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Review: UPS My Choice

UPS My Choice is a relatively new service that purports to give you more control over the delivery of shipments sent to your home address. I signed up for the $40 (annually) service a couple of months ago and recently had a chance to try out some of its options. It basically delivered (no pun intended) on its promises, but not without a few frustrations.

The first bump I ran into is that you're only able to sign up for a single delivery address. While this won't impact everyone, I wanted to also add a temporary residential address that I was staying at for a few weeks. I guess UPS won't let you add more than one address in order to prevent you from letting all your buddies use your account, but if you're a traveller, this is less than ideal.

In my view there are two compelling reasons to pay for My Choice. The first is the ability to get notified when a package is coming to you, and the second is the ability to change the delivery date of those packages. (There are other features, too, but those are the most important to me.)

Let's look at shipment notifications first. In my initial experiment I was out of town and shipped several boxes to my home address. Because I was both the shipper and receiver, it gave me a chance to see My Choice from both ends. I was surprised to learn that you don't receive a notification of the impending delivery until the day before it is scheduled to arrive. If you happen to log onto your My Choice account you'll see the shipment listed before then, but if you wait for the email notification you'll have a short window in which to try to change its arrival. Personally, I'd prefer a long lead time. You also get a notification email the morning of a scheduled delivery. But since the first notification was just the day before, the second one isn't very helpful. UPS clearly knows about your package days in advance, so why do they wait so long?

Once you know a package is coming, though, it's simple to try to schedule its delivery. Notice that I said "try," because although I was able to successfully delay a package's arrival , the process didn't engender much confidence.

Because I had shipped the packages to myself, and thus knew they were coming no thanks to the notifications, I rescheduled their delivery immediately after dropping them off at the UPS Store. Everything seemed fine. The My Choice website showed that I had "requested" the change, and when I tracked the packages their estimated delivery date reflected my request too. I was delaying the delivery by a day, which meant they'd arrive on a Thursday instead of the Wednesday that UPS initially targeted.

Come Wednesday, the day before the rescheduled delivery, I noticed that the tracking status for the packages had changed to "unable to intercept. Out for delivery." Yikes! But then about an hour later I received the "Day Before" notification email, stating that the packages would arrive on Thursday as requested. Great. But what the hell?

Well, the packages did arrive on Thursday, as I wanted. I don't know what happened with the tracking notification about interception, but it worked out in the end. If I hadn't checked their tracking status, I probably would have been ignorant and happy. Either the packages did slip through and were caught again, or the tracking status message was misleading. In either case, it reinforces that what you're paying for is the hope that UPS has their act together enough to honor your request.

So the bottom line is that I'm cautiously optimistic about the My Choice service. I'll update this post again if there are any new developments.

One more addition to the My Choice account, I also signed up for a UPS Shipping account. This is similar to the more familiar Fed Ex account where you get an airbill number so that you can more easily send packages. This isn't required for My Choice, but the My Choice signup process encouraged it, so I went along with the suggestion. It's a handy thing I suppose, but not without some surprises of its own. For some reason, your local UPS Store has no visibility into your UPS Shipping account and can't utilize it for billing or anything else. So if you show up at the UPS Store with a package to send and you haven't pre-processed it at, you can't charge the shipment to your account. (Unlike FedEx.) Secondly, when you have a UPS Shipping account, it's harder to find the My Choice area on the UPS website. Seriously, it's really well hidden. It's as if UPS Shipping and My Choice are fighting over who owns your account...and Shipping wins.