A few posts ago, I mentioned that UPS had taken me on as a seasonal delivery driver. You may recall that I use a golf cart to distribute packages that are brought to a central pod that is located on the edge of my route. Today I am going to detail the job as it has unfolded, as some of you may be considering doing this in the future as a way to bring in some holiday cash.
On the surface, driving around a gated community on a golf cart and bringing parcels to homes sounds easy, right? Well, for the most part, it is…
…except when you are zipping along at 20 mph on a 50 degree rainy day.
On days like this, I am reminded of the U.S. Postal Service motto:
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
That motto applies to UPS and FedEx also. But most days are sunny and warm here in Florida, and weather has not been a major factor. What has been interesting is the reactionary nature of this business. By that, I mean that UPS has to react to whatever is thrown at them, which means that they need to be flexible. That ability to switch gears at a moment’s notice occurs at all levels of the company, including my job.
When I started out, they had me deliver packages from my pod only, which is designated by a three letter code. (For security purposes, the codes I use are not the real codes.) My pod is ABC and the pod next to mine is AB-2. I would deliver my packages and finish up by around 1 PM, depending on the day. On a weekday, a route is somewhere in the vicinity of 85 stops, with some houses getting multiple packages. The package count is right around 130. AB-2’s driver also works nights at the terminal, so he shows up at noon. If he has a lot of deliveries and requests the help, I can log onto his manifest and help him out. That has worked extremely well. On occasion, I’ll get a call from either my trainer or the terminal, requesting me to go to another pod after I’ve finished mine. I’ve always accepted the challenge, as the variety keeps it interesting. The first time I did this, I was beachside (as in, I was on the barrier island, instead of the mainland where ABC is located). The neighborhood was not gated, and could best be described as ‘beach funky’. The previous driver had quit. Coming in cold without knowing the neighborhood wasn’t a huge problem, as it was 5 east/west streets with 7 cul-de-sacs descending off of the southern road. We will call this pod BCD. There is a GPS map feature on the phone they gave me to use…which works well…but I also like to print myself a map for quicker reference. That way, I can pre-sort my packages into the order I am going to deliver them. That is actually faster than fumbling with the phone on the route, as we are told to put the phone down when the cart is moving. Going to a new route mid-day doesn’t allow me to print that map, but I have learned to print one if I know I’m going ahead of time. Also, my friend Rod taught me an invaluable trick that he used last year. With all of the writing on a label, it is sometimes hard to find the address quickly. What he did was to write the address on the top of the box with a Sharpie, using the first two letters from the street. For example: 2180 Maple Street would be written as ‘2180 MA’. That makes finding the correct box a breeze, especially when you are peering under a tarp in the rain.
On Saturday, December 2, they had us come in to deliver any parcels that were in the pipeline for Monday. That amounted to two cart-and-trailers worth of stuff for ABC (around 30 stops), and I was done in less than two hours. AB-2’s driver texted me and asked what his pod looked like, so I stated it was light….25 stops. He asked if I would run it for him…which I agreed to, just to make my trip to the pod worth it. I finished his and then got a call from my trainer, asking if I would go to another pod (CDE), as the person working there also quit on them.
CDE was a really nice neighborhood. The homes were older than ABC’s and the community wasn’t gated. Also, the landscaping was more established, offering me plenty of welcomed shade. The downside was, it was a huge route with 55 stops…a LOT for a Saturday. The roads were twisty-turny, and there were a lot of small cul-de-sacs interspersed throughout. Remember, I came in cold without a map. Luckily, the cart was extremely fast, as someone must have removed the governor. About 4:30, I received a call from the terminal asking if I was going to get the job done…as I think they lose a lot of people at the end of the day. “Don’t worry, I’ve got this!” I said. The last package was delivered as the sun hit the horizon. 🙂 I ended up logging 7.25 hours that day…which is all time-and-a-half, regardless of how many hours you have during the week.
This last week, I returned to BCD on Tuesday, then was sent to another new route, DEF. That route required patience. Again, a person had quit…and this time, I sympathized with them. The neighborhood was decent, but it involved a busy two lane connector road with no cart path…and it was under construction. The pod door was facing south, and it was 85 degrees. Needless to say, sorting was a cooker! Also, it was located at the back of an apartment complex in a storage area, so it was not very convenient. While the cart was fast like CDE’s, it had a major issue getting started. Every time I pushed on the gas to take off, it would squeal for 10 seconds before the engine would start and I could begin to move. That cut into my time a lot. I informed the terminal and they sent a driver out to take some of the work off my hands, but there wasn’t any way of fixing the cart yet that day. To be fair, if the cart would have worked well and the connector road had been fully opened, the route would have been somewhat decent. I even stopped for a minute to compliment one of the homeowners on her landscaping, which she was busy draping Christmas light on. After all, I was getting paid to ride around on a golf cart. 🙂 As far as all the folks quitting; I guess they would rather receive packages than deliver them!
On Wednesday, the terminal texted me before work and asked me to start at BCD, then head over to ABC. 10 minutes later, they switched me from BCD to a new route, EFG. This route could be best described as ‘funky…without the beach’. Luckily, I was still at home, so I printed a map. I got there and saw I only had 45 stops…which for a weekday, was very light. I sorted the pod, loaded the first run and took off. Two stops into the run, my trainer called and said they had a glut of drivers that day, and that I needed to take the cart back to the pod and let someone else complete it. So that is what I did. I went to my ABC pod and completed that in my normal amount of time and called it a day. Of course, my rate of packages was really low for the amount of time I was clocked in, so I was called on it by the afternoon dispatch. I explained what happened, and that whoever was fortunate enough to run EFG, probably had a great rate, as I had completely sorted it for them. Once dispatch realized what had happened, she breathed a sigh of relief. 🙂
Since then, there has been enough drivers to cover all the routes. The driver at AB-2 and me have been doing our trade-offs, but that’s been it. I get to enjoy the Christmas decorations on the ABC route and….
…the wildlife! These two Sandhill cranes were standing a few feet from where I needed to walk, so I calmly talked to them and they let me pass by. 🙂
A few other things I wanted to mention:
Amazon boxes hold up extremely well, while…
…a particular competitor’s boxes do not. I see it time and again. The competitor uses much lower quality cardboard and tape. Also, delivering packages is a dirty job. By the time those pretty boxes come from the packers at Amazon and make their way to Florida, they’ve picked up a fair amount of dirt, which transfers to me and my clothes. In addition, some of these boxes are quite heavy. I delivered a Schwinn Airdyne and a Total Gym, both of which were too heavy to lift. I slid them to the edge of the pod and tipped them into my trailer, then reversed the process at the home. My hands and low back definitely let me know they are hurting after a day’s worth of deliveries.
So there you have a rough idea of what’s involved in my fun little job with UPS. Will I do it again? Most definitely. Any job I’ve ever done has had its pitfalls, and this one has had a few of its own. But the people I am working with are dedicated and very nice, and like I said two posts ago, the people receiving the parcels are happy to see me at their door. That makes for a very fun day, indeed. 🙂