Coronavirus impact: Major shipping delays anger UPS customers

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- If you've been waiting weeks -- or even longer -- for UPS to deliver your packages, you are not alone. Hundreds of unhappy UPS customers have been lining up at distribution centers in recent days trying to find packages that are lost, unaccounted for, and long overdue. Complaints are pouring in to 7 On Your Side.

7 On Your Side has been hearing from viewers around the Bay Area desperate to get their deliveries -- some as crucial as life-saving medicine. And in many cases, UPS can't say where their items are or when they'll be delivered.

The line is long outside the UPS distribution center in Oakland -- customers hoping to find their missing packages.

Like Eric Crowl of Oakland. "Honestly I'd be so much happier if I knew why or where, instead of just 'I don't know, I don't know where your package is," he said.

For Eileen Engel, it was crucial to find her missing package. It contained a living animal -- or so she hoped.

"I was standing there with my eyes covered, shaking and trying not to cry," Engel said. "And I drove down to distribution center and was crying and begging for help. Had my tracking number, everything, just asking anyone to please help find him."

Engel had purchased a baby bearded dragon like this one; it was shipped by UPS overnight to ensure it got there quickly. But days later, it was nowhere to be found.

"I finally wrote them an email and said, 'What's going on, if you don't deliver him you're gonna kill him,'" Engel said.

She was stunned at the reply from UPS saying: "I understand your concern... and that this may cause that your pet arrives dead... I am really sorry."

"'But I hope he arrives alive even though we're not going to help you.' That's why I reached out to you all!" Engel exclaimed.

David Flower of Concord was waiting too. UPS tracking said his new kitchen sink was about to be delivered, so he went ahead and ripped out his old one. "Nothing Monday, nothing Tuesday, Wednesday morning, exactly the same thing," Flower said.

He waited for that familiar brown truck.

And waited.

And waited.

"I felt like a little kid watching for the ice cream truck. I kept looking out the window all day long," said Flower.

His sink never came.

And he had nowhere to wash dishes.

"You don't realize how much you need a sink until you don't have one," he said.

He finally marched down to UPS, offering to find the package himself.

"The guy told me there's 35 trailers out there, we got no idea where anything is," Flower said.

Flower and Engel each contacted 7 On Your Side. We asked UPS to help. The next day, it found David's sink at the Concord warehouse.

UPS also found the box with Engel's lizard.

But was he alive?

"We'd already agreed that I was too scared, too emotional to be the one to open the box," Engel said.

Her roommate opened the package... and then -- a scratching sound.

"And he told me he was alive and I... have been trying to hold it together to not cry," she said.

Here he is -- a tiny dragon she calls Wyvern -- apparently okay after almost a week with no food or light.

"Thank you so much, I can't even describe how much it means to me that you guys took the time to reach out and to help," said Engel.

UPS blames the novel coronavirus pandemic and a surge in shipping for causing delays and mishaps. It did not explain why it has not adjusted. UPS is now hiring more workers.

And it confirms what viewers reported to us: UPS is using drivers in their private cars to make deliveries -- almost like DoorDash or Uber -- augmenting the usual brown trucks.

Read the full statement from UPS:

UPS is delivering volume similar to the peak holiday shipping season, with about 70% of our deliveries to residences, compared to about 50% during the rest of the year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vast majority of our services continue with the same time commitments our customers have come to expect. However, to allow for additional time to make deliveries because of the pandemic, UPS temporarily modified the UPS Service Guarantee effective March 26.

UPS is hiring and has implemented a number of measures to keep our employees safe during the pandemic. The safety and health of our employees is extremely important as we care about each other, our families and the communities where we live and work.

- The company has modified, and will continue to modify, our normal operating procedures to maintain social distance protocols. For example, we have added space between workstations inside our facilities, public areas at UPS Customer Counters, and suspended requiring customers to sign for "signature required" packages.

- We have substantially increased cleaning and disinfecting surfaces throughout our facilities and vehicles. Our facilities and vehicles are cleaned and disinfected daily with an emphasis on frequent touch points, and we are providing our employees with supplies so they can wipe down their work areas and vehicles throughout the day.

- We have distributed protective equipment to employees and we are regularly replenishing supplies at our facilities. This includes hand soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting solutions. We follow all government directives that require the use of masks or face coverings. UPS is providing masks and disposable gloves to our employees. We strongly recommend that our employees wear masks or face coverings if local government directives do not require their use, and we have provided all of our employees with the guidelines to properly use masks or face coverings.

For additional information, please visit the "How we're responding to the Novel Coronavirus" pages on the UPS Pressroom.


Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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