7.03.2013

I spoke with a very nice person at UPS customer service. She actually helped me. I loved it. It almost made up for how crappy their online forms are....

The image above is how grumpy I looked this morning when trying to ship three large containers of gear to Denver, CO. I'm heading up to Denver next week to do a teaching/online project and I needed to have my familiar and tested gear with me to do the best job possible. I'm taking my cameras and laptop with me on the plane... (I wish I was driving...I could take more stuff).

So, I need to show how I do portraits and I needed to pack stuff like my six by six foot frame, my big flashes, my frames and my clamps and umbrellas and all the little fun lights I like to play with. My partner/client asked me to send all the heavy stuff via UPS. Normally I avoid them like the plague because they can be horrible to deal with, especially for a freelancer who hates just hanging around the studio waiting for that "We'll be by sometime between noon and 7pm..." thing.

My partner sent along a sign in and password and presumed I'd be able to hop on line, navigate some of the absolute worst automated programming in the world today and then magically my packages would be whisked away safely. Oh that it was so easy. With my key board in front of me I entered the first circle of Hell. The non-responsive interface. Before I was in too far I asked my contact if I could just drop the packages by one of the ubiquitous UPS stores and have them wayfind their own path through their own cruddy software. I was assured it would be no problem
Into the vehicle go the three large 50+ pound cases and I drive off to the local UPS shop. I haul all three cases in a wait for too long and finally it's my turn and I explain what I need to do and the person behind the counter just shakes his head and tells me, "I can't access nobody's accounts. They don't let us do that. You need to have them air bills printed out and attached to the boxes and then I can take em."

I put everything back in the car and race back to the studio to try again. This time I get an error message about the client's address. I call the client and am assured that the address is hunky dory. I push onward. Finally we get to the summary page: Three packages, three day shipping, $685. Right, I could just buy the cases a seat on Southwest Airlines for that. We try again for ground delivery and the price drops by half. Now the problem is that the magnificent software (done, no doubt by the lowest bidder in the universe) won't allow me to print out the airbills I can see on my screen ostensibly because I am not the account holder.

I call customer service and a very patient and knowledgeable operator actually assists me and walks through the whole process until I've got airbills printed. Then I ask, "Can I now drop these by the local UPS store and have them receive the cases?" She replies, "Oh sure, unless you've declared a value of the cases." No, I always ship thousands of dollars of lighting equipment uninsured because of my deep faith and belief in prayer...... "I insured them."  She replied, "Well, in that case you'll need to take them to the main terminal (in the middle of rural Texas on the other side of the nuclear waste dumps, just south of the active volcano and slightly north of the massive septic tank truck spill....still in the process of being cleaned up..).  My heart sinks at the thought of wasting my day driving around and waiting to wait for some more waiting. And then she throws me the bone...

"We can arrange for a pick-up." Yes, Please.  "What time would work for you?" How about between now (noon-ish) and two p.m? "Okay, just let me enter that into the system. Yes, you are all set. Is there anything else I can help you with?"  No, thanks for all your help. Be sure to kick your I.T. people in the balls on your way out of the office tonight....

I pull the equipment from the car, slap on the labels and get back to work on something more interesting. I'm happy the cases will go out on time and make it to Denver in plenty of time for my presentations. Then Dave calls....

When I come back from getting coffee there's a message on my phone: "Hello, this is Dave from UPS and it looks like we have a req for a pick up from you. Is that a residence or a business? Anyway, I'm calling to let you know that we can't be there by that time and maybe you could call me back.."

Rising anger and frustration as I hit the number Dave just called from and, after twenty rings, I get a recorded message from UPS and am offered an "800" number. I go back through Dave's message and at the end he's made the mistake (from his point of view) of leaving me a direct line. We go through the typical back and forth of what constitutes a business address and I tell him that one of his people set up the pick up times and I don't want to wait here all day for someone to drop by. Not only that but it's lunch time and I can probably go to the Jason's Deli that's half a mile from here and find six or seven UPS trucks all herding together.... Dave's current placating offer is that he's pretty sure he can have someone here by 7pm.  Yes, somewhere in the next 7 hours. Oh joy. I tell him that's not going to work.

