UPS, Get A Clue About Usability

Ian Lurie

young man asking what is wrong with my computer

UPS, you have a loooong way to go when it comes to usability. If you want some free advice, in the form of a rant, read on.

I shipped out my first few book orders earlier this week. In typical dysfunctional entrepeneur style, I decided to do it myself. I’ve never done (small) bulk fulfillment, and it seemed like a chance to give it a shot. Envelopes in hand, I went to to ship my packages.

I clicked ‘shipping’ on the UPS home page, then ‘create shipment’. No problem so far. Then the site asked that I register. I’m never thrilled when I’m asked to register before I see how the process works, but I did it anyway. After registering I attempted to order supplies for UPS Ground.

Only the site doesn’t offer any UPS Ground envelopes, boxes, etc.. The button I clicked said ‘Order UPS Packs, Labels and more’. But the first screen I saw after clicking that button was a prompt for my UPS account number.

How can UPS not know my account number when I just logged in?! Anyway, I typed in my account number.

The next screen showed envelopes and packs for everything except UPS Ground shipment. After a few minutes of clicking around, I gave up and decided to use my own packaging.

Just to recap so far: I’ve clicked about a dozen links, and spent 10 minutes, but am no closer to shipping anything..

I then clicked ‘create shipment’ again, and started creating UPS Ground shipments. As a first step, I wanted to import the book purchasers’ addresses into the UPS address book. That would’ve made label creation much easier. I followed their instructions, created a spreadsheet according to the UPS specifications, and tried to upload the resulting CSV file. No dice – the UPS site gave me a series of hard-to-interpret errors about field length, illegal characters, etc..

After some hacking around I got the CSV properly formatted, but got a message that said ‘Two-letter country code required. Please see the country code table.’ There wasn’t any link to a country code table, though, and several searches on the site didn’t turn up the table, either. I finally found the country codes in a drop-down field on a form.

Unfortunately the import tool still didn’t work. I tried two more times, and gave up.

Another recap: Now it’s been 15 minutes and a lot more clicks. I still don’t have a single shipment created.

Teeth clenched, I created all of my labels by hand, only to discover it would cost a minimum of $8/shipment to send out my 93-page book.

Why couldn’t they tell me that in the first place?

Quick hint, UPS: Explain the service. Clearly. Then tell me the price. Then make me fill out forms.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

Start call to action

See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

End call to action


  1. I see you decided to use to ship your new book, after all, good move. It probably saved you about 10 clicks and $4 a package!

Comments are closed.

Close search overlay