SmartMoney Blogs

Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

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 Overstock.com, 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 Overstock.com, 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?


We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (5 of 6)

View all Comments »
    • By WebOsPublisher

      Integrating icons with development environments: Microsoft Visual Studio,Visual Basic,Visual C#,Visual J#,Delphi,Java. Using bmp,gif,png,ico image formats for application and web development
      Using Icons with Development Tools
      free icons
      All questions
      Our Products on CD
      Integrating Icons with Development Tools
      Choosing Semi-Transparent 32-Bit Icons vs. 8-bit Versions
      Using 32-bit versus 8-bit graphics in your application is largely platform-dependent. Generally speaking, the more colors an icon has, the better its appearance can be. If your target platform supports 32-bit graphics with an alpha channel (an extra layer that defines semi-transparent edges, making the icon “blend” smoothly with any background), you are always recommended to opt for these high-bitrate icons. 32-bit icons, whether in PNG or ICO formats, are the highest quality images you can possibly choose. They allow for full color, smooth color gradients and transitions between the edges of the icon and the background regardless of its color. Thanks to the alpha-channel layer, 32-bit can use semi-transparent drop shadows, partial and full transparency, realistic reflections, glow and other effects. 32-bit color graphics are supported by most modern platforms, development environments and Web browsers.
      When would you choose 8-bit, 256-color icons instead of the better-looking 32-bit versions? Older platforms, especially mobile environments, can be particularly sensitive to the size of the graphics. 8-bit images are often used to represent Web navigation elements in the form of GIF files. Needless to say, icons found in our store are designed to look great even in 8-bit color depth.
      Icons Sizes, Resolutions, and File Formats
      When ordering a set of images from our site, you’ll be getting your icons in a wide range of sizes, color resolutions, and file formats. No need to resize icons or convert thousands of images between different file formats; you’ll get your order in all standard sizes and most popular file extensions. Some stock collections include additional image sizes or extra file formats, e.g. scalable vector sources.
      Most collections represented on our Web site include the following image sizes:
      Image Sizes
      256×256, 128×128, 48×48, 32×32, 24×24, 16×16 pixels
      In addition, some sets can include resolutions of 512×512, 100×100, 64×64, 57×57, and 20×20 pixels.
      File Formats
      All icon sets are supplied in PNG, GIF, BMP, and ICO formats. In addition, some sets include vector sources you can scale or edit in a vector editor. Vector formats may include AI and SVG files, with source files supplied in 3dMax and Adobe Photoshop formats.
      Color Depths
      All icon sets include 32-bit version with semi-translucent alpha channel, as well as 256-color, 8-bit versions. Most sets also supply 24-bit versions with opaque background.
      Using 32-bit PNG Icons with Alpha Channel
      Images in PNG (Portable Network Graphics) format are the most versatile, and can be rendered correctly by most modern Web browsers. The PNG format supports translucent and semi-transparent images, smooth edges and realistic drop shadows and reflections.
      However, some legacy platforms, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 and earlier versions, can only display PNG files without an alpha-channel. If these platforms are to be supported, we recommend using 24-bit PNG files with opaque background, or even falling back to the older 8-bit GIF format. You can also convert 32-bit PNG icons into 24-bit images with opaque background of your desired color by using IconLover, an icon editor by Aha-Soft.
      Where to Use 8-bit GIF Files (With or Without Transparency)
      GIF is one of the oldest and widely recognized image formats on the Web. This file format is supported by absolute majority of Web browsers, including legacy versions. In addition, some development environments such as Java AWT still rely heavily on the GIF format.
      Being a very old format, GIF does not support partial transparency masks. Instead, it relies on a simple, single-bit transparency solution that can assign one or more colors from the image’s color palette as transparent. As a result, smooth edges or semi-transparent shadows are simply not possible when relying on GIF icons.
      When ordering icons from our Web site, you will receive GIF versions of icons rendered on a light grey background. These icons are optimized to display equally well on both bright and dark backgrounds. If, however, you need your GIF icons to look great on colored backgrounds or have smooth edges on your particular background, we strongly recommend using an icon editing tool such as IconLover to manually convert PNG versions of our icons into GIF format, substituting default background color with your target background. This way, you will get icons that blend with your colored background as smoothly as possible within the realm of 256 colors.
