If you have ever bought something on the internet that didn’t ship solely via USPS, then using either FedEx Smartpost or UPS Surepost was likely an option; they are both shipping options that use the United States Postal Service for the final leg. In other words, UPS or FedEx will deliver the packages to your local Post Office, and the Postal Service will handle the actual delivery. The concept sounds good, but in practice it can be anything but.
For the e-tailers, it’s a really good deal. They setup the contract with UPS or FedEx, and they get shipping rates that are much more economical. The Post Office gets a steady source of income from UPS and FedEx. Customers will find that this option is usually is the basic shipping level, and it is usually free or has a very low cost.
UPS and FedEx will show up at the local Post Office at the most inopportune times and dump as many as 5,000 packages; according to some anecdotes on Amazon, the Postmasters hate Smartpost because of this. Since what I read were mostly anecdotes, I thought I would verify this with a friend who works for the US Postal Service. I briefly talked to him about this, and asked if what I had heard was true; he verified that it was. Even the mail carriers hate these packages. Once UPS or FedEx drops them off at the Post Office, you’ll get no updates on tracking at all; once your package hits the Post Office, it goes into oblivion until it gets to you.
The other really bad part about the service is that sometimes you won’t even know if your item is shipping via UPS Surepost or FedEx Smartpost until it’s too late; you may not even have a choice.
I mentioned that you usually don’t get a choice about how your item will ship, with the option being hidden under the standard shipping. The ugly part of this is how long it may take for your item to arrive. For instance, on a recent gift I ordered, standard shipping said it would take 3-5 days for arrival. I figured that would be before Christmas, so they should get it in time. AFTER the item had shipped, it was indicated that the package had shipped FedEx Smartpost, and the delivery estimate was now December 27. That’s not 3-5 days; it’s more like 11!
I find, on average, that it seems to take anywhere from an extra day to as many as 7 to ship via these services, but I’ve heard MUCH worse. People might never never even get their package — or they’ll receive it days later than expected.
The one good thing here is that this usually is the free shipping option; the bad news is that it takes FAR longer than it should. If I pay $9.70 to ship a package to Anna, TX via first class mail, it should get there in 2 days. This is cheaper than FedEx 2 day shipping, and it’s actually more convenient for me. I’d rather pay a nominal amount and have a close estimate of when the item will arrive. With SurePost or Smartpost you get neither, it’s neither sure nor smart.
If you have a choice, I would not select UPS Surepost or FedEx Smartpost for any shipments — even for non critical purchases. If you have a choice, my suggestion is that you select only shipping modes that stay 100 percent with that particular shipping company, be it USPS, UPS or FedEx. If you have to pick from less obvious shipping methods like Standard (ala Amazon), Two-Day or whatever, then pick Two-Day. You may pay more; sometimes a lot more, however you will at least have a more accurate on the status of your package at any moment along its journey.
In this economy, I do not blame UPS or FedEx for taking advantage of the deals that the Postal Service offer them. However, I have more confidence in a shipping solution when there’s only one shipping company to blame. At least you know who to hold responsible when your package is lost or late!
Do you have any horror stories from shipping via UPS Surepost or FedEx Smartpost? Do tell!