Going Postal – Why the Pony Express is still faster than the U.S Post Office in the West

Chico-HaywardThis has nothing to do with climate or the usual WUWT fare, though it does shine a light on government inefficiency, so I thought I’d share this for entertainment purposes.

Last Monday, about 1PM on March 10th, I ordered an item on Ebay; an AC to DC power supply brick for a laptop. It was nothing special, weighed under 2 pounds, but I needed it quickly, and so I took advantage of Ebay’s feature where it will list items that are closest to you to choose where to order from.

Being in Chico, CA I chose a vendor in Haward, CA just 178 miles away according to Google Maps with a drive time of just under three hours. See map at right.

Normally by Fed Ex Ground or UPS I get parts from the Bay Area the very next day. Imagine my surprise when tracking the package on USPS.gov. Here is the chronology:


  1. Acceptance Mar-10-14, 17:52 PM, NEWARK, CA 94560
  2. Dispatched to Sort Facility Mar-10-14, 17:55 PM, NEWARK, CA 94560
  3. Depart USPS Sort Facility Mar-10-14, 00:00 AM, OAKLAND, CA 94615
  4. Processed at USPS Origin Sort Facility Mar-10-14, 20:06 PM, OAKLAND, CA 94615
  5. Depart USPS Sort Facility Mar-12-14, 00:00 AM, WEST SACRAMENTO, CA 95799
  6. Processed through USPS Sort Facility Mar-12-14, 14:31 PM, WEST SACRAMENTO, CA 95799
  7. Processed through USPS Sort Facility Mar-13-14, 18:43 PM, WEST SACRAMENTO, CA 95799
  8. Arrival at Post Office Mar-14-14, 04:34 AM, CHICO, CA 95926
  9. Sorting Complete Mar-14-14, 09:39 AM, CHICO, CA 95926
  10. Out for Delivery Mar-14-14, 09:49 AM, CHICO, CA 95926
  11. Delivered Mar-14-14, 12:43 PM, CHICO, CA 95973


Almost any mode of transportation would have been faster than the United States Postal Service.

Driving: 2 hours, 52 minutes

Train: 3 hours, 7 minutes (Amtrak train plus bus from Oakland to Chico)

Pony Express: 2.37 days or  56.88 hours (Assuming they covered at an average speed of 12 12 miles per hour (20.1 km/h), including all stops, per this book. with a typical rider doing 75 miles in one day)

Riding a bicycle: 17.8 hours (assuming I could average 10 miles per hour)

USPS: 3 days, 18 hours, 51 minutes, or 90 hours 51 minutes. That gives an average speed for 178 miles of: 1.9592 mph. Even walking would have been faster.

Based on my experience with years of ordering parts from the Bay Area, both FedEx and UPS standard ground service would have had the package in my hands on Tuesday by Noon, a duration of ~18 hours.

No wonder the U.S. Postal Service is going broke with that sort of inefficiency and performance.


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If it wasn’t for global warming…..it probably could have got there much faster, for a cheaper price, and would have worked better too. Donch know. 😉

“The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.” ~ Eugene McCarthy


Hah! Makes Canada Post look GOOD! Um, for those of us up here, ebay have included Pitney Bowes in the loop, which seems to add another 10-30 dollars to the cost, another week or so to delivery elapsed times, while totally obscuring the meaning of any IF any, tracking info. Stuff from the UK and China gets here faster.

Peter Miller

The US postal service is just a reflection of the EPA, another incompetent organisation, except much more dangerous.
The USA postal service is not vindictive and only seeks to slow down the economy, while the EPA is vindictive in its efforts seeks to destroy it for totally spurious reasons.

John Law

The additional heat and the restricted breathing because of increase in trace CO2, is obviously slowing down the post office workers, whilst the sceptical ponies are exploiting the situation for their own advantage. They should be jailed!


At least the parcel did arrive.
Back in the 1970’s a family member and his wife and kids were doing a stint with the UN refugee settlement system in the back blocks of Tanzania.
My mother sent an Australian calendar to him.
It never arrived somewhat to my family member’s disgust although a remarkably similar Australian calendar appeared around that time in the local Post Master’s office.
I suspect it hasn’t got much better in their postal delivery service since.


You have to keep an eye on those Canada Post guys. I had a slightly thick envelope of papers to send to my accountant, and Canada Post wanted to charge me a parcel rate! I think it was because the envelope was oversized at 11.5 x 14.5. Getting in my car and delivering the envelope myself was a much cheaper option.

Leon Brozyna

Another thing working against USPS is its wage scale … where in the private sector would you find a mail sorter being paid $50K ?
At the rate things are going w/ USPS, they’ll soon just be delivering hard-copy spam.


I think the slowest is campus mail…22 h to go to the next building over.
The usps handles snail mail, advertising mail, and pkgs; fedex and ups are packages, and don’t have anything at the price of a 1st class stamp. And you should see what they have been driving over this winter in the midwest; my mail box is now about 4 ft from the “edge” of the road.
But looks like something weird happened in the W SAC depo …there almost 2 days, half of the total time?… maybe they needed to use your power supply…?


