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Santa Is A UPS Man

With the holiday season upon us and COVID-19 cases rising, online shopping is the easiest and safest way for many people to get gifts taken care of this year. Because of this, it has never been busier for UPS and other delivery drivers. They’re working harder than ever and sacrificing free time or family time to ensure that Christmas is delivered. 

I talked to John Smith,* a UPS employee who usually works as a supervisor, but has had to take on many other jobs this year. Because of UPS company policy, employees cannot be named in this article, so names have been changed. Smith has had to travel to UPS facilities that receive influxes of packages and struggle to push them out at their usual pace. He has traveled across West Virginia, to surrounding states and even New England in the past few months. 

“Usually buildings start to get heavy the day after Thanksgiving; we start to add extra routes and work on Saturday and Sunday in the hubs. Our biggest delivery day is Christmas, but we’ve had Christmas volume every day since March,” Smith said. Every UPS building across the country has increased package volume by 25 percent, but some have increased by over 50 percent. He said that usually, a house would receive one package per week, but now they could receive six packages a day. “For a lot of older people who haven’t been able to leave their houses, deliveries are their main way to get everything they need,” Smith said.

UPS has two main types of buildings. A hub is a larger building in a bigger city where packages are sorted. Then, the packages are sent to smaller buildings where they will be placed on delivery trucks and sent out on routes to be delivered. A special operating team or “go team” was established at the start of the pandemic to help alleviate the pressure on hubs and other overwhelmed UPS buildings. The people on these teams received a $250 gift card as compensation. Smith is not part of the “go team” but refers to himself as the “last resort team.” Even though he is not part of the pandemic relief team, he’s been traveling to different hubs and buildings weekly. 

When he is ‘sent on a mission,’ he usually has a few days or so to prepare. But on his most recent trip, he was already two hours away from home and an hour from the UPS building when he got a call that he would need to be on a plane headed five states away that night. The state he was being sent to had just received a foot of snow, so everything was shut down for a few days once he got there.

Smith has worked at UPS for over 30 years and has worked in many different positions. As a management employee, he is paid a salary and has only received one bonus since COVID-19 began. That bonus was half a month’s pay. Travel expenses are covered, but their salary only includes five work-days per week. 

“Usually I work 45 hours in a workweek-- now I’m working around 85. I work Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays, but they're usually a little lighter,” Smith said. “I like working at UPS because I like getting to interact with people, but I don’t like the uncertainty of not knowing where I’ll be working.” 

Sometimes this employee delivers alone in rental cars and other times in UPS trucks with or without a helper. Smith said it can be stressful being in a UPS truck on a bad road they are unfamiliar with or when they think about COVID-19 germs. Wearing a mask and washing your hands more often can get a bit inconvenient, especially when they have to make sure other employees are compliant. 

It’s hard not to burn out when you’ve been working as an essential employee for over 10 months. Delivery drivers are working harder than ever, but they often get overshadowed because they are not on the front lines in the same way doctors and nurses are. Delivery employees are doing their best to provide people with at least a little sanity and happiness in the midst of the hardships this year. So please, don’t be too hard on them or get mad if your package is a little late. They have received barely any extra compensation for their hard work and they don’t even get free coffee at Starbucks.  


*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Savanna is a senior majoring in Journalism at West Virginia University. Aside from writing, she enjoys designing clothes, hiking, and spending time with friends and family.
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