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Attention UPS: It's winter in New England

There's something about the lack of attention to details that irks me sometimes. I realize that I myself am guilty of this on occasion, but I do my best to stay on top of things. And if, for example, it's your job to move boxes from one place to another without destroying their contents or putting them in danger, you'd do that right?

I recall years and years ago a poster that was hanging up in the Computer Engineering department at RIT which said something to the effect of "Is 99.9% good enough?" As college students, we quickly applied the metaphor to tests and homework grades, for which 99.9% was indeed good enough. However, there are a large number of cases where this is simply not true.

If 99.9% is good enough, then:

  • Two million documents will be lost by the IRS this year.
  • 811,000 faulty rolls of 35mm film will be loaded this year.
  • 22,000 checks will be deducted from the wrong bank accounts in the next 60 minutes.
  • 1,314 phone calls will be misplaced by telecommunication services every minute.
  • 12 babies will be given to the wrong parents each day.
  • 268,500 defective tires will be shipped this year.
  • 14,208 defective personal computers will be shipped this year.
  • 103,260 income tax returns will be processed incorrectly this year.
  • 2,488,200 books will be shipped with the wrong cover in the next 12 months.
  • 132,412,800 cans of soft drinks produced in the next 12 months will be flatter than one of the 268,500 defective tires.
  • Two plane landings daily at O'Hare International Airport will be unsafe.
  • 3,056 copies of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will be missing one of the three sections.
  • 18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled in the next hour.
  • 291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly this year.
  • 880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect cardholder information on their magnetic strips.
  • $9,690 will be spent every day on defective, often unsafe sporting equipment.
  • 55 malfunctioning automatic teller machines will be installed in the next 12 months.
  • 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written in the next 12 months.
  • 114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped this year.
  • $761,900 will be spent on tapes and CDs that won't play.
  • 107 incorrect medical procedures will be performed each day.
  • 315 entries inWebster's Third New International Dictionary of English Language will be misspelled.

I've traced this list back to being nearly a decade old, so if I could give credit to the source, I would. Unfortunately, I don't know who originally created it.

I recently had a package shipped from Dallas to my home office here in Massachusetts. Nothing fancy. Just a server that I had colocated there for a long time. The UPS Store was more than happy to go pick it up for me, package it, and ship it to me via UPS ground for a mere $55. I was fairly pleased at the cost. When I had originally sent it to Dallas, it cost me about $110, but I was sending it 2 day air so it was more expensive. UPS gave me a tracking number early last week, and it seemed that I would have it back by Monday.

On a whim, I decided to see where it was the next day. No update on the UPS website. In fact, they hadn't even picked it up yet. I was slightly irritated, but for $55, you can't exactly expect fast service. By the following day, UPS had picked it up and it was on its way. Saturday, I checked again and there weren't any updates. "Strange", I thought. Usually they're pretty good about updating their site with the shipping information. Well, FedEx is anyway. Competitors usually do similar things, but perhaps it was different with UPS ground. I've always felt that FedEx was a much better run company in terms of updates, rerouting, and service. They're a bit more expensive most of the time, but the cost is well worth it in my eyes, especially when you're looking for reliability.

Monday came and went, with no server. I checked mid-afternoon since I'd seen the UPS truck nearby, but didn't see it stop. I thought maybe they missed me and the note on my door had blown away. It was awfully windy. Tuesday came and went. Still nothing. Curiously, around 11pm Tuesday night I checked the UPS site, only to find that it had been delivered at 6:02pm on Monday night. It gets dark here at 4:30pm and it was after 6pm when it was dropped off. They apparently left it by the garage.... BY THE GARAGE!!!

I'd like to point out that The UPS Store packed my server. (I would link to them here, but they totally don't deserve it.) They knew it was a rack-mount server. The guy I talked to didn't even need the address of colo facility where I picked it up. He knew exactly where it was, since he'd gone there many times and done this before. When I received my copy of the MSDN from Amazon, there were two UPS guys waiting at my door to make sure I signed for it. TWO OF THEM! After all, it was worth about $2,000 so I'm sure Amazon wanted it to get to me ok. But to be fair, the MSDN subscription is a set of plastic disks, which would hardly be ruined by asome time in the cold, or even in the rain.

But, UPS apparently did indeed leave my rack mount server outside, in December in New England. It said so on their website. I don't know if any of you watch any Patriots games on tv, but it snows here... a lot. And it snowed this past weekend. (Global warming my ass.)

I checked by my garage, and no server. I checked across the street, thinking they mistakenly put it at my neighbors house, since we're right across from one another, and I suppose that a substitute UPS driver may have confused them, but he doesn't have a garage. After spending 20 minutes outside, in the freezing cold searching all over the place, I called it a night. I couldn't imagine what the temperature was doing to my server.

Wednesday comes, and I call the UPS Store to ask about it, telling them I haven't seen it, and that according to the tracking number, it was supposedly delivered on Monday. I give them the tracking number, and he checks the UPS website to see what's going on. Then I'm told that "The UPS website says it was delivered at 6:02pm on Monday". I thought I just said that? Hmmm. Well, he'll check into it and call me back.

A few hours later, I get a phone call from the UPS Store telling me that UPS apparently delivered it to my neighbors house. He said that UPS kept giving him a very slightly different address than it was supposed to have on it, and they put my neighbors address on it instead of mine. Way to pass the buck. You could be president someday buddy. I check at my neighbors house by the garage, and there's nothing there. She's in Florida for a little while, so I know she didn't take it inside. I call The UPS Store again and report it missing. At this point, my server could be face down in a ditch with a knife in its back for all I know, victim of some gang attack by AMD servers. Wiley little bastards.

What it really comes down to is attention to detail. Any number of steps along the way, this entire problem could have been averted. The guy who packed it should have made sure it was signed for. The person who dropped it off should have had some visibility to the fact that the package was insured for so much money and needed to be handled with some care, forcing a signature of some sort and not leaving it outside. If the numbers hadn't been mixed up in the handoff between The UPS Store and UPS, then the package would have been delivered to the right place and I could have received it personally.

While the package is insured, the data on the hard drives is more important to me. Thankfully, I averted a total disaster by downloading all of the important information before I had them ship the server back to me. But now I have to wait for 1-8 business days (who makes up these timeframes?) for UPS to do an investigation and figure out what happened and what to do. Worst case scenario, I collect the insurance money for the server, and buy a new one. Best case scenario, it is found somewhere, and the hardware isn't dead because of the cold. I would expect it to be largely ok, but you never know what sub-zero temperatures will do to a computer. I can't say I'd have wanted to wait in line with my own hardware to try it out.

I am a bit upset that I didn't insure it for the full value of the server though, since I'd forgotten how much I originally paid for it and how much it would cost to replace it when I was asked how much insurance I wanted to put on it. I suppose not everybody pays attention to details all the time.


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