Reader Reports UPS stopped leaving packages in parts of Columbia Heights due to Thefts

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr.TinDC

“Dear PoPville,

I’m living in Columbia Heights and I suddenly stopped getting packages delivered from UPS. No notes are being left, but online it says they attempted delivery, and when I put delivery instructions to leave it at the door they are ignored. After my fifth call to them, I was told that they recently changed their policies in our area because of too many stolen package claims and they no longer will leave packages, even if you sign for them to be left or put in instructions online.

They also will not deliver to a local store unless you are a My Choice member and pay a fee. There must be plenty of Amazon Prime members in this area, I’m wondering if they are experiencing the same problem? Fedex still leaves packages and we have never had a package go missing, but they claim it’s a neighborhood-wide policy change. Thought getting the word out to the neighborhood might be helpful to deal with UPS to get them to change this new policy, but would also like to hear if others are actually getting packages delivered.”

Anyone else experiencing this in Columbia Heights? Other neighborhoods?

from twitter:


@jmstovall We still deliver packages to that area. It’s the drivers discretion to leave the package without a signature.”


“Re: the Twitter response from UPS: On the phone with UPS, I was told that drivers delivering in the Columbia Heights area no longer had the discretion to leave packages and that they have all been instructed not to leave packages, under any circumstances. We put instructions to leave at the door on My Choice and we signed the note the one time they left one. The day we signed the note, we came home to find it still stuck on the door and when we checked online it said there had been a failed delivery attempt that day. We have also had one failed delivery attempt occur when we were home. It’s entirely possible the information I was given by UPS is incorrect, but even if so, something very odd is going on with their service, just not clear what exactly it is.

Also, I asked about getting my delivery rerouted to the store for free as a result of the inconvenience and the lack of transparency about this policy change in our area and they refused. They suggested that I could instead pick up my package for free from nearby Landover, MD.”

75 Comment

  • How is this even legal? Carriers can just decide not to delivery our mail/packages? How are you supposed to get them then? I live in CH and only had one item stolen (and another box opened, but thief decided my glass kombucha bottles were not interesting enough for him, thank goodness) in a period of 9 months. My landlords said they’ve never had anything stolen. Maybe residents in high-risk areas can coordinate with neighbors who are home during the day?

  • I’m not saying you need to sign up for UPS MyChoice, but it’s been a great program for this Columbia Heights resident. After the initial $40 (for Premium membership), all delivery changes to the UPS store are free. FedEx Delivery manager (free) is great too.

    If you are just a general member, it’s like $7 per package.

    Now I dread when Amazon uses LaserShip instead of UPS or FedEx.

  • I recently moved to Petworth and experienced this when I had FedEx deliver an Apple product. Not sure if it was FedEx or Apple though. I was able to easily have it dropped off at the Columbia Heights FedEx Kinkos, so it was fine. I actually had another package (much less valuable, but annoying) stolen a couple weeks later, so I was happy to do this.

  • They are private company (publicly traded, but not government)… if they are losing money do to excessive claims in a service area they can pretty much do what they want to protect their profits. Their shareholders would probably agree too.

  • We live in Shaw and have had this same problem with UPS not delivering packages unless someone is home, even if there is no signature required. It is extremely frustrating and we have not had any issues with packages being stolen. Even worse, I have signed up for text notifications for my Amazon Prime, and often it will say they tried to deliver but nobody was home (when we were clearly home all day or night). Again, they will say they have attempted to deliver but there is VERY RARELY a note left stating that they have attempted to deliver. I complained numerous times through Amazon and have called UPS a number of times – and have now just given up and get packages delivered to work for the most part. One time I called UPS approximately 4 times as we were expecting an expensive package to get delivered and stayed home all day/night waiting for it. Suddenly at 11.15pm I got a text notification saying a delivery was attempted and nobody was home to receive it. I was on the phone with UPS at the time from home, and still I got no action from UPS. Extremely frustrating.

  • This happened to me years ago when I lived in a different part of the city. They can and do refuse to deliver packages, and there is almost nothing you can do about it. I ended up trying to be home for the delivery.

  • I have varying experiences from time to time. But have never had them flat out refuse, and I get a package every week or so. Also Anon I got an amazon package last week from lasership… Also OP any general idea of where in CoHi? I live on 11th and still regularly receive packages on my stoop, then again there are a lot of hiding spaces at my building. That said I love having Fedex deliver to the store.

