Fuck UPS (both the verb and a noun…)

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.

Um… no.

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.



Show 1 footnote

  1.  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.

Party at the 7-Eleven…

What is it about the 7-Eleven stores in Seattle?

Okay, an admission.  I probably spend way too much money in 7-Eleven stores in general.  I’m found inside one purchasing snacks, soda, and/or XBOX Points at least four times per week.  Sometimes, more.

As a result, I purchase their “X-Treme Gulp” mugs and refill them.  At most stores, it’s a reasonable deal: it ranges somewhat, but 99¢ to $1.19 is the typical price range for a refill.  Not too bad.  I don’t waste a cup, get soda at a good price, and everybody’s happy.

A few days ago I stumble into the 7-Eleven store in Lynnwood and refill my tankard.  When I get to the cash register, the cashier proceeds to ring me up (manually, I might add: the cup has a barcode on the side to ring up the proper refill price, but he doesn’t use it) for $1.99.  I pull a bill out of my wallet and hand it over, and then start to go.. “haiwaitaminnit.”  Even given the higher costs in Seattle (and the Washington Sales Tax, which I will get to in a moment)  $1.99 seems way out of line.  And sure enough, as a squint to read the prices posted above the soda machine, the highest advertised price is $1.49 for a refill, $1.69 for a Double Gulp.

When I balk at the price, the salesperson behind the counter starts saying something along the lines of “that’s a big cup.”  Why, yes, I reply, it’s a big cup: but it’s one of yours, it’s clearly labelled “52 Fl. Oz. [US]”, and is heavily insulated.  Besides, your prices clearly state that the highest refill price is $1.49, for “53 to 100 oz.”, and even without the insulation this cup wouldn’t be 100 fl. oz.,  even though it’s clearly labelled as one of your cups as holding 52 fl. oz., which while the sign is vague (it says “less than 52 fl. oz. $1.19”, leaving you to wonder how much a 52 fl. oz. cup is to refill.. maybe it’s $1.99, I shudder to myself) one can probably safely assume that $1.19 is a reasonable price for a 52 oz. refill.

I can tell that he’s not happy about this, and neither am I, especially because this entire transaction reeks of irregularity.  I’m starting to ponder this as he hands me $18.51 in change that he also has not charged me Washington’s sales tax (9.5%, I believe, at least where I was standing) as I examine the receipt and it clearly says “Groc No Tax $1.49”.

I ask to speak to the manager.

At this point, the manager walks out, some words are exchanged in a foreign language (specifically, probably, to prevent me from actually hearing what is said) and suddenly the manager is saying that I was given the wrong change and to give the money back.

The only thought I have in my head at this point is that shit’s going weird.  Out of nowhere now he’s asking for me to hand the change back over.  “No dice,” I say in an irritated voice.  “I want to resolve the dispute over how much I’m being charged for soda,” because at this moment I still believe that $1.49 is not the correct price for me to be charged.  I should be charged $1.19+9.5% sales tax.  At this point, the manager starts yelling at me, and I decide that the best course of action is for me to leave, as this conversation is NOT going anywhere productive.

“You know what?  I’m leaving,” I declare, and start walking to the door.

At this point, the manager follows me out to the parking lot and blocks my departure with his body.  I inform him that I am leaving, and that he has no lawful reason to detain me, and to please get out of the way.  He responds by threatening to call the police, to which I reply, “call the fucking police.  Make sure to tell them how you initially tried to rip me off and only came up with this ‘change’ bullshit once I challenged you,” and managed to back out of the space and leave.

Remember how I said I’m a 7-Eleven regular customer?  Well, this isn’t the only time I’ve had something weird like this happen at a Seattle-area 7-Eleven store.  I never have any issues at any Portland-area stores, only Seattle ones.  There was the time I got sold an (obviously) used prepaid phone and couldn’t activate it (because it was used).  There’s the time I got hit with a sponge in the back of the head because a disgruntled employee overshot the bucket he was angrily throwing it at.  And I’ve noticed the sales tax weirdness before: part of my confusion over what is taxable in Washington comes from the fact that soda’s taxability seems to be fungible in the eyes of 7-Eleven employees.

