March 2, 2021

Way Off Track on Package Delivery

4 min read
Tis the season to be frustrated. We were warned there would be shipping delays this...

Tis the season to be frustrated. We were warned there would be shipping delays this holiday season, and boy are there. I may not be traveling these days, but my packages sure are. Thanks to tracking technology, my phone tells me just enough to tell me shipments have been delayed but not enough to tell me when they’ll arrive.

This is particularly troubling for last week’s Priority Mail package that had to get to St. Louis in time for my oldest and dearest friend’s birthday. I sent it Monday morning, to give a couple of days wiggle room for three-day Priority Mail delivery. Every year since we were 15, we have given each other a box of presents to replace the birthday parties we shared since we were five. We mail the boxes when we’re not able to get together in person. On-time arrival was especially important this year since her dad passed away a week before.

It’s Sunday, her birthday, and no one knows where the package is. Or no one’s telling. I got an email Friday telling me it would arrive by 9 that night. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then, radio silence … no celebratory text saying it had arrived.

Saturday night USPS texted that the box was “in transit, arriving late.” My package “will arrive later than expected, but is still on its way. It is currently in transit to the next facility.” What happened between Friday morning and Saturday night? Did it leave St. Louis? Why did tracking halt? I knew this package’s itinerary when it left New York and arrived in a Jersey City, New Jersey, distribution center. Then it went off the radar.

Why offer tracking if you’re going to stop when something goes wrong? In a bizarre twist, the USPS offered to sell me “premium tracking” for my poor friend’s gift. I could spend $2.10 for extended tracking for up to six months, or $9.99 to track it for 10 years. Why on earth would the USPS advertise ineptitude — that a three-day delivery could take six months to arrive (or 10 years at the outside) — and then try to profit off it?

I know it’s having budget issues, but that’s an extreme way to make a buck.

Now it’s Tuesday, and under what is apparently the USPS’s new eight-day Priority Mail tier, my package arrived in Champaign, Illinois, though I don’t know from where, due tonight in St. Louis. I’ve heard that tune before. My delivery confirmation came by way of my friend, elated at the peripatetic package’s arrival, even though it was two days late.

I used to marvel at tracking technology, but lately it seems that tracking is selective tracking. USPS told me where my package was when they thought it was being delivered. When it went off course, it was “in transit.”

Best Buy played the opposite game with a holiday gift I snared in a shopping fever on Cyber Monday, Nov. 30. It set a pretty low bar for delivery, saying it would arrive on Dec. 16. Like other big-box retailers, Best Buy has been touting its buy-online-pick-up-in-store fulfillment option since the pandemic shut down stores temporarily last spring. Best Buy also has been using stores more as fulfillment centers for online orders since the pandemic began, to make local shipping more efficient. Not mine, apparently.

Even with the two-week-plus delivery window Best Buy gave itself, it warned, “due to increased shipping volume, some orders are arriving later than our estimates.” On Dec. 4, I was happy to get an email that the box had shipped way early. I didn’t bother tracking, at first, because I thought it was coming from a local store and would arrive in a day or two.

A week later, I started to worry, especially after Best Buy sent an email “Just for you, Rebecca, and your Apple HomePod mini.” They tried to sell me accessories for a product I hadn’t received yet. Apple tried to sign me up for Apple News and Apple Music, for the speaker I hadn’t yet received. The mini arrived on Dec. 12, by way of Macon, Georgia. I live in New York.

I just asked Alexa if I have any packages on the way. She was on the ball, saying one is due to arrive Friday for Liz (fat chance after a nor’easter, but that’s not Amazon’s fault) and another for Rebecca due Tuesday. She had the discretion not to say what was inside these shipments, which I was happy about since one is surely a Christmas present for me. She couldn’t help herself, while she had my attention, noting “by the way,” that we could order Whole Earth sweetener if we were running low. That’s hyper tracking.

Even Seamless is offering tracking. Last night’s Thai dinner order was placed at 6:45, the confirmation email read. It was “in the works” by 6:45 and would be delivered between 7:15-7:25. My Verizon app, which tracks phone calls, showed the doorman called at 7:03 to say dinner had arrived, 12 minutes early. Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Thinking ahead to next December, Seamless, do you deliver to St. Louis?

The post Way Off Track on Package Delivery appeared first on EETimes.

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