amazon shipping box
An Amazon.com box for shipment

Amazon and UPS love logistics

| I've suspected for some time that shipments from Amazon sometimes are deliberately slow. Now there's evidence.

estimated delivery
Estimated delivery

On January 17, 10 days ago, ordered an item from Amazon and chose "free shipping" because I could. According to the confirmation email, I could expect delivery sometime between January 22 and 27. (See left.)

Note that the shipping speed is described as "FREE Shipping." Free is in no way a measure of speed.

Today, January 27, I may finally receive the shipment, although I'm not all that certain.

This shipment, as with many from Amazon, is coming via a hybrid of UPS and the post office. FedEx does the same thing, using the local Post Office to make the final step of delivery. It's a smart move, reducing UPS/FedEx costs while providing an income stream for the Post Office. All good. A win-win.

UPS has a series of commercials extolling their love of logistics, and they are very good at it to be sure. Although Amazon never says so in their ads, they, too, have a strong vested interest in mastering the details of delivering merchandize ordered online. It's simple — time is money.

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Free two-day shipping checkbox

Now, a comment about Amazon's "free shipping." To get free shipping, there are two things you have to do: First, order merchandize totaling more than a certain amount. Second, after placing your order you must go to the order and edit it to change the delivery to free (at least this is so if you use the "one-click" method). If you forget the second step, you will pay for shipment. You must also beware of the checkbox on the page to choose "FREE Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime" for that will also buy you a subscription to Amazon Prime. One could be forgiven for imagining that Amazon Prime was some perk you get for buying this particular item.

Let's now talk about deliberately slow delivery. Here is the progress of my package, captured from the UPS website this morning

shipment progress
UPS website tracking information
USPS tracking
US Postal Service tracking information

As of 9:30 am, the page still reads "Scheduled Delivery: Scheduled delivery information is not available at this time. Please check back later."

Note that the package has been in Palm Springs since early Saturday morning (6:28am). Both the Post Office and UPS work on Saturdays, but it somehow took two days from the package arrival to its "destination scan." Two days, really?

The next curiosity is that we find the package was "transferred to post office" on Monday morning (9:34am) but it took until the next day, Tuesday, at 4:53am for it to be "received" by the post office.

My past experience with UPS tells me that when a package arrives at Vernon, CA, it is usually delivered to me the next day. Granted it arrived there on a Friday evening, but UPS runs an around-the-clock operation. There is no reason the package could not be delivered to me on Monday.

Except the reason that if you choose free shipping, the package is delivered by the modern equivalent of Pony Express to ensure that you wait the longest possible time to receive it.

In short Amazon has been infected by the airline virus, the symptoms of which are mounting fees for things that used to be considered part of the service.

By looking at the USPS tracking information for the package, we see that it was rapidly accepted, arrived, and sorted, and is now out for delivery.

To be clear, technology, in the form of bar-code scanning and massive databases, has made ordering something online much more predictable and transparent. But it has also made it possible for the big players to rig the system in order to extort more fees from buyers.

By comparison, when I first ordered books from Amazon many, many years ago, when books was about the only thing they sold, they were so grateful for anyone's business that they sent along a free travel coffee mug with every order. I still have one of them, which I still use!

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018

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