Tales of Incompetence: UPS (Part 2)

So, I never wrapped up the story of UPS’s incompetence last time because, well, baby. I will now rectify that.

When last we left this sordid tale, Barry’s iPad was headed back to Apple after UPS idiotically failed to deliver it. A supervisor had promised to have the package intercepted at a UPS facility en route and then overnighted to me. Sadly, that same supervisor had never called back as promised, so screw him.

Anyway, the following day, I noted that — according to the tracking page on UPS.com — the package was just sitting in a facility in Illinois. Having exhausted my patience with the phone, I emailed UPS to say, in essence, “Hey, guys — send this thing to me!”

I got back a response saying, basically, “Gee, we’re sorry you’re having problems! According to our system, your package is being returned to the sender. Please respond to this message if you have any questions or if we can help at all.”

I began tearing out what little hair I have left. I had already told them the problem in my email! I responded, this time quite snarkily, informing them that they could “help at all” by doing as I’d originally asked and overnighting the package from Illinois.

A few hours later, I got an email informing me that, sadly, the package had left Illinois.

Now, I checked online and according to the in-scan and out-scan, the package was at the Illinois facility for several hours. Plenty of time for someone to grab it up and send it back to me, as was promised by the original supervisor.

A few days later, it was back at Apple. I’m sure UPS feels like it’s a job well done.

Here’s a screenshot of the UPS.com tracking page. Notice that there are four separate facilities where the package resides before it gets back to Apple: One in Illinois, three in California. At any of these, the package was supposed to be (and should/could have been) intercepted and sent back to me. But it wasn’t. (Note, too, that it says the package is being returned to Apple “as requested.” I never requested that.)


I made sure Apple refunded my money and then I just went to the damn Apple Store and bought it myself. So much for the convenience of ordering online.

A brief coda: When I called Apple to explain the situation and make sure I got my money back, the guy on the other end of the line groaned audibly when I said “UPS.” He spared no venom in blasting them and their hideously awful practices. So I’m not an outlier.

UPS failed on every possible level and at every conceivable opportunity. This wasn’t merely human error or a computer glitch. It was everything failing, every time. Total systemic breakdown.

It began when the website wouldn’t let me reschedule the delivery, then continued when the phone system similarly failed. Then a human being at the warehouse screwed up and didn’t deliver the package…and someone else at the warehouse did nothing to fix it. Then they accidentally put the package into the return queue…and the customer service people not only didn’t realize this, but dismissed my concerns when I called to have the problem fixed.

And then we get into the supervisor who promised to have the package overnighted…and didn’t. He also promised to call back…and didn’t. And then the fact that the package should have been flagged for immediate return to me was scanned at three UPS facilities, but never pulled aside. And the folks on the other end of my email who delayed long enough that the package left the Illinois facility before it could be sent back to me.

UPS had multiple opportunities to fix this problem. Instead, they failed on every level. I’m not sure how UPS can claim to “love logistics.” They clearly don’t know even know what the word means.

(Since I’ve been bluntly and brutally honest about UPS, I want to make sure I say this much: My actual delivery guy, the dude who drops off packages when UPS bothers to let him, is freakin’ awesome. Love him. Good guy. Lousy company.)

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.