UPS, Fedex or DHL: Will your neighbor get your package?

This post was written by eli on August 1, 2018
Posted Under: offtopic

Is that for me?

I had some $1,200 worth package sent to me from an electronics vendor (Mouser) with UPS. Free shipping. Got an SMS saying when the courier was expected to arrive. Took a nap and didn’t hear the phone ringing nor the doorbell. Woke up to an SMS saying “thank you for choosing UPS” and a note on the door saying the package was delivered to me neighbor.

Needless to say, I didn’t give my consent to this. Actually, I didn’t know this option existed with large couriers. Don’t get me wrong: My neighbor is great. I just think it’s completely wrong that he should be bothered with my stuff.

This isn’t a rant post. It’s a note to future self, so I can make an informed choice of courier and shipping conditions. Like many other posts on this blog, I’m writing it for myself, but let others see and share their insights (in the comments).

Needless to say, all companies deliver the package to you if you’re at home. The question is what they do if you’re not. Will they get rid of the package as quickly as possible, or will they go on trying (which makes the delivery more expensive to them).

Written in August 2018.

Use lockers

The couriers work with self-service lockers companies that allow picking up the package at certain points. There are also places where the pickup is done from a human (in particular shops that do this as an extra) but these are better avoided, in particular because they tend to be messy and lose parcels. From experience.

For example, UPS works with PickUp / Paz Yellow Box. So instead of setting my own address, go something like “Pickup Paz Yellow Box Locker, Sderot HaNassi 132, Haifa” and be sure to set the cellular phone number right. And then just wait for the SMS with the codes to open the locker.

No more pushy couriers. Bliss.


If the package’s worth (shipping fee not included) exceeds $75, it’s in for a full custom clearance. That’s about 200 NIS just for the process, and then there’s the taxes. If two packages are sent within a few days, their worth is summed for this purpose. Careful, in particular with those smaller things.

There seems to be a significant difference between couriers in this respect too: In an anecdotal comparison, UPS charged 193 NIS for their part in releasing from customs, while DHL charged 100 NIS (both including VAT). So UPS is low-cost to the sender only.


Yes, the delivery to neighbor was legit, according to UPS’ own website: “Shipments that do not require a signature can be left in a safe place, out of sight and out of weather, at the driver’s discretion. This could include the front porch, side door, back porch, garage area, or with a neighbor or leasing office (which would be noted in a yellow UPS InfoNotice® left by the driver).”

From “UPS’ Tariffs / Terms and Conditions”, “Delivery”: “UPS does not limit Delivery of a Shipment to the person specified as the Receiver in the UPS Shipping System. Unless the Shipper uses Delivery Confirmation service requiring a signature, UPS reserves the right, in its sole and unlimited discretion, to make a Delivery without obtaining a signature.”

The “Signature Required” option adds $4.75 to the tariff, according to their pricing page. Mouser obviously opted this out. So much for “free shipping”.


From Fedex’ Service Guide 2018, “FedEx Express Terms and Conditions”, in “Delivery Signature Options”, it says “someone at the delivery address” with respect to who is allowed to acknowledge the delivery. If the sender has chosen “Indirect Signature Required”, a neighbor is perfectly eligible to sign for the parcel. Actually, it gets better: “Shipments to residential addresses may be released without obtaining a signature. If you require a signature for a residential shipment, select one of the Delivery Signature Options.” Let’s hope that the sender does require a signature.

So it seems Fedex is flexible on this issue, requiring the sender to pick the option, possibly at a cost: For example, “Direct Signature Required” costs $4.75 extra if the package’s worth is under $500, according to Fedex’ Fees information leaflet. The Service Guide 2018 confirms this: “Direct Signature Required fees will apply only to those packages within the shipment with a declared value of less than $500″. In other words, they don’t give the shipper the option to be irresponsible.

Conclusion: No package above $500 will reach the neighbor. Or if that extra tariff has been paid.