  • Seems like overkill but our building on T Street has had a problem with thefts (not me personally, but enough neighbors have). We always recommend that people use the local neighborhood copy-and-ship place (BaseCamp) which accepts all deliveries for a nominal fee.

  • This isn’t my neighborhood, but I would be afraid if they did this in my part of Shaw. Despite living in my place for almost a year, changing address with the post office, receiving packages to that address, etc. UPS can not verify my address to create a My Choice account. Not having a My Choice account means I can’t change package deliveries, times or anything else related to delivery if I miss a package. Really useful when the only facility is way out in Maryland. The only way to change anything is by having a My Choice account, they will not do anything for you unless you have one, in regards to scheduling and missing packages. Despite calling and asking for help, they have no way to assist you if your address cannot be verified, you must have proof of public record. I have paid taxes in DC, changed my address to DC, yet I still don’t have a public record with which UPS can verify my address. It’s a horrible system.

    Has anyone else encountered this problem or can offer any insight?
    While I don’t live in Columbia Heights, having suffered some package theft on my busy street in Shaw, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens in my neighborhood soon enough.

    • justinbc

      Even with a MyChoice account I’m generally unable to do those things. It’s a really stupid system they’ve got.

    • Yes, I had the same problem when I moved. For some reason it still doesn’t think I’m the primary account holder at my address, so I can’t access any of the advanced options, and the whole calendar/email notification thing only works sporadically. Oddly enough, I put my work address on my MyChoice as well, and had no problems getting that set up/verifying it.

      And yeah, whenever I call the customer service line, they have no way to help you set up the account or troubleshoot the site.

  • That must be their new business model.

    I live in an apt building with a couple hundred apts… once the UPS guy gets buzzed into the lobby/mail room he just “drops” everything in his arms on the floor in the corner. It’s a free for all cluster f***.

    Anyhow, UPS calls me yesterday about a delivery in June that was stolen. I had already replaced the item with the vendor directly, but they called me to sell me a service under the guise that they were following up on the missing package. I hung up as soon as he mentioned their “program”…

  • Sounds a lot like my experiences in NYC, although they always left a note stating they attempted delivery.

  • I think it’s fair for UPS to do that, as long as they give us a free option for pickup that doesn’t involve driving to frigging Landover. I expect Amazon/UPS to replace packages I don’t receive for free, so if they’re losing too many I understand. If they don’t feel safe leaving it then it’s fine, but they really need to divert it to the UPS store for me. Fedex is much more convenient. They have the warehouse in Eckington, and will divert to the Fedex store in CH for free. I wish Amazon would use them more.

  • I live in Adams Morgan and have had 2 packages that were delivered by UPS stolen so far this summer, it is quite frustrating. 1 item I was able to replace through a UPS claim by a company with great customer service, but the other package is still pending. This last package was stolen last week, so Adams Morgan was still getting UPS deliveries as of then.

  • I used to do customer service for UPS years ago. This has always been their policy if they experience too many thefts. This is the protect the consignee (or the package is being delivered to) and the company as well. UPS pays insurance at the minimum of $100 unless the shipper pays to increase it. It doesn’t make sense to keep delivering to locations where the package isn’t safe while UPS has to pay out each time.

    Also, I doubt UPS MyChoice is going to get you around this. I’m not 100% familiar with it but it doesn’t seem like it would work in this case.

    UPS does this is done by delivery area, not a street by street basis. It’s better to reroute the package or just have it held it at the customer counter for pickup. You could also try creating a location around your home to conceal packages and let UPS know for the next attempt.

    Hope this helps.

  • clevelanddave

    My experience is that UPS is so not consumer friendly for residential deliveries. The note they leave, if you read it, is not well written/clear. As the OP said, there is no way to have it delivered to a UPS store without both a hassle and a fee. Just frustrating. As the sender to use USPS or FedEx. With either you can easily have the package delivered, for free, to a local post office or a FedEx location. That’s what I do for high value packages.

  • I believe it. It’s a free for all here. No respect for anyone’s property.

