No,, I refuse to believe your entire market consists of unemployed bums.
June 8, 2006 6:55 AM   Subscribe

How can I decline/avoid UPS and Fedex's #$!@ing "signature required in person" deliveries? I don't want to drive to any more farflung warehouses just to get my stuff!

Everybody knows the problem: you order something online, you track the package, and on the day it's "out for delivery," you come home not to find your merch, but instead a door tag. "Sorry we've missed you," it says; "We'll be back at the same time tomorrow. When you're at work."

For people like me who work outside the home with something like 9-5 hours, this sucks. The retailer's attempt at security costs me three days of extra wait time plus the time and gas to drive to the other side of Ann Arbor and stick my head into some ill-publicized warehouse in the few hours between when I get home and when they close. Clearly I'm not the only one with this problem.

So how do the rest of you deal? Is there a standard way you can let your merchant know that, hey, I'm not going to be around, so just save the cost of signature confirmation and I'll take my chances? Or is there at least a number you can call to tell the carrier to save his time and not bring the package by, but rather just hold it?

I've been screwed by UPS and FedEx in the last few weeks, and neither of their websites hint at any way around their policies.
posted by electric_counterpoint to Shopping (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have it delivered to your work.

(Only the sender can tell them not to bother with a signature, and there are insurance penalties for it, so you're not going to get what you want)
posted by bonaldi at 6:59 AM on June 8, 2006

To tell the truth, I've given up. I have all my packages delivered to my work address and then I shlep them home. For non-portable things, it sometimes works to alert a neighbor and then leave a note saying, "UPS - for 14G please ring 13G." But if the girl in 13G doesn't answer the bell on the first ring, the delivery guy may well just walk away anyway.
posted by La Cieca at 7:01 AM on June 8, 2006

Try having your stuff delivered to a Mailboxes Etc. or similar business that deals regularly with UPS and FedEx. Of course, contact them first, but I have done this in two different cities and the small amount they would charge for receiving a package was well worth the cost.
posted by exogenous at 7:02 AM on June 8, 2006

I always have stuff delivered to work.

Some sites have a comment box on the form you fill out with your information, and you can put special delivery instructions in there which they will put on the shipping label. Or maybe they just tick that box on the FedEx bill.
posted by kableh at 7:05 AM on June 8, 2006

Fourthing the work delivery. Amazon lets you have different billing and shipping addresses just fine, as does Apple. (Some online merchants insist on delivering to the address on file with your credit card company.)
You can even have multiple addresses on file with Amazon, and choose which one to use with every order.
posted by lodev at 7:11 AM on June 8, 2006

I fifth the work delivery. I do that for everything except truly massive packages (e.g., my lawnmower...).
posted by thomas j wise at 7:16 AM on June 8, 2006

I can't remember the exact name for it, but one of the popular shipping companies offers "No Signature Required" service where they scan a barcode you stick on your door instead of having you sign for signature packages. You might want to talk to them about it... (saw these at a dentists' office)
posted by shepd at 7:16 AM on June 8, 2006

All carriers I've dealt with have accepted a handwritten note on the door in lieu of a signature. I've also done the "deliver to work" method.
posted by chef_boyardee at 7:18 AM on June 8, 2006

Work or a friend/relative that is home or has a doorman that can accept deliveries. You could also go with the cheapie delivery option, which tends to be USPS these days, which (I think) will not require sigs. I have doorman situation, so I am not totally qualified to speak on that last point, but maybe someone else can confirm.

Putting a note on the door seems suspicious - surely UPS would recognize that anyone could put a note on the door?
posted by ml98tu at 7:19 AM on June 8, 2006

PO Boxes are cheap and renting one would solve your problem for businesses that ship USPS. Unfortunately, businesses that don't use USPS will not ship to PO boxes.
posted by malp at 7:20 AM on June 8, 2006

I have long been plagued by this problem. Years and years ago, I had a UPS package stolen after they left it. I guess this marked my address as a risk, so every single delivery for the next five years required an actual in-person signature. No signature release allowed. (They are different checkboxes on the door tag.)

So I complained about this at UPS when I was picking something up on my weekly visit. (I was there so often they would get my packages out of the back as soon as they saw me.) They suggested I have the package shipped to the address of the UPS warehouse. Then they would hold it automatically and give me a call. This actually worked quite well, to my utter shock. I got stuff a day earlier than the normal process. It was a bit risky though. Amazon decided to ship something once by USPS, which was unusual for them at the time, and the UPS people were quite amused that they had to deal with it. So YMMV.

