Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UPS: Worst customer experience of my life

I was in Barcelona last week for a customer conference. Yes, envy is a natural reaction to that statement. I was running a series of customer feedback sessions throughout the conference, and as preparation for these sessions, I shipped a box of materials to Barcelona via UPS. This turned out to be a mistake of colossal proportions.

To understand just how ridiculously bad UPS handled this shipment, I need to go into boring, gory detail and describe step-by-step the series of events that took place. For those who understandably don't want to read the full narrative I will summarize it in one sentence: The box arrived in Barcelona on Tuesday the week before the conference but never made it to the conference center... I finally gave up on it nine days later.

Here's the full story:

I received shipping instructions from the conference coordinators, and they requested that boxes should arrive on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday the week before the conference. The conference began on Monday, with some early registration on Sunday night. One of the things in my box was 800 flyers to be inserted into everyone's conference messenger bag that they receive when they register, so it was important that the box be waiting for me when I arrived on Saturday so I could do all the inserts. To make sure this happened, I sent the box out the Friday before it needed to be there and specified a Wednesday delivery.

On Tuesday afternoon, I got a call from UPS. They said they tried to deliver the package, but they weren't able to do it because the recipient wasn't there. I told them to re-deliver it the next day (as originally scheduled), and I was encouraged because I knew the package had made it to Barcelona... early! Great, no problems.

I arrived on Saturday and the box wasn't there. And UPS was closed on Saturday and Sunday. No useful information in the tracking information online. We called UPS in America and tried to get a number for someone in UPS Spain - no can do. We said, "Listen. You work for a multinational corporation. I work for a multinational corporation. I guarantee that if I had to get someone from IBM Spain on the phone on a Sunday, I could do it." The UPS person said, "I can't even make international calls."

So on Monday morning we called UPS -- they opened at 9:00 AM. They said the problem is that they can't deliver the package because it's stuck in customs and they need someone to fax over a passport. Of course, they'd previously said they tried to deliver it on Tuesday, but the person had no record of that happening. We asked why they hadn't called to let anyone know about the problem... they said they weren't sure. So we asked how long it would take to get through customs, and they said, "A few days." We asked them to expedite it and they said they'd try and to call back that afternoon for more information.

We called back Monday afternoon and they said it hadn't cleared customs yet. They told us to call back in the morning.

We called back on Tuesday morning and they said it hadn't cleared customs yet but they expected it to clear that day, so we could call back in the afternoon and either pick it up ourselves or arrange deliver the next day.

We called back on Tuesday afternoon and it had cleared customs! Yes! We said, "Great, we'll come to pick it up right now." And they said, pick it up? No, you can't pick it up. We have to deliver it. Tomorrow. Okay, fine. We asked them to mark it urgent so it would be delivered in the morning. They said, "It wasn't marked urgent when it was shipped." We explained that things had changed since it arrived in Barcelona a week ago. They said, "No, we can't change something from not urgent to urgent. It will be delivered sometime on Wednesday, but we can't give you any information whatsoever about what time it will be delivered."

The box never arrived on Wednesday.

We called back on Thursday and asked why it hadn't been delivered the day before. They said that someone had called and changed the address, but the address wasn't right so they sent it back to the warehouse.

I'm not making this up.

So they switched it back to the original (correct) address and said they'd send it back to us on Thursday. We asked again if it could be delivered urgently. They again said that they couldn't do that.

At 5:00 PM on Thursday the box still hadn't arrived. We called and changed it to Return to Sender.

No, it hasn't made it back to me yet.

At no point during this entire process did anyone from UPS do anything to actually help us. It was as if shipping something from one place to another in a timely fashion was not a core part of their business.

Here's what I can't figure out - how much money did UPS just lose? Obviously, I am never going to use their service again... for the rest of my life. This is not something I'm going to forget. So add up all the money I might have spent on UPS from here on out. How much would it have cost UPS to actually try to help me during this ordeal? Then, what is the difference between those two numbers?

I'm guessing tens of thousands of dollars.

Nice work, UPS.


Samantha LeVan said...

This definitely needs to get the attention of the UPS CEO. Send an email to D. Scott Davis. It should be the business of UPS to be a delivery service. I imagine Mr. Davis would not be thrilled to hear about your experience. Be sure to share with The Consumerist as well.

Phil said...

Would be interested in hearing any feedback you get from UPS port mortem.

Debbie Curtis-Magley said...

My name is Debbie Curtis-Magley and I work with UPS Public Relations. I came across your blog through the comments you shared at Tara Hunt’s blog. Our monitoring tools usually pick up conversations about UPS, but unfortunately it missed your blog post.

I want to offer my sincere apologies for the frustrations you experienced. I’d like to help get this issue addressed and regain your trust in our company. Please contact me at dcurtis-magley@ups.com.