  • I had a similar experience at our home in the Woodridge area recently, where they attempted the first delivery when my wife was home, but the driver never knocked or rang the bell– they just left a note. In the following days, they still didn’t leave the package even though I signed the note authorizing it and wrote instructions to leave the package at the rear of the house. They also didn’t leave any other notes indicating that they had attempted follow-up deliveries. When I called UPS, they said it was up to the driver’s discretion to leave the package at the door.

  • Yes, I signed up for the free version MyChoice and I find it really helpful. You have to upgrade to the premium version to request a two hour window, but at least it gives you more updates than just that ubiquitous “Out for delivery” that I get whenever I enter in my tracking number on the site.

  • justinbc

    Bring on the Amazon drone delivery army.

  • I live in Logan Circle and have experienced numerous package thefts. I receive amazing service from my UPS driver, but I think experiences vary based on drivers. I’ve cultivated a great relationship with him and he does an awesome job. That being said, I have terrible experiences with USPS and FedEx. Both will leave packages without even ringing my doorbell, which is frustrating on days when I am home and I have a package stolen. I can’t always re-route to a FedEx retail store due to shipper policies and USPS pickup is nowhere convenient for my carless household. I also work for the federal government, so I cannot have them sent to work. Everyone has varying experiences with different shippers. Thus, I wish all online retailers (I’m looking at you Amazon) allowed you to choose which carrier would ship your goods. I would gladly pay a little extra to use the carrier that works best for me.

    • +1 on your final point. I was having the same issues as the OP, but with FedEx, and was able to convince Amazon to note in my account that I preferred not to use FedEx. As a result I’ve gotten almost all packages sent to me in the last year without hassle. But I would love the option to choose which carrier I -do- use for some of my most important packages. For those, I tend to send them to my office instead of my house, which can be a pain both in terms of having to carry packages home and because it’s not really okay for me to get packages at work on a regular basis.

  • Is it the shipper or UPS that pays for a replacement (if it isn’t insured)?

  • In my experience the retailer replaces the item then files their own claim with the shipper.

  • Hopefully the Amazon drones are armed, to fend off package thieves!

  • I was the president of a condo building in Adams Morgan until recently and this was a recurring problem. There are vultures that apparently wait for the delivery truck, swoop in, taking your wares, and as a result hit UPS with a liability. Living in a city is not without its costs.

    It is not surprising that UPS would refuse service to an area where this is common. People will make a claim against UPS. Nor should this be illegal. To forbid this would drive up the cost of shipping for all of us, as the cost of claims would be absorbed by a higher price.

    Have items shipped to your office, or an Amazon locker, or a UPS store.

  • I have had this happen as well. I think it’s so they can tell Amazon that they ‘delivered’ the package in the 2 day window. I have gotten this notification on, complained to Amazon that nothig was delivered, and gotten a full refund. Then, 2 days later, the package is delivered.

  • Unfortunately there aren’t any in DC, but for Amazon orders you might consider trying Amazon Locker. There are a few in Pentagon City, Alexandria, and Arlington along the Orange line corridor.
    As to the Apple product mentioned earlier, I have used ship to store and would definitely do so in the future for something that pilferable.

    • I often wonder why there aren’t Amazon lockers in DC. It seems that in a city with so many package theft problems, so many delivery problems, and the nearest FedEx and UPS dispatch centers nearly inaccessible for those of us without cars, Amazon lockers would be a great solution.

      • I think there are no Amazon lockers in DC because they want to avoid having a physical presence in the city, and thus being forced to collect sales tax.

        • Great point. I wonder if there would be any way around this. I would gladly pay sales tax myself if it meant have a reliable way to collect my packages, but imagine all of DC’s Amazon customers wouldn’t agree with me on that!

    • There is a reason there is no Amazon Locker in DC. That thing would be broken into within the first day of it being installed.

      • I haven’t seen how Amazon Lockers actually look. Are they just regular lockers?

        I have no idea if it would make any sense from a business standpoint, but as a customer I would love it if there were a place in DC where I could pick up my Amazon packages without having to pay a considerably higher fee (or any fee at all). It wouldn’t have to be a locker, per se. I did have a PO box for receiving packages when I got married and didn’t want to annoy our guests with our silly package drama, but it was super expensive. Never doing that again.

        • I didn’t say this clearly in my last post, but I’m thinking about something like an a storefront that’s just for picking up Amazon packages.

