Sometimes you can do nothing wrong, customer service wise, and still lose a customer. Thus is my saga with PillPack.
It all begins when my employer rather abruptly a few months back stopped allowing us to ship personal packages to work. Up until that point I was getting my medications largely from PillPack, and generally happy with their level of service. But when that changed, I tried working with PillPack to figure out a way to get my meds delivered to me, and it proved to be a fiasco regardless of what I did.
First off, medication cannot be delivered without a signature. I actually understand this, and generally don’t have a serious problem with the “law” that restricts medication shipments this way.
The problem is UPS. See, the Post Office has ways of dealing with this: if you have something shipped to you Priority Mail, Signature Required, and you aren’t home, you get one of these magical salmon-colored slips in your mailbox and you pick it up at the nearest Post Office. If you have a PO Box, it’s even easier. Same thing, pink slip, wait in line, get package. Done, and done.
UPS purchased Mail Boxes Etc. some time ago, so in theory they can provide the same level of service, no?
No, they can’t, apparently. It seems like every time I have a package fall into this “Exception Wonderland” something weird happens to it. It becomes Schrodinger’s Package: existing in a state of Delivery and Non-Delivery, existing but not existing; lost in the bowels of United Parcel Service’s nearest “warehouse” and it seems to take a minor miracle before UPS is able to arrange a time and place for you to pick it up.
At some point recently UPS launched a “My UPS” product. You can poke in your address and (in theory) have packages re-routed to the nearest UPS Store “automatically” rather than go through the old way (attempt delivery, tag door, you get package from nearest customer service counter).
So, this was working for a short while. I got a couple of PillPacks and my insulin this way without incident, re-routed to my nearest UPS Store. It’s nice and convenient: it is literally right around the corner from where I live.
Then, my most recent PillPack happened. PillPacks are shipped in small, brown boxes no bigger than a kid’s lunchbox, and are typically light: they have about two weeks worth of meds in the box packed in individual plastic envelopes on a roll, so they’re 1/4 of a cubic foot in size and maybe 1 and 1/2 pounds. I (and PillPack) were both hoping that using the My UPS tools I could just intercept the package and pick it up from the UPS Store.
That didn’t happen. My most recent PillPack couldn’t be delivered to the UPS Store, for whatever reason. I was told there was “no room at the UPS Store”, but that’s preposterous: there’s no room for a small box the size of a loaf of bread (and about as heavy)? C’mon, I’ve been to that UPS Store. It’s largely empty. I have another guess as to what happened, but I’ll go into that conspiracy theory later. 1
What did happen is the most frustrating thing that could have happened. UPS at that point couldn’t tell me where my package was, where it was going, or anything about it. It was if my package fell off the UPS truck.
PillPack ships their packages out so they will be delivered on Monday, for your meds that begin on Wednesday. Now, personally, this is awfully close spaced (and I’ve expressed to them that this is a problem, too, precisely because my experience with UPS is that when they fuck up, they fuck up royal and it can take 2-3 days to unfuck it up). A couple of the meds I take are of the type that “not taking this med regularly and on-time can result in some serious side effects”, I’ve been warned by my doctors. One of them (a blood pressure medication) is known for causing heart palpitations if stopped suddenly, for example.
So, this sets up the expectation that if I don’t have my meds in my hands by a few days before I run out I better start worrying. And believe me, I worry when that happens ever since receiving my aortic diagnosis. Aortic dissection is not my idea of a Good Day Starter and keeping my overall blood pressure low and my heart beating normally is how we keep my Big Ass Artery from going bewm.
When getting my meds conventionally (ie. typically from the local Kroger brand’s pharmacy) I’ve kept a week’s buffer of meds on hand. I start looking for next month’s refills once I get down to about 7 pills in the bottle. So PillPack’s “two-day buffer” is very uncomfortable. But, I’ll be honest, if the delivery vehicle was reliable enough and worked like clockwork (package was THERE someplace I could get it on Monday, for example, every time all the time) I wouldn’t sweat it.
So, you can imagine me starting to panic when it not only wasn’t where I was expecting it (the UPS Store), but UPS couldn’t even tell me where it was.
After talking to UPS “Customer Service” on the phone, they told me I could get it from the Customer Counter in nearby Commerce City, CO, in the evening.
I missed that window. We had a snowstorm blow into Denver Monday, I couldn’t get to said customer counter before they closed. No worries, I thought, it’ll be there tomorrow morning and I’ll just get it then.
Yeah, about that. When I went there on Tuesday, it wasn’t there. And they couldn’t find it. I waited around the UPS Customer Counter for over an hour and they couldn’t find it.
That brings me to my point. Sometimes you can do everything right as a company and have your best laid plans fucked up by an incompetent subcontractor who can’t find their ass with both hands and a road map.
That’s how I feel about PillPack. They insist on using UPS for reasons. UPS perpetually fucks up my packages, almost like they know I’m the son of a USPS Postmaster and every time they see “Baumann, Archturiat” on a package they TRY to fuck it up. I recently shipped my Macintosh from Portland to Denver and that was an exercise in frustration, as my attempts to use the same My UPS tool to redirect it was foiled by the UPS Store in Portland putting “A BAUMANN” as the addressee on the package (and I didn’t have “A BAUMANN” as an alias, so therefore… NO PACKAGE FOR YOOO!). Before that I had that series of incidents when I lived in Oregon City and I would watch as the UPS driver would walk up to my apartment complex door with nothing but a yellow post-it in his hand claiming attempted delivery, and UPS never doing anything about this even when I had VIDEO EVIDENCE that this was being done.
I like PillPack. I like the fact that my meds came in easy-to-use little plastic sleeves. I like the fact that every day my medication was laid out for me, pre-dispensed, so that even if I had to travel I could peel off the next four days of meds off the spool and go on. It wasn’t without bumps, but they were all minor except for UPS, well, becoming “OOPS” again in my mind and raining brown turds on my already grumpy disposition. What can brown do for me? Let’s start by not ruining my day.
And that is why I would behoove ANY shipper to never hitch your wagon to one horse, regardless of who it is. I know people have Postal Service horror stories… my love for the USPS and the proud men and women of blue notwithstanding. And I’ve had FedEx foul things up too. If PillPack would ship USPS Priority Mail EVEN IF THEY CHARGED $10 PER PILLPACK I’d gladly pay it, give them my PO Box number, and I’d be happy. But they won’t ship USPS (even if I’m willing to pay for it). So they just lost me as a customer, and I’m going back to the monthly chore of King Sooper’s Pharmacy and metering out my meds into my own teeny little Ziplock baggies.
Even though I really don’t want to.
- Theory: Since UPS Stores are franchises, independently owned and operated, I suspect the owner got sick of seeing the same name on deliveries and just said “fuck this guy in particular”, because I wasn’t paying for a mail box from his CMRA. Well, guess what, now I’m NEVER going to use your store even to ship things, so go out of business. Please. ↩