UPS shipping fail – updated (see end of post)

I shipped two boxes of books to Phoenix on Wednesday, to arrive here by 1030 this morning. I paid extra for this, like you do. As 11am rolled around and my books still weren't here, I got a little nervous, so I checked online to see where my packages were. It turns out UPS fucked up and "incorrectly routed" them, so they won't be delivered until Tuesday afternoon.

I'm sure the more astute observers among us have realized why this is a problem.

I called UPS, talked to everyone I could, explained over and over again that I need these packages today, that people are counting on me having them today, and I got the same answer from them all: there's nothing we can do, and we're very sorry.

Yes, I'm sure UPS is very sorry. What I want to know is how a business that does one fucking thing only manages to fuck that one thing up, and has no backup plan to ensure that they correct their mistake at their earliest opportunity, instead of four fucking days later.

There's a small chance that my packages will successfully complete the treacherous 2 hour journey from California and arrive today, so I can get them tomorrow. Unfortunately, UPS doesn't have the ability to flag a shipment, so that when it's scanned in upon arrival here in Phoenix, the facility can find out that this is an extremely important shipment that needs to get to its destination right fucking now because we fucked up guys. I have to keep checking with UPS, and just hoping and wishing and clapping for Tinkerbell so my packages arrive today, and UPS does the fucking thing I paid them to do and delivers them by tomorrow.

I haven't felt this angry and helpless since I got felt up by the TSA at LAX.

If you're coming to the Phoenix Comicon and hoped to leave with one of my books, I want you to know how sorry I am. I have 20 Complete Works DVDs, some Guild Season 4 DVDs, and a bunch of pictures, but no actual books. If this changes, I'll update this post, as well as Twitter.

UPDATED 5.29: A friend of mine knows someone at UPS Corporate, and offered to make a call on my behalf. It's a long story, worthy of its own post when I'm not so exhausted from a weekend at a con, but the short version is that several people went to the shipping center in Phoenix, went way above and beyond what I ever expected, and worked like hell to find my packages. Late Saturday night, they were delivered, and I was able to get a fair amount of books into customers' hands today.

I haven't been able to read all these comments (I was at a con) but I understand that a lot of people reached out to UPS on my behalf, including my friend. Thank you for helping me get a huge corporation's attention, and thank you to all the UPS employees who worked so hard to correct this mistake.

More later in the week, when I have some time (I'm doing an audiobook Monday to Friday, so it may be a few days.)

85 thoughts on “UPS shipping fail – updated (see end of post)”

  1. That is epic fail. UPS is good to me as they are the only ones who’ll deliver up my mountain when there’s snow on the ground. One even backed down the street we’re on, in the snow, because he couldn’t safely negotiate the two sharp right turns plus the steep descent if he’d continued through. FedEx screwed me after paying for express delivery to get my laptop back after a harddrive replacement, I ended up having to drive to El Paso to pick it up and was then told it was out for delivery after having expressly told them to hold it at the station for pickup (it had, in fact, not gone out on delivery).
    It sucks, but it happens. I won’t use FedEx if I can avoid it, and I’m sure you’ll avoid UPS in the future.

  2. He might get the shipping fees refunded, but he lost a huge amount of sales because he probably would have sold every piece that he’d had.

  3. Every four weeks I get medicine shipped to me UPS from El Paso to Cloudcroft, about 100 miles N. Since it’s expressed, it goes from El Paso to Albuquerque back down to Alamogordo, THEN up the mountain to Cloudcroft. Whereas I KNOW they have UPS trucks going north from El Paso, they could easily drop it off at the Alamogordo depot quite easily.
    My worst case was there was a late delivery that went El Paso -> Abq -> Ontario, California -> Phoenix -> Abq -> Alamogordo -> Me. The problem is that my former med had to be packed with cold bricks, so when it’s traveling a lot in the summer I get extra paranoid that a $5-10,000 box of meds might be unusable by the time it gets to me.

  4. I’ve had better luck with the post office, TBH. Most of the time they’re a cheaper alternative. (No, I do not work for the post). I’ve come to despise UPS for this very problem you’re having and don’t choose to use them (I always have issues with UPS deliveries from sellers that do).
    Sorry, man. I’m hoping this will draw some attention to the higher-ups and they take the opportunity to use this as a training aide and reinforce efficiency with their employees.

