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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy Holidays from UPS

In October of 2014, United Parcel Service unveiled its UPS Access Point program. An access point is, allegedly, a network of retail establishments with convenient hours, staffed by UPS-employee-trained, um, professionals who know how to give you a package or accept a package for shipping.

Initially it was started in urban areas to help curb rising thefts of packages left on doorsteps. Given what I went through last week—that’s right, Christmas week—I think I’ll trust future packages with the thieves. If only I had that option.

So the Tuesday before Christmas, a UPS driver stuck a pre-printed label on my door, saying a package was left at 4101 (street name deleted).

Be aware that I wasn’t expecting a package, but Other Bill thought it might be a sweatshirt he ordered but wasn’t expecting that soon. This was the first time UPS didn’t just leave the package hidden in the bushes next to my front door, which has always worked out just fine. But apparently our address has been Access Pointed.

So Wednesday I went to this UPS Access Point at 4101 (street name deleted). It was a sushi bar. I wasn’t about to go into a sushi bar and ask if they had a package for me. It was just too ridiculous to believe. So I got back in the car and started to go home and noticed that there was a second business at 4101 (street name deleted) in the same plaza. I’m not kidding. Same address, different business. It was a pharmacy. But there was a tiny US Postal Service sign on the door of the pharmacy, so I was less embarrassed asking a postal employee if they had my UPS package than I would a busboy or fish cutter, so I went in.

Not wanting to interrupt a somewhat lengthy conversation by the two allegedly-trained-by-UPS-employees, I patiently stood there waiting while they discussed the Christmas shopping they still had to do. They rattled off lists of recipients and what they were getting, sizes they wore, possible prices or deals they could get on the stuff. You know: critical information employees must spew out in order to keep a customer waiting. One of them must have heard my teeth grinding, so she took my door sticker and shuffled off to the little package closet where the not-ready-for-home-delivery packages were.

The lady picked up each package, dusted it off, and went over each package with a magnifying glass and a lice comb. “What’s the name?” She asked for the third time.  I told her Other Bill’s last name and mine.

Heavy packages, light packages, small packages, large packages, envelopes of varying sizes, plastic pouches: each was examined with unnerving scrutiny. She brought out several different packages and handed them to me, asking if they were mine. Well, none had our names on them or our address, so I guessed they weren’t.

“Sometimes they put a sticker on them that covers the name,” she said, although none of the ones she gave me had the name or address hidden.

Finally, about fifteen minutes later, she concluded, “I don’t think it’s here.”

“Well it should be here,” I said. “They left the sticker on my door yesterday, so it should have been delivered here yesterday afternoon.”

She shrugged. “I dunno,” she said.

“Is there a number I can call?” I asked.

“I dunno.”

Really? An allegedly trained-by-UPS-employees employee, and she didn’t even give me the 800-PICK-UPS number that I already knew.

Gnashing my teeth still, I left the ambiguous address, drove home and called UPS.

Let me tell you something about 1-800-PICK-UPS. You can’t speak to a human unless you have a tracking number, and if you have a tracking number, they give you the pre-recorded status of your package, which I already knew was wrong. I desperately wanted to speak to a human.

“I’m sorry,” the recording said, “you need to enter your tracking number.” I pressed zero.

“I’m sorry,” she said again, “I didn’t quite get that. Please say your tracking number.”

“I don’t have it,” I tried.

“I’m sorry, I still didn’t get that. Please enter your tracking number.”

“AGENT!” I screamed.

“I can get you to an agent, but first, please say your tracking number.”

“FUCK YOU!” I barked, and then, I kid you not, the clouds parted, the sun shone through my front window, and a miracle occurred. I was actually transferred to an agent.

“Due to unusually large holiday call volume, you may experience extended wait times. Your call will be answered in nine minutes.”

Great, that should be time enough for the Valium to kick in, I thought, swallowing a pill.

Finally a human came on. I gave her my tracking number, and she told me the package was on the truck and would be delivered to my door by five o’clock. I immediately regretted not saving the Valium for a more difficult situation. She also told me to sign the back of the door sticker and put it back on the door. Although I planned to be home all night and would eagerly be there to assassinate the UPS driver, I did what she said.

Is anyone surprised that UPS did not show up with my package by five o’clock, or any time after that on Wednesday? Of course not. I don’t know why I even bothered to leave the outside light on until 7:00.

So Thursday, Christmas Eve, I was released from work early, and I got home and called PICKUPS, gave the recorded lady my tracking number, and she said, “Your package can be picked up at 4101 (street name deleted) today before seven PM.”

It was 2 PM, so I had time. Back in the car. Drove by the sushi bar to the second 4101 and walked to the back of the pharmacy to the Access Point, where the lights were off. The pharmacist said they had closed at 1 PM because it was Christmas Eve.

So, okay, no Christmas surprises for us, I figured. I contemplated calling UPS back, barking expletives to the recording again, waiting 10 minutes for a human and saying the same thing to her, but by this time there was no point. I’m sure the package, whatever it was, would be safe in the closet with the magnifying glasses and nit combs.

Friday was Christmas. Movie and Chinese food, so no one even thought of the elusive UPS package.

So Saturday I called 4101 to see if they were open, and Other Bill and I drove back over there. I let him go in and do the work, since I had failed twice. I sat in the car with my emotional-support-better-than-Valium dog. Ten minutes went by, and I knew Other Bill would not be coming out with a package. A while later he came out and said I should come in to help explain what I’d been told on the phone by UPS.

This time there was a different woman at the UPS Access Point Genius Bar. I told her that UPS told me that the package had been delivered there on Wednesday at 4:30, about an hour after I had been there the first time.

“Well sometimes they tell you it has been delivered when it really is still on the truck,” she said. And then she rambled on about a personal shipping experience she, even as a trained-by-UPS-employees employee, had had, but I didn’t comprehend it, because I was too busy hemorrhaging from my ears and eyes at this point, so I felt my way out of the store back to the calming nature of the dog, who stopped the bleeding with her tongue. Other Bill, the compassionate one, I’m sure said nice things and thanked the Genius Bar employee for her assistance.

Back at home, I once again summoned 1-800-PICK-UPS, but I was too embarrassed to say “fuck you” to the recorded lady in front of Other Bill, so I slurred mock tracking numbers over a period of several minutes until I was transferred to an agent with a five minute wait time.

By then I just wanted to know where the package was from so we could determine if it was the missing sweat shirt. “Of course,” said the agent, and in a minute she said, “Okay, this package was sent to Tina (last name deleted), shipped from—”

“Wait, hold on,” I interrupted. “You’re telling me after all the shit I’ve been through that this package is for my next door neighbor and the driver put the sticker on the wrong door?”

I didn’t hear her answer, and I probably said something worse than what got me to an agent in the first place on Wednesday, and then I hung up on her.

Today the sweatshirt arrived, and it was waiting on my doorstep in a US Postal Service Priority Mail box when I got home from work.  Unfortunately it was the wrong size, so we have to send it back.

I wonder which carrier I should use.

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