USPS slowing down – our thoughts on the postal service over the last few months #makerbusiness

USPS (United States Postal Service) has had, on average (and in our experience and research) one of the most challenging 2-3 months moving packages through their systems. Part of this is some rough weather and part of it is likely the struggles with staffing, budgets and more. Adafruit ships over 20,000+ orders a month. We spend a lot of time doing detailed analysis of where packages are going, how long it takes and error rates like damaged packages and more.

The results? USPS is slower than it’s ever been for status updates and deliveries. In the graphic above you can see a common issue, a customer places an order and we ship it, usually same day or close to depending the type of shipping selected. Each day the USPS picks up thousands of packages from us, about 2 blocks from their New York City hub, it’s one of the biggest (and fastest). Usually this works out great, 99% of the customer internationally and domestically get packages via USPS from Adafruit faster than other companies, however the speed and accuracy of the status updates and delivery is slowing down. For some states in the USA there can be an extra 4-5 day delay for unexplainable reasons, a package will leave Adafruit and the status updates do not appear for days (and once and awhile weeks). With as many orders as we have a small percentage of these issues is expected, however, it’s increasing.

In the graphic above the customer would rightly assume the package never left Adafruit, but that’s not correct, it left on the 8th of March and then as the customer later told us “magically appears” 5 days later and finally scanned in. What should have happened is at least one scan in NYC or elsewhere indicating the postal service has the package. Most customers understand that the postal service doesn’t always do a great job, but we also have some very passionate customers convinced their packages did not leave, we do our best to explain, but sometimes it’s very challenging. Thankfully, that’s very rare and our smart community understands and have also helped us gather data on speed and accuracy of the USPS system.

We will continue to work with the USPS to find solutions and give them information we have so they can work on their systems. We are fans and supporters of the postal system, it’s one of the most amazing things our society has created, we’re hoping this is a temporary slow down and will be resolved soon. As always, if you need something with the best tracking and delivery use our UPS options, for orders over $200 we have free UPS ground in the contiguous USA and we’re on track to be adding more options and tiers of shipping soon too.

Ladyada and the Adafruit team


Update: 11/4/14 – This continues to be an ongoing issue, here’s another example – a package will “sit” for days without an update from USPS and the customer believes we did not ship their order, days later it appears and moves to the destination.


Update: 1/31/15 – Here’s one from a customer of ours, Adafruit delivered the package to USPS Weds, 1/21/2015 (we have the logs of which ones are physically given to USPS) and then USPS sat on it for 10+ days, it was never updated as “scanned in” and then it popped up 10 days later in DC. This is an almost daily issue we see, USPS is not scanning or updating packages. This was a Priority 2-day customer, but it’s over 10 days now. Although it’s outside our control, we gave them a shipping refund.


Update: 2/14/15 – Another similar issue, this customer asked where their package was, Adafruit gave it to the postal service on 2/6/15, it was never scanned in or any status update until 8 days later. The customer expected it to show up in 2 days.


Update: 9/5/2015 – another package “lost” you can see it left Adafruit in 8/12.2015 and then it goes missing, the customer contacted us on 9/5/2015 asking where it was, this package was going to a location in NYC from our NYC location, totally lost, no updates.

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  1. You might mean United States Postal Service in that first sentence.

    I’m a “shipping nerd”, if such a thing exists, having worked in fulfillment and logistics, writing shipping software, etc. While I’ve no real useful data, I’ve made basically the same casual observations.

    I know things can and do get hairy around the holiday season, I’m surprised that these issues are continuing to occur in the first quarter.

  2. USPS is by far the least expensive shipping option. Since I would rather have a lower cost and can tolerate a later arrival, USPS is my choice. I don’t pay attention to tracking – I receive the package before I receive the tracking information. My packages arrive in good shape and I am very satisfied with the cost/benefit performance of USPS.

    I also wanted to thank you for enabling me to post comments without logging in.

  3. Yeah, this has been pretty harsh, but I’m still a big fan of the USPS.

    Last year at this time, my average time-in-transit for a first class parcel was 2.2 days. Last month it was 3.4 days. It may not seem like a lot, but a huge percentage.

    Priority hasn’t been hit as badly, but still pretty bad: 3.0 days now, 2.6 days last year.

    Tracking is also worse:

    Last year, 98.6% of my shipments that had delivery confirmation got a delivery tracking hit. Last month it was 96%.

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