Dave promises to call me back in fifteen minutes with a pick up time. It's be a lot longer now and I'm starting to think that the second circle of hell is opening up and reaching for my ankles. I miss the days of skycaps and $25 per bag airline charges, etc. Why is it so hard to get stuff done now? Did all the embracing of technology usher in (to somehow compensate) a new and receding level of competency on everyone's behalf?

I can only imagine what the next shoe to drop will be..

I hate shipping stuff. I always have. In the future I'll just tell people I have to drive. That way I may arrive tired and road sore but I'll be able to bring all the stuff I want and control it on every step of the way. 

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is why I ship everything via FedEx. Their online systems have no problem billing to a different account, it's easy to make a shipment, and they pick up when they say they will. My UPS delivery driver is a great guy, but his company is another matter entirely!

Frank Grygier said...

Just think you could have used the United States Postal Service. I'm guessing you would have to get on the phone with your congressman to get the shipping labels.

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. God. My sympathies.

Tom Barry

Anonymous said...

FedEx. Accounts are free, online forms are not terribly beautiful but manageable, and they pick up on time. However, that's Express... Ground will pick up "in the next few days"...

Kirk Tuck said...

Current status: Packages picked up by a courteous and fun driver at 3:15 pm. Let's see where they end up....

Kirk Tuck said...

And my son quickly put everything in context for me: "Really dad? Your biggest problem right now is you can't get your stuff picked up exactly when you want? Really?" And then the look that says, "priorities out of whack, I'm going swimming."

Anonymous said...

We use FedEx (for domestic shipping) and DHL (international) at my office, and we've never had these kinds of issues. I second those who have recommended a FedEx account. They may even charge for a scheduled pick-up time, but I'd gladly do that rather than sit around and wait on Dave for 7 hours.

You joked that you could buy the boxes a ticket on Southwest for the aforementioned $685...Actually, if you checked 3 cases, up to 100 lbs each (assuming that they're all over 50 lbs and less than 62 linear inches), you'd be looking at either $225 or $300, one-way ($75 each for the first two that were over 50 lbs, and either $75 or $150 for the third, depending on how they sort out the fees). If they're greater than 62 linear inches, then you might get stuck with another $75 fee, but I would imagine that only one might meet those parameters.

And I think you can arrive at the check-in counter whenever you wanted, rather than waiting within a 7-hr window for someone to take your packages. For either $375 or $450, even that seems like a lot less hassle than the estimated $300-$350 for ground shipping with UPS(provided that you can manage all that and your carry-on items on the far end...).

Wow. Just Wow.

Dale P.

Will said...

"Why is it so hard to get stuff done now?" The question of the millenium. The competence to get anything to just work has been value engineered out of existence. Will it ever return?

Wally said...

The nikon rep in San Antono-sorry I forgot her name- shared a tip. Ship freight to freight from you to you. Insure your gear and declare it as electronic equipment. Says its the same as UPS air. Only thing is you have to drop it off several days in advance at the airport and also have to pick it up at air freight for your airline. It does sit securely in the air freight terminal till you get there.

Kirk Tuck said...

I guess I'm just old fashioned. I want to shove it in my car and drive it there.

Jim said...

I think it depends on where you are and the local staff. A lot of people complain about the Postal Service but around here (NNY near the Canadian border) it's mostly great, very helpful and dependable. Of course it's our rural offices they want to close, not the big ones that have grouchy, lousy service. I find the same with UPS. They are very helpful here. DHL and FedEx pretty much ignore us. Too few customers to bother with. We get deliveries by FedEx but there's no place to send things out.

André Balsa said...

Your grumpy portrait made me LOL! :-)

bobfoto said...

I hate to bring this up, but what is your plan for the return trip home?

My vote would be for Wally's Nikon Rep technique mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

In order to get rid of that unsatisfied expression, maybe, like your badge states, an "escort is required".