Tag Archives: UPS

Golf Cart Delivery – The Scoop

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…

Cold

…except when you are zipping along at 20 mph on a 50 degree rainy day.

rain cart

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.

Pod stacks
Approximately 50 stops worth of parcels.

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.

shade (2)

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.  🙂

snoopy

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….

sandhill

…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 box

Amazon boxes hold up extremely well, while…

target

…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.  🙂

ups

 

 

 

 

Life at the Speed of Prime

“You want it when???”

you

Back in the 1970’s, this jewel of a cartoon began appearing in workplaces all over the world. As lead times have decreased since then, many people have looked at this drawing at their work stations and smiled, after customers placed unrealistic delivery dates for them to meet. In my management career with a hotel furniture manufacturer, I’ve felt the stress of demanding customers pushing me to get them their product quickly. In turn, my vendors and our manufacturing team had that pressure transferred from my shoulders to theirs. I’m sure many of them hung up the phone, looked at this image and laughed at me.

Back in those days, my world view was focused between our company’s vendors, workers, and customers from my desk in Holland, Michigan. Sure, I’d think about how my demands affected their personal lives, but the constant pressure on me never allowed me to look much further than that. Retirement to lives as fulltime RVers has expanded Diana’s and my views to help us understand the bigger picture of how our world is speeding up. Two post-retirement jobs in particular have really driven that point home: packing boxes for Amazon and delivering packages for UPS.

When the two of us first walked into Amazon’s fulfillment center in Campbellsville, Kentucky last year, I literally had to fight back tears of joy. To totally understand why that is, you have to go back to my upbringing in the neighborhood that surrounds the Ford Rouge plant in suburban Detroit. I was one of the fortunate few who took the old tour of the facility in which I saw the iron ore being unloaded from a ship at one end of the plant and a finished Mustang being driven off the line at the other end. That was a pivotal day in my life in which I saw what an efficient process could do in getting product to the consumer quicker. I would spend my career striving to streamline everything I did, often keeping Henry Ford’s beloved Rouge complex in the back of my mind. When we toured Amazon during our orientation, everything I dreamed of achieving…and more…was happening before our eyes! Orders that hadn’t even been placed yet when we ate breakfast, were being packaged and sent to waiting trucks before we sat down to eat our lunches. The concept that is Amazon Prime…where an item ordered online will be delivered in two days…had become our daily duty.  Clearly, Jeff Bezos & Company had built upon Mr. Ford’s dream and had polished it to such a model of efficiency that even Henry would be awestruck.

Fast forward to this holiday season and my job delivering packages for UPS. I’m seeing how the Amazon Prime culture is affecting the shipping business. Melbourne’s little UPS distribution center…while quiet most of the year…sees not only a huge population increase as the snowbirds arrive in town, but also in the amount of items those people are buying online during the holidays. FedEx and the US Postal Service sees the same thing. Imagine trying to run a business within those parameters. On a system-wide scale, more airplanes and semis are needed this time of year…not to mention the increases needed at the local level. While I haven’t seen it with the other shippers, the seasonal golf carts is how UPS has addressed the onslaught of Christmas deliveries. Evidently, they use them throughout the U.S. in places where snow isn’t an issue. For the price of a golf cart, trailer, safety vest, gasoline, smartphone, temporary driver’s wages and a rental pod, they can cover a residential area of a half square mile or more. Also factor in the hiring, training and supervision of the temporary employees. For trainers/supervisors, they are using senior and retired drivers to fill those positions. For hiring, they are advertising on indeed.com and using county employment agencies to physically handle the amount of people applying for these jobs. All of these resources are tangible and can be relied upon year after year. For a worker like me looking to pick up some extra cash, the job is a good deal. And for a young person wanting a career, its an outstanding opportunity to get a foot in the door.

Change is happening in places other than the shipping industry, because of Amazon.  Since Prime was introduced in 2005, retailers have either closed their doors or adapted to the change.  Malls stand empty across the country, as do many big box stores.  Walmart has accepted the challenge online by offering free two day shipping without the subscription fee that Amazon charges for Prime.  Target, Kohls and many other brick-and-mortar retailers are also stepping up their online presence.  They have to in order to survive.  Groceries will no doubt be next, with Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods.  What comes next is anybody’s guess; it could be a pharmacy retailer, a home improvement chain or any number of things.

