Comedy of Errors: Insulin pump failure (x2) and UPS failure

At least she's got a working doorbell.

This has been a crazy week for me. It started off very exciting as I took on a new client. However, on Monday, I got out of the shower and my lovely insulin pump started vibrating. I knew it was the pump's alarm telling me it was time to check my blood sugar. I went on with drying myself off and then I was going to do it. When I looked and there was an error in the display: BUTTON ERROR. Uh oh. Either a button broke or when the pump was vibrating a button was pressing on something. (The pump is not on me when I shower.)

I clear that error, check my blood sugar and get ready to have lunch. I start the sequence to tell the pump how many carbs I plan to eat. Then, uh oh, the numbers keep scrolling and I can't stop them!!! Problem! I take out the batteries hoping a reset can fix it. Nope. Then I call Medtronic. The rep I got was friendly and talked me through what was happening. Her answer was something I didn't want to hear. My pump was broken and needed to be replaced. Okay, bummer, but I have a vial of Lantus (long-acting insulin) just in case of a pump emergency. One day of that will be fine. Plus, I don't have a choice.

She takes my info. I tell her that the doorbell in my building isn't working right now. My landlord has to get it fixed and he's off somewhere on a trip. Therefore, they've got to make sure the delivery company calls me when they're at the door. She says I'll get a phone call the next morning when the truck is en route. As promised, I got a call around 8:45am the next morning. It wasn't a person though (and she'd not promised it would be.) It was a message basically telling me the same thing you hear when you set an appointment for a home repair or cable installation. However, the window for this delivery was between 9am and 5pm. That's ridiculous, but no worries. I had nothing on my schedule for Tuesday.

I called UPS and explained the situation. I was told there was no way he could call as UPS doesn't provide their drivers with phones. Okay, I'd heard that before. I stressed this was a medical device and that I'd be home all day, so how could I get someone to let me know he was there or en route? She suggested I leave a note. Okay. However, the street I live on is like a wind tunnel, so I opted for a bright green box that I had sitting around. Here is a shot of that box that I put outside.

The note I left for my UPS driver which was, clearly, ignored.

One pic I didn't upload because it has my phone number on it. However, I think that says how important it is if I'm writing my number on a box and leaving it outside. I mean anyone, in theory, can come by and pick it up. That's why I asked the driver to read the part the arrows pointed to.

It ends up the driver showed up around 9:45am or so when I checked the tracking info online. I was concerned. Did someone take the box and am I about to get a crap-load of crank calls? Nope. The box was there AND the driver had put the delivery attempt notice ON the box. I was losing it on the phone when I saw that or I would have taken a picture of it. You'll have to trust me on what I saw because I flew through the roof. I have TWO stores next to me. I think the one on one side doesn't open until 10am or so, but there is a general store on the other side that is open in the mornings. He could have gone there as asked them to call me. The message was CLEAR. I was at home, and I was waiting for my medical device.

I flip out. However, I realize that, thank GOD, I'll be at a conference the next day. I also tried as hard as I could to get redelivery attempt on Tuesday. I contacted UPS customer service, again. I explain the situation. The UPS rep puts my message through to the UPS hub. The hub calls me. They then contact the driver who said there was no way he'd be able to double back. Um, okay. So the UPS hub can contact him about this package but they were just UNABLE to find a way to let me know the driver is downstairs? I'm calling b.s. I mean had they even said "he'll be there from 9am to 9:30". It would have sucked, but I would have gone downstairs with my computer or iPad, sat on the step and worked from there. That UPS driver, from what I can see, made NO EXTRA EFFORT. When you're providing a service, like it or not, sometimes you HAVE to put in some extra effort. Well, correction, when you're providing a service and don't deliver packages for UPS you have to put in some extra effort from time to time.

I was livid and I started ranting on Twitter about it. Someone manning the @UPS Twitter feed saw it and replied. Great! They ask me to email with the details. Great! There is someone there who is going to help me!

I do this and I get a reply hours later with info I already know: 1) the driver showed up (I won't say the driver tried to make a delivery because that's b.s.), and the package had be rerouted. Um, duh! I was the person on the phone for over 30 minutes to Medtronic! I KNOW IT'S BEING REROUTED.

I'm pissed. So I start updating Twitter with my blood glucose readings and with a sarcastic "thanks" to @UPS. Most of my readings were high that day and were high the next morning. The package did make it to the conference like I knew it would. However, when I got it, I noticed this sticker on the box:

How is this NOT clear?!!! This sticker is CLEAR this is important. Factor in the box I left outside and you'd think the driver might have bothered to make an extra effort. Well, you'd think that.