          • justinbc

            Because that would require Amazon to pay rent. They’re doing just fine already without having that expense. (benefitting customers would be nice, but businesses arent likely to add red to their books without a corresponding amount of b-lack as a result)

          • justinbc, of course that makes sense, but Amazon hasn’t seemed to mind some (serious) red in the past if it expands their reach. Kindle Fire, I’m looking at you.

      • I beg to differ. Scanning the Virginia locations, it looks like most of them are in monitored 24 hour locations like inside 7-eleven stores. I realize we have some exceptionally industrious thieves (not working is hard work!) , but I doubt you could get away with casually carrying a crowbar into a 7-eleven and prying open a locker.

  • brookland_rez

    I’ve experienced the opposite in Brookland. For years, UPS would not leave a package, no matter what. I had to constantly trek out to Landover to pick up at the warehouse. Over the past few months they’ve been leaving packages. I haven’t ordered anything really expensive, but I’m not comfortable with them leaving anything. There’s a bus stop in front of my house and the bus is headed in the direction of Ivy City. Between Brookland and Ivy City is a lot of sketchy areas with subsidized housing and people that have a greater likelihood of stealing something. To their credit, UPS has taken measures to hide the packages behind porch columns.

  • Let’s not get crazy here. I live on 11th and the quality of life is quite desirable. Yes there is some petty crime to deal with, but to say it’s a neglected neighborhood is a pretty strong stretch. Also bike thefts happen in every neighborhood.

  • pick it up at the store at irving

  • I don’t understand why UPS can’t hold packages at their UPS Stores just like FedEx does at their FedEx Offices for free. I’ve been able to have a couple of packages held at the UPS Store in Columbia Heights, but I resent the idea that I have to pay $5 per package for that ability. UPS is already willing to make the attempt at a residence, so delivering at a local UPS Store shouldn’t be any more difficult or costly for the company.

    • +1 to “I don’t understand why UPS can’t hold packages at their UPS Stores just like FedEx does at their FedEx Offices for free.”

    • This is mostly because UPS Stores are franchises not owned by UPS whose business model includes a service where they charge a small fee to accept any packages for a customer. The same is not true for Fedex.

  • Or at least bring the Amazon Lockers to the city, where you can have packages left in lockers at 7-Eleven or other places in the neighborhood and you’re sent a text w/ info on how to open them. As long as you retrieve within 72 hours, no problem.

  • Good. I’m tired of having to re-route package delivery from fedex/ups. I wish usps had a similar program.

    OR, I wish my “neighbors” would stop stealing my f*cking packages.

  • Petty crime? I don’t know where on 11th you live, but I live on Lamont, between Sherman and 11th (very short block) and there are a couple car break in’s per week, and package stealing used to be a annual thing coinciding with Christmas, but now its year round.

    I don’t blame UPS at all. I stopped having stuff shipped to my house ~18 months ago, but from the gripes of my neighbors (a few homes either direction) who have collectively had thousands of dollars worth of packages stolen in the past few months, UPS’s exposure is probably in the millions for Columbia Heights in a given year.

  • It’s because DC residents would have to pay local taxes on purchases. Amazon is only installing the lockers in states where they already have a warehouse or other physical presence. Those folks already pay state taxes on their purchases.

  • That’s interesting. I’m in Brookland too, and UPS seems to sometimes hide packages, but most of the time they just leave it in plain sight, e.g. on the ground right in front of the door, in plain view from the street.

  • Woops…that was meant for the Amazon Lockers in DC suggestion.

  • UPS is just terrible and you should do whatever you can to avoid them. They can’t manage a simple “i’ll pick it up at your warehouse because I can’t be home all day”. I live in a secure building for which UPS has access and still they want a signature for certain parcels. I now have stuff delivered to my office if I know I’m stuck with UPS, which I usually try to avoid (I don’t want to schlep home or get coworkers involved in my personal business). I can see why they would require certain things in certain areas because of losses, but they don’t provide useful alternatives. They once operated the best value of all the delivery services, but for the last 10-15 years, they’ve been the worst and not just here.

  • This is only tangentially related, but it’s so funny/awful that I have to share it. In my last apartment, our UPS delivery person used to “hide” our packages in our garbage cans. On more than one occasion, I had to report packages missing because I never got the hang tags and the packages were taken away with the garbage collection. When I called UPS, they said they had recorded the packages as “delivered to garbage can.” I appreciate that no one gave me a hard time about getting full refunds for those things.

