The worst job I ever had: UPS customer counter at Christmas

In honor of the Christmas season, I’m pulling out an oldie but a goodie out of the archives.  The following is a 100% true story I wrote for my personal web site back in 1997 before the days of blogs.  Enjoy.

boxes The worst job I ever had was a temp job working the customer counter at UPS during the holiday season. I learned so much about the psychology of Christmas; it was both fascinating and disturbing.

As I expected, I dealt with hundreds of hurried shoppers who were breathless from trying to make those last purchases in time for them to get there before Santa, but as the days wore on, the true ugliness of human nature was revealed in to me in a way I would just as soon forget. Every other customer was a spouse (usually the husband) sending presents to ungrateful distant relatives that his spouse (usually the wife) had packed. What exactly was in those huge boxes was unbeknownst to him. He was just doing his (easier) part of Christmas duty and he just wanted to shell out some money and get rid of the damn things. But ah, it is not so easy! First we must know what is *in* these mammoth boxes so that we can discern whether they are a hazard to UPS employees. If they contain glass of any kind, which most Christmas presents do, they must be checked to make sure they are “double-boxed” which will make them more likely to arrive in one piece. Yes, this means opening the boxes. Yes, this means unwrapping the presents. Is that a picture frame? A Christmas ornament? A jar of mint marmalade? You don’t know? Well I’m afraid we have to unwrap it. Yes, you can call your wife.

ups_shipping_1 So there was always one man in the service area calling his wife. There was also always one wife having a nervous breakdown about us having to ruin her intricate gift wrapping and wasting her valuable time. “What do you mean you have to tear this open? I just want to get rid of this stuff! Take it! What do I care if it breaks? Just take it! Here I’ll break it for you! (Stomp Stomp Stomp!)”

stomp_lg There were more than a few women who actually resorted to stomping on their packages for us to demonstrate their willingness to send broken presents. Hell, what did they care- it’s the thought that counts, right? And wouldn’t it serve those ungrateful nieces and nephews right to get mangled booty. Wretches. This in turn made the men on the phone change their minds about calling their wives. “Oh, I just remembered what was in those packages- it’s books! Yeah, right. Books and clothes!” That became the savior of the season. I whispered it to the temporarily bewildered customers as they waited in the serpentine lines. Books and clothes. Books and clothes. A seasonal mantra evoking safety and peace.

May your holidays be full of books and clothes.



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