I don’t know why, but have to admit they are getting really bad.
My mail is now delivered about 8:30 PM by a mailman with a headlamp.


Your analysis does well to put things in perspective.
Walking is likely between 2.5 to 3 mph.
Now about the Pony Express … that’s so old, obsolete … and slow?


If there was a climate problem that’s the kind of “efficiency” that claims it can solve it.

Ralph Kramdon

Speaking of the government, sort of. On Climate Depot Sec of State John Kerry is quoted as saying, “if skeptics are wrong and nothing is done, life on the earth can literally end”. He has abandon all science and now raves on like a mad man. That explains a lot about our county’s foreign policies.


Incidentally about a month ago I wanted to find out the origins of ”going postal” and came across this.

Going postal, in American English slang, means becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment.
The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1986 and 1997, more than 40 people were gunned down by spree killers in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage.

Common Sense

Yet UPS can deliver a package from Amazon within 2 days. I would have no problem abolishing the USPS and letting UPS, FedEx, and any competitors take up the slack.

Gary Meyers

Check this one out. I ordered some thumb picks on Mar. 1 from Musicians Friend, and I still haven’t got them. It seems that they have been across the the US and back.
PackageID: MI0020142244630
Sequence Number: 031150304140450509
Zip Code: 93555
Weight (lbs.): 0.7500
Projected Delivery Date: Mar 8 2014
Delivery Confirmation Information
Delivery Confirmation Number: 9274890000668622446304
Date/Time Event Name Location
15 Mar 2014 09:50 Package processed by Post Office BELL GARDENS, CA
15 Mar 2014 06:31 Package processed by Post Office BELL GARDENS, CA
11 Mar 2014 09:04 Package processed by Post Office JERSEY CITY, NJ
10 Mar 2014 07:32 Package processed by Post Office SPRINGFIELD, MA
05 Mar 2014 17:38 Shipment Info Received by Post Office PHOENIX, AZ
Date Description Location
Mar 5 2014 Package transferred to Post Office LOS ANGELES, CA
Mar 5 2014 Ready for post office entry Fontana, CA
Mar 5 2014 Package received by dest MI facility Fontana, CA
Mar 4 2014 Package transferred to dest MI facility Kansas City, MO
Mar 3 2014 Package processed by UPS MI Kansas City, MO
Mar 3 2014 Package received for processing Kansas City, MO

I have queued for hours in US Post Offices at times, but had no idea they were hopeless back stage too. In Australia anything posted in Sydney is delivered in Perth (3,500 km.) the next day. I thought that this was normal.


I just received a microwavable bowl via USPS broken. I complained and the replacement arrived broken too. I told the seller to send it by UPS. He said he would–so I’m hoping it’ll be third time lucky.
Incidentally, in the interim I’ve been using my own ceramic liners in place of the broken inner bowl. (It’s a three-piece item.) It’s a wonderful way to consume soup and stew casually–away from a table–because of its innovative thumb-hook holder and its insulated outer shell. Here’s a link to its Amazon page:


I had a bumper sticker that I’ve given to my mailman that says, “Back off–I’m a US Postal Worker”.

Alan Robertson

I regularly receive orders and send packages via USPS to a location 125 miles away and each transaction occurs overnight. I’ll ship their order on Monday, they get it Tuesday and send payment, which I receive Wednesday. We’ve done this many times.
Costs via UPS and FedEx are not only much higher, but UPS no longer delivers next day in state. Worse, FedEx is a different breed altogether. Someone had better be right there when the shipment arrives,or you get a note that the driver will return, tomorrow. I made the mistake of walking around to the sided of their building to an open overhead door and a bunch of drivers after no one came to the customer counter up front, for many long minutes. I had the deliver- tomorrow tag, but the FedEx employees jumped all over my case and threatened me with trespassing for being in that area. Screw FedEx. They’ve missed a lot of my business over the years because of that incident. I will not buy from vendors who ship exclusively FedEx.

Robin Hewitt

I think the best mail office is probably Germany. International to Spain, Portugal or RSA requires insurance or they lose it. International to Italy is different and requires insurance to jump the queue, a huge pile comprising many tons of mail handled on a Last In First Out basis. South America is haphazard, North America is a game of chance. I think the USA comes down to one button press when it enters the system, if they get it right it is delivered in reasonable time, if they get it wrong it can go wildly astray. They rarely lose anything but it can be dismally slow, I thought they had lost a consignment of electric motors sent to me in England but it eventually arrived via the British Virgin Islands, real Willis territory. Posting to the USA is more expensive than most other places on the planet.


Living in a small town in Oregon, I have to add a day on top of that for USPS. But Netflix frequently delivers a disc overnight.


Since this post is not really about AGW, I thought I make a comment about AGW not related to this post. AGW reminds me of a quote:
“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”― Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time
I suspect we are full on into the “racket” phase.

