The Great October USPS Track and Confirm Debacle

24 Oct

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I have been a staunch advocate for the United States Postal Service ever since I was born in 1985.  My parents lament every Chanukah that my first sentence wasn’t “I love you, Mom and Dad,” but, “If it fits, it ships.”  In my opinion, the mail system can give the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon, or Dippin’ Dots a run for their money as the eighth Wonder of the World.  On what other planet can I put a four pound pair of shoes in a box, print out a label online with the weight mismarked as one pound so I pay less than $5, throw the box outside, tell the postman (or woman) vaguely where to find it, and have it delivered two days later to pretty much anywhere in the United States?  Not more than three I bet.  Plus, USPS loses like 10 billion dollars a year so I know I’m getting a great deal.

Unfortunatley, October has been a particularly tumultuous month for the Postal Service as they wrestle with whose lives will be ruined and whose lives will just be slightly inconvenienced by the closure of various Post Office stations and branches around the country (Please keep Factoria Mall open, thanks).  For those of us who don’t necessarily care who gets fired, the Great October USPS Track and Confirm Debacle (copyright pending) has been an even bigger inconvenience.

As first reported here on October 8th , domestic USPS Priority Mail labels printed at USPS.com were returning the incorrect Delivery Confirmation number on every single label for every single customer for three weeks (hi sonic).  On top of that, USPS.com was down in its entirety for half of Sunday October 18th and USPS Track and Confirm was down intermittently for more than 48 hours between October 18th and 20th.  Let me just repeat this so I know we’re on the same page.  Every single label printed at USPS.com for three weeks listed the wrong Delivery Confirmation number after checkout.  For those of you who would like to remind me that there are hungry kids in China or I should be more concerned with the declining furry lemur population, let me just tell you that this month’s problems with USPS Delivery Confirmation rivals the civil unrest in Madagascar in my book.

People on eBay go nuts for ‘tracking numbers’.  Over the last three weeks, many professional and casual eBay sellers alike have been giving their buyers the wrong “tracking number” because USPS in turn gave them the wrong number.  As many of you are aware, “shipping time” and “communication” ratings on eBay greatly and directly affect a seller’s ability not only to list and sell items, but also the amount paid to eBay in seller fees.  This month’s problems with USPS Track and Confirm could potentially cost sellers millions of dollars in additional fees and huge losses in sales if just one or two of a seller’s buyers are confused by their “tracking number” saying that “There is no record of your item.”  You can’t blame buyers for being confused either, as the Delivery Confirmation number clearly states its bogus on the USPS.com website.  Every single Delivery Confirmation number on every single domestic Priority label printed at USPS.com appeared to be bogus for three entire weeks, confusing countless thousands of people.  Does this seem like a debacle yet?

On top of problems with buyers, I have to prove to PayPal that I deliver what I’m selling or PayPal will refund the buyer if they say they “didn’t receive the item.”  At the same time, if a buyer returns an item to me, they also have to prove to PayPal that I received it back.  All of this was completely impossible when USPS was returning the wrong Delivery Confirmation number.  I had several buyers input the Delivery Confirmation number that they received from USPS.com only to be denied refunds by PayPal because the number returned nothing but “There is no record of this item.”  I won’t be complaining about that since I was able to afford beer this week because of it, but I think you get the idea that this problem cost lots of people a lot of money.  I will whine about the dozens of buyers who were pestering me for the “right tracking number” or accusing me of “not shipping the item” though.  It was annoying.

I know what you’re thinking though; “Josh, this really is a fantastic website, but debacle is a little harsh and this rant is unnecessarily wrong.”  Well naysayer, USPS grossly mishandled this from the start.  First of all, the problem and its solution were obvious from the first minute of the first day.  USPS changed their algorithm from a 20 digit Delivery Confirmation number to a 22 digit Delivery Confirmation number.  No big deal, except no one decided to update the “system” with that information for three freaking weeks.  I failed Computer Science in high school which is why I sell crap on eBay in the first place, but this couldn’t be a difficult problem to fix.  Since we figured out that the numbers “94″ were missing from the beginning of every Delivery Confirmation number, why not program Track and Confirm to automatically add those numbers in front of any number that starts with 0505 or whatever other numbers were identified as having this problem?  Why not add a warning screen with this information when someone prints a domestic label with Delivery Confirmation or when a user logs in?  Why not announce it on the USPS “blog” or the USPS.com website?  The only thing I can figure out is that those in charge of the Postal Service didn’t realize how big of a problem this was, simply didn’t care, or actually are as incompetent as so many purport them to be.