  5. Make a sign that says “Thanks, UPS, for bringing all the books.” and put it on the not pile of books. If people have e-readers, they can down load (yes I know, not the same) and then you can sign the e-reader…

  6. They were being dicks. The least they could’ve done is offer to refund/partially refund the beaucoup $$$ he paid for expedition.

  7. Hi Wil:
    Apologies for the frustrating experience you’ve had with UPS. It’s stressful when a shipment you need doesn’t arrive on time. I’m Debbie Curtis-Magley with UPS Public Relations – hoping to offer some help. Our Customer Support team with @UPSHelp sent you a few tweets and they’re ready to assist. If you haven’t done so already, please send the tracking numbers to [email protected] and the team will follow up.
    I also noticed several folks have shared their UPS frustrations in the comment string. My apologies that we’ve let you down. Please know that we appreciate all feedback — good and bad.
    I hope everyone has a great Comicon experience in Phoenix. If you need help with a UPS shipment, give our team a call at 1-800-Pick-UPS or send us a tweet at @UPSHelp.
    Debbie Curtis-Magley
    UPS Public Relations

  8. Well, see there? That’s the kind of response you get when you’re a highly successful author and blogger, so keeping in mind the old gangsta adage, “hate the game, not the playa,” I have to tip my hat to Wil for being able to get someone at UPS to pay attention simply by bitching about them on his blog.
    But Debbie, for the rest of us, all you’ve done is apologize for the fact that your company has an epic history of failure and is about as well-regarded by the non-commercial consumer as a meter maid. That’s nice, but your company’s constant apologies mean absolutely nothing, given that nothing ever changes at UPS.
    Read the Yelp reviews for just about any aspect of UPS across the country, and you’ll see what I mean. Your infrastructure stinks, your drivers, by and large, are frustratingly averse to doing their jobs, and God forbid a person should actually have to attempt a pick up at your facilities.
    I loathe your company with the fury of a thousand suns, and like many people here, refuse to do business with any firm that ships exclusively with UPS.

  9. As someone who works for a big e-commerce solutions company, albeit in the shittiest possible position, I can confidently tell you that there is ZERO accountability in the shipping industry. It is a source of much frustration for me. There is also damn near zero accountability in much of e-commerce, but ya know. Digital distribution is the way to go, it is much harder to screw up a download!

  10. This quote came from Battlestar Wiki on Facebook, the official Battlestar Galactica fan page….
    The Chief is “Wil Wheaton Lite”, says Aaron Douglas.

  11. Understood — sounds like there’s nothing I’ll be able to share that will change your view.
    Our offer of help to Wil is the same response we give to any customer we come across in social media. We strive to respond to nearly every customer who asks for our help at either @UPS or @UPSHelp. As an example, here are links to a couple blog posts from customers who wrote about their experience after interacting with the UPS Customer Service team on Twitter: and
    If we can help you in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact us at @UPSHelp.
    Debbie Curtis-Magley
    UPS Public Relations

  12. This sort of thing seems to be a consistent problem with UPS in Southern Arizona. I’m down in Tucson (less than 2 hours from Phoenix) and we’ve had a number of packages “misrouted”. This never happened before we moved down here. We had one package end up in Georgia. Oddly, they’ve all been packages we’ve payed extra for the express delivery.

