My recent UPS job scare inquiry


Holy crap. My mind is still processing what I found out at a recent part-time job inquiry at UPS. It wasn’t really an interview, but more like a scare session. Here is what I learned about the UPS package handler job.

The UPS interview is basically a show and tell scare session. We were told over 70%, and that is guaranteed, of people who apply for part-time at UPS and begin work will end up quitting. If you accept the position as a package handler, you’ll either be a loader or an unloader. Your position is determined by the week you start. You do not get to choose. During the summer, temperatures in the trucks will reach over 110°. The human resource lady said you can literally see the heat waves when the back of the truck is opened. Most of the applicants with me wanted the early morning shift from 4 am to 8 am. During the winter, as expected, temperatures in back of the truck will be freezing.

For the 12 pm to 5 pm shift at UPS, the shift I applied, you can expect to work only about 20 hours a week Sunday through Thursday. Four hours a day. No more or less. It is a set schedule. You can expect to earn only about $150 a week after taxes. You have no breaks, because, by law, UPS does not have to give employees breaks who work under five hours a day.

If you accept the part-time position, which is only part-time, you have to commit to working a full year with no time off. What does that mean? Well, you can’t get sick. Also, if you have vacation planned, any time off coming up with the family or another job you need to reconsider and reapply after these planned events. If you end up quitting or basically not showing up for your shift on time you, will be put on a do not hire again list forever. All employees at UPS start out doing part-time. There are no exceptions. In order to become full-time, you have to work part-time at UPS for about 12 to 14 years. It is based solely on seniority and time served. When I was in at the UPS human resources building, a class was in the building going through orientation to become full-time. They have worked here at UPS for over 14 years as part-time package handlers. The lady who gave us our tour did not sugarcoat anything. She basically said she has been at UPS for about 15 years and when she started as a package handle, for the first month, she went home crying after every shift.

Employees park in a huge parking lot and have to go through a security building and be scanned. You can’t bring any phones or other electronic items into the building. A set of lockers are outside the gate to lock up personal items. After walking through a metal detector, you basically walk for what seems a half mile to the building. After your shift, you have to walk back through the security check point and get scanned with a wand to see if you have stolen anything from the packages you were handling.

The UPS facility is exactly what you expect. It’s a really big noisy warehouse where trucks have backed up to conveyor belts being tended to by assigned package unloaders and loaders. A package unloader is assigned to be inside one of these truck bays. The unloaders job is to do nothing more but to pick up boxes, make sure the label is facing up and put it on the conveyor belt. They do this over and over again, until it’s time to go home. Some unloaders were being constantly yelled at to speed up by, who I assumed, shift managers. A package loader is a little more involved. Loaders have a scan gun where they scan barcodes to make sure the package is on the right truck. The loaders stack the boxes in the truck neatly after a box is scanned while more boxes come at them on the conveyor belt. It reminded me of the comical scene from I Love Lucy with the runaway chocolates, but in this case, there was nothing comical from what I was seeing. You can expect some boxes to weigh 70 pounds. We were told, if you can’t lift a 70 pound box by yourself and maneuver it onto and off the conveyor belt, this job is not for you. During my 30 minute tour in this oppressive Willy Wonka land of boxes, I kept thinking to myself. We live in the freaking 21st century and no one has invented robots or some type of automatic mechanical system to do this work?

I’m not afraid of hard work. What they showed me, I know I could do. When I was in college I worked part-time one summer at a dye factory for Burlington Mills in Wake Forest, NC. Temperatures in the factory were routinely over 100° and it was humid all the time from all the water in the dye machines. However, at Burlington Mills, we were given breaks and time off was allowed if we got sick or something legitimate outside of work came up. UPS flat out told us we have to work around their schedule. UPS comes first and everything else, including your family life, is secondary.

After the “interview”, I sat in my van and quickly wrote down everything I just experienced and began to wonder. What type of person is right for this job? It’s weird. It seemed to me, when I filling out the online application, people with college degree are sought after. Okay, but who in their right mind would want to pursue a part-time 20 hour back breaking job after graduating college and do the same thing for up to 12 years? I think this job would be a great opportunity for a college student while they are going to school. You come in, bang out your shift and go home. It could also be great for someone in their 20s who does not have a college degree or is a just a high school graduate. If they work hard, they can end up achieving good things. However, is it good job for a 47-year-old man who has two college degrees and is looking to reenter the job market?

I do know I was worn out from just driving to UPS, walking a half mile from the employee parking lot to the sorting warehouse and walking back to my car. I can’t even fathom how the workers I saw today feel when they leave the parking lot. Most likely, a lot of those same workers will also have second jobs to go to. Carolyn and I had high hopes when I was contacted by UPS. We both thought what a great company to work for with possible opportunities. However, what I learned did not make me excited. If anything, I do appreciate the fact the UPS human resource woman was up front with everyone. I will not be accepting the job at UPS if they call me. As result, my search for a job continues, but first I need a nap.

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2 thoughts on “My recent UPS job scare inquiry

  1. The best part of being a part time UPS loader or unloader is the health insurance benifits. It’s one of the strongest draws to the job as you, your spouse and any children are automatically covered 100% for ANYTHING. $9.50 is start pay. After your initial 90 days though. So when we had our 2nd and 3rd son, we paid 0, zero. Doctor visit, zero. I think the only thing we paid for were Rx’s which were still only $5.00 or less. So yes it’s great for a college student or a high school graduate wanting to wait 10 years until full time becomes available. If you started at 18 (minimum age), technically you could retire after 30 years at age 48 and have millions in your IRA’s, profit sharing, 401k etc. I’m not knocking UPS. It was the hardest job of my life. But also one of the most rewarding. (If you keep your boxes in the truck and your area clear, managers need not say anything to yah but good job). 5.5 hours strict or less and considering the average box weighs 23 lbs, you may load 3 trucks and each truck carries 500-600 boxes and more at peak (Christmas). So in a typical morning, you’re lifting 30,000 lbs ON THE LOW END in 5.5 hours. We had a saying, “We don’t go to the gym, we go to UPS!”. And that’s a fact. In addition I started at age 30 and left at age 36 for a considerable bump in pay. Wish I never had left as the new company went out of business 5 years later. But even now at 45, I could still go and do what I did at UPS. Aches and pains for a bit but like anything, it gets easier as time goes by. Ps- We had a 47 y/o man start while I was there. He’s now 63 and runs circles around what he calls, “the young bucks”. If you’re not scared of hard work, have thick skin because you WILL be yelled at for the dumbest shit, can get up at 3am, 5 days a week, and have a good back, UPS is definitely a job you can do.
    Good luck all potential new UPS’ers.

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