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Does UPS / FedEx intentionally slow down non-premium deliveries?
February 10, 2004 1:17 PM   Subscribe

When a person chooses to send a package via UPS or FedEx, and s/he chooses not to opt for the premium one- or two-day delivery, will the carrier hold the package (rather than delivering it) at the nearest hub for a day or two to spite the tightwad shipper? In other words, if they could deliver it faster than promised without incurring extra expense, do they still delay the parcel's delivery so the service isn't any faster than promised?
posted by trharlan to Work & Money (14 answers total)
 
I doubt it. I've had a regular UPS package delivered in a couple hourswithin Manhattan.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:56 PM on February 16, 2004


On the other hand I have watched stuff sit at the hub for a while until the original "expected shipping date". I'd get my hopes up -- "look, it's already in this state! they can just drive it over anytime!" and then it just stays in one spot for a couple of days.
posted by litlnemo at 6:10 PM on February 16, 2004


Yeah, my experience is that they usually come much sooner than I expected. I'd never bother paying for the speedy delivery (which can't be absolutely guaranteed anyway -- cf. the recent scholarship application scandal).
posted by languagehat at 6:14 PM on February 16, 2004


UPS will generally deliver ground shipment from within the same state the next day. Basically it is more "whenever it gets there, sooner or late" rather than a specific date guarantee.
posted by benjh at 6:28 PM on February 16, 2004


Languagehat, if, by the recent scholarship scandal, you're referring to the UC Berkeley students who've missed out on Fullbrights, due to shipping problems [NPR link], my understanding was that Berkeley was every bit as much to blame as FedEx, no? In any case, I feel so bad for these people. If that isn't an academic's worst nightmare, I don't know what is.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:58 PM on February 16, 2004


I don't know about UPS, but in my experience FedEx does hold shipments, at least larger packages. Check the detail on their website with your tracking number - doesn't seem to me like anything's moving any faster than what you pay for.
posted by JollyWanker at 8:52 PM on February 16, 2004


UPS holds packages regularly. If you pay for three-day shipping, then by God you're going to get three-day shipping, even if the package is actually available for delivery in two. Which is fine. They promised you that they would deliver the package in three days, and you paid them accordingly. The only reason you get cheesed off is because you can see the package is sitting there thanks to the Intarweb. But if it was so important for you to get your package in one or two days, perhaps you should have paid extra for that, no?

From a logistics standpoint, this tactic makes good sense; by scheduling each package for delivery on a certain day, you can determine exactly how many drivers are needed each day with a little lead time. I'm sure they have this sort of forecasting down to a science in any case, and fluctuations probably average out to a large extent, but the more variables you can control, the better your predictions will be.
posted by kindall at 9:30 PM on February 16, 2004


My experiences with UPS "brown" mirror kindall's predictions -- I often see items get to the local hub within a day or two and then camp out there for the rest of the week until the due date, despite the fact that the package has only to traverse the remaining one thousandth of its trip to get to me. With UPS "red" and "blue," that's a little less common, or at least the camping out time is a day at most.

On the other hand, I've also seen next-day "red" shipments sit at the hub for four days while UPS pretends to have put it on the truck and forges records phantom delivery attempts, so I wouldn't read too much into the tea leaves of UPS' nonlinear behavior. In general, UPS will take as long as possible to get the delivery to you , and will tend toward screwing up maximally.
posted by majick at 11:04 PM on February 16, 2004


UPS definitely lies in the tracking info. I've had missing packages show as arrived at the hub, but never get delivered. After many calls and getting obnoxious, they finally explained that some tracking info is assumption, not actually scanned.
posted by Goofyy at 11:33 PM on February 16, 2004


Another data point: my company uses UPS ground shipping from our main reseller, 300 miles away. Both companies are in large metropolitan areas.

If I order it by noon, it usually ships from the reseller that day, and it usually arrives at our office the next afternoon. Not always, but often enough. I can't think of an instance where it took more than two days. The savings over a year's worth of packages ease the pain of the occasional extra day.
posted by jmcmurry at 6:14 AM on February 17, 2004


UPS is so slow (this is coming from a Canadian, and this is not unusual) that there is no such thing as "Overnight" service. I have never, not once, ever had a UPS package take any less than 3 days. And that includes packages from places less than a 2 hour drive away.