  13. I think, there must be a problem in this area of the country with shipping in general. I’m in Pittsburgh, PA and my elderly neighbors forgot their return airline tickets. They were visiting their son in – Arizona. This was about 12 years ago, maybe more. I worked at a family owned hardware store that was an authorized UPS shipper. (Plus I’d worked in corporate mailrooms for 13 years so I know my way around shipping.) It was about 2 weeks before Christmas and I shipped the tickets via 2-day delivery.
    The tickets didn’t get there on time, and my neighbors had to reschedule their flight. Not easy to do when on a limited income.
    I was furious, called UPS and got no help, and was also told that there had been a notice sent out about the ‘holiday cutoff date’ for guaranteeing on-time deliveries.
    There was no such notice at our store. We never got one. But, UPS told me there was nothing they could do, and it wasn’t their fault.
    I asked the person I was speaking to, for the name of the CEO of UPS. He didn’t even know it. I told him to find someone who did, NOW. I was finally provided the name, and wrote a letter of complaint.
    I received a letter of apology and a credit for free shipping. Which I never used.
    Anything we’ve ever had delivered here when there’s no other choice, we’ve not had a problem with. There is even one driver who knows I’m ill, and if something doesn’t seem right, she’ll walk around the property to make sure things aren’t amiss. Or she’ll make a point of making sure the package isn’t still on our front door the next day. She is the only thing that saves the reputation of UPS for me.
    I’ve shipped UPS to a remote area in South Dakota, and had no trouble.
    But, it’s not my first choice.
    I guess right in our immediate area we’re lucky to have really good UPS and USPS delivery personnel. (Our regular letter carrier of 30 years who just retired, broke into another elderly neighbor’s house because the mail was piling up in the box attached to her house. Turns out, she’d been confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t reach the box. Letter carrier came back with all the parts and fixed what was damaged on his day off. And did a great job.)
    FedEx carriers however are really grumpy and abrupt.
    But to Arizona…… I think I’d have to save my pennies and drive it there myself?
    I also have to agree with Dave Diamond above. Well said.
    I hope the rest of the con was ‘free of incident’.
    Good Mojo from Pittsburgh to you and the fans.

  14. Deb@UPS,
    While we have had many problems shipping with UPS (including a badly-misrouted order to a client worth thousands of dollars), I have to say that our local UPS delivery people delivering packages to US are very good. On the other hand, due to consistent problems over the years with UPS delivery of our own business product to our clients, I’m always somewhat hesitant to do business with companies that only use UPS. The reason? Misdeliveries, lost packages, and the experience of having our thoughtfully provided Christmas gifts to a military family tossed on a streetcorner and then lied about by the delivery person. Way to support the troops, UPS.
    Wil, sorry to hijack your thread of comments, but as you and UPS can see, your experience is hardly a new one. I do hope that you got or get some satisfaction from these people.

  15. UPS was our “preferred” method of shipping at my former workplace. It was a well-known fact that if you want it there, on time, FOR SURE, to ship it via Fed-Ex. Fed-Ex is more expensive, but they fuck up waaaaaayyyyy less than UPS. Forget about using DHL…I worked for DHL back in the day when they were just starting up. DHL was great until they merged with Airborne Express. Now losing packages and being later than late is status quo for them.
    Bitch loudly and long if they don’t refund you your entire amount AND apologize profusely for fucking up the delivery. If you need help, let me know, I’ll call ’em for you! I’ve had a lot of practice making the CSRs kowtow and grovel. 😉

  16. Good luck trying to get a refund, they will do ANYTHING to get out of it. A couple of weeks after the katrina disaster, we sent a big box of clothes and stuff to a FOAF who was hosting a bunch of nola refugees. Paid extra for 2 day shipping and it took 2 weeks to get there. We checked their service outages and noted that our destination was outside the affected area so we called to ask for a refund. After overhearing the CSR making fun of us to her supervisor, they tried to throw every excuse at us to prevent paying a refund. After agreeing to refund the shipping cost, they never sent it. Called back several times and continued to get promises of refunds that never came. Eventually I gave up. Fedex gets my business from now on.

  17. A couple of ideas that hit me afterwards…
    1) Fed Ex has Saturday delivery but its way expensive.
    2) You can flag your delivery for pick up at the station and ship it a week in advance.
    3) I am asumming you could probably do the same thing at the hotel.
    One final note as I am reading this 50 times in here. Whether it UPS, Fed Ex, Starbucks, etc. The minute anyone rolls out the F word you will not be taken seriously by another business. If you want to be repsonded to seriously you have to stay in BUSINESS mode the whole time. Other wise you (meaning anyone) will come off as just someone off the street and not a serious potential business loss.
    To flip the coin the other way around blogs and Twitter are the PERFECT place to complain if you have an issue. Pretty much the entire markteing community is focusing on Twitter as a means to get corporate America’s attention.

