught that she couldn’t fix the problem for me. Then I spoke to a supervisor, who seemed similarly upset. He even called the local center and reported to me that he was appalled by the apathy of the people there who’d bungled the delivery. But there was nothing he could do — “It’s on a truck on a highway right now,” he said, “and I can’t put my hands on it.”

I also talked to him about the rude and dismissive attitude of many of the UPS people I’d spoken to, especially the woman from the night before who’d blithely blown off my concerns and said, in essence, “Don’t fret, little boy — your box is on the truck.” I was surprised to find that there was no way to track back to that woman. So, UPS has reps who suck and no way to discipline or reprimand them. Nice.

We agreed that UPS’s best move would be to try to get the package and send it to me Next Day Air at its expense. He said he would try to figure out a way to intercept it. “I’ll call you back sometime in the next thirty minutes.”

Say it with me, folks: sixteen hours and counting, and still no call. And — joy of joys — no way to get in touch with him.2

As of Wednesday morning, UPS.com shows the package at a facility in Illinois. If that’s so, and if the supervisor meant what he said, it should have been grabbed and fired back to me via Next Day Air. Since it hasn’t been, I can only assume he’s as efficient, truthful, and conscientious as everyone else at UPS. Which is to say, not at all.

Where does that leave us? Wednesday morning; no package; no way to talk to any of the people I’ve already spoken to about it, meaning I would have to dial in blind and start the whole process again.

You might wonder why I care. I guess it’s because I believe in accountability. UPS’s core function is to move packages from Point A to Point B. They failed at that. This was a complete systemic failure, beginning with the web site that wouldn’t let me reschedule, down to service reps who offered no help, down to a warehouse that didn’t put the package on the truck. In short, every function at UPS that faces the customer collapsed.

You would think that someone at UPS would think, “Gee, we botched this one. Let’s figure out how and why. Let’s examine it and see what person or persons or protocols failed and put into place systems to lessen the chances it will happen again. Let’s do more than just say, ‘Oops, sorry,’ and go about our business. Let’s improve our business.”

I don’t like when people are bad at their jobs. I try to be good at my job. When I’m not, I try to learn from it and improve for the future. My experiences with UPS (not just this one — all those others over the years, too) tell me that UPS just doesn’t care about improving. At all.

This is how corporations defeat you. They put up so many barriers, so many blind alleys, that eventually it’s not even like you choose to give up — you have no choice but to give up. And they know this. They know that they can stall and stall and stall until you just drop from exhaustion and lack of options.

Needless to say, I’m done with UPS. I will no longer use them to send packages and I will request that people sending things to me not use them either. Because at the end of the day, UPS’s job is to deliver stuff, and if they can’t do that — and if they won’t fix the problem when they screw up — then why hire them for that job in the first place?

  1. I tried to reschedule the delivery online, but the system put me in an endless “please log into your account” loop. That was an ill omen of what lay ahead, as you’ll see.
  2. He informed me that he doesn’t have a direct line. At one point, we were disconnected and, miraculously, he called me back. CallerID captured a Virginia number, but when I called it back, it told me, “This is a non-functioning UPS line” and directed me to call the 1-800 number. Insert your own joke here about all UPS lines being non-functioning.

A Second Star for Blood of My Blood

Blood of My BloodI am thrilled to announce that Blood of My Blood has received a second starred review, this time from School Library Journal. (The first one was from Booklist.)

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is locked in a storage locker with two dead bodies, trying to nurse his own bullet wound in the dim light of a fading cellphone. Picking up (without pause) from the cliff-hanger ending in Game (2013), Lyga’s series about the 17-year-old who was first introduced in I Hunt Killers (2012) as the son of escaped killer Billy Dent continues as he tries to aid the police in his father’s recapture. Unaware that his girlfriend Connie has been lured by Billy to a Brooklyn tenement house and imprisoned with Jazz’s mother, and that his hemophiliac friend, Howie, has been attacked, Jazz faces his demons alone—including repressed memories with sexual undertones, and the creepy voice of Billy educating his son on the acumen required to be a good serial killer (appearing in italics). The worrisome genetic factor plagues Jazz yet propels him in the right direction to foil some copycat killers and elude authorities long enough to solve his own life’s mysteries. Obstructing the law, the teen follows clues that take him back home to Lobo’s Nod for the chilling climax and surprise ending, despite red herrings thrown in the readers’ path at every turn. Connie and Howie continue to play major roles in this episode, often providing their own points-of-view, as do officers Hughes and Tanner as bumbling but likable authorities. As a trilogy wrap-up, this gory winner with raw appeal requires having read the first two titles.

Thanks, SLJ!

What About Ugly J?

Big-time spoilers for Blood of My Blood and the entire I Hunt Killers series in this post, so whatever you do, do not read any further if you haven’t read all three books! Seriously! [Read more…]

Interview: Peace, Love, Teen Fiction

Over at Peace, Love, Teen Fiction, I answer some questions about I Hunt Killers. Here’s a sample:

Where do you come up with the names of your serial killers?

BL: Good question! I just started riffing one day, throwing out ideas. I kept the ones that seemed either really eerie or slightly silly. If you think about it, a name like “Son of Sam” is sort of silly, until you know the context. I wanted some of my names to be similar. “Hand-in-Glove” (one of Billy’s aliases) is kind of absurd…until you know it’s the name of a serial killer.

Go check it out!