FedEx, UPS, and the post office: what's the dang difference?

Suppose I got a big package, say a computer to deliver from one place to another within this country. What would make me want to use one service over the other? Are they just competitors with similar prices and services, when it comes to large packages?

FedEx, UPS, and USPS offer different services and different prices. One example: UPS and FedEx offer parcel pickup; USPS does not.

UPS is GOOD at what they do!!!

Each has its own particular strengths.

USPS excels at moving letters. With boxes, they’re not so good at keeping track of a package’s progress, or at keeping it intact.

UPS excels at tossing boxes into trucks and moving them from Point A to Point B in a few days.

FedEx excels at tossing packages and packets onto airplanes, flying every single one of them to Tennessee, sorting them, then flying them out to wherever they’re going. The intelligence is entirely centralized and fairly goof-proof - the origin locations just put everything on the plane going to Tennessee.

In recent years, UPS discovered airplanes, and with them, moves packages overnight from Point A to Point B. For this, the routing and intelligence is in the hands of the origin location. If a sorter goofs at the origin airport, your package will be late.

A recent-ish relevation at FedEx is the acquisition of RPS (formerly a direct competitor to UPS) and the discovery that packages can be moved in trucks.

With either the overnight air or ground service, FedEx has an immense computer infrastructure to track the progress of each item in the system. UPS’s system is similar, but not quite as elaborate. Tracking with the USPS generally works on the “Well, it’s a box…brown…about so big…with an address label…” scheme. In other words, if something goes missing, they have to physically wander around and look for it.

I just wanted to add that, unlike gotpasswords’ experience, I haven’t seen FedEx routing any of my packages anywhere out of the way. Though, nearly all of my packages have been from California up to Washington, which probably changes things. They travel in a fairly straight line right up the west cost, get sorted in Tacoma, then delivered to me. In my experience, Fedex is a bit cheaper and a bit faster than UPS, usually delivering a day before their website lists expected delivery. This may well vary by region, of course.

Competition. Without it, the sole delivery folks would charge whatever they want, unless and until another company comes along to provide less expensive costs with service equal to or better than the sole provider.

Your best bet is to research each company and choose the one that best suits your needs for that delivery. I say it this way because not everything you may ship should be shipped by one company.

I work for a large production company in Atlanta. We have a customer ACROSS THE STREET that is basically several big cable networks (figure it out). We routinely FEDEX materials to that company. Sometimes, we send a driver to the airport (12 miles) to accommodate the timing. They fly the box to Memphis, scan it, fly it back to Atlanta and drive it up to the building across the street. I’m not kidding, and it ain’t funny at all.

BTW, from my ebay experience: USPS Priority Mail is great.

USPS Priority Mail uses FedEx to ship long distances. It’s essentially Fedex with USPS handling local delivery.

Remember, USPS Priority mail is just first class mail in a fancy envelope. It doesn’t get your letter anywhere any faster than putting on a first class stamp. In fact, first class mail over a certain weight is automatically deemed Priority Mail.

If you want things faster, use their Express Mail.

That said, I find that, despite the jokes, the USPS does a fine job delivering mail. I’ve been sending out manuscripts for over twenty years and can’t think of a time I had a problem – and these were often sent at the cheapest rate (Special Fourth Class – Manuscript).

FedEx does route things through Memphis, even when they’re going across town. It sounds nonsensical, but it does make sense: All packages are delivered to one point in a city to go to Memphis, and all packages go out from that one point the next day. You don’t have to have routes from street A to street B and can be much more efficient.

Even the USPS is doing something similar: all mail goes to a central post office and then out to the towns in that area. That allows for one pickup (to the central office) and one delivery each day, keeping costs down.

USPS can deliver to mail boxes and P.O. boxes, but UPS and FedEx only deliver to your door.

At the risk of hijacking this thread -

Wouldn’t it be more advantageous, financially, logistically and most of all, environmentally speaking, to simply courier or hand-carry the materials across the street? I’d truly love to hear the rationale for the utter waste of resources, the pollution and the time suck (for your company’s employees and FedEx employees alike) involved in such a dimwitted delivery scheme.