I have since found the best solution is to get a neighbor who is home all day and who will sign for your packages, and then leave them on your doorstop.
posted by smackfu at 7:20 AM on June 8, 2006

these soluntions only work if you able to have stuff delivered at work, are you?

you can usually also call them, with the tracking number from the "we missed you slip," and specify another address you want the pkg delivered to (even if you entered your home address already when you ordered online).
posted by chelseagirl at 7:25 AM on June 8, 2006

I know there's a checkbox on the back of the fedex form that states you want future packages left without signature. You are then assuming liability for loss, but I checked that box two years ago and have zero door tags since then. Ask about it at the wharehouse.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:26 AM on June 8, 2006

I used to work at a Mail Boxes Etc (now UPS Store), and "package receiving" was one of our regular services. We charged a buck or two for it. Yes, you should contact the store first and give them your phone number so the staff won't be mystified when your package arrives (assuming the business still works as it did back in the day).

When delivering to a residence, UPS drivers can make their own judgments as to whether it's safe to release a package without signature. If you are ordering something and they have a "delivery instructions" field on the form, you could put down "driver release OK."

There have been times when I just missed a UPS driver at my home by a matter of minutes, and (after spending way more time in the phone tree than is reasonable) I contacted the local UPS depot and had them call the driver to come back.
posted by adamrice at 7:31 AM on June 8, 2006

When available, choose USPS shipping instead of UPS or FedEx. Many online retailers now offer shipping with the good ol' postal service because the service is just as reliable and it avoids the issue of missed deliveries during work hours. Large packages can be held at your local PO for pickup -- which is still inconvenient, but less so than driving across town.

Are you a regular customer (i.e. they know you by name, you spend a lot of money there) at a local small business? My local comic book shop accepts deliveries for a few patrons who pick up their packages along with their weekly comic book supply.
posted by junkbox at 7:46 AM on June 8, 2006

I've definately showed up at FedEx and UPS well after the 'stated' hours - playing dumb and claiming that the rep said I could come in before X - where X is the next hour.

Always works. They're open 24/7 - it's not like they close at night.

Then they'll always claim it's already "locked up". Be persistant. Never failed me yet.
posted by jimmy0x52 at 8:33 AM on June 8, 2006

What's weird is I used to have to sign for everything, but since I moved to a new house in a quiet neighborhood, I've never had to sign for anything since. It's really convenient, but sometimes I wish the biggest ticket items required me to be home.

The other day a fedex dude left a giant shipping container with two bent plywood chairs in it. Just left it on my doorstep, no sig required. It was fine and I stayed close to home to pick it up, but it was kind of surprising to see it just left on the doorstep.
posted by mathowie at 8:46 AM on June 8, 2006

When I get one of those "We missed you!" notes and I know I will not be in the next day, I leave a hand-written note *with my signature on it* asking them to leave the package on my back porch.

This only works if the note is signed, I've tried just "Dear FedEx, Leave my package in the back!" and no dice.

They take the note with them as proof of signature and your package awaits you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:53 AM on June 8, 2006

Yeah, work delivery is the best answer.

Of course, getting stuff at work can have its problems. The mailroom doesn't necessarily give a whit about "next day." At my office, stuff is not necessarily distributed to the employees the day it arrives at the office. Also, you might have to get a pass to carry a box out of the building. And when your eBay win of ten years of "Big Uns" arrives, you may have some splaining to do.

The delivery companies that offer "next day" delivery should be kicked in the head if they think "next day" means "you can get it next day if you come to our warehouse in bum-fuck Queens before 5 p.m. on a work day." Once UPS told me to go pick up the package at their distribution center. They said it was on Fifth Avenue. So I went to that address. No UPS. Turns out, they meant Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, not Manhattan. Wasted three hours of my life.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:06 AM on June 8, 2006

I used to use Mailboxes Etc.'s "Virtual Doorman" service as described earlier. You sign up with them and give your phone #s. They call you when your pkg. arrives. Costs between 2 and 5 dollars depending on size of pkg (in NYC). Easy...if you have a such a place in your neighborhood.
posted by HK10036 at 9:14 AM on June 8, 2006

After leaving two signed notes for FedEx (as described by grapefruitmoon et al) I recently spent 45 minutes (maybe 20) on the phone with both the call center and my local warehouse, begging them to just leave me this package, whose contents cost less than the price of shipping. They couldn't help me.

