2013 UPS Next Day Air Snafu


     In the earliest hours of Dec. 24, packages poured into United Parcel Service Inc.’s main air hub in Louisville, Ky. And they were piling up.

     Employees responsible for sorting packages—already deep into a 100-hour week—were furiously getting them ready to be sent on to their destinations at airports around the country. But dozens of other workers responsible for loading those packages into planes to be shipped out were left standing around idle, because the unexpected glut of packages from last-minute shoppers had swamped the company’s air fleet.
     The dearth of planes stranded a large volume of packages in Louisville in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Many of those that did make it out were shipped too late to make delivery trucks’ pickup schedules and were left sitting in warehouses not far from their destinations. By sundown, UPS was forced to tell many Americans that the gifts they had ordered wouldn’t arrive before Christmas as promised.
     The bottleneck was largely in UPS’s air business, which retailers leaned on heavily in the past week as they scrambled to fill down-to-the-wire orders. UPS has a bigger share of retail e-commerce business than FedEx Corp., but its smaller fleet of cargo planes might have been a limiting factor, people in the industry said. UPS said it had added 23 extra chartered aircraft to its year-round operating fleet of more than 237 planes and regular 293 daily charters. FedEx owned 581 and leased 66 as of May 31.
     UPS originally expected to ship about 7.75 million packages in its air network Monday, with about 3.5 million of those sorted at Worldport, as the Louisville hub is known. The facility handles on average 1.6 million packages a day. It isn’t yet known how many packages arrived at Worldport during the last minute crush, but on Christmas Eve UPS said the volume of air packages in its system had exceeded its capacity.
     It is still too early to know what went wrong, UPS said, adding that the company is analyzing the situation.
     Some shoppers also complained of delays with shipments handled by FedEx. A spokeswoman said FedEx “experienced no major service disruptions during this holiday season, and we experienced no major service disruptions in the week before Christmas, despite heavy volume.” She said FedEx is working with customers “to address any isolated incidents.”
     UPS carefully plans how it will handle the holiday peak. Extra resources such as additional cargo planes had been lined up as “hot spares”—company lingo for aircraft that could be fired up quickly in case of a logistics emergency. But it ran into a confluence of factors. Retailers have been encouraging online sales, which have grown much faster than retail sales overall. And retailers likely contributed to the logjam by offering some of their best discounts late in the season in a final push for sales. Many chains dropped prices on the final Saturday before Christmas to levels below what they were offering on Black Friday, according to Simeon Siegel, an analyst with Nomura Equity Research.
     That, coupled with retailers’ promises of just-in-time deliveries, encouraged many shoppers to put in orders at the last minute. People buying from more than 70 retailers including Toys “R” Us Inc. and Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., whose online shipping is handled by eBay Enterprise, were able to place Web orders as late as 11 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 23, a full 24 hours later than last year.
     The result was a surge in online sales shortly before Christmas. UPS had been forecasting an 8% average rise in its daily shipping volumes during the holidays. But online sales in the last weekend before Christmas jumped by 37% from the year before, according to data from IBM Digital Analytics. On Monday Dec. 23, growth in online orders spiked by 63% from the year before, according to Mercent Corp., which works with more than 550 retailers. By comparison, overall sales of holiday goods rose 2.3% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, according to preliminary data from MasterCard Inc.’s Spending Pulse unit.
     To cope, retailers shifted more orders from shippers’ ground delivery to their air networks to get gifts to customers in time to put them under the tree.
     Mercent CEO Eric Best said some of his clients experienced delays.
     “It’s easy to blame UPS, but it’s the retailers that are pushing these next-day shipping offers in the final hours of the shopping season,” Mr. Best said. “Retailers are driving consumer expectations to get stuff they ordered by the next day and the later shoppers wait, the harder it is to predict.”
     The shipping delays at UPS sparked outrage among people who had bought gifts from Amazon.com Inc., Kohl’s Corp. and other online retailers in the days and weeks before Christmas. Many had been swayed by guarantees from the retailers that their packages would be delivered by the holiday.
     Rudy Lai, a finance executive in Union City, Calif., said part of a gift he ordered from Amazon was scheduled to be delivered on Christmas Eve. That morning, the UPS tracking information showed the item had reached Oakland, Calif., and was “out for delivery,” he said. At 5 p.m., he found out that the package “was left in a UPS facility,” according to the information.
     Retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Amazon and Kohl’s have started issuing customers gift cards and refunds for shipping costs and items that didn’t arrive before Christmas. Those retailers are expected to seek reimbursement from UPS or other carriers that had guaranteed arrival times. UPS had made such guarantees for many air shipments during the holidays, though some large retailers may have waived them, analysts said. The company has said it would honor guarantees it made to customers, but it isn’t clear how much the carrier might have to pay.
     Analysts at StellaService Inc., a startup that measures customer satisfaction with online shopping, placed orders for tablets, boots and other gift items at 25 top retailers including Amazon, Wal-Mart and Kohl’s to see if they would receive the gifts in time for Christmas Eve.
     The orders were placed on the last day the retailer guaranteed delivery by Dec. 24, the latest of which was Dec. 23. Out of 75 orders, 12 items—from retailers including Dell, Macy’s, Gap and Pottery Barn—didn’t make it to the analysts’ homes by Dec. 25. Eleven of those items were delivered by UPS.
     UPS handles 50% to 60% of e-commerce orders, according to Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst with Forrester Research. And it is an increasingly crucial part of its business. In its 2012 annual report, UPS said “business to consumer” shipments represented over 40% of its domestic package volume and grew rapidly. Its business-to-business shipping volume, meanwhile, was relatively flat.
     UPS deployed its spare planes Monday and flew twice as many flights as usual on Christmas Eve. It flew 50% more on Thursday to handle the additional volume.

