You’re laughing; the post office has been renowned for inefficiency and unreliability since time immemorial. But that reputation was undeserved as far as package delivery goes until five or six months ago.
When you click the Get Shipping Rates button on my checkout page, Sunshop sends your package weight and destination to USPS and UPS rate servers that quickly return a list of services and prices. A few months ago, USPS started adding delivery time estimates to the Priority Mail rates that they return: 1 Day, 2 Day, or 3 Day. Now you might see a list that looks like this:
· $3.47 First Class Package
· $5.90 Priority Mail 2-Day
· $17.99 Priority Mail Express 1-Day
· $20.57 UPS Second-Day Air
· $47.82 UPS Next-Day Air
You order a bird kite on Thursday. Those don’t fit in a drop box so I have to request a carrier pickup. If I process your order Friday afternoon, USPS will (probably, but not definitely) pick it up on Saturday. It will be in transit on Monday and Tuesday. If they hit their 2-day target, you’ll get it on Tuesday – five days after your order – but it might be Wednesday or Thursday if they’re running a little behind, as they commonly do. Your “2-day shipping” just took the better part of a week. You’re a little cheesed off because you “paid extra for priority shipping,” as several customers have declared (and I’ve got to hand it to USPS marketing; people take “priority” literally when it’s really just the cheapest service for packages over 13 ounces). Who do you blame when two days stretch into five or more? Why, that would be me. You don’t know that USPS displayed that “2-Day” text without any input from me and you don’t know that it’s not guaranteed. You just think that I advertised service that you didn’t get. Are you going to shop here again?
One First Class Package disappeared without a trace since they made this change. After I filed a missing package report I got an email from the local post office saying that they would monitor my package status. Three attempted replies to that email brought no response; that package is just gone and the post office won’t talk about it.
I’ve refunded shipping charges to two irate customers whose orders were significantly delayed after they “paid extra for priority shipping” and talked several others off the ledge. Some people accept my explanation, and some think I’m blowing smoke up their ass.
On Dec. 31 somebody really did pay extra to have a small package delivered via Priority Mail rather than the cheaper First Class Package rate. It was supposed to arrive on Jan. 5. On Jan. 8 the customer contacted me; there was no tracking after acceptance in Braintree on the 31st and she demanded action. On Jan. 10 I reshipped her order and filed an online refund request. Five days later the lost package reappeared on the radar screen – it took two weeks to cover the 99 miles to Springfield! Ten hours later it was in California. Now I’m not going to be able to recover that loss, either.
Last Saturday I received an order at 11:42 am. The customer paid $17.54 for “Priority Mail Express 1-Day,” added a note saying “I need it for Monday!!!!! Please!! I payed for 1 day Express Mail. Thank you” and emailed me to make sure. I verified that Express Mail is an overnight service to New York City and got a package bearing a label showing “1-Day” with a delivery date of 1/13 to the post office before their 1 pm pickup. On Monday night she complained that not only had her package not arrived, it was showing a delivery date of Wednesday. Three days from Boston to NYC! Even plain old Priority Mail typically gets there overnight.
One must request service refunds at a post office counter. After my 10-minute wait in line the postal clerk apologized and promptly processed a refund. A manager tried to derail the process but gave up when I stood firm and the clerk took my side. I walked out with $17 in cash. In a rare flash of good luck, my customer was so thrilled with her mini-briefcase business card holder that she insisted that I keep the money. Profit! I ordinarily need $85 in sales to earn $17.
A good 9,500 of the 10,000+ packages that I’ve shipped in the past eight years have gone via US mail. Before the recent unpleasantness I had only lost two shipments without a trace in all that time. Sure, there were late deliveries, packages that disappeared after being confirmed delivered (presumed stolen), things that arrived damaged, things that were deemed “undeliverable” to legitimate addresses. Such are the vicissitudes of shipping. But UPS takes longer, damage is much more common, and they've lost one or two packages out of far fewer carried. (FedEx isn’t a player for my purposes and I only recently learned that DHL still exists.)
This all stops being funny when it costs me money.