Apparently, completely independent of any signatures, barcodes, releases, etc., ultimately the decision about leaving a package is always up to the driver. And my driver apparently hates my neighborhood (with good reason, generally, but annoyingly in the case of the near-worthless package). I especially love this with FedEx, where I've paid extra to have it delivered quickly, and then it ends up taking extra long because they refuse to deliver it.

In the end I had the package rerouted to my office and it was there the next day. I've also cut back on FedEx because of my driver's crappy attitude (exhibited in other cases not germane here).
posted by xueexueg at 9:19 AM on June 8, 2006

Not sure about Fedex, but Purolator hooked me up with a little sticker I put on my front door that indicates to the driver that it's ok to leave the package on the front step or in the mailbox.

A friend has had success with a sticker he made (so it's water/weather proof) and put on his door that says something like "Couriers: Please leave deliveries on back step.
posted by mykl at 9:20 AM on June 8, 2006

PO Boxes are cheap and renting one would solve your problem for businesses that ship USPS. Unfortunately, businesses that don't use USPS will not ship to PO boxes.

But note that you can ask Amazon to ship via USPS, so they do ship to PO boxes. (This doesn't address the general problem of FedEx/UPS, but as Amazon was mentioned...)
posted by Rash at 9:43 AM on June 8, 2006

Don't the "we'll return..." notes have a signature line where you can sign for the package (unless it's "adult signature required on delivery" where they have to see you or verify age)? I'm sure I've been able to sign their note and have them leave it.

Interestingly, I have the same problem on the opposite schedule--they try to deliver all my packages after standard work hours (as in, around 7PM, give or take an hour), and I work from about 4PM-1AM most days. Man, when I move next time, I'm going to find out where the house is on the UPS and FedEx routes before I sign anything...
posted by Cricket at 10:25 AM on June 8, 2006

we've actually come to an agreement with all the carriers that deliver to our house, except for FedEx, who seem to only have idiots work for them (they've delivered to our house hundreds of times over the years and always have to call to confirm where we live...). whenever we get a package, whether it requires a signature or not, they put it in one of the vehicles at our house. since we have four cars and one is always at the house, sometimes at least 2, this is ideal. then, once they put it in the car, they lock it, and if a signature is required they have a waiver on file from us and they just sign an X themselves.
posted by sporky at 10:28 AM on June 8, 2006

I worked at a FedEx call center. My information is not completely current, because they did make some changes to their signature policy right around the time I left last year, but from what I know: with express shipping you can fill out the form on the back of the slip (best, as this can go on file for future shipments), leave a signed note on your door, or have the shipper call and request the package be released without signature (not likely with amazon). Once delivery has been attempted one time I believe the recipient can also phone in to request it be released. The driver is allowed to make judgement calls here though, so this doesn't work every time. There are also some packages that require a signature in person, though the amazon packages are unlikely to fall under that category.

The number you can call to tell the driver not to waste his time is the FedEx 1-800 number. You will get an annoying IVR that will do its best to keep you from talking to a real person. I've heard the shorcut to get to a real person is to say "agent", but I was never on that end of the call so I'm not sure. Be sure you have the tracking number as agents are actively discouraged from searching for your package without it and will often try to get you to call back if you don't have the number. You can request the package be held at a local FedEx station, but not until one delivery attempt has been made. You still save the extra two days of delivery attempts though. The solution mentioned above of having it shipped to a station and held for pickup is your best bet, if you can do it.
posted by jheiz at 10:34 AM on June 8, 2006

I too have everything delivered to work. Of course, here in NYC there are some people who live in buildings with doormen, and in a sense, a doorman's whole purpose in life is to solve this problem. But I don't live in one of those buildings.

I have had the same experience mathowie describes, when I was living in suburban Seattle in a house with a porch. If the driver is reasonably sure that nobody is going to come along and take the package, he'll just leave it.

When I was living in the ghetto that is Koreatown, Los Angeles, I pestered both Amazon and UPS, both of whom told me that there was nothing they could do, and then one day, the packages started showing up on the front stoop...which is where I wanted them. I had decided long ago that I would rather risk losing them to theft than have to make a trip to the warehouse every damn time. I guess that either someone at Amazon or UPS eventually decided that it really was ok to just leave them there.