DHL’s “Terms and Conditions” (which is remarkably short and concise) says under “Deliveries and Undeliverables”: “Shipments cannot be delivered to PO boxes or postal codes. Shipments are delivered to the Receiver’s address given by Shipper but not necessarily to the named Receiver personally. Shipments to addresses with a central receiving area will be delivered to that area. DHL may notify Receiver of an upcoming delivery or a missed delivery. Receiver may be offered alternative delivery options such as delivery on another day, no signature required, redirection or collection at a DHL Service Point. Shipper may exclude some delivery options on request”.

No neighbors mentioned, no alternative destinations. It’s either the destination address or nothing.

Their German site allows choosing a preferred neighbor or a preferred outdoors location for placing the parcel. This is an active choice made by the recipient, not an ad-hoc improvisation by the courier.


Opted out, after I recently had to make several phone calls in order to get the invoice for the customs clearance tariffs. At least in Israel, they’re not up to it.

Bottom line

Judging by the official docs, DHL most careful about where the package ends, but Fedex isn’t so bad either (in particular when the declared worth is above $500, or if those extra $4.75 has been paid).

UPS, well, it seems like they offer good deals to the shippers. But if the package goes to a locker, who cares.

The courier chosen by a vendor can also work as an indicator for how serious it is: Prefer those who ship with DHL. From experience. Shipping with UPS might indicate a “I don’t care what happens with the package as long as I get the money” attitude. Which works in reality, because the credit card company can’t cancel the deal if the package was handed over to the courier.

Some notes on custom clearance in Israel

Not directly related to the title of this post, I’ll add some accumulated knowledge on how customs clearance is handled in Israel as of August 2020.

First thing first: If the declared worth is below 75 USD, the package goes right through. Otherwise it needs custom clearance, in which case the fees for the process itself may turn out the dominant cost, in particular if the customs just add VAT (the typical case). The handling fees alone are about 250 NIS, which can be really annoying for a package around 75 USD.

And now a few things I found out while handling a package that arrived with the custom declaration wrong (it was supposed to be a company registered as the importer, not myself). This is true for UPS, but other couriers work most likely in a similar manner.

For expedited packages, the process begins when the waybill is produced on the sender’s side. The waybill (titled “invoice”, and is carried in a small plastic bag outside the parcel) is sent electronically to the destination country, and is processed quickly, sometimes too quickly. The ID number of the recipient is often fetched from a database, probably based upon the name and phone number of the recipient. The process with the customs is then completed, possibly before the package itself has been picked up. The idea is to make the delivery as quick as possible.

This is important in particular for packages that are sent on a Thursday (as was my case), or even worse, or a Thursday afternoon: The process may be finished just before the personnel dealing with this goes home for the weekend, and now there’s no way to make corrections. Even not to request to stop the process. Then the package may arrive on Saturday and pass the custom clearance before three stars have appeared in the sky.

As exactly this happened to me (I requested to stop the process on Friday, but in vain), I wanted to change the identity of the importer retroactively. I was told time and time again, by this or other representative that it’s impossible. Refusing to pay the customs bill, I ended up, after several hours and even more “that can’t be done”s, with their ultimate problem blaster, who initially thought I just wasn’t in a mood to pay. When she realized it’s not about money but formalities, she said the magic words Tikun Rashomon (תיקון רשימון), which means correcting the import entry. It turned out it’s possible, after all. But a day later, she came back to me, saying that the importer’s identity can’t be changed if the sender wrote incorrect details, and neither can this be done after the release from customs. Which made me wonder when it can be done at all. Checked it up, and it seems like corrections can be made only when a typing mistake or something of that sort was made.

She also explained what happens if the recipient refuses to pay the custom clearance costs: They fall on the sender of the package. This is what the sender of any package has to agree upon prior to sending the package. The couriers won’t do any work and not get paid. Will not happen.

As for the package itself, the sender may request to have it sent back (at the sender’s expense) or desert the package (נטישה). In the latter case, the package is stored for 8 months, during which any of the two parties can claim it and have it delivered normally (I guess there’s some cost there too). After these 8 months, the package is destroyed.

So the bottom line is that it’s a very good idea to refuse paying the custom fees as a method to get the things moving. In particular if the sender of the package has a part of the blame (which was definitely my case). Even if the package won’t be delivered to any side, the debt goes to the sender.

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