I always find UPS a great example of a business model that has reached the end of an era. Yes, they're great for sending packages to and from businesses, but I'll bet a lot of their business comes from folks buying stuff through the internet. In fact, I'd say the majority of my shopping is online, and the majority of that is delivered to me in a little brown truck. Delivered is not really what happens, however. In reality, it goes something like this:

First, I receive a notice on my door that I got a package. Sometimes two notices, and sometimes three because I enter my house through the garage and may not go out the front door for days.

Next, I sign on to www.ups.com, navigate a very confusing site to find my package, and then I indicate that I would like to pick up the package. Why? Because, like most folks, I work. And, like most folks, my boss likes me to be at work oh, sometime between 9:00 and 5:00. Too bad that coincides exactly with the UPS delivery hours.

Finally, I wait for a day or two. I need to wait because when I get home, find the notice and log on, UPS has usually loaded my package onto a truck for the next day. That means that any hold I place on the package takes a day to propagate. Sometimes it takes two.

This process ends with me driving to the UPS station in my area. I live in downtown Seattle, and my station is quite a ways south in an industrial district. It's far, and it takes me through rush hour traffic both ways.

Today the process broke down further. I found myself in a line of about ten people when UPS opened this morning. Eight of those were picking up packages just like I was. Of those eight, six didn't have their packages held. Some called, some used the internet. I was one of the six. I suspect that whatever data connection sneaks my hold request from the corporate office to this UPS station broke down at some point, so I get to do it all over again tomorrow. This type of thing happens quite a bit. I'd say there's always someone in line in front of me whose package was not held at the warehouse. It's always the same story: call UPS customer service and complain. And, it's always the same somewhat exasperated tone from the clerk: they're tired of this happening too.

The odd thing about this is that each and every person I've interacted with at the UPS station is an excellent employee. They're always smart, courteous, and quick. They're just hobbled by a business that hasn't grown with the times. Come on, UPS, this is not the 1950's. Let's update your business model for the new century.