Looks like if I move to Seattle I’ll need to find a different place to get my caffeine fix.  It’s not like there isn’t a chain of stores that’s known for selling highly caffeinated beverages, even if that beverage is a little more pricey, and considerably more caffeinated…

In which Apple won’t take my money..

Today I had what amounts to the worst experience I’ve ever had in an Apple Store.

Before I start, let me just say that this is, in the grand scheme of things, a minor annoyance.  Nobody at the Apple Store was less than courteous (although admittedly it is a bit crazy in there), and it wasn’t like the worst experience I’ve ever had in retail in general.  But it was an extremely frustrating experience nonetheless, and one that has me scratching my head in amazement at why it needed to be so f$@#^ing difficult.

Anyway, my experience.  After poking around a bit at various machines, I decided to purchase a particular iMac and a few accessories after deciding it wasn’t worth fixing my old Apple Cinema Display.  After kinda standing around for 15 minutes, I approached somebody holding an iPad and asked if I could talk to somebody about buying an iMac.

About five minutes later, I get approached by a young man who happily talked to me a few minutes about the machines.  I didn’t get my answers answered exactly to my satisfaction, but just getting it out allowed me to come to a decision about which machine I wanted and the options.

I then asked him to get me a total, as I needed to, in my exact words, “walk across the street to USBank and get a cashier’s check” for the total amount.  He kindly created a subtotal from a spreadsheet and sent me on my way.

After navigating the bank, I went back to the rear of the store and went directly to the person who looked vaguely like a cashier.  She then proceeded to inform met hat they could not take a cashier’s check.  They would take Mastercard, VISA, and a personal check or travelers checks.

Wait a minute.  You can take a personal check, which has absolutely no real guarantee of payment, but not take a cashier’s check written by a major national financial institution like USbank?  Worse, I thought: I now have a $1666.00 check written to you that you won’t take.

I can’t wrap my head around this. Really, I can’t.  How can you take a personal check.. even weirder, a travelers check (people still use those?) and not handle a cashier’s check?

What happened next gets even weirder.  I talk to the “manager”, and she (more on this in a minute) tells me they have no ability to do this, to the point of encouraging me to take my business elsewhere if I don’t like it.  It is only after I press the issue that she begrudgingly gives me a 408 number to “customer service” which I call as I’m leaving the store.

Of course the 408 number was wrong: it said something about “journalists”.  I bounced though a few people and eventually had an enlightening conversation with somebody in the right department who couldn’t even really tell me what the reason for the policy was, or more frustratingly, seemed to just foist everything off onto the store manager.

As of this writing, I’m waiting to hear back from this person and what they can do.

I have some pretty strong personal feelings about Apple the company, and I guess a lot of  those “warm fuzzy” feelings I have about the company died today.  The entire process of dealing with a crowded store with employees who were overwhelmed, dealing with a “manager” with no actual decision-making abilities, and a customer service department that seemed powerless to actually explain policies or make exceptions has reminded me that Apple is now just another company with stockholders to keep happy, and all that “think different” marketing is just marketing.

I still want my new, shiny iMac.  But I guess I also want my “inner child” enthusiasm for Apple as a company back, too.  I still believe Apple makes some of the best stuff on Earth in their product categories (my personal opinions on iPhone not withstanding), and is a company that is driven by some very ingenious engineers.  However, Apple’s image in my head was for a long time driven by my childhood experiences of the Apple Computer that managed to be both an engineering driven company that had a very “soft” human side.

I believe in the power of words.  And I guess there are no more powerful words than the name of the company.  It once was Apple Computer.  Today, it is just Apple, Inc.  And today, my inner child feels a little like he just had his piggy bank taken by the banker in Mary Poppins.  I’m still going to get my money back, and the computer I want.. but Apple is no longer a friend, they are just another soulless corporation trying to take my money.