Suzanne Kapner contributed to this article.

UPS drops the ball !

         UPS draws fire after Christmas delivery breakdown

The Grinch wore brown this Christmas.

Thousands of Americans awoke to find that special something missing from beneath the Christmas tree Wednesday, a day after UPS acknowledged getting swamped by the seasonal cheer and failing to deliver orders in time.

“The volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity in our network,” UPS spokeswoman Natalie Godwin said in a statement.

Now, even as the company is lionized on the holiday cover Bloomberg Businessweek for making “dreams come true,” customers are streaming online to pummel the shipping giant.  

“UPS SUCKS,” wrote Kip Ingram in a post on the company’s Facebook page, a short scroll from a “Happy Christmas” message from the company’s delivery crew. “They just FAILED. SUCK, SUCK, SUCK!” 

“Beyond angry,” posted Susan Danielle Harrison. “We have not left the house all day & have been nervously pacing. This was supposed to be my son’s big gift. Never showed up, thanks for nothing.”

“I. WILL. NEVER. USE. UPS. AGAIN!” vowed Judie Larson on Twitter, which fluoresced with messages bearing the hashtag “UPSfail.” 

For some, the void under the tree came despite days of phone-and-Web wrangling with UPS customer service. In Houston, the Amaya family toggled between tracking their package online and waiting by the door for UPS to arrive. But after 10 days and two delays, they finally gave up hope.

“My kids and the rest of my extended family have no presents,” a deflated Jill Amaya told NBC News.

Christmas is about more than just stuff, many posters acknowledged, but even some of the smaller, more symbolic gifts of Christmas got lost in transit.

Katherine McEachen of Fairfield, Conn., suffers from lupus and complications left her bedridden much of the fall, when she leaned heavily on her father for help. She recovered by the holidays and the family cut down a tree together, a moment McEachen recorded with a photo she arranged to have it put on a mug and shipped to her father, beneath the message, “I love you”— a message that has yet to arrive.

“UPS ruined my Christmas,” McEachen told NBC. “It’s just a mug, but it was supposed to be so special and it’s the only way I can say those words to him.”

“Can UPS Save Christmas?” reads an unfortunately timed headline on the cover of the current edition of Bloomberg Businessweek, which went out to the magazine’s one million subscribers. The answer, evidently, was “no.”

“UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments,” the company said in a Christmas Day statement on its website. “However, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed.” 

