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Is UPS just plain broken? * Updated

By Andrew Pollack on 01/27/2010 at 03:09 PM EST

* Updated January 27th -- Notes at the end of the original story.

UPS is usually pretty reliable. My experience, however, has been that if the smallest thing goes wrong the whole process grinds to an inexplicable halt. Let me show you an example.

On the 20th (a Wednesday) Lenovo shipped three packages to me. Two of them came from China. The first made the trip in the expected (and paid for) two days. The second seems to have spent days sitting in Shanghai and has so far chained itself to the wall in Kentucky.

I called UPS. They swear to me that the package has cleared customs and is not lost in any way. They say someone made a mistake (but won't say what it was) but that the package is on its way. However, they also say the package is now expected on Thursday. Aside from the fact that it's a full 5 days longer than other one -- and two and half times the original shipping time overdue, nobody can tell me what the problem is.

Even more confusing, is that although the package is supposedly in Kentucky and through customs, they're saying it's 4 days from there to here. In the mean time, every other package ever sent to me over two day air (including the other package in this same order) takes less than one day to go from Kentucky to my door.

So, with this box which hasn't moved at all in more than 20 hours -- even though the next steps should not require any travel at all (there should be an import scan and departure scan in Kentucky). So far in 20 hours, UPS hasn't done what it usually takes 3 hours to accomplish.

Can anyone give me the slightest idea what the fsck is going on with these guys? I get the distinct impression that I'm being lied to. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

This is the package that got delivered on time.
Location Date Local Time Description
SO. PORTLAND, ME, US 01/21/2010 10:19 A.M. DELIVERY
01/21/2010 8:13 A.M. OUT FOR DELIVERY
01/21/2010 5:52 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
01/21/2010 3:06 A.M. IMPORT SCAN
01/21/2010 1:42 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
01/20/2010 12:12 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
TAO-YUAN, TW 01/20/2010 8:31 P.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
01/20/2010 6:32 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
01/20/2010 11:31 A.M. ORIGIN SCAN

This is the package that is scheduled to be 5 days late (as of 1/25/2010 3:45pm)
Location Date Local Time Description
01/22/2010 6:28 P.M. EXPORT SCAN
SHANGHAI, CN 01/21/2010 10:03 A.M. ORIGIN SCAN

I wonder if when I finally see this package, if it will have customs stickers on it from 10 different countries and large dents and tears covered in tape.

UPDATE: 1/27/2010

After spending days with me pushing buttons and getting different information, the package finally escaped from Louisville, KY after spending about 3 days basically lost. Missing from this log was a brief note inserted prior to the clearing agency note that indicated "INTERNAL UPS ACTIVITY" -- that note vanished after about 30 minutes and is no longer in the log. I believe this is when the package was actually found and put back on track.

In any case, I'm happy to say that it did finally get here in an undamaged form. Two packages sent from the same invoice with the same shipping choice from the same region (some consider Taiwan to be part of China -- in particular the Chinese -- while some do not -- most of the rest of the world, so I won't say the same country). One took two days. One took a week.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Is UPS just plain broken?By Wayne MacKirdy on 01/25/2010 at 03:57 PM EST
I had a similar experience in November. An overnight package didn't show up for
5 days. Finally, after a number of calls, someone admitted that the box arrived
at one of the distribution centers - wait for it - EMPTY.

I asked when someone was going to notify me, and they had no answer!
re: Is UPS just plain broken?By Andrew Pollack on 01/25/2010 at 04:12 PM EST
That thought had occurred to me -- perhaps a vendor who doesn't have the stock
they say they have and were looking for a delay.

Still, it seems terribly conspiratorial to me. Generally I prefer to assume
incompetence over conspiracy most of the time.

In any case, I suspect there may be customs stamps from both the US and China
on this box, and it will be interesting to compare the dates on the stamps to
the information posted by UPS. If they diverge, I'll be sure to post the
evidence of such here.
re: Is UPS just plain broken?By Danny Lawrence on 01/26/2010 at 11:34 AM EST
I've been wondering about UPS's Quality control as of late. I've had a couple
of packages that were "unable to be delivered" for reasons that I can't fathom,
other than the fact that the driver wanted to knock off early. I also got a
postcard from them saying "we couldn't find your address, so we didn't deliver
your package" -- with my correct address on the postcard and on the package
(which was picked up at the local UPS depot).
re: Is UPS just plain broken?By Bruce Perry on 01/26/2010 at 03:26 PM EST
Still Ongoing.By Andrew Pollack on 01/26/2010 at 04:33 PM EST
Well, I called on Monday and was told it had cleared customs but wouldn't make
it to me until Thursday. No reason given.

I called again on Tuesday after seeing no progress and was told it was still in
customs and was "ON TIME" since it wasn't sent as a 2 day package and would be
here on Thursday. No further explanation of the discrepancy.

I wrote a note to Lenovo saying essentially "WTF? How can I trust you with my
company's business if you can't even ship?"

No response from Lenovo.

A few hours later, this appeared in the UPS tracking log....


Then about 30 minutes later, that went away and this showed up instead....

LOUISVILLE, KY, US 01/26/2010 12:18 P.M. IMPORT SCAN

Also, the package now has a status that changed from "In Transit" to "In
Transit - On Time" with a delivery date of Wednesday (Tomorrow). This of
course, doesn't match with anything I'd been told before, as it's either a week
late if the package was sent 2-Day deliver, or a day early if it was not sent
that way.

Since then, it's been about 4 hours with no activity. I guess I'll wait to see
what's next.

I'm more than a bit concerned that the "UPS INTERNAL ACTIVITY" showed up and
was removed. It's yet more indication that these tracking logs are anything
but accurate and are definitely subject to human edit as need be.

UPS: Your "Tightest Ship in the Shipping Business" isn't proving to be
anything close to that.
re: Still Ongoing.By john reynoso on 06/22/2015 at 04:29 PM EDT
5 years later, UPS is still broke! I have the same problem you encountered over
5 years ago. Same route, China to AK to KY. Tracking indicates "Held in
warehouse" in KY. Its been over 24hrs there. I will inform my supplier in
China, never use UPS to send my merchandise. Use DHL instead. Their mantra, "We
love logistics" yeah, right!
re: Still Ongoing.By Alex on 08/25/2015 at 04:19 PM EDT
Obviously its the route that is the problem if its the exact same. With that
said UPS is a bunch of goofs and do not stick to there delivery notices. On
mine it said my packaged had passed customs and arrived at the local UPS store
and sat there for 2 days and THEN they gave me and exception on my order with
no delivery time available. I called and they said it was still in cutoms.
WTF!!!!! How is it there if it was already confirmed to be in my town 2 days
ahead and if it is here why wasnt it shipped to my house instead of sitting
around for in total 5 days after i made the call, it was a total of 7 including
the other 2 days. I thought UPS was reliable but this experience (especially
since the product cost nearly 2g) has completely turned me off of buying from
UPS over borders. Never again will i import or export anything. Im sticking
with one UPS and thats the one in my country because it seems when they talk to
each others offices over borders they make huge mistakes! Either that or they
took my computer and used it for 7 days then sent it to me. I just find it odd
when i order expensive things no matter how small days are added to the ship
time as if someone is doing it on purpose. Starting to think a president or VP
is going through the packages and playing/taking what they can without people
noticing. Either that or they are plan stupid at there primary job.....

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