In this day and age, when so much of our mail is sent via the computer, receiving a real-life letter or package can be cause for celebration. Sure, we’re excited to see the mailman or parcel delivery person, but what do they think of us? We asked around and got the inside scoop from mail delivery people about signing for packages, keeping to their schedule and more.
1. Control your dog!
The cliché is true: Dogs really do chase after the mailman—just ask any courier or parcel delivery person. “I’ve been bit three or four times,” says Ken Krumenacker, a retired postal worker who worked at the Sea Cliff Post Office in Sea Cliff, New York, for 42 years. “It’s the home owner’s responsibility to keep his or her pets under control when we stop by on our route.” To make your courier’s job easier, keep your pup secured inside or on a leash in the yard when he stops by. To help condition your pet to be happy and calm when the mailman arrives, Krumenacker suggests giving him a treat whenever delivery time arrives. In fact, according to Greg Niemann, a former UPS delivery driver and author of Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS, many delivery people carry treats to endear themselves to four-legged friends.
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2. We’re not immune to extreme weather.
“Being outside all day long in extreme weather is remarkably tough,” says Krumenacker, who explains that a mailman’s typical day usually involves two hours of indoor mail sorting followed by six hours on the streets. “Many people can’t handle the job.” He stresses how much he appreciated customers who would give him water on hot days, umbrellas on rainy ones and an offer to come inside and warm up in freezing temperatures (a few moments out of the elements or a quick sip of water can make a big difference). And keep in mind thateven though you might not be planning to head outdoors in stormy weather, your delivery person still has to navigate your property. Krumenacker has broken ribs and fingers trying to navigate icy stairways and snowy walking paths. During the winter months, be sure to shovel and salt your walkways and stairs to prevent hazardous conditions.
3. We love getting to know our customers, but we’re on a tight schedule.
If your delivery person seems like she’s in a hurry, that’s probably because she is. While delivery people love to chat with their customers, spare them your lengthier stories because they are expected to do their work as efficiently—and quickly—as possible. “Every job at UPS, down to every movement, is timed and coordinated,” says Niemann. “Drivers are trained which hand to grasp the handrail with, which to use to insert keys into the truck’s ignition and which one to buckle up with. These fluid motions shave a few seconds off here and there, which add up to considerable savings when performed hundreds of times a day.” And according to Danny Rodriguez, a former UPS delivery driver, “I was told that the company employs plainclothes supervisors dressed up as joggers or pedestrians to ensure that we’re doing our job properly. You have to make sure you’re on the ball because you never know who’s watching.”
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4. Fix your doorbell.
Don’t mind the fact that your doorbell doesn’t work? Your parcel delivery person likely does. “The worst is standing there in the rain waiting and waiting when someone’s doorbell doesn’t work,” says Rodriguez. And while you’re at it, get yourself a mailbox. Believe it or not, according to Krumenacker, many people simply don’t have one. “I have to deal with their mail by rubber banding it and slipping it between the doors or into a gate; on a rainy day it’s a struggle to find somewhere dry to place it.” But try to be understanding if your delivery person bangs loudly on the door and ignores your perfectly functional doorbell. “I remember when I was a rookie delivery driver my trainer knocked loudly on every door rather than looking for a doorbell,” says Niemann. “‘A lot of doorbells don’t work,’ he explained, ‘and so you don’t waste time standing around. It’s best to knock each time.’” Since you won’t know what protocol your delivery person is following, make sure the bell works just in case—or at least leave a note.
5. We can only help so much with your missing packages.
Expecting a package that never arrives is frustrating, but interrogating your delivery person won’t do much good. Deliveries are logged and sorted at the facility—not on the trucks—so while your driver can report a missing item to his supervisor, he can’t immediately locate it for you. “If the package isn’t on my truck I can’t make it appear,” says Rodriguez. “But people will ask over and over again if I have it, and then talk to me for a half-hour about the importance of this package. I appreciate their problem and I’ll always tell my supervisor but beyond that, I can’t do much else.” Tracking your package online is a great way to get real-time information on your parcel’s whereabouts, since it comes straight from the electronic scanning machines that the drivers take with them on their routes.
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6. It’s not our fault that we took your package back to the facility.
Don’t blame your delivery guy for leaving a notice instead of your package at the door—usually it’s the shipper who decides whether or not the package needs to get signed for. According to Rodriguez, if what you’re expecting is expensive, plan to be home to sign for it. If you happen to miss the delivery person, call the customer service line as soon as you can and have the package re-routed (which some services charge a small fee for) before it’s taken back to the facility. If you don’t want to leave it to chance, FedEx offers Appointment Home Delivery and Date Certain Home Delivery, for a fee, which both allow you to choose what time or day you’d like to have your items delivered.
7. Take the time to address your mail properly.
“People are so often in a hurry that they don’t write the complete address on letters and packages,” says Krumenacker. While generous mailmen like him will do the legwork of finding out where partially addressed items should go, you may get incomplete letters sent right back to you. A failsafe way to ensure that your mail reaches its proper destination is to include the ZIP+4 code, which is the standard five-digit ZIP code plus four additional digits that help pinpoint where the package should be delivered. “The ZIP+4 makes an address much more direct, and zeros in on your specific block,” says Krumenacker. “It’s just an extra way to ensure that your mail gets to the right place.” You can easily find a ZIP+4 code by entering the street address, city and state on the United States Postal Service website.
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8. We happily accept tips and holiday gifts.
Want to thank your mailman or parcel delivery person for a job well done? Consider giving him a gift around the holidays. “I used to have 300 customers and I’d say about one-third of them would give me a tip around the holidays,” says Krumenacker. “A $20 bill is a beautiful gift—and really adds up. Plus, that told me that they appreciated me.” Rodriguez was also happy—and allowed––to receive tips, especially when he went above and beyond by helping people place their heavy items in a specific spot. “With elderly people or a parent dealing with rambunctious kids you always want to take the initiative with a heavy package, and UPS doesn’t discourage accepting a few dollars as a thank you, especially during the holiday season.”
9. We want to make your life easier.
“One of my favorite parts of my job was putting a stamp on letters whose senders had forgotten to do so,” says Krumenacker. “I’d look at the return address and leave them a note saying I’d done so, and they always paid me back. They appreciated the service and I loved doing it for them.” He was, as many other mail carriers are, also in the habit of sorting your mail and putting the fun items on top. “If there’s a check or personal letter, those always go on top. And I saw that plenty of people love The New Yorker magazine—I always put that on top as well.” And if you see your delivery person down the street and are anxious for your mail or package, go ahead and ask him for it—he won’t mind giving it to you early. But making someone’s day doesn’t always involve delivering the mail. One of Neimann’s routes used to be in Hollywood, California, and people often asked him where certain attractions or locations were. “We became like a mobile visitor’s center. I live somewhere else now but constantly see UPS drivers pointing out destinations to groups of befuddled tourists.”