Why UPS Won’t Bother To Improve Service

My recent terrible customer service problem with UPS (an overnight letter, containing my children’s birth certificates, that was supposed to be delivered on January 29th still hadn’t arrived on February 16th…) led me to Google the news on UPS, just to see what other bad things they were up to.  It didn’t take long to uncover UPS’ clandestine efforts to change legislation that would achieve only one thing only: target their largest competitor, Fed Ex.  According the (caveat: the campaign is run by FedEx):

UPS lobbyists have buried a short 230-word legislative “bailout” [NOTE: my quotation marks] deep inside the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 currently before Congress. It’s worth billions to “Big Brown” at the expense of today’s American economy that thrives on next-day commerce, competitive shipping options and ready access to markets around the world.

Why should we care? Because UPS’s service sucks compared to FedEx’s. FedEx argues that those of us who rely on overnight-deliveries – medicines, paychecks, critical replacement parts, essential inventory, and the like – will pay the cost if the legislation occurs. In my case, UPS hasn’t even attempted to deliver the package in 6 days—crying adverse weather. Thank god I’m just waiting for birth certificates (which I need to enroll my kids in public school). If it was medicine I’d be dead. The last thing we want is to give UPS more power than it already has.  Remember: Customer Service is the tangible evidence of its service. Both stink.

I believe in Diane MacEachern’s Big Green Purse concept. So I generally patronize the lesser and the greener of all evils in what I buy. Therefore, I’m generally an advocate of trucking over air freight in terms of sustainability. But, in this case UPS is only marginally more sustainable than FedEx. According to Newsweeks’ 2009 Green Rankings UPS ranks number #85 to FedEx’s #93. They are pretty much equal in terms of sustainability. Which when you think about it is appalling since a trucking company should be far more sustainable than an air company.

In terms of social and economic measures, FedEx seems the better company. Consider that for 12 out of the last 13 years FedEx has landed on Fortune’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For.” I don’t think UPS has ever made the cut.

FedEx is ranked 91st overall and was recognized specifically for its ability to manage through the economic downtown by taking proactive steps to minimize layoffs and reinstate salary increases and 401(k) match, which the company suspended last year in the midst of the economic downturn.

All in all, it all smells kinda…brown.  I say we vote with our pocketbooks, switch to Fed Ex and act now to say no to taxpayers helping UPS unfairly compete.  Let’s see UPS compete on service.  Then maybe they won’t need a legislative fix.

Photo: anshu mishra at

Written by Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan writes regularly about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was been named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - find her on .


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