I don’t know about stockton, but I’m guess it’s for book keeping purposes. If something doesn’t arrive, they can PROVE that it was infact sent, and it was lost by fedex, or it was infact sent and it was infact signed for, so it was lost after it arrived. And there’s third party records of all of this. Otherwise it’s one’s word against the other. But it could be for different reasons. (Maybe it’s a really busy street and they don’t want to cross it :smiley: )

FedEx does have smaller hubs, I know one is located in Peoria, IL. I’m guessing they have one somewhere on the west coast too, it would make no sense to fly everything to Memphis. I have friends that work there and can ask tomorrow, if they disagree with me (and say EVERYTHING is flown to Memphis) I’ll report.

In anticipation of what Bob55 will find out…FedEx does NOT, obviously, route everything through Memphis. They have “sort” hubs at Indianapolis, Newark and LAX (I have several friends who fly for them, and these are the cities they mentioned while griping about “sitting the sort” i.e. sitting around waiting for all the boxes to get sorted and put on the correct airplane. There may be more.)

To differentiate between the three delivery systems, think of this:
The USPS is a government controlled, federally funded system with an enormous infrastructure. It is the ONLY way to get that Sears catalogue to Aunt Gracy way out on Rural Route #9.

Fedex is an airplane company that recently discovered trucks.

UPS is a truck company that recently discovered airplanes.

Other than that, they compete and also complement one another. Although it sounds ridiculous to fly a package to Memphis to deliver it across the street, it really isn’t. FedEx moves packages by airplane.

To compare, consider you sending out something important - say a wedding invitation or a Christmas card. One of the recipients is your neighbor a block away. Amazingly, this person in a white truck with stripes picks up your envelope from your house and drives it several miles away where it sits overnight, only to have someone else drive it to your friend’s house and deliver it. Although when looked at individually it may seem ridiculous, it is the only way to get things done when you gather thousands or millions of items a day that need delivering. Substitute airplanes for trucks and you essentially have what FedEx does.

Besides, if it didn’t work Fedex wouldn’t be doing it! And I suspect that the amount that Fedex charges to deliver something across the street pretty much covers what it costs them to fly it to Memphis and back.

IIRC USPS used to be government controlled. I beleive they are now privatly owned and self sufficient. Also they are a non-profit orginazation.

Joey P we may be splitting hairs here, but everyone who works directly for the USPS is still a federal employee. They still have Postmasters, which are federal positions.

Any business that can get the price of buying their service (stamps) changed unilaterally and without dissent by the federal government is under government control in my book.

As for being non-profit, yes the USPS has managed to lose money every year for several years!:wink:

Make that middle sentence read “changed unilaterally by the federal government and without dissent” and it probably makes more sense!

I’m going to really stir the pot here and mention that when we needed a piano shipped niether USPS nor UPS nor FedEx would touch it (largely due to weight). It turns out DHL has a unit specializing in moving pianos. So there’s another difference between competitors. DHL will move a piano, and the others won’t.

I my experience, FedEx is best at getting it there overnight (although occassionally there are problems), UPS is best if you need the ability to track a passge but don’t need it there overnight, and USPS is best for standard letters mainly because of price.

More differences - if you have a problem with a missing package or a billing problem FedEx is much easier to deal with than UPS, and the USPS screws up well, you’re pretty much screwed because if they’ve lost it, it will probably stay lost.

But when things are sent by courier, they’re still accounted for. We use them all the time to go from the District to Richmond, Virginia. There’s no lack of verification - but you can’t track it as easily.

DHL is under-appreciated in the US. Now that they’ve bought Airborne (or the other way around) maybe that will change. I always liked Airborne for speediness and inexpensiveness back when I bought everything from DHL was always great for huge, heavy packages. If they/it were conveniently located to me, I’d consider use them/it exclusively. As it is, the USPS is everywhere, and UPS is really close.

For packages it’s always great to go to the UPS building. You get the good, UPS rate. Anyone have any idea how the rates are at the new UPS Stores? You know, the ones that bought out “Mailboxes, Etc.”? They were always super, super expensive for UPS shipments, but they would pack your stuff for “free.”