UPS attempts to monetize inefficiency

Every now and then we get packages that have to be signed for. Every so often, we’re not home. Recently, in an attempt to improve our hit rate, we’ve signed up for email notification from UPS, telling us what day they will be delivering a package. It’s a great idea. Unfortunately, the marketeers that put it together went a little too far.

What’s the cost to UPS of missing a delivery? That is, showing up with a package that needs a signature, only to find there’s no-one home and having to come back tomorrow. At a minimum, it’s excess travel time on the truck from point A to point B to point C when they could have just gone from A to C, plus excess driver time, plus the run-up-and-knock time. Not a lot, in the overall scheme of things, but it mounts up.

One way to cut down on this cost to UPS, at some hidden cost to the customer, is to let the customer know that their copy of The Heterodyne Boys and the Race to the West Pole will be delivered sometime between 8AM and possibly 7PM next Wednesday (God forbid that they should actually be able to predict AM or PM). That way the customer can hang out at home all day, under the entirely correct assumption that their time is worth nothing…to UPS. Of course, the customer might just decide to blow off the delivery that day in favor of a previously scheduled prostatectomy. In that case, UPS has to come back the next day, and possibly the next.

Even with the advance notification, this is an inefficient system. What’s needed is a system whereby the customer can inform the carrier of when they’ll be home, and the carrier can then schedule the delivery for that day. No missed deliveries, no irate customers, no problems.

Well, UPS has such a system. When you get your notification email, you can go to their website to check on the status. If the scheduled delivery date is a problem, you can go to another page to reschedule. On that page you find you have two options. (1) arrange for you to drive across town to their facility for pickup, or (2) specify a delivery date. By the way. the ‘specify a delivery date’ option costs you $5.00. That’s right. In order to help them improve their delivery efficiency, you have to pay them.

Our next package is due Monday. We might be home. If not, well, c’est le’guerre. They can come back on Tuesday, and if they are really unlucky, on Wednesday — the day we really wanted the delivery on.

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