I have faith that solutions will be found for companies like UPS to adapt to life at the speed of Prime. Being able to observe them pull it off fascinates me to no end. I look forward to see the next big innovation and the changes it will bring to our world.

What ways have you seen that Amazon Prime has changed your world?


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Spreading Christmas Joy with UPS

While we were in Kentucky last year working for Amazon, our friend Rod was down here in Florida delivering packages for UPS. When he told us he was a driver’s helper, I envisioned him riding along with a driver in a big brown step van. While some helpers do that, he had a job where the driver delivered packages to a pod and he then loaded them on a golf cart and trailer.  From there, he delivered them to houses in a gated community on his own. At the time, all I could think was that I was working my tail off in a shop in Kentucky while he was zipping along on a golf cart in Florida. It intrigued me enough that I decided to give it a try this year.

We arrived in Melbourne Beach on a Saturday, and by the following Tuesday I was sitting in a group interview with UPS.  From there, we did an individual interview, from which about half of us were called back for initial training that afternoon.  At that point, we were ‘on call‘.  I had stressed to them that I wanted a golf cart job, as Rod had mentioned that the step van ride along job was tough the few times he did it. After not getting a call for a week and a half, I feared I had been a tad too demanding. Lo and behold, they called with a golf cart position this past Monday!  I went to the UPS Service Center to complete a little paperwork and get my vest and mobile device.

ups

They have a policy of black, brown or white shirt, black or brown long pants (my grey pants are acceptable) and black or brown shoes.  No hats allowed, no facial hair beyond a mustache, and no visible tattoos or piercings.  The mobile device is a Samsung phone that is set up to act as a DIAD (Delivery Information Acquisition Device)…the brown electronic unit UPS drivers carry.  It’s pretty slick, to say the least!

sub

My pod is located near the ‘X’, along with a pod that services the southern portion of the subdivision.  Each circle has gates with codes, and the main roads that connect the communities have golf cart paths.  I fuzzed out the names of the developments for security purposes.

house

Each house has a covered entrance, similar to this.  That eliminates having to use the clear plastic bags in rainy weather.  Yes…don’t let that blue sky fool you; my second day of training was a torrential downpour.  Just like the U.S. Postal Service, we deliver in all weather.  While my L.L. Bean raincoat performed flawlessly, my Gander Mountain rain pants were a total failure.  As soon as I got home, I placed an order with REI, as Bean didn’t have the pants I needed.  🙂    Rain also means that the load needs to be tarped, which is a hindrance, to say the least.  Most days are dry, though.

And all those ‘smiles’ they told us were were delivering at Amazon?  Well, I actually get to see them this year.  🙂   One house put a basket of goodies out for the delivery people. One woman even ran out on the lawn to take my photo, as she thinks the seasonal golf carts are so cool.  I handed a package to another man and he excitedly said “It’s Christmas…the UPS golf carts are back!”  So for all of my friends working at Amazon this year, know that your work really is appreciated!  People truly love to get packages. 🙂

pod

This is the pod I work from.  As of yesterday, I have had around 60 packages to deliver, and they want me to keep a pace of 20 an hour…which I’ve been keeping up with.  Rain obviously would factor into that.  I am told to expect the quantity to really pick up beginning this next week.  We have to be off the road by sundown, for safety reasons.

cart

Here’s my trusty cart, minus my trailer.  The aluminum box on the back holds quite a bit, and the trailer holds even more.  The carts are gas powered, and they move along about 10 MPH.

cart trailer

My first solo run, all ready to go!  Rod taught me a few tricks to make things go smoothly, so I have had a very easy launch.  We will see how this year goes; my first impressions of the job are positive.  I’ll work until at least Christmas Eve, and possibly into mid-January.  Judging by the fact that Amazon stock surged 2.6% on Friday due to strong Black Friday sales, I’m going to most likely have a full pod each day.  🙂

Be sure to stay tuned to see how this job progresses, and for any other cool things we find in the area.  Until then, have a great beginning to your holiday season!

Disclaimer: Any and all opinions expressed here are my own, and are not the opinion of United Parcel Service.


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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!