I am writing today about the experiences my girlfriend and I constantly encounter when trying to receive packages shipped to us through companies such as the Postal Service and UPS. Just as is the case with most of life, there are special obstacles with which we must deal as blind people. I hope the sharing of these experiences and some ideas to solve these package delivery and tracking issues help you in your daily life. I thought this topic would be most appropriate since many of us will be receiving Christmas packages.

I purchased a Christmas gift for my girlfriend online. It was shipped via UPS and I was provided with the tracking number. Each day or two I monitored the package’s status on ups.com. I was happy to find that it would be delivered on Friday, December 17. Sadly, I didn’t receive it yesterday as expected. The UPS web site indicated that it was in “post card” status due to an incorrect street address. Given the lateness of the hour and the fact that I was by myself at work and thus not safely able to call UPS on the telephone, I sent an e-mail through ups.com to insure they had the correct address and ask when the package could be redelivered.

The response from Christine at UPS came this morning. I was invited to pick up the package at the Phoenix delivery center! This is, of course, the typical sighted response, since the world is designed for those who are sighted and thus easily able to drive their automobiles over to that delivery center to pick up the package. Not so easily done for those of us whom happen to be blind and thus unable to transport ourselves. Could I physically pick up the package? Yes. I could ride the bus or take a cab. Here in the Phoenix area, and especially given the location of this particular delivery center, taking the bus would not be practical. Taking a cab would be very expensive. Hey, didn’t I already pay the shipping costs? Yes. I sure did, just like everyone else.

Deciding that the additional expense of a cab ride was inappropriate, I called the UPS call center at 800-PICKUPS. After providing the tracking number, I was again invited to pick up the package. Insisting that this added cost was not acceptable, it was finally agreed that another delivery attempt would be made, using the corrected street address information. Sadly, it can’t be delivered until Tuesday. At least, it will be on time for Christmas. I will, of course, not explicitly trust what UPS agents tell me. I will monitor the ups.com web site periodically throughout the day until the package is in my hot little (not so little) hands… We’ll discuss accountability and trust issues in other posts…

I have devised a partial solution to most package delivery issues (at least with UPS) when receiving packages at home. Due to the nature of this particular package, I had it delivered to my work address. This should have been an advantage, since we’re always staffed and our office manager would have accepted the package on my behalf. Only the incorrect address caused trouble. You’ll see later how I have the telephone number for the local UPS office in the city in which I live and how that usually helps with package delivery.

As I have already stated, we experience package delivery issues on a regular basis. The following are examples of how this process is currently inaccessible to blind people, who are unable to independently read print or transport themselves:

  • Printed notices left on the door or in the mailbox.
  • Assumptions that the package could be picked up rather than redelivered.
  • Failure to accomodate the scheduling needs of working people by delivering packages only during week days with insufficient arrangements to deliver later in the evenings or on weekends.
  • Improper handling of our special materials, such as bent or smashed Braille!

Karen and I have come up with a solution to most of these issues that usually works quite well, at least with UPS. UPS cooperates with this solution, while the Postal Service tends to be more difficult. Even with the Postal Service, we ultimately get our packages, but only after lots of telephone calls and absolute insistence that the Postal Service simply follow through and do the right thing!

Several years ago, when we first encountered trouble with UPS, we called their 800 number and insisted on a direct return telephone call from the local office so that we could resolve the issue at hand. When that call came, we used our talking caller ID to obtain the office’s local telephone number. UPS doesn’t like to voluntarily give that information to customers. Here’s how we have solved the package delivery issues with UPS:

  1. Obtain the UPS tracking number from the person or company shipping the package.
  2. Use the ups.com web site or call 1-800-PICKUPS to track the package on a daily basis.
  3. When you see that the package has been scheduled for delivery, call your local UPS office, not the national number if possible.
  4. Give the tracking number, tell the representative that you’re blind, and request a reasonable delivery alternative that does not involve your picking up the package. Tell the representative that you do not have reliable transportation, so the stock answers won’t meet your needs. Our request typically involves placing the package on the latest possible delivery route so that we will be home to receive it in the evening. If the first representative you speak with does not seem to care about your situation or otherwise seems not to understand your request, ask to speak with someone in a supervisory role.
  5. You will receive your package. Sometimes, it will be one or two days later than it would have been for the sighted customer, but this process will insure that you do receive it in a reasonable manner.

Karen and I hope these suggestions help you to insure your receipt of your packages. Whenever possible, we recommend using UPS as the carrier, since they seem to put forth the best effort in dealing with blind customers.

We do have one question. How can we prevent the Postal Service from mangling our Braille materials? As always, all comments are appreciated.