This part isn't UPS' fault. The pump I got was defective. Oh, it's another FAIL.

I'd left the conference and gone home to set it up. Ooops. On that one I got the 'Motor Error' alert. Even though I cleared it, it would just loop back to that error. ...sigh...

I call Medtronic. This time I get a promise that they're going to send me a new "new" pump this time. The one I'd received was a refurbished one.

A good two and a half hours lost of conference time. But, honestly, I was so distracted the first day of the conference that I really didn't get into it and wasn't too receptive when someone told me to 'cheer up'.

I did get the new pump yesterday, as promised. It was brand new. I set it up with a very helpful Medtronic customer service rep. It seems to be working just fine now. I thank Medtronic for that. I mean I can even understand them sending me a refurb. That's standard for big companies and they save money that way.

I do realize that ultimate responsibility falls on my landlord to repair the damn doorbell. After this mess? I'm confident that will get done. However, this can't be unheard of.

The lack of effort by the UPS driver and the bureaucratic "that's how it is, but we're sorry" tone from UPS service reps just put me in a sour mood for a couple of days. Saying "sorry" when it's an issue of someone's health and well-being simply doesn't cut it. I'll definitely give UPS credit in being responsive, but if the people you talk to can't do anything about it, well, that's just a frustrating sort of therapy. You're mad, they take it, they say "sorry" and you're still out of luck.

Oh, I found this pic that starts off this post and the one below on Flickr today. Clearly, I'm not the only one this has happened to. In all seriousness, I do hope that UPS understands that this is a hole in their service. Sometimes buzzers and doorbells break. Have a way to work around it! This is particularly true when you're taking responsibility for delivering medical equipment.

Photo courtesy of adamjackson 1984 on

What's funny? I put in an order at a day or so ago. I checked the tracking this morning and, dammit, the package has been sent via UPS. It's not as stressful, by far, but I know I'm going to have to go through the same series of b.s. bureaucracy AND pay a fee to have it rerouted to a UPS store. I'm halfway tempted to just ask them to return it because I didn't pay for shipping on this. I wonder if I could have ship it to me via another vendor like FedEx? (I had a similar delivery issue with them, but they just rerouted the package, for free and with no bureaucratic static, to the FedEx office nearest me.)

Oh, I just got a call from someone at UPS (name: Patti/Patty?) Anyway, I tell her the story and like everyone at UPS that's been in contact with me, she says there is nothing else they could do. I stress that I'm not the only one as the pictures above indicate. If they're going to take responsibility for delivering medical equipment they need to fix this hole in their system.

Her reply? Pretty much that's how it is and she'll forward this on.

Okay: publish post.

(Originally published on my blog here. Thanks for reading.)

I feel your frustration. I had one delivery where I waited ALL day and didn’t leave my living room (basically) so I wouldn’t miss my pump being delivered. After 7:00 pm rolled around I figured it was safe to say something happened. So I went downstairs to put my laundry I put in at 7:00 am into the dryer. I came back upstairs and decided to peak outside to see if there was a missed delivery slip. The driver left my pump in the cold of winter and dark of night on my front doorstep!! I was fuming!!! I made a complaint as he wasnt suppose to do that and had I not checked one last time my pump would have been out in the freezing temperatures all night. Sadly to say, I have A LOT of these stories. I even blogged about it before…jokingly, but it’s almost not funny anymore. Wonder if there is some kind of joint effort we could do.

@mother4peace - Exactly! That’s what I said to the UPS rep who called me today. My first job out of college was for the insurance company that, at the time, handled their workers’ compensation claims. I was at UPS hubs in L.A. a lot and got a feel for how they run their operations. Honestly, it’s usually efficient but I don’t understand how they don’t give their drivers mobile phones OR, at least, factor in a process where the hub can contact someone by phone, if necessary. I made every effort that I could short of camping out at the door myself. I work from home now, so I was there. The driver just made no effort to let me know he (or she) was there. I’m really thankful I was at a conference the next day because had I been at home this would have happened again.

There is a hole in their operations system. It’s not the dawn of the cell phone era where these things are brand new. Considering what they charge to deliver and how important it is to get your medical equipment on time, they need to take more care.

