UPS Takes a Year to Deliver Package

Matt got a funny package the other day through UPS. Inside was a hydraulic gear puller set which he had no recollection of ordering. Checking its tracking history, he had in fact hadn’t:

Looking over his receipts, Matt founds that he was working on his wife’s car at the time. “I don’t generally space things like that- but it does seem to be the sort of thing I’d buy,” writes Matt.

“Amusingly, the package had no return address label, and I haven’t had the time to attempt extracting useful info from UPS.”

UPDATE: Full package tracking history, after the jump…


Not a good look.


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  1. mschlock says:

    What, it left Ontario in 2006 but was delivered in 2005?

  2. mschlock says:

    Ah — the updated history clarifies all. Was confused by the use of “Delivery” for the front end of the process, as opposed to “Carrier notified to pick up package” or something along those lines.

    Unless that’s the confusing word they were using in 2005…

  3. ModerateSnark says:

    I’ve occassionally seen some old data from a different shipment mixed in when I track a package, so I think tracking numbers occassionally get reused or are misread by the barcode scanners. I think the word “Delivery” should only appear for the final destination, but appears twice here, so maybe there are two packages involved. I wonder if the barcode on the package is dirty or torn?

    Of course, that doesn’t explain receiving a part with no recollection of ordering it.

  4. ModerateSnark says:

    …Ok, maybe not an unclear barcode since it apparently scanned the same way the last nine times from 5/23 to 5/26. But it’s possible that Columbus, IN has nothing to do with this package. I just tracked an old package (Nov 2005) for the heck of it, and the routing detail is gone, only single line with the date and time of delivery remains. And I looked more closely at the recent case where I saw old tracking data mixed in with the new data and found my package had been delivered twice before it was delivered to me (note the dates and locations):

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US 05/11/2006 12:56 P.M. DELIVERY
    MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US 05/11/2006 12:56 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
    HODGKINS, IL, US 05/09/2006 9:11 P.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
    HODGKINS, IL, US 05/09/2006 8:16 P.M. ORIGIN SCAN
    LENEXA, MO, US 11/02/2005 2:04 P.M. DELIVERY
    PALATINE, IL, US 04/01/2005 12:57 P.M. DELIVERY

  5. ModerateSnark says:

    …So, why does UPS need to reuse tracking numbers?

    The one used in my post above has 18 characters. Even if the first two digits are code for “ground” and the last digit is a check sum, that leaves 15 digits, enough for 1,000,000,000,000,000 unique tracking numbers. That’s a quintillion, or a million billion American (Or thousand billion for Brownlee – did you know a British billion is bigger than an American billion?)

    Actually there are even more possible combinations, since UPS throws in a few letters with the digits.

    My guess: The software used by UPS and/or their big shippers is supposed to generate unique tracking numbers, but screws up once in a while.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    Catherine writes:

    “When did “Ontario, CA” become part of “US”?”

  7. Johnny says:
  8. OkiMike says:

    Ontario is a city about midway between Los Angeles and Riverside in California (CA). They have a nice airport to land at which is about $100 cheaper than LAX.

  9. OkiMike says:

    This posting has given me hope that, maybe, somewhere my lost 17-inch laptop will eventually find its way “home”…

  10. Ben Popken says:

    Jordan writes:

    “re: Catherine writes:,,”When did “Ontario, CA” become part of “US”?”

    Since about 1882 or there abouts.

  11. So he just forgot he even ordered it? That’s a bit wierd but it is certainly eve nstranger that they even delivered it after a year of sitting in some corner. “If we just drop it off now, maybe they won’t mind. Just don’t say anything.”

  12. The Comedian says:

    Clearly there aren’t enough recreational drinkers reading The Consumerist.

    The date the package started it’s 14 month journey may well explain how it got lost in the first place.

  13. ModerateSnark says:

    Maybe “this package was left in a UPS facilty” can be taken literally like “this package was left unattended an airport.” You can bet that would cause a delay!

    I still say the Columbus, IN DELIVERY probably has nothing to do with this package. That’s the delivery of another package whose tracking somehow got mixed in with this shipment. (It happens. See comment above.)

    I’d say where the package was before 5/23 is a complete mystery, since the package has no return address and there’s no tracking data before 5/23. (No “Billing Information Received” or “Origin Scan” other than the one that UPS did after they somehow “found” the package in their facility.)

  14. Johnny says:

    I think ModerateSnark has nailed it. His explanation (and evidence) makes a lot more sense than the notion that UPS would use the “DELIVERY” terminology to indicate that UPS received the package. That’s a stretch.

    Granted, that doesn’t solve the mystery of where this package came from, but that’s a separate issue.

  15. Ben Popken says:

    Stacie writes:

    “Re: ModerateSnark’s comment stating “…So, why does UPS need to reuse tracking numbers?”

    There is method to numbers.

    The first two mean “UPS;” occasionally they get returns for their competition.

    The next 6 are well, the account number that the charges were billed to. The next 2 indicate the service level (Early Am, Next Day, Ground, etc.) The last 8 are the only unique identifiers.”

  16. ModerateSnark says:

    Thanks for the info, Stacie!

    I suppose the last of the 8 digits might still be a check sum, so there’s at least 7 digits for the number itself.

    A really big shipper (and my example above was one) would repeat tracking numbers every 10 million shipments or so.

    Something for everyone to keep in mind next time they see weird old stuff in their UPS tracking details.

  17. ModerateSnark says:

    Thanks to Ben, too.

  18. ModerateSnark says:

    Oh, and this means Matt might be able to find out who shipped the return-addressless mystery package from the tracking number alone, without asking UPS.

    …If he can find other shipping boxes sitting around with the same first 8 digits…

    …But maybe UPS slapped on their own barcode after the “delay” and became “the” shipper for the new barcode…

    Ok, I’m done. This is yesterday’s news.