Amazon.com, one of UPS’s biggest clients, cited UPS’s “failure” in an apologetic email to customers Wednesday morning. UPS itself is on a condolences tour, telling NBC in a statement that only “a small percentage” of packages were affected and pledging that most of these will arrive by Thursday. 

The last time a significant number of UPS packages were late for Christmas was 2004, when an ice storm crippled Worldport, the UPS distribution center in Louisville, Ky., in the run up to the holiday. Back then employees ended up manually loading packages for days, and surprising revelers with Christmas Day deliveries. This year the company declined to call its workers in for holiday service.

It’s still unclear where the UPS network broke down, and the company has declined to specify the size of the problem. But Bloomberg Businessweek detailed the challenges likely to have stymied Santa’s corporate helper this year — and spotlighted the man who may take a fall for the year’s mishaps. 

Scott Abell is known as “Mr. Peak” to the brown-shirted faithful, and he spends his whole work year outlining the company’s holiday delivery plans, scrambling hundreds of planes and thousands of trucks from his office at Worldport. 

Beyond icy weather, which reportedly hampered UPS distribution hubs, the company was likely squeezed by a smaller window for holiday shopping and a record number of e-purchases being pushed through at the last minute. There were just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At the same time, there was the continued growth of online shopping, which not only facilitates last-minute gifting but often rewards it with deeper discounts. 

Online spending jumped 9 percent, to $37.8 billion, between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15, according to the online research firm comScore, and retailers expect overall holiday sales to be up nearly 4 percent, exceeding $600 million. 

UPS anticipated delivering 132 million bundles in the week before Christmas, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, and to meet that wave of holiday cheer, Abell organized 55,000 part time workers, 23 extra planes and what amounts to a second fleet of delivery trucks.

A last-minute decision by one of UPS’s clients — reportedly Amazon.com — dumped additional packages into the system last weekend, but Abell doubled the number of shifts at Worldport, still hoping to stay ahead. It wasn’t enough.

Abell usually heads to Florida in January to play golf and decompress after the madness of the holidays. When he returns, the 31-year veteran of the company gathers his lieutenants for a special lemon session, detailing all that could have gone better in the weeks before.

Already he’s taken a small personal step to alleviate his workload, telling his immediate family to go easy on the online shopping. “I tell them that they should do it early,” he said, according to his magazine profile. “Early’s better.” 


Merry Christmas

How The “Right to Work” Movement Fell Flat On Its Face in 2013

A year ago, in one of the most shocking reversals in the state’s history, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a “right to work” bill into law behind closed doors as more than 12,000 protesters raged outside.

Right wing groups crowed, saying union restrictions in the home of the auto industry meant the labor movement was on its last legs. They talked about which states would go next.

And then, nothing.

Well, not nothing. But what anti-worker pundits said would be a domino effect was more like a cricket effect. In 2013, no state passed a “right to work” law.

Incorrectly-named “right to work” laws put restrictions on contracts union workers can make with employers. They ban fair share clauses which require that workers pay dues to have the protection of the union. Unions are left in the position of providing services without being able to fund those services, and they starve.

“Right to work” laws have nothing to do with freedom. They are simply a tactic to defund unions and weaken the ability of workers to advocate for themselves. And it shows: states with “right to work” laws have lower wages, higher poverty rates, and more workplace injuries and fatalities than free bargaining states.

In 2013, workers didn’t stand for it.

In Missouri, where Republicans controlled supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, some legislators pursued a “paycheck deception” bill, which restricts unions’ ability to make political contributions. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) called it a step toward a “right to work law.” Based heavily on an ALEC model bill, paycheck deception moved swiftly through Republican-lead committees.

But workers, union and non-union (including hundreds of Working America members), made their voices heard. Emails, letters, and phone calls flooded legislative offices in Jefferson City. The bill passed the Senate after an 8-hour Democratic filibuster, but House legislators were getting skittish. Bill proponents were having a hard time answering simple questions about why additional restrictions on union dues were needed. Support for the bill dwindled with each test vote.