  • I had this exact issue in CH. I appreciate that UPS can take this position of not delivering without signature given the risk of theft, but much like the OP and other commenters, I stayed home in order to be there to receive the package and was home when they claim to have attempted delivery and it was a complete fabrication. No call from the call box, no notice of attempt to deliver, nothing. This can be their policy but it seems like they are using it as an excuse to avoid actually attempting to deliver a package. I talked to the local dispatch and they said that even if you sign the attempted delivery notice and give instructions to leave it, the drivers won’t do that now.

  • i agree. the same people complaining about this would be complaining about their stolen package if it *was* delivered.

    people who’ve been commenting here seem unable to comprehend that the ‘leave my package and it stays safe all day’ option does not exist in their neighborhood. so UPS isn’t pretending it does. heaven forbid!

    • I don’t think that most of the complaints here are actually about wanting delivery services to leave their packages for them when they aren’t home. I think the main complaint is that in some neighborhoods, it’s tough to get packages delivered -at all-. One drivers think they don’t have to leave packages for people who aren’t home, they sometimes don’t even attempt to deliver them. It can be really disruptive if you’ve come to depend on package deliveries and don’t have another good option..

  • In my old job I could re-route to the office -while not optimal for all things was ok for small packages. Then I worked for the government and that is not an option.

    I am unwilling to buy a box at the UPS store or pay for some special account just for packages – that is stupid to get it sent/re-routed to the store. If their pick up location was more conveniently located and open and better hours that would help both them and everyone else. Fed Ex has that NY avenue location that is a bit of a pain is at least open better hours and a bit more geographically accessible.

  • hammers

    yes this has happened to me. My frustration is that I live in an apt building–so they will just keep driving by, and not leaving the package. I guess I have to be sitting OUTSIDE on the stoop during the entire window of 10AM-8PM in order to get a package. Why can they not call? I had a desperately needed package get sent back to sender because I was inside when they stopped by.

  • I live in Petworth and have had no problem with delivery of packages from UPS, Fedex or USPS–my latest order was left in my front porch last week. I have lived in Petworth for 6 years and i do order on line A LOT and have had only 1 order from zappos stolen. I do have a lot of vegetation in front of my porch which hides the view.

  • i asked once and they are “separate businesses” (formerly Mailboxes, etc.).. still makes no sense.

  • USPS has goPost lockers in VA , so there is a trend towards the locker concept so it seems.

  • I would strongly suggest following up with Amazon if that is where you ordered (especially if you are Prime). They have been very understanding and have waived shipping fees for me in the past. They will often resend for free, get it shipped to an office if an option.

  • I have this exact same problem in Dupont Circle. Here’s how I handled it. I bought a lockbox similar to what realtor’s use and hung it on the bars on my window. I use UPS MyChoice (I do not pay the fee) and give delivery instructions with the code. However this NEVER works and you have to call the UPS customer service line to get them to send a message to the dispatch in Landover to have them call you back. When they call back, I then provide the code again and the package gets delivered. I have to do this EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME although the same delivery person delivers at my place.

    I have Amazon Prime and for some reason Amazonhas not put a locker in DC proper. When I order from Amazon, I get a little excited when I learn that UPS is not going to deliver my packages! Amazon needs to set up a locker in DC and many of these issues will be resolved.

  • I have the opposite problem – I leave UPS with authorization AND the code for the front door to my condo, and they still leave it out in the open for people to steal. It drives me BATTY. If you have the door code, why don’t you use it?

  • A ha! So that’s why I had shampoo and TP returned to Amazon! UPS hasn’t explained this to me yet, but I’m mid-tweet/email conversation with them.

    And I’m out of shampoo.

  • I actually expect this now – I live right on the corner of Park and 11th, and I have gotten several Amazon Prime packages stolen from my porch. This is why I just have all of my packages delivered to my work office.

  • Had the same problem about a year ago. Didn’t know there was such a blackmarket for grill accessories… But I eventually started using a concierge service in Adams Morgan called basecamp. It sucks paying a bit extra and having to drive there sometimes in the morning but I get all my packages now.

  • nearby Landover, MD?

    I don’t think they know what the word nearby means. This is a god damn nightmare. That place is nowhere near the Metro.

Comments are closed.