  18. totally understand your frustration, had similar thing with UPS -the stupidity of their mistake made it even more frustrating, like some twilight zone of zombie morons, but Fedex done it too! I learned to just let go and think that whatever happens-happens for the best (there must be such a thing in the universe!). Maybe this event led to something that improved some things somehow. :)

  19. “It’s kind of shitty to hang your dirty laundry on your blog too”
    I’m afraid that I have to disagree. It is very hard for the average person to complain and get anything done to correct a mistake by UPS and FEDEX. They don’t seem to care and often will not issue a shipping refund (or pay an insurance claim) even though it is their mistake (however, USPS has ALWAYS given me a refund with no trouble if delivery isn’t made on time). Having a pissed off celebrity with a widely read blog that can be commented on by the readers is the most likely way to get their attention and maybe change their attitude – bad press works.
    Yes, mistakes happen, but they happen an awful lot considering the company is computerized and scans each package just about every step of the way.
    I’m hoping that Wil’s TSA rant can help to start some changes at airports too.

  20. Thank you for coming to Phoenix again this year. Phx CC wouldn’t be the same without you! :) I hope you had a good time, despite the stress from the UPS mix-up.
    I love your writing, and this weekend I bought “Sunken Treasure” from you. I’m looking forward to reading it, along with all the new graphic novels and comic books that my boyfriend and I bought this weekend. (I think we need to buy another bookshelf)!
    We look forward to Comicon every year (this has been our 3rd year attending PhxCC). We walk around the exhibitor hall with huge smiles on our faces, just blissed out to be around other nerds who share so much in common with us. There’s always so much to do, we never fit in everything that we want to.
    I love so much about Comicion, and it’s hard to explain it to co-workers when you return to reality the next workday. Where else could you find yourself saying something like, “Excuse me, Spider-Man, may I take your photo?” (Cosplayers are fun). My gosh, nothing beats Comicon! I hope you had as much fun as we did. :)

  21. Great to see you at Phoenix Comicon again this year Wil, but sorry about your frustrations with UPS. I was hoping to buy a copy of Memories of the Future – Volume 1 from you, but the ‘Complete Works’ DVD I bought from you is even better.
    I had a great con and I hope you did as well. See you next year!

  22. It’s great that the power of the internet came through for you and managed to get your books to the Con. Now if we could only manage to find a way to make it work for the rest of us who deal with this shit from UPS/Fedex all the time. We’re at their mercy, and they know it.

  23. UPS bent me over after GenCon last year. They destroyed about $1000 worth of games and miniatures I tried to ship home including signed irreplaceable items that wouldn’t fit in my luggage. Then refused to pay out the insurance.
    I shipped them from the UPS store so UPS wouldn’t even talk to me saying I wasn’t the customer and I had to deal with the UPS store 1500 miles away who has no incentive to do anything on my behalf.
    I hate UPS.
    The TSA guys and airport people got my luggage home to me with no damage to anything I packed in it.

  24. Sorry to hear how that all went down, Wil. Thanks for being so gracious about it when I came around to ask a second time about the books (I was the guy in voodoo skull make-up). Maybe you should name that mini voodoo doll I gave you ‘UPS’, that way you can get all stabby on it. 😛 Also, thanks again for the laughs during story time. I’m still bursting out into random fits of laughter when I go back over it in my head. :)

  25. Literally 100% of the deliveries I’ve tried to receive from UPS over the past 10 years have been messed up. Most often after one failed delivery attempt.
    In nearly every case they give the same line “we can’t tell you where it is”. I will say this…the customer service reps in each case sound like they’re really wanting to help. They just can’t. It’s aggravating for everyone involved.
    I don’t use UPS any more. I encourage ANYONE sending me ANYTHING to use any option other than UPS. Maybe it’s a Chicago thing. Maybe it’s something inherant in their tracking system. But I’ve yet to have a smooth experience with them in many many years.
    I could start a whole huge rant, but I’ll leave it at that.
    Glad you got it sorted out.

  26. Word-of-mouth and reviews of products and services are a fundamental tool for consumers to make informed selections. Why on Earth would it be “shitty” to put it on one’s blog?

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