UPS Stands for Under Paid Slaves

I like reading all these stories of people working fast food and retail and referring to it with terms such as: hell, bullshit, and really hard work. I like reading about people complaining about hours, managers, co-workers… etc etc. Well, I’ll let you know how it goes down here in the MES-TEX 7519 Hub (Mesquite, Texas, approx 8 miles from Dallas).  To be sure, UPS is not one of the highest paying jobs.

So it was the summer of my junior year in high school and I needed to get a job for some money.. I applied everywhere you could think. Tons of stores in the mall, many fast-food places.. I had filled out at least 40 applications. I didn’t get any calls back (I didn’t really try too hard to get any of these jobs as I knew I wouldn’t like them so much considering I like hard labor. I had worked in construction before for a few summers in Atlanta, 6 days a week, 12 hours a day for minimum wage, so I figured anything would be better.) Well, my friend, one day, suggested UPS. It was rather hot here in north-east Texas so I didn’t know if I’d like it so much but I went and sent an application. After the application is sent online you get an interview time and such. I went in and took the tour.. Then came in for the 2nd interview. I was hired and was instructed to come in the next Monday.

So I went in and started orientation. Basically you sit in a classroom and watch videos about safety and such and you have to take a test at the end of the week and you HAVE to make a 100 (there’s 38 questions I believe, maybe a few more) or you can’t work. You get several attempts and its not hard, its just a matter of memorization. After I got the job, I was trained for another week in the load. It was hard work but I pushed on, loading trucks, drinking several gallons of water in a shift. (Oh yeah, and those of you who cry about getting short 15 minute breaks, we only get a 10 minute break and most of the time we don’t even get to take the break cause of all the flow).

Now, before I continue, I want to put this hub into proportion for you. UPS ships 16-17 Million boxes a day. This hub processes about 600,000-750,000 a day. So you can imagine exactly how much flow is coming through this massive hub. Any boxes going to Dallas, Fort Worth, or any city in the DFW Metroplex will come through Mesquite first. So I hope that helps clarify why exactly my job here at this hub may be more difficult than say one that only gets 10,000 boxes a day.

I used to load the DFW load, which gets about 6k boxes a shift. Normally there’s 3 loaders but UPS work scares off most people so it was just me and Robert. Now, normally loaders are usually expected to load at at least 300pph (packages per hour). Before we continue, I want you to be aware of what all is done in the act of loading. First, you take the box and find the label. Then you read the label, and read the city, state, zip, and service level. Then you put the box and build a “wall”. Normally, a good wall is about 18″ deep and goes all the way to the top of the trailer, and is locked in place by packages fitting tightly together against the wall. One package done, and repeat. Well, anyway, 300pph (most new guys will only do 80-90 for the first week, sometimes up to 150) won’t fly here in this load as you wouldn’t have even loaded half of the packages. Instead, I had to load at over 800 packages per hour (this type of speed led to records being set at the Mesquite hub, which is a HUGE hub so it actually meant something in the whole scheme of things). I’ve hit over 900 before in Fort Worth slamming out 52′ trailers in under 2 hours (1600 packages on average for a 52′, 1000 packages on average for a 30′ trailer. If you work at UPS, you’ll definitely be wondering how the hell that is even possible.

The unload is a really fun place because all you have to do is take the box and put it on the belt that extends into the trailer, with the label face up, and repeat. But this is why they expect at least 1200 pph. I’ve routinely hit over 2400 pph in the unload, getting a 52′ trailer AND a 30′ trailer done in one hour. This is where some serious exercise can take place cause most of the belts won’t reach all the way into the 52′ trailers causing you to have to walk about 10 feet for each box once you reach the back which will hold about 300+ boxes.

Now, the Irreg expediter can be a fun job as well. You take packages irregularly shaped or weighing in excess of 70 lbs up to 150 (most irregs are irregs because of their weight, not their shape) and picking them up and placing them on the gratings (metal flooring that is on the inside wall of the hub in front of all the bay doors. The gratings is about 5.5 ft off the ground. All day long, the carts will come and the guy driving the little train will drop off the cart and you pull it to the door and start sorting out the boxes. This job doesn’t require speed, but definitely some strength and stamina. Most irreg expediters at our hub will do their job by themselves as ALL people are needed since we are normally short of people. Lifting 100+ lbs up to your chest and putting it on the gratings can be difficult after you’ve been doing it continuously for 5 hours, especially when the boxes tend to be large in size.

After working here for about a year, I moved up to pickoff (a sorter basically) once the previous one decided to move to a different area. I work in PD2, the largest area in all the hubs in this 8 state region, moving on average 20,000 boxes in about 4.5 hours (twilight shift is the shortest of them all, which usually is 5-10). That means I have to read about 1.4 boxes per second.. for about 4.5 hours straight. In peak season, you don’t get breaks. That means I have to find the label on the box, and read its full city name, zipcode, state, and service level and determine which belt it goes on if it even goes at all, and then go to the next box. Packages can weigh from about 3 lbs to 70, and the belt is about 6 feet wide, allowing for small boxes to hide behind larger ones, and be face down. Most of the time the flow comes stacked so the boxes are actually stacked, normally 2-3 boxes high, so I have to read them faster because the flow can be periodic and cause me to have to read 2.5-3 boxes a second, causing me to have to move at a pretty fast pace in order to read them all.

Now, most of you think, 4.5 hours? THATS NOTHING! (For most people 5 hours of UPS work will make you want to quit, much less how much I have to work now) Well, I’m now 18 and I live on my own and I have to work more than that so I double shift everyday, working about 10 hours a day and on 2 days a week I triple shift. That’s day sort, twilight, and night sort. Thats normally about 17-18 hours. Day sort starts at 9:30-10 am and Night sort ends at about 3:30-4 am.

Now, I make $12.65 an hour. That’s not half bad, but considering I started at $8.50.. It took some will power to stay. UPS work is exponentially harder than any fast-food or retail job, I don’t care what anyone says. When you can say you’ve lost 65+ lbs at your job at McDonalds or WalMart, then maybe I’ll reconsider.