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​No more waiting for the UPS guy

MoneyWatch Headlines
MoneyWatch Headlines 01:06

UPS (UPS) may be enjoying record delivery volumes, but that can mean headaches for customers.

With more Americans ordering products from online retailers such as Amazon (AMZN) or Apple (AAPL), consumers are often at the mercy of UPS. There may be nothing more frustrating than coming home to a "delivery attempt" notice on your door, and having to wait another day for the UPS truck to make it down your street. That prompted UPS to try a self-service "smart locker" program in 2014, testing whether customers would want to pick up packages if they weren't home for delivery.

UPS says it's expanding the trial from its initial test in Chicago to more than 300 locations across the country, in an attempt to help customers who want to get their deliveries faster. Of course, it makes business sense for the delivery service, since asking customers to meet the company halfway cuts down on delivery time, resulting in lower labor and gas costs. The UPS smart lockers are located outside convenience stores and are accessible to customers 24 hours a day, the company said.

The lockers can be "easily accessed when it fits the shopper's schedule," Kalin Robinson, director of the UPS Access Point locker program, said in a statement.

The rollout started last month, with the company expanding the lockers within Illinois and to New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington state. It will also plans to add smart lockers to California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Texas.

The company said that drivers will leave delivery notices if a customer isn't home, telling them where their nearest Access Point lockers are located.

The smart lockers come with an ATM-like kiosk where customers scan their "delivery attempt" notice and their government ID. The locker that holds their package then unlocks for them. The process takes less time than getting cash at an ATM, the company said.

The smart locker expansion comes at a time when some delivery services are struggling to keep up with demand at busy times, such as the holidays. This past holiday season, on-time delivery rates for UPS plunged in early December, a reminder of the 2013 holiday season when both UPS and FedEx scrambled to keep up. Some customers complained about holiday packages arriving late.

That may be why frequent online shoppers are increasingly telling UPS that they want alternate delivery locations. More than one-third said they wanted another way to pick up their packages, up nine percentage points in two years, the company said.

The smart lockers are located at 7-Elevens and other convenience stores.

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