When you get to the point where you'd rather use USPS...

I had this...experience with a UPS package recently. It got to the point where I decided to write a letter to the company. The second such letter I've ever written. So, since the letter's of Story proportions, I decided to put it here. Now, I'm paranoid, so I edited the parts where actual names were.

For reference, here's the tracking info I got from the UPS site.

Dear UPS people:

I want to register a complaint about an experience I had with a package. For your reference, the package tracking number was [number]. And, before I start, I should point out that it's not really that big a deal--it was a $20 computer game, so it wasn't an emergency situation. But, if nothing else, I thought I should make someone aware of what went on.

I ordered the package 21 Dec 1998. They attempt delivery on the 30th--I'm not there (got back from vacation that day). Fine, but there's no delivery notice on the door. The only way I know delivery was attempted was because the shipper sent me the tracking number when I ordered the thing, and I checked the tracking with the Internet tracking interface when I got home.

(And, incidentally, my UPS driver(s) seem to not be in the habit of leaving delivery notices, or someone is swiping them for some reason. Another package I had delivered within the last month or so was sent back to the shipper after three delivery attempts, and I had no idea they were attempted or I would have made alternate arrangements.)

Due to holidays, next available delivery date is 4 Jan 1999. No deliveries due to residential snow. Understandable. So, I expect it the 5th. I come home, no package. I check the online tracking...and it says the package was delivered and signed for by [my last name, spelled wrong]. Not how my name is spelled, but people always misspell it that way. But who cares about the spelling? This thing was telling me I signed for it and I didn't.

So, I call around 7:30pm EST, and give the woman the tracking number. She tells me, "This package was delivered and signed for on the fifth of January." I couldn't see how, because I never received a delivery notice. After going through the whole explanation, the woman tells me that I have to call the shipper and tell them to put a tracer on the package to find out what happened with it. Okay, fortunately, the shipper's on the west coast and open until 6 PST, so I sneak in a call before they leave. I explain the situation, the man tells me they'll trace the package, and they'll be in touch.

Next morning (the 6th), I get an e-mail from the shipper:

I talked with UPS and had the delivery notice faxed to me. They said the
customer signed the delivery notice (the little yellow post-it UPS leaves if
no one is home) and authorized UPS to leave the package. UPS left the
package at the front door. They did sign for the package, and it was left.
Unfortunately there is nothing that we can do in this case. 

Uh...what? Okay, at this point I'm thinking I didn't leave a delivery notice, because I received no delivery notice to leave. (Later it occurs to me that the UPS person there probably just read the same incorrect package status and told them that.) So, I call UPS again, and I give them the tracking number. "This package was delivered and signed for on the fifth of January." No, it wasn't, I tell her, and I go through the whole (slightly longer) explanation. She then gives me the Magic Phrase to give to the shipper: "Submit a tracer with denial of signature." (Which is probably how the tracer should have been submitted in the first place.) I call the shipper back, give him the Magic Phrase, and he presumably initiates a tracer.

I get home from work and there's a delivery notice on the door.

Okay, I'm thoroughly confused now. I call UPS thinking, wait a minute, maybe I just happened to get a different package? But no, after ten minutes of confusion on the phone with this woman, I find out that that's the delivery notice for the same package--the one that the tracking said was delivered on the previous day. While I am on the phone with her, I'm connected to the Internet and checking the online status, and sure enough: 5 Jan, delivered; 6 Jan, receiver not available for delivery.

So, now that we all know what's going on, she tells me: "This package was delivered and signed for on the fifth of January." No, it wasn't, I tell her, and I go through the whole (longer) explanation, adding that if it were delivered on the 5th, how is there a "receiver not available" on the 6th? This is the first time I'm told: "no, it says 'signed delivery notice'," as if that's different from "delivered". I tell her: "But the shipper told me that UPS told them the package was signed for and delivered."