      Using 24-bit BMP Files
      BMP files are traditionally used by Windows applications and Windows development environments such as Microsoft Visual Studio in toolbars, button images and dialog graphics. The BMP format was among the first device-independent image formats implemented by Microsoft. Most Windows applications and all versions of Windows are able to recognize BMP images.
      While BMP files can technically feature a full alpha-channel, there are not a whole lot of applications that can recognize 32-bit BMP images. As such, 24-bit images with 8 bits (or 256 values) per color channel (R, G, B) are considered True Color. To provide support for transparent background, single-bit color masks can be assigned in the development environment by dedicating one of the colors (usually, the color of the background) as transparent.
      Our stock icon sets define the following colors as transparent:
      Fuchsia, &H00FF00FF&
      Web value: #FF00FF
      If you need 24-bit BMP images to blend smoothly with dark or colored backgrounds, we recommend using an icon editing tool to convert a 32-bit PNG file into a 24-bit BMP with the background color of your choice.
      If you need your bitmaps drawn on a white background (e.g. on Web pages), you can use the supplied BMP images rendered on a white background.
      Using ICO Containers with 32-bit (Alpha Channel) and 8-bit (Transparency Mask) Images
      Windows application icons are traditionally stored in the form of .ICO files. ICO files may contain a set of images in various sizes and color resolutions. Depending on a variety of display options such as user-selected font and icon size, color depth and screen resolution, Windows may choose one version of an icon over another. For example, Windows 7 users working on large screens with dense pixel count and high dpi are likely to see 32-bit icons in the highest supported resolution. On the other hand, Terminal and Remote Desktop users can be shown 256-color icons in minimum resolution even on the same system in order to save bandwidth and increase system responsiveness while working over the remote session. Therefore, it is essential to have your ICO files pack icons of all standard sizes and both color resolutions (32-bit and 256-color versions).
      Integrating Icons into .NET Applications Developed with Microsoft Visual Studio.NET, VB.NET, Visual C#, and Visual J#
      The development environments listed integrate well with 24-bit BMP icons included into our stock icon sets, while using 32-bit PNG and 8-bit GIF files for certain controls.
      Windows forms and image list components will use the supplied BMP files. To add an image list to a .NET application, first select Window Form Components in the Tool Panel. Next, select the Image List Component. Once you’ve successfully added an Image List Component to your application, make sure to assign the following properties:
      Transparency Color:
      Fuchsia, &H00FF00FF&
      Web value: #FF00FF
      Color Depth: 24 bits
      Following this, assign an image file to your ImageList by selecting one of the 24-bit BMP files from your stock icon collection.
      Control objects such as Buttons, Text Boxes, Checkboxes and so on can employ 32-bit PNG or 8-bit GIF files that are also included with our stock icon sets. Control objects cannot use BMP files.
      Integrating Icons into Applications Developed with Microsoft Visual Studio
      Microsoft Visual Studio supports 24-bit and 8-bit BMP icons. These images can be assigned to buttons, toolbars, menus and other components. To add images to a Visual Studio project, first include “Microsoft Windows Common Controls” into your project by right-clicking the right-hand panel and selecting “Add Component”. By doing so, you will add an ImageList to the left panel. By configuring the newly added ImageList, you can load a BMP image to your application. Make sure to set the following properties:
      Image: (a 24-bit BMP icon from our stock icon set)
      Size: one of the following standard sizes of 48×48, 32×32, 24×24, or 16×16 pixels can be selected
      Mask /Background Color:
      Fuchsia, &H00FF00FF&
      Web value: #FF00FF
      Finally, you can assign the ImageList to your desired component (a button, toolbar, menu, etc.)
      Integrating Icons with Borland and Embarcadero Delphi
      Delphi supports 24-bit BMP files. To add an icon to your Delphi project, first add an ImageList from the Win32 Control Tab. Once you’ve added the ImageList control, make sure the following properties are set:
      Masked Image: True
      Background color: clFuchsia ($FF00FF)
      After that, you can load a 24-bit BMP file into the ImageList.
      Integrating Icons with Java $ Swing
      Java and Swing environments fully support 32-bit PNG files with alpha-channel. You are recommended to use PNG files in these development environments.
      Integrating Icons with Java $ SWT