For a laugh, here's the latest F**k UPS (take note I'm in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) (Here's another F**kUPS):

Package Progress:

Feb 17, 2004 5:18 A.M. KITCHENER, ON, CA OUT FOR DELIVERY
5:00 A.M. KITCHENER, ON, CA ARRIVAL SCAN
4:00 A.M. CONCORD, ON, CA DEPARTURE SCAN
1:33 A.M. CONCORD, ON, CA ARRIVAL SCAN
Feb 16, 2004 6:59 P.M. OTTAWA, ON, CA DEPARTURE SCAN
5:24 P.M. OTTAWA, ON, CA DESTINATION SCAN
8:47 A.M. OTTAWA, ON, CA INCORRECT ZIP CODE, NOT DELIVERED;ADDRESS CORRECTED, DELIVERY RESCHEDULED
2:00 A.M. OTTAWA, ON, CA ARRIVAL SCAN
Feb 14, 2004 12:39 A.M. CONCORD, ON, CA DEPARTURE SCAN
Feb 13, 2004 10:04 A.M. WINDSOR, ON, CA IMPORT SCAN
8:32 A.M. WINDSOR, ON, CA ARRIVAL SCAN
8:21 A.M. WINDSOR, ON, CA UPS INTERNAL ACTIVITY CODE;BROKER ASSIGNED, RELEASED FOR DELIVERY
4:43 A.M. WINDSOR, ON, CA UPS INTERNAL ACTIVITY CODE
Feb 12, 2004 7:56 P.M. MAUMEE, OH, US DEPARTURE SCAN
3:01 P.M. MAUMEE, OH, US ARRIVAL SCAN
9:52 A.M. HODGKINS, IN, US DEPARTURE SCAN
4:52 A.M. HODGKINS, IN, US ARRIVAL SCAN
4:03 A.M. HODGKINS, IL, US DEPARTURE SCAN
Feb 11, 2004 12:43 A.M. HODGKINS, IL, US ARRIVAL SCAN
Feb 7, 2004 3:43 A.M. RICHMOND, CA, US DEPARTURE SCAN
Feb 6, 2004 11:16 P.M. RICHMOND, CA, US ARRIVAL SCAN
10:27 P.M. OAKLAND, CA, US DEPARTURE SCAN
9:37 P.M. US BILLING INFORMATION RECEIVED
posted by shepd at 7:11 AM on February 17, 2004


Most of my experience with UPS predates Internet tracking, but I'd be surprised if they actually had heaps of boxes in their warehouses with a tag reading "hold off deliverin these until Wednesday": it would be more work and very inefficient.

I had a walk-through at the local UPS center last year. No boxes being held back there, and the whole process was very automated and impressive. Guys who were loading/unloading wore big electronic cuffs with barcode scanners on a fingertip. Conveyor belts moved packages from the tailgate of a local truck, up to a sorting center, and down to the tailgate of a long-haul truck (or vice-versa). The one possible exception was "smalls", that is, small parcels. These are typically stuffed by the dozens into big plastic sacks and hand-sorted into something like pigeonholes by a completely separate crew than handles regular big boxes. This was clearly a slower, and probably more error-prone process, and I did see sacks of smalls just sitting around waiting to get sorted. Outsized parcels might also suffer special sorting.
posted by adamrice at 7:15 AM on February 17, 2004


UPS' tracking info frequently doesn't quite make sense to me, but I doubt that they sit on a package to ensure that it doesn't get delivered early - that could cost more to monitor than any potential 'express' customer loss from early normal delivery.
posted by DBAPaul at 10:17 AM on February 17, 2004


I seriously doubt the "sitting" is a deliberate or malicious effort, but it happens frequently enough to be more than chance. Most likely, it's just a product of UPS' normal everyday tracking and handling procedures -- paths which are surely going to differ between brown, blue, and red priorities -- combined with the legendary UPS incompetence.
posted by majick at 10:42 AM on February 17, 2004


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