"What?" she replies, shocked. I assure her that's what they told me. "Well, I can't argue with what the shipper says," she says, obviously not believing it, "but this package hasn't been delivered." Yeah, I know that. At some point in the conversation, she says, "Oh, I know what must have happened. The driver just scanned it wrong. That delivery notice message on the 5th must have been a mistake."

Yeah, great, that sounds rational to me at the time, but I thought about it later. If that was just scanned incorrectly, what was supposed to be there? If it was "receiver not available", then why didn't he leave a delivery notice on the 5th? And for that matter, if it was just scanned wrong, how did my name get entered [spelled wrong] in the package record? (The shipper had it spelled correctly.)

But, y'know, fine. I'm willing to accept some odd, inexplicable mistake, as long as my package is still in the UPS system and still getting to me somehow. She says, yes, that's true. I ask her to change the address on the package to my work address, then, since I'm not having any luck with the home delivery. She tells me she can do that, except at this point it's after 7pm EST, and the address change might not show up in the system until Friday (the 8th).

I know I'm not going to be home Thursday, but she tells me that the package is listed as having only one delivery attempt. Neither of us can make sense out of that, but neither of us cares, either. I figure it'll go like this: driver makes second attempt on Thursday; driver can't make delivery; computer updates record Friday; driver delivers to my work address Friday, where I know it will be accepted. I tell her that's fine, make the change.

Sounds fine, but we're starting Act 3 now, so obviously there's a twist: during the day on the 7th I check the tracking, and it says the package was delivered and signed for by [wrong neighbor's name]. That's a misspelling of [correct name]: I live in a duplex with a brother and two sisters named [name]. I go home, and the package isn't there. By around noon on the 8th I'm able to talk to everyone who lives in my building, and none of them have signed for it. (And I have a good enough relationship with my neighbors that I don't think they're stealing my packages after signing for them.)

Well that's just frickin' swell, I'm thinking. Okayyy...I call UPS again and give the guy the tracking number. "This package was delivered and signed for on the seventh of January." No, it wasn't, I tell him, and I go through the whole (long) explanation. It wasn't signed for and delivered on the 7th, I tell him, just like it wasn't signed for and delivered on the 5th. This is the second time I'm told: "No, it says 'signed delivery notice'," as if that's different from "delivered". I'm still not getting that. When I looked on the 5th it said "delivered". When I look at the tracking now, the 5th says "delivered". Why do I keep getting told that's not what that meant?

But, you know, I don't care. I'm running out of patience by now. But the guy on the phone is being very helpful, and sounds like he's really getting things moving. (If you can track down who that was--it should be in your phone contact database, around 2pm on the 8th--I really felt confident he was helping me. Sounded like he was doing a great job in a weird situation.)

For one thing, he tells me that the woman I talked to on the 6th never actually entered an address change. I forget the words exactly, but it was something like: she put the address change in "concerns", but didn't actually do whatever was required to make the change official. (He used a three-letter acronym that I don't remember. Started with D?) So, he does that. And, he says he's going to send an urgent message to the customer counter in Northbrook to have them contact me and tell me what's going on, and asks for my phone number. Will they call in the next three hours? I ask, since it's around 2pm and I'm going home at 5. "They should respond to an urgent message within an hour." Super, I tell him, and give him my work number, and thank him for his effort.

No call by 5. I go home, wait until 7, and check voicemail at work. No message. Okayyy...I call UPS again and get a stern-sounding guy. I tell him, the customer counter was supposed to call me at work, but I'm home now, can I give you a different number? "Wait, the customer counter was supposed to call you?" Yes, I tell him. "Can you give me your tracking number?" Uh-oh, I think. Fine. I give it to him. "This package was delivered and signed for on the seventh of January." No, it wasn't, I tell him, and I go through an abbreviated explanation, explaining that this is the reason why they were going to be calling me.

"Sir, in this situation, the procedure is for you to call the shipper and have them put a tracer on the package."

"I know, but I talked to a guy earlier, and since the whole problem is so involved at this point, he said he was going to have the customer counter call me."

