April 30, 2002, 12:00 AM

The WIZMO Factor

(Page 3 of 3)

The cause of the problem was a miscoded label. And when that occurs there is little UPS’s automated sorting equipment can do to flag the problem, says a UPS spokesman. While the scanners report information quickly, it’s not quick enough to keep up with the high speed conveyor belts, he says. Thus even if database information identifies a package as a problem, chances are the package will be on its way down the conveyor belt before the system could issue an alert, making it difficult to identify which package is being flagged, he says.

In any event, while frustrating to the buyer and the recipient, such an occurrence is rare, the spokesman says, noting that the service delivered 19 million packages on its peak day over the holidays, 29% more than on an average day throughout the year. Thus investment in technology to flag a package that has been scanned over a certain threshold probably would not have a great payback, he says.

Meanwhile, when Barnes & Noble.com went back to its inventory to ship another copy of the errant CD, it found it had sold out. An executive in Barnes & Noble.com’s New York headquarters finally located one at Barnes & Noble’s Lincoln Center store and sent it at no cost to Emily. It arrived a week before the original order.

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