Not a “Partner” the USPS Needs: Across the US in Only 27 Days

According to Google Maps, someone driving from Inglewood (CA) to Ft Myers (FL) at a steady 70 miles per hour would need 38 hours to complete the 2,659-mile trip.

Of course, in the world of commercial shipping, an item being sent from Inglewood to Ft Myers wouldn’t travel like that, instead taking a slower, likely longer route, perhaps through intermediate transfer points along the way.

Walking to Florida

Even with that caveat, however, it would seem that a friend’s recent experience would be somewhat abnormal.  An item that was shipped from Inglewood on May 10 took 27 days to reach Ft Myers.  That translates into 4.1 MPH, meaning it traveled at the same speed as a person walking.

 

According to the Postal Service’s tracking of the parcel:

  • May 10, 2020, 11:25 pm: INGLEWOOD, CA 90304
    Picked Up by Shipping Partner; USPS Awaiting Item
  • May 18, 2020, 1:41 pm: Arrived Shipping Partner Facility,
    MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ 08831; USPS Awaiting Item
  • May 28, 2020, 2:16 pm: Arrived Shipping Partner Facility,
    MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ 08831; USPS Awaiting Item
  • May 28, 2020, 3:23 pm: Departed Shipping Partner Facility,
    MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ 08831; USPS Awaiting Item
  • May 29, 2020, 6:42 am: Arrived Shipping Partner Facility,
    MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ 08831; USPS Awaiting Item
  • June 2, 2020, 5:13 pm: Arrived Shipping Partner Facility,
    ATLANTA, GA 30349; USPS Awaiting Item
  • June 3, 2020, 11:00 am: Arrived Shipping Partner Facility,
    ATLANTA, GA 30349; USPS Awaiting Item
  • June 3, 2020, 5:14 pm: Departed Shipping Partner Facility,
    ATLANTA, GA 30349; USPS Awaiting Item
  • June 6, 2020, 3:37 am; Accepted at USPS Destination Facility, FORT MYERS, FL 33907
  • June 6, 2020, 4:52 am: Arrived at Post Office, FORT MYERS, FL 33907
  • June 6, 2020, 7:10 am; Out for Delivery, FORT MYERS, FL 33916
  • June 6, 2020, 1:41 pm: Delivered, Front Door/Porch, FORT MYERS, FL 33916

There are several interesting components to this itinerary:

  • It took eight days to make the 2,774 mile trip from Inglewood to Monroe Township (NJ), a warehouse area off the New Jersey Turnpike between Trenton and New Brunswick.  That works out to 14 MPH and suggests road or rail travel at an unrushed pace.  Of course, the corollary question would be why an item heading to Florida would be sent through New Jersey in the first place.  There would seem to be another suitable way-station in Atlanta (see below) so why that wasn’t the initial east coast destination isn’t clear.
  • After arriving in New Jersey on May 18, the item seems to have disappeared, only to arrive again ten days later.  There was no explanation for this phenomenon, nor for why it took a week and a half to be processed by the “shipping partner” facility.
  • Eleven days after arriving in New Jersey, the item finally left, apparently to an intermediate transfer point in Atlanta, but it took four days – instead of 12.5 hours – to make the 828-mile trip.
  • After again arriving twice, the item took another three days to go from Atlanta to Ft Myers, a 574-mile journey that should take a little over eight hours.

After being in the custody of a USPS “shipping partner” for 27 days, the item is finally given to the Postal Service for delivery – which occurred the same day.

Worst foot forward

This whole episode may seem absurd but it should be concerning to several functional areas within the Postal Service, especially to product and marketing managers.

The persons who checked on the parcel’s progress and the route it took understood the data being viewed, but to the average postal patron the item came through the mail and the role of other parties involved in its transportation wasn’t obvious.

In fact, the entire trip from Inglewood to Ft. Myers was performed not by the Postal Service but by a single “shipping partner” (who was named in the original tracking report but not here).  There were no hand-offs between “partners” as best as can be determined.

So, even though when the USPS finally got hold of the package it delivered it promptly, it’s “shipping partner” hardly did it a favor by taking nearly a month to get it from California to the post office in Florida.  And, again, the average customer, seeing that the item was delivered by the Postal Service, would have no reason to think the USPS hadn’t transported it all the way from origin to delivery, and therefore was responsible for it taking so long.

Presumably, had this item been shipped using an “expedited” service rather than as a ground parcel it would have been transported and delivered quicker – even with the challenges of reduced air capacity because of COVID-related flight cancellations.  And, presumably, it wouldn’t have taken a month to go from California to Florida if the item were shipped directly through the Postal Service.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the Postal Service engaging other shippers as “partners,” whether for transportation or to supply volume for delivery; it actually makes business sense.

Nonetheless, it would seem in the agency’s best interest to hold those “partners” to higher performance standards or in some way make it clearer to its customers when it actually received an item from a “partner.”  If a patron is waiting for a month for a package, it would be good for the USPS to clarify who’s responsible for it taking so long.  “Partners” who make you look bad to your customers aren’t the kind of “partners” you want.

The “snail mail” pejorative may not be a fair label for the Postal Service, but situations like the above do little to overcome the perception it represents.

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