Like many people, on October 7th I emailed USPS at their desired address and inquired about the problem.  They assured me my problem was important and I should receive a response within 48 hours.  I received no response until this morning, approximately 384 hours later.  ECustomerCare National (ECCADUSER@usps.gov) sent me the following:

Dear Unfortunate Postal Service Customer Whom We Care “Very” Little About,

Thank you for contacting the United States Postal Service.  I understand that you have not been able to track your Priority Mail Delivery Confirmation items, since 9/30/2009.

I do apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.  When using Click-N-Ship tracking number, use usps.com to track the item, please add two digits “94″ to the beginning of the label ID. This workaround will provide tracking information on the label.

Please accept our sincere apology for any inconvenience this matter may have caused you.

REALLY USPS??!!!  REALLY??????

As one of the Post Office’s best customers (or worst I guess since they lose more money on me than most people????????)? I expect a more properly, better worded punctuation and, sentence structure with words and, punctuation.  In addition to this babble, I received the following email to my account registered with USPS (with editorial comments of what was going through my head while I read it):

Dear Customer We Still Don’t Care Much About(YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN),

Due to a technical issue (YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN), you may (I DID IDIOT CHECK THE 100K I’VE SPENT ON POSTAGE THIS YEAR) have experienced difficulty receiving Track & Confirm data for Click-N-Ship domestic Priority Mail labels printed between Thursday, October 1st, 2009 and Tuesday, October 20th, 2009(ACTUALLY I DIDN’T HAVE ANY PROBLEM RECEIVING IT JUST WHAT I RECEIVED WAS COMPLETELY WRONG FOR LIKE A !@#$ing MONTH MORONS MORONS MORONS).

If (AGAIN I DID) you generated a domestic Priority Mail label on Click-N-Ship within the indicated timeframe and have had difficulty with obtaining Track & Confirm data from USPS.com, we apologize for the inconvenience (I DON’T FEEL LIKE THIS IS A SINCERE APOLOGY). If you would still like to obtain Track & Confirm data for a domestic Priority Mail label printed between the dates indicated above, please follow the instructions below:

In the Track & Confirm field on usps.com, please add two (2) additional digits, “94″, to the left most position of the twenty (20) digit tracking/label number. For example, if the tracking/label # is 0550 1699 3200 0006 9161, the tracking/label # necessary to receive tracking data would be 940550 1699 3200 0006 9161 (IF YOU HAD SIMPLY VISITED THE #37 MOST POPULAR ONLINE WORDPRESS BLOG WITH AUCTION IN THE URL THEN YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WEEKS AGO).

Additionally, your domestic Priority Mail tracking number(s) for labels printed within the date range above will be automatically corrected Thursday, October 22nd, 2009, and available in your Shipping History. Please feel free to visit www.usps.com/clicknship (OHHHHHHHHH REEEEEEAAAALLLLY).

Once again, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, and we sincerely appreciate your business(OK NOW IT’S SINCERE FINALLY).

Thank you,

USPS Click-N-Ship Team

OVER THREE WEEKS TO COME UP WITH THIS LITTLE GEM?

The Postal Service’s failure to fix this problem in a reasonable amount of time is inexcusable.  Even more inexcusable than their inability to fix the problem is their lack of communication about it.  USPS’s problems this month cost me and a whole lot of other people a whole lot of money.  I can’t tell you how much because eBay still won’t tell me what ratings buyers are leaving (lol) or why they feel that way, but I’m sure ratings declined, fee discounts were erased, and listings were bured in search.   Even now, if the originally returned Delivery Confirmation number is inputted into Track and Confirm, it will still return “There is no record of this item.”  USPS may now return the correct Delivery Confirmation number, but it doesn’t make up for all the wrong that’s occured due to their inability to act or communicate.

That concludes my coverage of the Great October USPS Track and Confirm Debacle (copyright pending).  Good luck editing all those Delivery Confirmation numbers in PayPal and trying to convince your customers with an IQ of one that they need to put a “94″ before the number they previously received to make it work.

Until next time, Josh

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One Response to “The Great October USPS Track and Confirm Debacle”

  1. mobs 13. May, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    sup man, i’d like to add that USPS gives our international customers a tracking number when they dont even track the international priority flat rates. almost every customer hits me up asking why i haven’t shipped their order! i then have to explain to them that in fact it has shipped and that the tracking number is not an actual tracking number. very annoying. if they weren’t such a monopoly i’d never deal with them again.

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