If Krista MacNeel needs to ask her Dad a question while he’s at work at UPS, all she has to do is yell across the truck.
Bruce MacNeel is a 29-year veteran driver at UPS, and the father-and-daughter pair works at UPS during the holidays. The two are a team on delivery routes around Tampa as the holiday season starts sending millions of packages through shippers like UPS.
“It’s cool working with my Dad,” said Krista, 21, “And I get a few paychecks during the holidays. I’m going to need them.”
The two now ride a route around their own wider neighborhood in Thonotosassa, delivering 300-plus packages a shift. Bruce drives, keeps track of the route, and at each stop, he pulls out the right package, hands it down to Krista who has already jumped out onto the sidewalk, and runs off to ring the doorbell. (The UPS loading system already stacked the boxes in the order of the delivery route.)
Both official employees, they’re decked out in classic UPS brown. By the time Krista’s back from leaving the box at the door, Bruce has recorded the drop-off and readied the truck to take off again to the next stop.
UPS will soon have a lot more family/work combos in brown shorts. The company used to only allow family members to work in the same area during the peak holiday times, and job applicants could not even seek out a position in management ranks if they had a family member already there.
But just in the last few months, UPS made a huge policy change, and began actively encouraging employees to recruit friends and close family members for permanent and higher-ranking jobs — as long as there’s no direct conflict of interest or direct lines of authority between management and hourly workers. There’s a new, special employee website to spread news of job openings through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. In some harder-to-recruit areas, UPS is offering financial bonuses if such referrals turn into new hires.
And just in time. UPS and other shipping companies are facing an ever-smaller pool of workers to fill the ground-level package handling positions, and the volume of packages shipped keeps rising with each passing quarter as more people shop online. By some estimates, online shopping now accounts for almost 6 percent of all retail spending of any kind.
Given that about 80 percent of the U.S. economy counts as “consumer spending,” that’s a lot of boxes to move from Point A to Point B. This year will be even busier because there are just 26 shopping days and 17 shipping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, compared to 32 days and 21 days last year. The “Peak Day” at UPS should be December 17, when the company could deliver 29 million packages, up 5.5 percent from last year.
That pool of available workers during high holiday season could get even tighter around Tampa Bay. Amazon’s planned distribution center in southern Hillsborough County could employ 1,000 workers, with another several thousand brought on during the holidays to handle the buying and shipping crush.
So far, FedEx is not going the same route as UPS in actively recruiting family members, but the company will add tens of thousands of seasonal workers, both directly through the company and through staffing agencies and contractors.
As for Krista, she’s thrilled to be driving around town in the big brown van. She’ll sometimes pass her friend’s houses, and the extra cash will come in handy. “I’ll definitely be back next year,” she said.
Meanwhile, here’s other retail, restaurant and trend news around town:
Tampa-based Burger 21 is on a roll. The restaurant already has nine company-owned locations and 18 franchised locations, and is on track to double the total number through next year. That could mean nine more in Florida, one in Georgia, three in Virginia, one in Maryland, one in Pennsylvania, one in New York state and two in Arizona. The chain is owned by Tampa-based Front Burner Brands, which also operates the Melting Pot chain of restaurants. If all goes according to plan, the expansion of Burger 21 should continue beyond next year’s fleet of new locations.
Here’s an extra perk for regular Restoration Hardware shoppers. You may have missed this in the pile of junk mail at the house, but there probably was a small, white, folded postcard in there that has quite a deal. A full 25 percent off anything up to $1,000 at the retailer. But it’s not really a coupon, not exactly. It’s more like a legal settlement. Restoration Hardware was caught up in a class-action lawsuit recently because some cash register receipts (allegedly) reproduced more than five digits of a customer’s credit card number, and some other personal info. Poof, lawsuit. Then, like most class-action suits, poof, there was a settlement. Leaving aside the cut taken by the lawyers involved, this meant Restoration Hardware had to send postcards to customers with a coupon. But unlike most class-action suits where customers have to fill out a form and mail away for their $1 or $2 apiece, this is just a coupon. Take it to a store, and the cashier will scan the bar code. Presto, 25 percent off, as long as the item isn’t already on sale or clearance. There’s no double-dipping here.
Remember when everyone was saying print is dead? Silly people. They’re dead wrong. Meredith Publishing is expanding the food website and app Allrecipes.com into — wait for it — a print magazine. Printed on paper and everything, with pictures that don’t even move. Yes, other foodie magazines have met their end like Gourmet. But Allrecipes will be published six times a year with an initial run of 500,000, with a cover price of $4.99, and a yearly subscription $12. If you haven’t tried the app, by the way, it’s worth a spin. You can dial through a multitude of recipes, and filter through them by meal time, protein, time to cook, etc. And proving that most good media is omni-platform, Meredith already has a digital iPad app version of the print magazine, which started as an app, and is now a print magazine too. Got it?