Your Package Might Be in the Grocery Aisle Due to New UPS Service

May 21, 2015 | Prachi Gupta

If you received a package via UPS in the past few months, you may have picked it up not at home, but at a local businesses or bodega in New York. This is part of UPS’s new “Access Points” program, being unveiled across the city (and the world) as an alternative for people whose packages would otherwise be left unattended. There are currently over 550 locations in New York, with more coming every day.

It sounds great, but the service doesn’t always work as advertised. In fact, part of the problem is that it hasn’t been advertised much. I learned about it on Wednesday evening, after I found more than two dozen packages crammed into the aisle of a small corner store on Orchard Street. The line swelled with both store customers and people waiting for their parcels. One frustrated woman told me that she had no idea why her package was sent to a bodega. Another man complained that his packages had been routed to two different Access Point locations. My small package, which required a signature to be delivered, was deemed “undeliverable” to the store two days in a row, arriving on the third day after much confusion. At UPS’s West Houston Street facility, a worker mentioned that several customers have been complaining about the new service.

The owner of Corner Grocer’s on Orchard Street, who did not wish to be identified by name, said that usually the packages are kept in a room below the store. But on Wednesday evening, the packages had been sitting in the aisle for at least an hour. “That is absolutely not what we consider to be a secure location,” said UPS Vice President of New Product Development Stephanie Callaway, who said UPS is looking into the incident. “The packages are not to be left in the aisle.”

The idea is that the Access Points will keep people from having to leave a package unattended, or save them a trip to the massive UPS warehouses on the city’s fringes. But learning about it from the yellow-and-brown UPS slip at your front door can be frustrating. And, if a vendor turns away packages due to maximum capacity, it turns into another hassle to deal with. According to Calloway, a store owner is required to accept every parcel upon delivery, barring certain size and weight limits. It is “very rare” for a local business owner to refuse delivery, she said.

Access Points are designated after a vetting process. Each location is identified by its proximity to residential areas that may benefit from the service, and is then scouted by multiple UPS employees who make sure that the business maintains convenient weekday and weekend hours, has a well-lit entranceway, and has a place to secure packages. UPS also trains store employees regarding the procedures for package handling, securing and release, Callaway said.

The UPS executive attributed the sloppy service to growing pains in the area, and said that by-and-large, the feedback from the service has been overwhelmingly positive. “When we first started this last year, we selected locations in the Bronx in November 2014 and asked people questions about it. The numbers were off the charts. 98% said they had a good experience while they were picking up their package. It’s not typical for us to see that,” she said.

Corner Grocers’s owner, too, sees it as a “win-win” situation for consumers, local businesses and UPS. However, he conceded, “The access point idea has not been properly publicized.”

Mistakes do happen, but Callaway assured concerned New Yorkers that “this experience is an anomaly.”

Tell us about your Access Point experience by emailing tips@animalnewyork.com.

(Photo: Prachi Gupta/ANIMALNewYork)