“Paycheck deception” passed the House by a narrower than expected margin, and Speaker Jones prepared to move on to “right to work.” But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed paycheck deception, calling it unnecessary. By the September veto session, too many moderate Republicans had abandoned the effort, and the bill died outright.

Did Republicans get the message? Absolutely not. In December special session centered around tax incentives for Boeing, a small group tried and failed to insert “right to work” language. ALEC member Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) called it “a good opportunity to begin that fight” ahead of 2014.

In Ohio, the anti-union effort has centered around gathering petitions to get “right to work” on the 2014 ballot. As we know, you need to get a certain number of signatures to get an issue on the ballot. For Ohio, that number is 385,000, and you always want extra signatures in case some are validated.

The Tea Party group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom started circulating petitions in February 2012. After 20 months, they announced they have collected 100,000 signatures.

At this rate, as Ohio bloggers at Plunderbund noted, the anti-union group would need 40 m0re months to put “right to work” on the ballot. And since they’ve already burned through $118,000 in paid petition gatherers, chances are they’d run out of money first.

Let’s compare that with 2011, when Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in the legislative rammed through the union-busting Senate Bill 5. The bill passed on March 30. On June 29, after only 3 months, We Are Ohio delivered 1.3 million signatures to the Secretary of State to get a repeal of SB 5 on the ballot. In November, SB 5 was repealed by 60 percent of voters.

What’s going on here? What the Tea Party and the anti-union forces in Ohio don’t get is that once you get past a small group of billionaires and right-wing ideologues, there is no desire to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio. None. People are looking for good jobs, affordable health care, and decent schools to send their kids.

Meanwhile, the 2011 battle over Senate Bill 5, largely ignored by the national media, still reverberates throughout the Buckeye State. Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican supporter of SB 5, lost a Senate bid despite more than $19 million in outside aide. Mitt Romney haplessly flip-flopped on SB 5 and consistently delivered an anti-union message, lost in Ohio in part because of union members of all political stripes voting for his opponent. And in 2013, SB 5 supporter Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was ousted, while a Tea Party-backed pension-cutting amendment was rejected in Cincinnati by a 57-point margin.

In Oregon, the story is even shorter.  An Portland attorney named Jill Gibson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative in her state. Odell is excited about the “national money to be had” to assist her campaign, so she’s not even pretending “right to work” is something Oregonians themselves want. In 2013, little to no progress was made on getting the issue on the ballot, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will publicly oppose it. Meanwhile, workers in Portland got paid sick days, and a statewide sick leave ordinance is expected to pass in 2014.

What to expect in 2014? Well, as the AP reports, the main targets for “right to work” proponents are Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon, showing that these folks have learned nothing from the past year. While their efforts stall, Americans of all political persuasions are starting to support minimum wage increases, sick leave, wage theft protections, and progressive tax codes in increasing numbers.

Working America will be vigilant to mobilize against any “right to work” measure, wherever it crops up. But make no mistake: Michigan wasn’t the start of a domino effect. It was a wake up call. And outside the right-wing think tank bubble, American workers are fully awake.

Main Street

UPS delivers Christmas gift to trash can

The legendary productivity of Santa’s elven sweatshop is unmatched by regulated industry, but UPS and other delivery drivers certainly try.

But it can be a bit of an Easter Egg hunt to find where the UPS drivers leave packages during the busy holiday season.

Just the other day I was sipping some nog and wondering why the fancy computer doodad I’d ordered online had yet to deck my halls with boughs of jolly. I went to the NewEgg website and a note there said my order was “left on porch.”

Since I live in DeKalb, I assumed it had been pawned. But, after shuffling around some bags of leaves my wife keeps telling me to drag to the curb, I found the boxes.

A Missouri mom was not so lucky.

Tracey Sole told a local TV station she saved up to buy her daughter an Android tablet and was shocked to find a UPS notice in her mailbox saying the gift was deposited “in black trash can.”

The tablet, and her garbage, were both missing.

She believes both were taken to the same place — the dump.

“I was crying all night,” said Sole. “I saved for months to get that for my daughter.”

The company she ordered the tablet from said it would ship her another one, but it may not arrive in time for Christmas.

