A funny story, and additional notes, on package delivery


I’ve talked about delivery services around here once or twice. (And perhaps even more than that.) And I need to say something, as we begin, to set the record straight…

I like them.

For the most part, the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx and more. I like them.

I truly have a real appreciation for the idea that I can send a letter across the country… a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean to a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean… for under a dollar. And even if we have several rate increases, that dollar mark for a letter is in no danger of being crossed any time soon.

While I don’t send many postcards anymore, as a child I loved them. Loved to get them. Loved to send them. Mail can be a magical thing.

A similar idea holds true for packages. I can appreciate that a box from my hands can reach my parents for less than any part of an attempt on my own to deliver it personally would cost. The box being sent probably costs less than the tolls I’d pay on the thruways or turnpikes. It’s pretty much without a doubt less expensive than the gas I’d need. Heck, if I drove there to drop it off and turned around to immediately drive back home, I’d likely spend more grabbing a burger than I would to just send the package.

Overall, I am amazed about the possibilities that exist. And, I’m happy to use the services.

Of course, even when you would think that the world is improving and getting smaller, things are getting more and more complex when it comes to deliveries as time moves along. Now, things like the dimensions of a box being used can matter more than the weight or the importance of the contents.

A few years ago, Terry and I were on vacation and we ordered some wine at a vineyard we visited. Nothing like a wine shipment to the house… which usually comes with a requirement that someone 18 or over is there to sign for the package.

The wine arrived on a day we were working. It was a Tuesday. By the time we got home from work that day and found the notice, the office for the delivery company was closed and we couldn’t speak with anyone or leave a message to make other arrangements with them. This meant a truck would go back out on Wednesday with the wine on board, we would again be at work, and attempt number two would be made and fail when no one was home. The carrier was slated to make three attempts before shipping the package back to the vineyard.


As an addition to the story, for those that might be wondering, there are a funny set of side notes. Because we knew we would likely be ordering some wine during our travels—the trip was to northern California—we had checked in with the companies that could be involved in delivering it. One of them had an office near our home, and by coordinating things once the package was shipped, we could have it set up for us to pick it up from them during certain business hours. So, no worries about the 18 and over in the house requirement.

We had made arrangements with the vineyard to ship our order about seven days later. We were at the beginning of our trip and wanted to be sure it didn’t arrive while we were still away. We also were able to use that local office near our home shipping option. The end result was our being able to know when the package was shipped, call the carrier’s office on that day, and make arrangements to have it pulled and stored when it arrived at the transition point for final delivery. But…

Instead, the vineyard marked the order as paid for but to be held until we called to arrange shipping. The person that hosted our tour and processed our order had done this apparently because of the shipping date delay and carrier arrangements we made with her. Then she went on vacation for three weeks and the order wasn’t shipped on the date we had arranged.

When the wine never arrived, we found out about the hold because we called and were asked if we were ready to have it shipped. Taking a deep breath and saying that would be fine, the vineyard then used a different shipping company than the one they had told us they would use, which meant a completely different distribution center was involved. Since we thought one option was being used, there was never a thought that we should be working with a different option to make delivery arrangements.

Ok… back to the wine being sent to our house…

Basically, because of the timing and carrier, we were placed into scramble mode. The distribution center for this particular carrier was thirty minutes away from where we worked, in roughly the opposite direction of our drive home. That effectively meant that beyond everything else the joy of having it shipped this way and needing to pick it up in person to avoid it being returned was costing us an hour of driving. Plus, with our work day and the center’s hours of operation, we were forced to adjust our schedules in order to even make it to the counter during their hours of operation. And, double-plus, since the package ended up spending day two on a truck out making deliveries, we had been warned during our call to try and make arrangements that there was a chance that even if we made it from one place to another on time, it could still be on the truck and we might not be able to pick up our package on that day. So, sure, after driving around on day two, we might not have the package and then would need to return on day three.

As I said. Lovely.

(It was still out on the truck. The office closed before the truck got back in that day. We had to go back again.)

Every day, we move forward. Competition and business demands create scenarios where companies improve their service (hopefully). Technology and innovation have improved service (hopefully). Things today are better than yesterday, and not quite as good as they’ll be tomorrow.

Get the app… sign up for a company’s preferred customer account… register for e-mail alerts… make requests and changes and more at the touch of a button. It’s better, right?

It still doesn’t make it perfect.

I haven’t had any wine shipped lately. If I needed them, I couldn’t find the local distribution centers right now without looking them up. I don’t know how the process for such a circumstance may have improved in ten years.

What I do know is packages get left outside these days with no ringing of bells or knocking on doors. If it weren’t for e-mail alerts, there are some days when I wouldn’t know a box was sitting just a few feet away on a cold day with rain in the forecast.

I’d like to see things get better.

In the upcoming few weeks I’ll be sending out some mail. Letters and cards and such. I don’t have any plans for packages, but I’m sure I’ll have something to send and there most definitely will be something ordered.

And if the process could be improved, well, that would be lovely.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com