Santa’s Helpers

Holiday shoppers took a hit in 2013 when stormy weather right around Christmas resulted in tens of thousands of shoppers not being able to get packages to their intended destinations on time. Not only was it disastrous for shoppers, but retailers took a hit, also.

If shoppers and retailers don’t want a repeat of last year’s Christmas nightmare, package deliverer UPS surely is banking on better delivery results. The company was barraged by criticism last year when the company failed in delivering thousands of packages by Christmas Eve. Brown insists it’s well-prepared to make this a merrier Christmas in 2014, even as increased online shopping is likely to put greater strain on the company and its rivals.

Brown getting it done.

Brown getting it done.

UPS is trumpeting the $1 billion in facility, vehicle and personnel investments it has made worldwide as reason for customers to be confident that Santa will get their gifts to good little boys and girls (along with grown-up goods) on time. UPS officials stress that the upgrades have been made with an eye toward positioning their business beyond this holiday season. The company has also added to its season workforce, upping numbers 12%, to 95,000. Rival FedEx has boosted seasonal hires 25%, to 50,000. And even the U.S. Postal Service has delivery every day of the week through Christmas Day.

Yesterday was considered the busiest mailing day, and UPS indicates that its processing centers will be at their peak of its holiday shipping season, one in which it estimates it will handle about 585 million packages. The following Monday before Christmas will be UPS’ busiest delivery day—the shipping giant will move about 34 million packages worldwide.

I remember last year well. I was working on the phones at a major retailer’s phone center. Customers were cranky and weather woes made it impossible for me to guarantee packages would make it by Christmas day, upon information provided by both UPS and FedEx. Of course, the customers on the other end of the phone expected me, Mr. $12-an-hour-seasonal-phone-rep to play God (or Santa) and tell them that planes would be able to fly through snowstorms and trucks could make it across the frozen tundra of the Midwest. Telling them the truth merely drew their ire.

While I might not be able to afford to put as many packages under our Christmas tree this year, it’s a happier holiday season for this freelancer in 2014, as I’m not pulling any moonlighting duties on the phones for the first time in three years.

Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree.

Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree.

2 thoughts on “Santa’s Helpers

  1. Many of my neighbors work from home, and the UPS man is a very regular visitor next door. One day he brought something for me, arriving around 8:30 in the evening. I mentioned the late hour to him and said he must be doing well with overtime. He replied, every day was a thirteen- to fifteen-hour day. UPS wouldn’t hire more people, and it actually had a budget built around working people to death, till they would be forced to leave UPS either from exhaustion or on disability. Their union has been fighting for years to be able to limit overtime, but with no success yet, and so the drivers continue to lift and deliver tons every day, five and six days a week, twelve or more hours a day. It put UPS in a whole new light for me.

    • UPS, while unionized, demands a great deal from their employees, especially drivers and other non-management staff. Of course, now, being in the union—in a country where almost all workers are content with scraps from the corporate lords’ tables—gets you labeled and the old “divide and conquer” mindset kicks in. The usual, “I’m not in a union, so why should you be.”

      People hear what driver make and think, they’re overpaid. They don’t know what comes with that hourly wage, which you note in your comment.

      The news story I heard yesterday that prompted this post made me think about how often management fails in its planning, projections, and then, when things totally go off the rails—like last year, there’s hell to pay for the people on the ground. I’m sure Christmas 2014 will be a tough slog for anyone out delivering packages.

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