Delivery Drivers Can’t Find Your House Number: ‘I Took My Best Guess and Left It There.’
Seasonal workers delivering holiday packages hunt for house numbers
Seasonal workers delivering holiday packages hunt for house numbers
With one click, shoppers expect items to be shipped to them with alacrity and precision, across continents and oceans. Why then, do so many people make it hard for delivery drivers to find their homes?
Tiny house numbers, perhaps OK for hawks or eagles but not human drivers in a moving vehicle, are among the top pet peeves, drivers say. So are Christmas decorations or snow blotting out mailbox numbers. House numbers spelled out in cursive are a pain.
Ditto for those in Roman numerals: Time is lost when workers have to drive by IV or V times to find the right house.
Steve Spitler, a seasonal delivery driver covering routes south of Atlanta, recently reached a driveway that had three houses. Only one had a house number and it wasn’t the address on his package, he said.
“There was nobody home at any of the places,” said Mr. Spitler, who is in his first season as a driver. “The middle house had a large A monogram on the door and it matched the last name of the package so I took my best guess and left it there.”
During the peak delivery season, the number of daily packages can reach around 100 million, up from an average of around 62 million to 72 million in other times of the year, according to parcel analytics firm ShipMatrix Inc.
To cope, companies such as FedEx Corp., United Parcel Service Inc., and Amazon.com Inc. hire thousands of seasonal drivers to ferry packages from Thanksgiving until as late as mid-January.
“A lot of times the same garland covering the number covers the Ring or the doorbell. It took me a while to find it,” said Claudia Alejandra Stokes, a first-time seasonal driver in Gulfport, Miss., about a recent delivery.
It was her first day and it was getting dark, and she ended up driving up and down the street twice. “When I finally found it, the owner was actually home and she was like, oh yeah, maybe I need to fix the garland so that people can see the number. And I said, it’s OK, I’ll remember this home forever,” said Ms. Stokes.
Repeat neighbourhood visits have helped her get faster in finding the right address.
“The first week was an experience,” she said. She got to know her routes better each day and by day five, she decided the best way to run her route was to flip it. “Start in the middle with the neighbourhoods I know get real dark at night and do the well-lit neighborhoods after that,” she said.
In places where homes are miles apart, drivers say they get help—if there’s cell service—from mapping applications from Google and Apple or county tax assessor websites. When that fails, approach passersby.
“I had to walk up to Christmas carolers and ask them for directions,” said J. Christopher McGuirk, a driver working in Glenwood Springs, Colo.
It was well below zero that night, he said, and the adults had seemingly “been enjoying a little holiday liquid cheer.” Everyone was friendly when they figured out what he was doing. One caroler asked if he was freezing to death. Another pointed out the house he was looking for.
FedEx, UPS and Amazon provide drivers with their respective routing software on hand-held tablets or on drivers’ mobile phones. The software provides timesaving information such as gate and building codes, descriptors such as “blue door,” and warnings previous deliverers contributed, such as the presence of an aggressive dog.
There is a limit to how precise or updated the instructions can be, drivers say, especially when home additions such as carports block the house number from the street.
In urban areas, homes are closer together and usually in numerical order, so drivers say they can use intuition to find a poorly-marked home. When buildings, or apartments inside them, are haphazardly numbered, finding the right address can take as long as 20 minutes. Residential complexes with multiple high-rises or labyrinthine layouts present special challenges.
“Oh my gosh, yes, mobile home parks typically have 300 to 400 homes. Numbering goes from one to four hundred, not in a sequence,” said Nitin Gupta, founder of Beans.Ai, a location-intelligence company that specialises in maps for delivery drivers.
These tools are helpful, but drivers say they often have to rely on their judgment to figure things out. Some joke that homeowners are pranking them.
“I feel people are watching videos later of the old lady struggling up the drive with the huge and heavy package,” said Kimberly Thompson, a 52-year-old driver in Greenville, S.C.
Parcel carriers and retailers often get a contact number for the recipient or instructions from customers. But vague instructions such as “It’s in the back” don’t help. One frequent response: “The back of what?”
Homeowner associations can help or hurt the cause. Some have strict aesthetics rules, including limiting colours for house numbers to just a few shades darker from their background. This can make addresses less visible under certain conditions, drivers say.
The U.S. Postal Service said every curbside mailbox should have address information and be clear of leaves, ice, and snow piles.
What about houses with no numbers at all? Residents said they do get packages delivered on their doorstep.