UPS said workers are trained to leave packages out of sight and protected from inclement weather, a practice called “driver release.”

I don’t recall ever losing a package from UPS or Fed Ex. That’s a pretty good batting average. And with the number of packages they have to deliver at Christmas, there’s no other way to get the job done until Google’s robot creatures or Amazon’s drones are ready.

At least I have an excuse for leaving those bags of leaves on the porch.

George Mathis AJC.com

God forbid he should transfer…….

RAWLINS — Joe and Magen Reed hadn’t planned on leaving Rawlins.

They visited Mobile, Ala., this summer, where Magen had family. They fell in love with it, but they decided to wait until their children finished high school until they considered relocating.

“But God had other plans,” said Joe Reed, who, as a long-time UPS package car driver, is a fixture of the community.

This summer, Reed was diagnosed with cold-induced urticaria – meaning that he had developed an allergic reaction to the cold.

And when you’re allergic to the cold, you can’t really live in Rawlins anymore. “Even right now, it’s too cold already,” said Reed on Thursday.

Reed stopped working and turned in his uniform, and the residents of Rawlins still haven’t gotten used to him in plain clothes.

“People tell him, ‘I didn’t recognize you with pants on,’ because he always wears shorts,” Magen Reed said.

On Saturday, Reed will be leaving the place he’s lived for his whole and head south to a warmer place with his family.

Reed joined UPS 12 years ago when he was laid off by the oil rig he worked at. “I went to job services and there was a posting for UPS,” he said. “I heard that if there is an UPS opening, you always apply for it.”

He started in the middle of Christmas season. “It’s the worst time possible for most people,” he said. But it quickly became his favorite time of the year.

“I enjoy making everyone’s day,” he said. “They get a package from grandma and grandpa, and I watch them get excited.”

He remembers delivering a package around Christmas one year and the kids in that house were misbehaving. “They told them, you have to behave because the UPS guy is best friends with Santa Claus,” he laughed.

Reed’s favorite part of his job was the one-on-one contact with customers. “I go to pretty much every business in town every day,” he said. “There’s a routine – and people know what time I show up.”

Reed said if people don’t know him from his job, they know him from Rawlins High School sports.

UPS Rawlins manager Brett Renke said the community will miss Reed’s customer service skills. “He’s going to be sorely missed,” Renke said. “I know his customers love him and we’re going to do our best to give them the service they had, but it’s going to be hard to replace.”

Reed sees former UPS employee Jim Gill as his biggest influence for teaching him the ropes of the job. “He taught me to work smarter, not harder,” he said.

Renke applauded Reed for never having an accident or injury in 12 years. “He led by example and was part of the safety committee,” he said. “He’s a quiet guy, but everything else he does speaks loudly. He’s an incredible man and an incredible employee.”

Andrea Shepard knows the family well as the morning supervisor for UPS and Magen Reed’s boss at her real estate company.

“(Joe) is absolutely amazing,” she said. “Both he and Magen are going to be missed. We appreciate everything they’ve done for their community and their employers.”

Reed hasn’t secured a job in Alabama yet, but he said he has several interviews lined up. “A desk job is not for me,” he said. “I’ll take it as long as its hands on. I like staying active.”

With his moving date just around the corner, Reed has mixed emotions. “I’m upset because all my friends and family are here and I had a stable job,” he said. “But on the other hand, I’m starting a new chapter in my life.”

Casper Star-Tribune


As more and more people shop online for gifts this holiday season, that adds up to some extremely busy days for delivery drivers. UPS is currently ramping up for its 107th holiday season, and one of the drivers we talked with says this season has been his busiest on record.
Tony Marino has been a driver with UPS for 25 years. Last week he delivered 300-350 packages, this week he is looking up to 450 packages. He says that breaks his records for last year already.
To make the holiday season a bit less hectic, UPS has been hiring helpers for the past few years to help their drivers during the holidays. So don’t be surprised if you see two drivers helping out in one neighborhood. The busiest mailing day of the year is December 16th, with an estimated six million customers mailing packages. If you’re shipping a package for the holidays and you want it there before Christmas, UPS recommends you ship it by early next week.

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