UPS, Get A Clue About Usability

Ian Lurie Jun 1 2006

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.

tags : conversation marketing


  1. It sounds like the CEO of UPS can use a copy of your book! If I were you, I’d send one on over with your rant. :-)

  2. Ramin


    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!

  3. Ian


    I did switch to the Postal Service, and yes, I saved $4 a package!

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