“I’ve never thought about that,” said Andrea Christie, a resident in Milford, Pa., whose single-family home doesn’t have a visible house number. “I’m lucky I haven’t had any issues with missing packages. I guess it’s funny when it’s not your package,” she said.
Drivers celebrate homeowners who make it easier for them. Some put out a basket of snacks and drinks, and handwritten notes. Others have house numbers that are backlit to make them more visible at night or in bad weather.
“That’s really helpful,” said Ms. Stokes, adding that the lighting helps her return to her vehicle more quickly when it’s dark.
Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual
Equities are often seen as expensive after promising start to 2023
A new trading year kicked off just weeks ago. Already it bears little resemblance to the carnage of 2022.
After languishing throughout last year, growth stocks have zoomed higher. Tesla Inc. and Nvidia Corp., for example, have jumped more than 30%. The outlook for bonds is brightening after a historic rout. Even bitcoin has rallied, despite ongoing effects from the collapse of the crypto exchange FTX.
The rebound has been driven by renewed optimism about the global economic outlook. Investors have embraced signs that inflation has peaked in the U.S. and abroad. Many are hoping that next week the Federal Reserve will slow its pace of interest-rate increases yet again. China’s lifting of Covid-19 restrictions pleasantly surprised many traders who have welcomed the move as a sign that more growth is ahead.
Still, risks loom large. Many investors aren’t convinced that the rebound is sustainable. Some are worried about stretched stock valuations, or whether corporate earnings will face more pain down the road. Others are fretting that markets aren’t fully pricing in the possibility of a recession, or what might happen if the Fed continues to fight inflation longer than currently anticipated.
We asked five investors to share how they are positioning for that uncertainty and where they think markets could be headed next. Here is what they said:
Cliff Asness, founder of AQR Capital Management, acknowledges that he wasn’t expecting the run in speculative stocks and digital currencies that has swept markets to kick off 2023.
Bitcoin prices have jumped around 40%. Some of the stocks that are the most heavily bet against on Wall Street are sitting on double-digit gains. Carvana Co. has soared nearly 64%, while MicroStrategy Inc. has surged more than 80%. Cathie Wood‘s ARK Innovation ETF has gained about 29%.
If the past few years have taught Mr. Asness anything, it is to be prepared for such run-ups to last much longer than expected. His lesson from the euphoria regarding risky trades in 2020 and 2021? Don’t count out the chance that the frenzy will return again, he said.
“It could be that there are still these crazy animal spirits out there,” Mr. Asness said.
Still, he said that hasn’t changed his conviction that cheaper stocks in the market, known as value stocks, are bound to keep soaring past their peers. There might be short spurts of outperformance for more-expensive slices of the market, as seen in January. But over the long term, he is sticking to his bet that value stocks will beat growth stocks. He is expecting a volatile, but profitable, stretch for the trade.
“I love the value trade,” Mr. Asness said. “We sing about it to our clients.”
For Richard Benson, co-chief investment officer of Millennium Global Investments Ltd., no single trade was more important last year than the blistering rise of the U.S. dollar.
Once a relatively placid area of markets following the 2008 financial crisis, currencies have found renewed focus from Wall Street and Main Street. Last year the dollar’s unrelenting rise dented multinational companies’ profits, exacerbated inflation for countries that import American goods and repeatedly surprised some traders who believed the greenback couldn’t keep rallying so fast.
The factors that spurred the dollar’s rise are now contributing to its fall. Ebbing inflation and expectations of slower interest-rate increases from the Fed have sent the dollar down 1.7% this year, as measured by the WSJ Dollar Index.
Mr. Benson is betting more pain for the dollar is ahead and sees the greenback weakening between 3% and 5% over the next three to six months.
“When the biggest central bank in the world is on the move, look at everything through their lens and don’t get distracted,” said Mr. Benson of the London-based currency fund manager, regarding the Fed.
This year Mr. Benson expects the dollar’s fall to ripple similarly far and wide across global economies and markets.
“I don’t see many people complaining about a weaker dollar” over the next few months, he said. “If the dollar is falling, that economic setup should also mean that tech stocks should do quite well.”
Mr. Benson said he expects the dollar’s fall to brighten the outlook for some emerging- market assets, and he is betting on China’s offshore yuan as the country’s economy reopens. He sees the euro strengthening versus the dollar if the eurozone’s economy continues to fare better than expected.