You could always leave a note on the door encouraging them to just leave it.
posted by bingo at 11:21 AM on June 8, 2006

My story... I recently had a large package from UPS (lawn mower, thomas j wise) left, no signature required. And for a bigger package, FedEx left a sticker telling me a signature was required - but it had a space for a signature. So I signed, and got the package the next day. No fuss.

The only other time I had to sign was with UPS (computer), and I called them the day before, and they told me they could be there after work (5:30). They were, I signed, done.

Location: suburban Long Island.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:48 AM on June 8, 2006

FedEx will always leave a package if the sender signs the "deliver without signature" line (or tics it off in the online form generator).

UPS has a similar feature, but the drivers are not required to obey it. They can refuse to leave it if they think it won't be safe.

Both services have a space on the attempted delivery forms (which the driver picks up on the second attempt) for you to designate a different delivery address (such as your work address).

You can also call them to change the delivery address.
posted by KRS at 12:32 PM on June 8, 2006

When my schedule unexpectedly takes me out of the house (working from home now), I leave a note saying:

"Please consider this signature release for the package from X COMPANY."

With my signature at the bottom. Never had them refuse that.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:40 PM on June 8, 2006

If you live in an apartment complex (though it doesn't sound like you do), you can leave a note asking them to leave it at the main office. Otherwise, a note with your signature will usually work, but as others have noted, it's up to the driver.

I always have things delivered to work now, but sometimes that creates extra headaches, too. Since the billing and shipping address don't match, they might delay the order, or call first to verify.
posted by Sibrax at 1:12 PM on June 8, 2006

There's this thing, too. But you'd have to order it online and have it delivered, first.
posted by notyou at 1:18 PM on June 8, 2006

I've had good luck with a signed note on the door, and I make a habit of writing in "Please leave package on porch w/o signature" when the ordering process leaves a space for "Other deliver information".

The only time I've ever had to go somewhere to pick up a package was when I made the mistake of ordering something from eeeeevil I wanted it right away, paid a bunch extra for FedEx overnight, and then they didn't bother to tell me that the product was backordered and would be shipped a few days later and would require a signature. I hate those jerks.
posted by booknerd at 1:31 PM on June 8, 2006

I've made an agreement with the delivery truck driver for each company to drop packages at my front door. I don't really care if someone tries to steal it. In some cases, they required a letter from me, in other cases they gave me a sticker that that has a bar code on it that they can scan.

I would call up each delivery company and ask them what hoops you've got to jump through to get them to just leave stuff.
posted by fcain at 2:11 PM on June 8, 2006

I have all of my mail delivered to a nearby Mailboxes Etc. location. Despite the cost, I find it worthwhile because 1) Having a locked mailbox lessens my risk of identity theft, and 2) I never have to worry about being home at a specific time just to sign for a package.
posted by invisible ink at 2:42 PM on June 8, 2006

Some FedEx tips:

FedEx toll free is 800-463-3339, press "0" (zero) or say "representative" and then "yes" (they want to know if you're calling about a package that has already been shipped) to get straight to a rep. Recently there's been a spanish language intro- pressing zero a few times is faster than saying "representative".

Most of the time, leaving packages is up to driver discretion. As for getting the driver to actually leave a package, much success has been had with a note indicating a specific tracking number, drop-off location instructions and signature. This provides the driver with the proof they need so they don't get fined if you complain about a missing package- the big reason they don't want to leave stuff behind.

Also, Express and Ground/Home Delivery services are two seperate entities, what works for one may not for the other.
posted by andeluria at 4:23 PM on June 8, 2006

I am surprised that some of you are able to get packages delivered to Mailboxes, Etc for a couple dollars. Here in DC they charge $15 per package.

With UPS, I have discovered that I can call them with the tracking number right after the package is shipped and ask them to hold it at the warehouse. I still have to drive and get it, but I can go there the first day instead of waiting four days until all the delivery attempts are made.
posted by clarissajoy at 6:26 PM on June 8, 2006

Some online merchants insist on delivering to the address on file with your credit card company

You can call your credit card company and add your work address (or any other addresses) to the list of approved addresses.
posted by winston at 7:09 PM on June 8, 2006

what winston said
posted by Afroblanco at 9:18 PM on June 8, 2006

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