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The Trouble With Delivery “Windows”

Anyone who has waited for the cable guy, a furniture delivery or online shopping item that needs to be signed for, knows the frustration of those infamous delivery appointment “windows” that often require customers to sit at home all day.


While some companies are offering “white glove” delivery services and shorter time windows for deliveries, it’s still difficult to navigate the complex relationship between stores and delivery companies to find out what time exactly your package will be delivered or, in some cases, if it will arrive at all.

Although some companies are trying to narrow your waiting time, saying exactly when they’ll show up or getting a phone call from the driver to give you a 20-minute heads-up are ambitious targets for most. These windows come in all sizes, depending on the carrier, store and size of the package.

Take, from which this new New Yorker recently purchased a mattress.

If you buy a mattress, Overstock will use United Parcel Service. UPS has early morning air express services and next-day freight services by 10.30am. But, typically, the UPS “window” for ground deliveries of large items is between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. — more of a football field than a window.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: You purchase your goods.

Step 2: You get a tracking number.

Not sure you need this bit.

My mattress order started in Addison, Ill., at 6:20 p.m. on May 18 and went through multiple scans at warehouses in Chicago; Maumee, Ohio; Parsippany, N.J.; and Maspeth, N.Y. until it was finally sent for delivery at 8.20 a.m. in New York City. At 8:20am, it fell off the radar screen. I missed the first delivery attempt on May 20, but waited at home to sign for it on May 23.

Delivery companies say your contract is with the store. A spokeswoman for UPS says, “It depends on the service level that the shipper designates.” (A spokesman for Fedex, which also does large-item ground deliveries, adds, “You are the customer of the person who you brought the product from.”)

Stormy Simon, senior vice-president of marketing and customer care at, says they are working on closing these windows. “It gets really frustrating and when you are working you don’t have all day. We should be accountable for relaying that message. UPS does a great job. But is it perfect? No way.”

Some companies have shortened delivery windows as part of a fee-paying premium service. For around $180 extra per year, for instance, Time Warner Cable customers can access 24-hour support hotline and a three-hour window narrowed from a full-day or approximate eight-hour window.

It’s usually a smaller window when dealing with smaller goods and services. Fresh Direct offers a 2-hour window for groceries; it has its own trucks and drivers. Even Comcast says most of its windows are now 2-3 hours; a spokeswoman for the cable company says full-day windows were a “long, long time ago.”

When did you last have a full-day wait?


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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.