The Samsung Saga, Act II: Secrets of the UPS

Yesterday (day 39 of Samsung’s predicted 45 days to receive, repair, and return my Galaxy Tab—see “My Adventures with Samsung Customer Service“), UPS left a note on my door, saying they’d tried to deliver a package but no one was home and it had to be signed for. I can only assume it was my long-lost Galaxy Tab.

Not wanting to risk another day of “Will someone be home to sign for it?” I called UPS’s toll-free number to see what could be done. A very pleasant robot lady pretending to be human led me through the automated options for dealing with UPS. Seriously, their robotic answering machine sounds so natural that, were it not for the faint “beep, boop, biddle, beeps” as it parses your answers, and the complete inability to interrupt and ask a question in return, you’d swear you were talking with a human being.

Note: One option not listed is “Would you like to speak with an operator?”

The robot woman led me through a series of questions, starting with the tracking number for my package, and ending with the reply, “A driver will phone you at home within the hour to arrange pickup.” I’d been calling from the office just before leaving work, so I phoned my wife to let her know a call was coming, then hopped into my car and headed home.

Once there, I learned the driver had left a message that he’d be at the UPS facility in Janesville between 7 and 8 p.m. “You’ll have to look up the address,” he said.

My Garmin lists only two “UPS” businesses in Janesville:

  1. The UPS Store
  2. Buttercups Bakery

I figured it had to be the first one.

Wrong! It was neither.

1st Secret of the UPS: UPS does not own the UPS Store chain. In fact, each UPS Store is privately owned.

I had driven to the UPS Store in Janesville and arrived to find it closed, so I called the 1-800 number again. After the nice robot lady suggested the UPS Store in whose parking lot I was now sitting, but then told me it was closed for the day, I said, “Next,” and she mentioned a “UPS Customer Center,” also closed for the day, located at 3141 Center Ave.

“That’s got to be it,” I thought. “I’m sure the driver is waiting there.” At this point, I had about 20 minutes left until 8 o’clock. (I’d spent a bit of time driving around the UPS Store building, checking the vicinity of the nearby FedEx building, and such, looking for a UPS truck that might tell me something.) Twenty minutes remained to drive from the north side of Janesville to the south side. I could just make it.

I boogied. At five minutes to eight I was cruising through the approximate area, watching for signs along a four-lane stretch of 45-mph road. Nothing. I passed the airport and reached cornfields. I turned around and cruised back. The appointed hour had passed.

2nd Secret of the UPS: We don’t put an actual UPS sign on our “UPS Customer Centers.” I discovered this concurrently with the next secret…

3rd Secret of the UPS: If you call after hours, the robot lady is gone for the day, leaving only humans.

See, at about 8:30, parked in an Arby’s, I called the 1-800 number again, to arrange something for Friday. A human answered immediately. He’s the one who told me about the UPS Stores not being owned by UPS. He’s the one who told me not to expect a sign on the building. He seemed genuinely surprised to learn that the nice robot lady gave no option for speaking to a human during the day. He then confirmed the address of the “UPS Customer Center” in Janesville, but when I asked for their phone number, so I could call them for directions in the morning, he revealed…

4th Secret of the UPS: “We’re forbidden to give out telephone numbers for our facilities.” “But you can look it up in the White Pages,” he added helpfully. (Actually, it turns out that local facilities are not listed in the White Pages. A call this morning to a second agent—keep pressing “0” and eventually the robot lady puts you through—revealed they’re not able to accept incoming calls from the public. It also revealed that the listed hours on their Web site are not correct: You have two windows of opportunity each day—8:30-10:00 am and 4-6 pm—sort of like whale watching.)


I made the 25-minute drive home, worn out, disappointed, frustrated, defeated. My wife checked Google maps to find a street view of the “UPS Customer Center” for our necessary return trip. And that’s when we discovered…

5th Secret of the UPS: Even they don’t know where their own damned facilities are. Nobody does. (Bing shows it in the middle of the Rock River.) We had to use Google street view to finally figure out that the “UPS Customer Center” in Janesville isn’t actually on Center Ave. It’s about a quarter mile off that road—turn west on Rt. 11, then south on Tower Drive. (That fact, no sign on the building, no phone in, and wrong hours on the Web site pretty much guarantee they don’t have to deal with any actual “Customers,” I suppose.)

Concluding Thoughts: My third daughter, the neo-Luddite, recently said to me, as I was goobing out over an iPhone app, “Technology can do no wrong in your eyes, can it.”

I replied, “Oh, I love technology. But I don’t trust it. I’ve learned not to rely on it.”

As my experiences with Samsung and UPS demonstrate, one effect of using an automated system to deal with customers is that they begin to feel like cattle. The very system you build to guide them where you will may very well guide them right back out your door and down the street to a competitor. I’ve already said I’ll never buy Samsung again.

Guess what, UPS—FedEx is my new best friend!


Photo by bfishadow

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