Now what? UPS threatens to return my shipment, won’t let me correct address

You can file this one under stupid rules, stupid companies — or maybe, stupid customers.

I got a troubling email from UPS yesterday. A package I’d sent through a third party couldn’t be delivered. The message said I had one day to give UPS directions or it would be returned to the sender.

I called the company immediately. And that’s when the fun started.

First, I verified that UPS had the right address. As it turns out, the shipper supplied it with an incorrect ZIP code. It was off by just one number.

“I can’t change it,” a representative shrugged. “Only the shipper can do that.”

“But I’m the customer,” I said.

“That’s our policy.”

Here’s the problem: The box is a gift for a friend and it’s perishable. It can’t be sent back.

How do I correct the bad ZIP code?

I went back and forth with the UPS representative by phone. I can understand why it has the policy, I said. You don’t want just anyone to be able to change an address.

But correcting one number in a ZIP code is hardly an address change. It’s not as if the package will go to a totally different recipient.

After a spirited argument, the representative agreed to contact the local UPS office on my behalf.

“You can give them directions,” she said.

Did that solve the problem? No. Another UPS rep called me and asked for directions. I pulled up the address on Google Maps and described the location of the house, correct ZIP code and all.

You would think that UPS, which is in the business of delivering packages, would be able to find a house. Apparently not.

Related story:   Travel complaints that fail: 5 kinds of emails you should never write

Eventually, I had to call the recipient and ask him to speak directly with UPS.

I’ve been reassured the delivery will be made today.

This isn’t the first rant about delivery services this week. Yesterday, I had a resolution on a problem with FedEx and the unsubscribe function on its site.

How to fix this?

Make the policy flexible. I can understand not allowing anyone but the shipper to make an address change. But fixing an obvious error? That should be permitted. UPS’ rule shouldn’t be so rigid.

Retrain your reps. The first agent I spoke with didn’t want to solve the problem, as much as she wanted to re-state UPS’ rules. Although she eventually helped me, I would add that she seemed to do so grudgingly. Where’s the service?

Get new mapping software. If you can’t find a house even after you’ve been given the exact address, you’ve got a problem.

I guess if I’d given the company that shipped the gift the correct address, which I’m pretty sure I did, much of this could have been avoided.

So, stupid customer? Guilty as charged, perhaps. Stupid company. Maybe.

Stupid policy? Definitely.

Update (10 a.m.): UPS contacted me via Twitter (@UPShelp) and offered to fix this. Here’s hoping they can.

(Image of UPS plane by comp ujeramey/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.