Hi Regina
A few months ago Medtronic send supplies to me that was to be delivered by 930am… I had my mom sit and wait for them 4 hours past 1030am…The package was marked before 930am Next day…Once package delivered the delivery guy told my mom it was on wrong truck… This week my monhtly supplies…well UPS delivers between 1pm-230pm it came 445…The delivery guy told me it was on a truck that delivers to Amherst NY I live in BuffaloNY…So that like 10 miles away from me…LOL… Who sort packages at UPS…MY crazy puppy can go this job…lmao

Dang. That’s horrible. I’ve never had any issues with our local UPS delivery service, other than the one driver who’s terrified of our dogs and leaves packages at our neighbor’s house so she doesn’t have to come within visual distance of our rottie… who wouldn’t hurt anyone, and who her predecessor on the delivery route had wrapped around his little finger courtesy of a few dog biscuits. (I haven’t seen her in a while and the packages are being left at the door again now, so I think she requested a transfer to a different route!)

Oh, more comments! I needed to tune out for a day. This whole thing did stress me out. In fact, yesterday I was still so distracted that I left a bag of groceries at the store (they found it, logged it and all I have to do is go back with my receipt.) Also, I needed to mail my original pump and its defective replacement back. Even dealing with a UPS rep on the phone to find the nearest location was a pain. Even though the postage is paid for, I just want proof that I put them in the mail as, if Medtronic doesn’t get them back, I’m going to get one hell of a bill. :slight_smile:

Anyway, @trina - I can sympathize. The thread through all of this is UPS really needs to take a higher level of care when it comes to delivering medical supplies. Sorry you have to go through that. It’s crazy.

@gabby - I didn’t say anything bad about Medtronic. In fact, I said they did a great job and even defended their choice in initially sending me a refurbished pump. UPS is the bad guy in my post.

@Elizabeth - yeah, I think for most deliveries UPS does just fine. And, your disappearing driver story is funny. :slight_smile:

I think that there is something about the metro-NYC area where package delivery and incompetence is common. A lot of post offices here have bad reputations too. When this was happening I read stories about people in my neighborhood who’d had bad UPS experiences with leaving notes and, like me, getting delivery attempt notices or spotting the UPS driver walking away while they’re yelling behind him to stop.

I was very relieved when I remembered I had to be at a conference on Wednesday and Thursday. Why? It’s what UPS is used to: a business with many people on staff. It’s easy to deliver at places like that. When I worked in an office, I had things like my orders sent to my office. There was always someone there during the day.

In my case, it’s ultimately my landlord’s responsibility to just fix the doorbell and that I acknowledge. If the doorbell worked this all wouldn’t have happened. The problem is that doorbells break, buzzers fail, dogs bark, people have to run downstairs, etc. Not everyone has a doorman and on my street, no one has a doorman. If it’s the case that they’re delivering important medical equipment, then UPS needs to wait a minute to give someone time to get to the door, bring a dog biscuit to calm the dog down, or (in my case) step next door and have the store call me.

In my case, I would be fine with picking it up at a nearby UPS location. However, the closest UPS location where a pickup was possible is the hub which is somewhere that mass transit takes over an hour to get to from where I live. There are two UPS stores nearby and, honestly, there should be an allowance for people waiting for important medical equipment to pick them up there. It isn’t because UPS says “oh, they’re franchises”. Oh, well, UPS gets money from those franchise deals and these stores are doing business as UPS. UPS can require that medical situations get a pass. There is no excuse that with such a big network and with how much they charge that they can’t make it that medical supplies can be dropped at a UPS retail location for people to pick up.

I was home, as I am a lot of mornings, working. And the order I mentioned in my post? That was sitting under my mailbox inside when I went downstairs at the end of the day (so the driver probably left it outside and my neighbors brought it in.) Most UPS deliveries are done with no issues. They’re brand depends on that. This, however, is a hole that they need to fix.

Guess the UPS driver can’t read! I have done the same as you when you were freaking out and then later think that you should have taken a pic and it is too late. I had a problem with FedEx once when UPS was on strike and I was having medical stuff delivered. They marked it no signature required but when I ran home to check on it, there was a notice on my door - it was Friday and I needed it. When I finally found the FedEx place, the door was locked. The package ended up being no signature requried but the driver did not notice the big sticker!

@Kelly WPA - I’ve learned to ALWAYS take pictures. Sometimes I forget or sometime, like when I was downstairs and saw that the driver had stuck the notice ON the box, it isn’t possible (I was using my phone as a phone at that moment.) However, I don’t see how that driver thought it would just be okay to pull up, see the box, ignore the box, and then go on.

That really does suck if the package didn’t need a signature. I would have raised hell. Either these companies need to hire special drivers to handle medical equipment or train all of their drivers to understand that this equipment and the things that go with it aren’t like getting a box of clothes from your favorite online store.

not my faves either

@Denise - concise and to the point. :slight_smile: