Wednesday, December 16, 2009

FedEx Ground -v- USPS

With the holiday shipping season upon us, this post is dedicated to a bizarre series of events I experienced while trying to ship a box of presents to my sister's family in San Diego. Ultimately, the box did make it onto a truck that is headed for California.

It all started after my wife left town. We had found the last of the gifts just before she left. I wrapped them up on Friday night and went scrounging for a box that would fit. Now, I've sold lots of bus parts over the years, and I always have a few empty boxes lying around for when I get around to selling more of the accumulated parts. Friday night, I found an empty Mirror Pond case box that was in perfect shape - no tears, no rips, and never wet. The presents slid in perfectly, so I didn't have to add any paper padding. Now, that's just dumb luck. I've never had that happen before. Anyway, by the time I got through the mayhem of single-parenting, it was 9:PM on Saturday night. FedEx is closed then, so off to the all-night USPS shipping station.

As you might expect, the Lake Grove postal station is not exactly bubbling with activity at 9:30 on a Saturday night. I didn't have any competition for the machine or drop box, so I ran the box through the process. It cost $12.50 to ship a 5 pound box via general delivery with a tracking number ($.80 extra). The shipping estimate was 6 business days. That's a little close to Christmas, but within tolerances, I figured. Besides, it wasn't going through or to snow country.

On Monday when I got home from work, the box had been left on my doorstep. A handwritten note was taped to it stating "no liquor boxes". Apparently the "P" in USPS stands for "prude". In order for me to use that box, it would either have to be cut at the seams and re-taped so the plain inside was now the outside or I would have to tape brown paper to the box so you couldn't see that it once carried beer. Sensitive much? Fine. So, I cut and taped brown paper all around the box, avoiding the 2" x 3" shipping stamp and the large white address label. It looked pretty ridiculous. This morning, I visited the same Lake Grove station. The empty office that greeted me a few days ago had been replaced with a DMV-like experience. The line of frowny-faced postal customers for the 2 glacial-paced clerks was out the door. I watched for about 15 seconds and concluded that I could pay someone else to ship this box for the amount of wages I'd lose just by standing in the line. So, off to the FedEx office I went.

The FedEx shipping center for the south side of Portland is right by the I-5 freeway on ramp where the towns of Tigard, Tualatin and Lake Grove meet. This is the ramp I take to get to work from home, so stopping at FedEx isn't going very far out of my way. The trick is to get there when they're open (8-6 weekdays, not sure about weekends). I took my brown paper ensconced box over to the counter and asked "do you require me to hide the fact that this box once held beer?". He gave me a puzzled look, so I pointed to the brown paper. "We prefer you don't wrap them". Ahh... 30 seconds filling out a form, another 45 seconds getting the box scaled and paid for, and I was out the door. No line. No frowny faces. No glacial pace. The box will arrive by this Saturday, and it cost me $11. The tracking number and guaranteed delivery were free and they recycled my brown paper.

Net net
Simply put, I won't ship anything via USPS again unless there is just no other alternative. It was cheaper and easier to ship via FedEx. I honestly don't know how the Prudal Service will be able to compete in the future. Once consumers realize that FedEx Ground is faster and cheaper, that DMV-like line will disappear.

bus-stuff: if the rain subsides tonight, I'll slide under there with a drill and start working on the radiator mounting. If not, I may do it anyway as I won't have a shot at working on him again until next week otherwise.


Anonymous said...

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And you et an account on Twitter?

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about how involved with technology our daily lives have become. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as memory becomes cheaper, the possibility of transferring our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could experience in my lifetime.

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