Even after the S&P 500 fell 15% from its record high reached in January 2022, U.S. stocks still look expensive, said Rupal Bhansali, chief investment officer of Ariel Investments, who oversees $6.7 billion in assets.
Of course, the market doesn’t appear as frothy as it did for much of 2020 and 2021, but she said she expects a steeper correction in prices ahead.
The broad stock-market gauge recently traded at 17.9 times its projected earnings over the next 12 months, according to FactSet. That is below the high of around 24 hit in late 2020, but above the historical average over the past 20 years of 15.7, FactSet data show.
“The old habit was buy the dip,” Ms. Bhansali said. “The new habit should be sell the rip.”
One reason Ms. Bhansali said the selloff might not be over yet? The market is still underestimating the Fed.
Investors repeatedly mispriced how fast the Fed would move in 2022, wrongly expecting the central bank to ease up on its rate increases. They were caught off guard by Fed Chair Jerome Powell‘s aggressive messages on interest rates. It stoked steep selloffs in the stock market, leading to the most turbulent year since the 2008 financial crisis. Now investors are making the same mistake again, Ms. Bhansali said.
Current stock valuations don’t reflect the big shift coming in central-bank policy, which she thinks will have to be more aggressive than many expect. Though broader measures of inflation have been falling, some slices, such as services inflation, have proved stickier. Ms. Bhansali is positioning for such areas as healthcare, which she thinks would be more insulated from a recession than the rest of the market, to outperform.
“The Fed is determined to win the war since they lost the battle,” Ms. Bhansali said.
Gone are the days when tumbling bond yields left investors with few alternatives to stocks. Finally, bonds are back, according to Niall O’Sullivan of Neuberger Berman, an investment manager overseeing about $427 billion in client assets at the end of 2022.
After a turbulent year for the fixed-income market in 2022, bonds have kicked off the new year on a more promising note. The Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index—composed largely of U.S. Treasurys, highly rated corporate bonds and mortgage-backed securities—climbed 3% so far this year on a total return basis through Thursday’s close. That is the index’s best start to a year since it began in 1989, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Mr. O’Sullivan, the chief investment officer of multi asset strategies for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Neuberger Berman, said the single biggest conversation he is currently having with clients is how to increase fixed-income exposure.
“Strategically, the facts have changed. When you look at fixed income as an asset class…they’re now all providing yield, and possibly even more importantly, actual cash coupons of a meaningful size,” he said. “That is a very different world to the one we’ve been in for quite a long time.”
Mr. O’Sullivan said it is important to reconsider how much of an advantage stocks now hold over bonds, given what he believes are looming risks for the stock market. He predicts that inflation will be harder to wrangle than investors currently anticipate and that the Fed will hold its peak interest rate steady for longer than is currently expected. Even more worrying, he said, it will be harder for companies to continue passing on price increases to consumers, which means earnings could see bigger hits in the future.
“That is why we are wary on the equity side,” he said.
Among the products that Mr. O’Sullivan said he favours in the fixed-income space are higher-quality and shorter-term bonds. Still, he added, it is important for investors to find portfolio diversity outside bonds this year. For that, he said he views commodities as attractive, specifically metals such as copper, which could continue to benefit from China’s reopening.
Ramona Persaud, a portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments, said she can still identify bargains in a pricey market by looking in less-sanguine places. Find the fear, and find the value, she said.
“When fear really rises, you can buy some very well-run businesses,” she said.
Take Taiwan’s semiconductor companies. Concern over global trade and tensions with China have weighed on the shares of chip makers based on the island. But those fears have led many investors to overlook the competitive advantages those companies hold over rivals, she said.
“That is a good setup,” said Ms. Persaud, who considers herself a conservative value investor and manages more than $20 billion across several U.S. and Canadian funds.
The S&P 500 is trading above fair value, she said, which means “there just isn’t widespread opportunity,” and investors might be underestimating some of the risks that lie in waiting.
“That tells me the market is optimistic,” said Ms. Persaud. “That would be OK if the risks were not exogenous.”
Those challenges, whether rising interest rates and Fed policy or Russia’s war in Ukraine and concern over energy-security concerns in Europe, are complicated, and in many cases, interrelated.
It isn’t all bad news, she said. China ended its zero-Covid restrictions. A milder winter in Europe has blunted the effects of the war in Ukraine on energy prices and helped the continent sidestep recession, and inflation is slowing.
“These are reasons the market is so happy,” she said.
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