Tuesday, January 18, 2005

My Shipping Rant or Why I Hate When Online Sellers Use UPS

Since I love the Virtuverse so much--and also because I am without a car in an area that is set up for car transport only--I tend to buy a lot of stuff online: Amazon (books, used movies) , eBay (stuff), British Delights (Marmite, Twiglets), Nordic House (Gloegg, chocolate), Newport News (inexpensive clothes), etc.

Thus, obviously, the whole point of having items sent to my home is to get them at my home, rather than having to make the three-hour bus trip to a (relatively close) shopping location. Because I ... do not have ... three extra hours ... to sit on buses these days.

Now, the thing about my apartment building is that it has a security door. This was very nice when I was concerned that a certain internet stalker might seek me out in the real world, for example, but it makes receiving shipments of things a helluva lot more difficult.

The US Postal Service is fine, and great, and wonderful, and I wish everyone would use it! The mail carrier has a key to our building and can leave packages either at my actual apartment door or in the locked package bin that I have provided for precisely that purpose (I felt guilty at his having to climb 3 flights of stairs to give me a new turtleneck or old VHS tape).

Any other shipping service...fuggettaboudit. UPS won't leave packages in the foyer outside the security door because of our neighborhood, and the tendency for homeless persons to avail themselves of our radiator in the bitter cold (understandably!). UPS won't even leave packages at our building if you sign the slip and leave it for them. Have a neighbor sign for it? Oh, come on, this is a poor working class/student area. Nobody I know is sitting at home during the day every weekday waiting to sign for my various packages, at least not reliably.

So here's what invariably happens when I get a UPS shipment: first I receive email notification that whatever I ordered is arriving via UPS, along with a tracking number. I swear a whole lot, and then wait for UPS to come to my house and leave a post-it stating "DELIVERY ATTEMPT", with a red ballpoint circle around the phrase "to pick up please call 1-800-whatever" (as though in mockery of my carless status.)

Now, it is supposed to be possible to change the delivery address online, on the tracking page. This would be very useful, because then I could change the address from work, as soon as the delivery attempt was made, without having to physically be there. However, the tracking page has never, NEVER given me that option in the years I have been trying to make it do so. I'm not a dumbass, and I'm also not online-dyslexic. I am not just overlooking something obvious, I swear. I don't know if it has something to do with my particular address or what, but I can not change the delivery address online.

So, that evening, or the following day if I'm too tired by the time I drag myself home in the middle of the night (and after a great deal of additional muttered swearing), I call the number and have the shipment changed to the psych department or maybe the psych clinic. Naturally, the UPS 800 number is answered by a recording that urges me to visit their website if I want to change the shipping address, before it allows me to go on hold to wait for a real person.

Since this change in shipping address takes more than one day to "go through", I always get to come home the following day to the same post-it: "DELIVERY ATTEMPT", only this time the ballpoint circles around the "please come to the UPS station and pick this up yourself, dammit" are more numerous and desperate. As though I have purposely had items delivered somewhere that I know I can't receive them. Knowing that my awaited items were this close and then taken away again--twice--always makes me fume impotently.

Now, having had the shipment diverted to my workplace has already subverted the intent of having them delivered to my home, since at this point I have to add whatever it is to my already textbook-overloaded cart and drag it home through the snow. (At least it's marginally downhill.) So that's a strike against the workplace delivery idea.

The other thing is the long, long wait: typically, I have to wait until the following week to get whatever was delivered, since UPS only delivers on weekdays. Usually, the first delivery attempt is on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and I end up getting the shipment on the following Monday or Tuesday. So there goes a large chunk of the "convenience" aspect.

Recently, I ordered some books I needed when I was so desperately writing my dissertation proposal. I tried having them delivered to the department just to save time--even had them put a rush on it. However, all four ended up being delivered weeks later, after I had already turned the proposal in, since the department and the clinic were closed for the whole week between Christmas and New Year, and you can't change your shipping address until a delivery attempt has been made!

Believe me, I have tried. It doesn't matter if I have the tracking number or anything. The rules are, I must first come home to that magical, infuriating post-it that says my stuff was there and I wasn't. Then, and only then, am I allowed to change the damn address. (And wait two more business days, i.e. four or five more actual days).

So, aside from the part about dragging stuff home in my cart, why don't I just always get stuff delivered to my workplace? Well, for one, it's my workplace, and having all these random packages from eBay coming in kind of feels unprofessional. But more importantly, there are a lot of sellers who will only ship to your credit card billing address, in order to circumvent fraud. (Understandable, yet infuriating.) Also, I rarely know beforehand how a given item will be shipped, so I try my luck at having it sent to my home if given the choice.

I think there has been one place I lived during the past 10 years to which UPS would deliver by leaving things at the door. Other than that, I have been frustratedly doing this ridiculous delivery dance the entire time.

Obviously, UPS is great for businesses, which are likely to be open during the day, weekdays, and thus to have someone to sign for everything. But how can UPS be useful for home delivery to individuals, when this has to be happening all the time? I guess it's fine for people who either have a car to go to the UPS station, or who have the hours and hours to make use of the incredibly inefficient public transportation. Once again, it all comes down to this being a Car Nation.


brainhell said...

UPS breaks everything. Curse them to eternity.

liz said...

I can't believe anyone had the stamina to even scroll to the end of that, let alone comment on it.