These days, everyone and everything practices social distancing:
This week’s Unsung Heroes choice is a no-brainer.
I was thinking of it. But alert “06880” reader Adam Stolpen put it best in these words:
I ran into a UPS delivery driver yesterday afternoon. He was making a local delivery.
He said during the holidays he generally makes more than 300 stops a day. That’s about twice what he does the rest of the year.
And we thought everything was all done once we clicked on Amazon Prime…
Of course, it’s not just UPS. This week’s Unsung Heroes also work for FedEx, the post office, and any other business in the business of shipping.
So the next time you’re tempted to toot at the UPS guy for double parking, or the FedEx driver for blocking the sidewalk, remember: That could be your gift in the back of the truck.
PS: Big props to to all those folks at the UPS store who box your packages; the people at local shops who mail your presents for you, and anyone else who does all that delivery work you never seen.
(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email email@example.com)
You or I see a UPS truck and think, “Great! A delivery!” (Or, “I can’t believe he parked his truck there!”)
Sharon Carpenter sees a UPS truck and probably thinks, “What that company did to my brother is despicable.”
Sharon is a longtime Westporter. Her brother — Brian O’Shea — got a job with UPS during college, and never left. He worked his way up the management ranks, doing important undercover theft work up and down the East Coast.
In late 2008 he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. He kept working through brutal chemo. In fact, he used vacation days for treatment. When his supervisor encouraged him to take disability leave, he refused. His motto: “I live for my work.”
In December 2009 — after more than 36 years of service — Brian decided to retire. His oncologist told him his time was very limited. He’d lost over 50 pounds, weighing just 115.
He was 55, and fully vested in UPS retirement.
UPS Employee Services told him if he worked at all in January, he’d be entitled to his full yearly allotment of vacation days. A representative suggested a last day of actual work: January 8, 2010. Adding 6 weeks vacation and 5 personal days, his “retirement date” would be February 28.
“Brian was so proud when he signed the paperwork UPS sent in December,” Sharon recalls. “He was very happy, knowing UPS would take care of his 4 children after he died. They each would receive a monthly stipend for 10 years. That would be a life-changer for them. He had total belief in UPS, and was so dedicated to them.”
On February 12, Brian sat with his lawyer; Sharon; Sharon’s husband Sam (the trustee for his will), and his oldest child (the executor), to discuss his assets and obligations. He was so glad he had opted to take his pension as a “single life annuity with 10-year payment guarantee.” He emphasized the word “guarantee.”
Brian died February 21.
A thousand people attended Sharon’s brother’s wake. UPS was “great,” she says. They gave a lump sum payment, and kept in touch with the family. An HR rep told Sharon that monthly retirement payments would go to his family.
A month later, the same woman called. She told Sharon to expect a check for $100,000. It was Brian’s “death benefit.”
Sharon thought that was good news. Her voice cracking, the HR woman said, “It’s instead of retirement.” That retirement fund was about $500,000.
“Someone in Atlanta headquarters said that because he died 7 days before he officially retired, he was still an employee,” Sharon explains. “So he was not entitled to retirement pay.”
But, she says, when Brian was told to work 1 day in January, to be eligible for vacation and personal days, “everyone knew he was dying. He’d lost 65 pounds. He looked terrible. It was clear he wouldn’t make it all the way.”
No one, Sharon says, told Brian — and nowhere in the papers he reviewed was it mentioned — that he risked his pension by delaying retirement until February 28.
Sharon is a calm woman, but her voice grows steely. “Retirement is not a bonus. My brother put money into it for 37 years. This was something he earned. It’s all his family has.”
The family appealed through all the proper UPS steps. Each time, they were denied. “We’ve been at it for 4 years,” Sharon says. “They probably didn’t think we’d follow through.”
Finally, they hired a lawyer. It was not easy. “It took a month to find someone in Boston who was not already on retainer to UPS,” Sharon says.
The company has asked that the case be dismissed. A judge will rule soon.
“I can’t believe we’re the only people this happened to,” Sharon says.
“We’ve tried to do the right thing, step by step. We’ve dotted every ‘i,’ and crossed every ‘t.’ Now, we want people to know what’s going on.”
Saturday’s post called out — with vivid photographic evidence — FedEx and UPS trucks. Within minutes of each other, they parked illegally — in the fire lane, and going the wrong way — in the Fresh Market parking lot.
At least, I said, the US Postal Service didn’t do that.
Not content to trail the leaders in overnight delivery services, they also bring up the rear in illegal parking.
It took until today, but they finally got it right.
An alert “06880” reader — who requests anonymity, because she still wants to receive packages at her home — says:
I was walking to Sweet Frog the other day, when this UPS driver jerk dangerously cut me off. He drove and parked the wrong way in the 1-way lane — and in the fire lane.
I said, “Hey, did you know this is 1-way, and you cut me off right in front of the frozen yogurt place where children go? This is very dangerous!” He walked away saying, “yeah yeah,” totally dismissing me. So I took this picture, and went back to my car to email it to you explaining what happened.
Well, within a minute a FedEx truck came and did the exact same thing — driving the wrong way in the 1-way lane and parking in the fire lane. Unbelievable! So I took that picture too.
Hey! The US Postal Service mailbox is there — but they were nowhere to be seen. They couldn’t even be bothered to park the wrong way.
No wonder they’re bankrupt.
I’m sure plenty of Westporters have plenty of nice stories about nice UPS deliverymen.
You know: “My UPS guy makes sure my package doesn’t get wet!” “My guy knows to use the side door!” “My guy doesn’t block the entire parking lot when he’s delivering to my store!”
But one thing UPS guys don’t do — at least, according to what I’ve noticed and some people I’ve asked — is ring the doorbell.
How hard is that?!
UPS is in the package delivery business. That’s what they do. We buy something; we pay for shipping; some company or somebody puts that something in a box, sticks an address on it, and presto! Thanks to UPS, it goes from New York or New Orleans or New Zealand or wherever to Westport, in far less time than it took Prince William and Kate to name their kid.
And then — if you’re, say, working in a home office without a view of the driveway — the package just sits there. For hours. And hours.
Unless you compulsively check for it, in which case it is held up somewhere in UPS hell.
Come on. I know UPS guys are pretty stressed out. They sort, load and deliver an insane amount of packages every day. They do it in all kinds of weather. And they have to deal with drivers in towns like this, who don’t exactly give them the right of way.
But after doing all that work, can’t the UPS guys just ring the bell? They don’t have to stick around, and wait for us to appear, and chew the fat.
No. Just put the package down, ring the bell, and walk away.
It’s not that hard.
The FedEx guys do it.