      The AWT environment does not support 32-bit PNG with alpha-channel. You are recommended to use icons in GIF format. If you need to change the background color in GIF icons, you can use an icon editing tool such as IconLover.
      Integrating Icons with Other Development Environments
      Our stock icon collections provide developers with images in many popular formats, including BMP, ICO, PNG, and GIF. Depending on your development environment, you can use one or another. Note that 32-bit PNG files offer the most features, including a translucency mask (alpha-channel), while ICO files contain images in a variety of sizes and color resolutions. GIF icons can be used for compatibility reasons. Certain controls for Windows applications can only use BMP files; refer to your development environment manual for complete information.
      Modifying Vector Icons in .AI Format
      In order to edit AI icons, you’ll need a vector image editor such as Adobe Illustrator. Vector images can be saved as raster files (e.g. PNG, BMP, GIF or TIFF) in any resolution and color depth, including 32-bit images with alpha-channel.
      Modifying SVG Vector Icons
      In order to edit icons in SVG formats, you’ll need a vector image editing tool such as Adobe Illustrator. Alternatively, you can use a free vector editor such as Inkscape. Vector images can be saved as raster files (e.g. PNG, BMP, GIF or TIFF) in any resolution and color depth, including 32-bit images with alpha-channel.
      Choosing a File Format for Web Use
      Depending on your needs and compatibility requirements, you can use PNG or GIF icons on your Web site. PNG icons have by far the best looks, and offer the most features such as 32-bit color depth, full and partial translucency with 8-bit alpha-channel, semi-transparent drop shadows and reflections.
      Some older browsers and resource-limited mobile platforms may not support all the features of PNG format. For older Web browsers, you may have to resort to regular, non-transparent PNG files by saving 32-bit PNG images with colored (instead of transparent) background. You can use IconLover to convert your PNG files.
      In order to make your Web pages render properly on legacy and resource-limited mobile platforms, you can use the 8-bit GIF format for your graphics. Note, however, that most recent and modern platforms are PNG compatible.
      Icon Software | Graphic Software | Icons Downloads | Order Icons | Ready Icons
      | Support
      Copyright © 2000-2012 Aha-Soft. All rights reserved.
      Android Menu Icons
      Android Tab Icons
      App Tab Bar People Icons
      High Resolution App Tab Bar Icons for iPhone
      Hotel Tab Bar Icons
      Perfect Toolbar Icons
      Business Toolbar Icons
      IconLover is our pick. It allows you to design and edit all kinds of graphics required in the software development cycle, including icons, static and animated cursors and interface elements – all these graphics can now be designed in a single application.
      More info
      Toolbar Icon Set. A collection of practical and eye catching Windows icons representing all basic operations required for software development.
      More info
      Business Icon Set will make your software and web products look more modern and attractive. File formats included into the set are Windows icons, GIF and PNG images.
      More info
      ArtIcons Pro is an advanced icon-specific utility for Windows. It supports ICO, BMP, PNG, GIF, PSD, XPM, XBM, WBMP, CUR and ANI image formats and allows you to manage icon libraries.
      More info
      Any to Icon converts icons and cursors into BMP, JPG, PNG, GIF, ICO, CUR and other formats. This wizard can find icons and make images for use on Web pages.
      More info

    • My financial goal is to save 4000 dorlals by the end of the semester.. WHY? Because that is how much I will owe the school and since I am not eligible for Grants or Financial Aid (because of my parents income, who I don’t have any relationship with) I will need to make the money or be kicked out because I failed to pay.

    • I’d pay to keep in touch with local news but the price would have to be reasonable. The cerurnt model is broken and newspapers have to find a new revenue stream to survive. Agree with an earlier poster that small newspapers can’t implement this new model on their own, the large papers have to initiate and the smaller markets follow.

    • Your words are inspiring. God Bless You Big Man. My finerd and I are in the process of starting an offline market business. I think I’m looking into too many things at one time. I need to focus on one thing at a time.

    • I refuse and because of that companies are missing out on my business. I will not wait around for a full day for a product or service. I have instead repaired things around the house and will go without. If enough people would do the same, companies would be forced to stop treating us, their customers as, c__p. Same goes for the airlines. I avoid them like the plague.

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 quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.