Sterner voice. "The procedure is for you to call the shipper and have them put a tracer--"

"Okay-thank-you-<click>." I wasn't in the mood. I call back, get a woman who is much more pleasant sounding. I ask her about getting the phone number changed. She doesn't know what I'm talking about yet, so she asks for the tracking number. I give it to her, and just as she's about to open her mouth, I tell her, "I know what it says. It wasn't." (I just didn't want to hear it again.) After a shorter explanation and telling her to check the phone contact log so we have a precedent here, she tells me she's going to send another urgent message to the customer counter, and takes my home number. They never call.

Then, around 6pm on the 9th (Saturday), we find the package on our back porch.

I suppose the only thing that kept me from blowing up at that point was that I was actually holding the package. I had been out there around noon; the package wasn't there. So, not only was it twice marked as signed and delivered when it wasn't, but it was dropped off without a signature on Saturday, which I really can't figure out at all. (Like what, a guy in a brown UPS ninja suit slithered into our back yard and put it there?) Nor can I figure out the two "signed for" messages having our names, but spelled wrong. I'm not really paranoid enough to think a driver showed up, looked at our names on the doorbells, marked it as signed for and drove away, but I can't work out any rational explanation for what happened here, either.

But, as far as I know, there might still be a tracer with denial of signature going on from the last time I called the shipper. She told me it could take three to five days. I hope there is, because I'd love to find out what they come up with for a signed delivery notice that doesn't exist.



Okay, that's the letter. But here's the bonus track for you people.

The second call to UPS didn't work exactly the way it's described up there. I go through the ten minutes of confusion which I try to explain everything, and then the clouds part for her.

"Ohhh, okay, I get it," she says (or something similar; I'm sure I'm paraphrasing). "Okay, you know...I bet I know what this is. I think there's a scam where--"

And then dead silence. I'm thinking, uh...what happened? It's a full 10 or 15 seconds later where I hear her again.

"...Hello? Hello, sir, are you there?"

"Uh, yeah, I'm here...what happened?"

"Oh, I don't know, I think there's something with the phones. Anyway, I'm going to place a message in..."

Blah blah blah, story continues. So what the hell really happened there? I mean, I kinda picture a supervisor with his big, stubby middle finger on the "hold" button, just looking sternly at her and shaking her head. So before we hang up, I specifically make a point of asking her what she thinks actually happened to the package. She says, "oh, the driver must've scanned it wrong."

Uh huh. I didn't want to put that bit in the letter, because she was nice, and helpful, and even though she screwed up the change of address thing, I don't want to get her in trouble. But man, it's killing me to know what she was going to say there.

June '99 Update

Nothing much to report, really, because I've received no reply from them. But, you know, I've had a few minor UPS problems since then. The last one made me want to do something: Debb was waiting for a package. She was home all day. She looks out the window and sees UPS deliver a package across the street, but doesn't deliver to us. Figures the package didn't come that day. Later in the day she checks UPS's online tracking: of course, the thing said there was a delivery attempt. No doorbell. No notice on door.

We're working the next day, so I call to get the address changed for the package. I tell the woman that this happened, and...well, it's more than she didn't care. I told her, and she simply said nothing. As if I was just kind of embarrassing her and she wanted to move on to other business as quickly as possible.

And fine, you know? I don't really expect her to give a damn. If I sent that whole letter to the company and got no reply, why is some worker on the telephone going to care any more? So, I sent the following to customer.service@ups.com:

Around February, I wrote to this address asking where I could send a
complaint about an experience I had with a package. I got mail back
saying, "here's the address, but if you'd like to send it here in e-mail,
we'll forward it on for you." I said no thanks, I'll write up a physical
letter and mail it, because I feel like that gets more attention than

I mailed it back in March or so, and I've received no response. So, for
your convenience, you can read it on my website at the following address:


on my website which, by the way, gets 60,000 hits from 2000 visitors

I never got a response out of that, either. Ah well.