As you may have seen, Starpoint High School in New York was recently in the headlines. The schools’ superintendent, Dr. Sean Croft, revealed that UPS lost 106 of the students’ advanced placement (AP) exams. The superintendent said that one box, containing juniors’ AP U.S. history exams and seniors’ AP literature exams, never made it to the College Board for grading. Four other boxes picked up by UPS were delivered.
You might think at first that “this isn’t a big deal, that lost packages happen all the time,” the fact of the matter is that it is a big deal – especially to the students. Each test represented 6 credit hours, and at a cost of $1000/per credit, that’s a $6,000 investment lost for each student. These tests represented the culmination of their year of course work – and without them, all of the time spent in class for the year and leading up to the exam is lost, as the College Board will not give a score without an exam.
These AP tests can allow students to test out of high school or college classes and not have to spend their money re-taking subjects they’ve already proven they know in order to meet graduation requirements. UPS has given its standard comments as they look for the package, and the school has called upon politicians such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to put pressure on UPS. There may be remediations where the students can take the test again later this summer or fall.
The problem is, why, in this day and age of tracking, is it possible to lose a critical, tracked package like this? How can packages still fall through the cracks of the system – and why do so many of us brush it off like that’s an acceptable loss? How can UPS get away with not having an automatic financial penalty here – and why did it take the intervention of a U.S. Senator and the College Board to give the students any relief?
Lost packages do happen, more often than carriers like to admit. Now imagine if this is your business and a valued customer. There’s no Senator who will step in on your behalf; no College Board to allow for a no-cost do-over. You took your customer’s money and tried to send him a product that was lost by the carrier. Your insurance may cover the expense of sending out a new product, but you’ve upset a customer in the process and likely need to give them a bonus or incentive to compensate them for the delay. And that’s at your expense, while the carrier will at some point refund you just the cost of shipping the package they lost.
This highlights the importance of service quality language in a contract between carriers and shippers. Without explicit levels of expected service being spelled out, it becomes impossible to hold carriers to a specific standard, or to get reimbursed more than the simple base cost of a lost package.
Just another in the long line of examples of why up-to-date industry information is necessary in order to level the playing field with UPS and negotiate the best deal possible.