Mike T

I’ve ordered parts several times from a well-known electronics seller in US (stereo, hifi, that sort of thing) and while US residents get free postage if they spend USD98 or more, foreign customers must spend USD50 as a minimum, and then recoil in horror when they go to the cart and see the shipping cost. Depending on what one buys (hifi speaker drivers can be heavy) the freight can be more that the item cost. My very first order didn’t contain and speaker drivers, it was tape and glue and odds and sods. The seller put a relatively small order in a large box and filled the rest with paper, the freight cost was about the same at the order cost- and it took over 3 weeks to arrive. Subsequent orders were no faster, and I kept getting tracking numbers which told me “my” parcel had been delivered already to St Louis or whatever- so USPS reissues tracking numbers while they’re still “fresh”.
The Oz postal service is light-years ahead of USPS.


Wasn’t it President O who said (when telling us why the US Government should “fix” healthcare);
“UPS and Fed Ex are doing fine, it’s the Post Office that is always having problems”.
I recently placed an order (last Monday Evening about 9 pm Eastern) with free 2-3 day shipping for a ~30 lb shelf setup. UPS had it from the warehouse in CA it to my door (near Lake Ontario / Rochester NY) Thursday afternoon. It would have been here Wednesday, but we had 20 inches of Global Warming all over the roads and they “shut em-down”.
Cheers, Kevin.


If you think it’s bad now, wait til the UN runs it. Adolf Obama is turning the internet over to them now. Postal service can’t be far behind.


If I recall correctly, FedEx couldn’t deliver on many of their promises for Christmas either.
Must have modeled the rate of incoming orders wrong 🙂


I too have had packages from LA take more than a week to get to Redding which is an hour north of Chico by USPS. Unacceptable. On the other hand, the USPS service here in Redding is the best I’ve ever experienced. For example, I called my doctor about 4:00 pm to have them mail me a lab request form. I received it in the mail the next morning. That is typical. Even Netflix takes no more than a day or two. I don’t know what happens when other sorting facilities get involved that takes so long. Of course, since the Redding Post Office is so efficient it is on the Feds list to be closed down and local mail will be hauled from Redding to Sacramento and back to Redding. True imbeciles running this country. From the White House on down.

Alan Robertson

I forgot to add: I recently shipped a pkg. via USPS which weighed 52+ lbs, in a medium- sized Priority Mail flat- rate box provided by USPS. It arrived next day at destination, for the price of $12.35. UPS rate would have been $23.76 and delivered within 5 days, which they have been known to take 3-4 days for 125 miles.
USPS- $12.35 delivered tomorrow, or UPS- $23.76 delivered next week some time…
USPS gives me boxes for free.

stewart pid

Last year the UPS guy pulled into my driveway and forgot to put his truck in park and when he hopped out the truck took out my almost brand new double garage doors. It was the fight of the century to get the bill paid (finally did) and the UPS swine were like blood sucking vampires trying to get us to pay twice for the delivery since the flustered driver screwed up the visa delivery transaction and never got a receipt. USPS are a better bet at my household!

Alan Robertson

stewart pid says:
March 15, 2014 at 3:52 pm
“the UPS swine were like blood sucking vampires trying to get us to pay twice”
Try getting UPS to pay for shipping damage. They pay employees to deny claims, no matter what.
Everybody that ships anything has horror stories about UPS paying up.

Proud Skeptic

I ordered dozens of presents through Amazon and other places for Christmas. Everything shipped by UPS or FedEx came as scheduled (God Bless Amazon Prime!). One package was sent USPS. It was delivered to the wrong place. I E Mailed Amazon and they replaced it in two days…by FedEx.

Mike Smith

Anthony, within California Ontrac make USPS and FedEx look bad.
I recently ordered a replacement power supply for a desktop from NewEgg. I wasn’t in a huge hurry so I selected the slowest (and free) shipping option. It was shipped from Industry, CA (in So Cal) that same day and was delivered to my home in the SF Bay Area at 8:50am the next morning.
Installed and working by 10:00am.

James Loux

I have sworn off ever using the USPS for package delivery after a similar and very disappointing experience. The folks at the USPS can demonstrate a low level of concern for getting packages delivered promptly.
My son, who lives in Tokyo, took his family to a ski area near Avon, Colorado for the Christmas holidays. I sent their Christmas presents from Hawaii to that ski area, using the street address that the ski area had given him for receiving packages. I used the USPS to send the package because we would all be in the USA and the USPS would guarantee that the package would arrive by Christmas. The presents were children’s books, worth less than $50, but I paid for Express Mail First Class rate to get them there on time.
In about a week, the package did arrive at the Avon Post Office the day before Christmas Eve. However, the USPS did not deliver it, because at the Avon Post Office they do not deliver to street addresses, only Post Office Boxes. The ski area folks had given my son their street address because packages are usually sent to them via FedEx or UPS, who only deliver to street address. Foolish me for using the USPS.
The package remained at the Avon Post Office for two weeks. During those two weeks, they never notified the ski resort that the package was there, and ultimately sent it back to Hawaii instead. Two months later, the package finally came back to me, far worse for wear after traveling at least 6,000 miles. I vowed to never use the USPS again, but FedEx wants over $150 to send the three repackaged books on to Japan. And all because the Avon Post Office would not deliver the package or even notify the resort that the package was there.

This reminds me of the time a company I worked for sent submarine parts to a customer and they got an Andy Warhol painting instead. Guess who got the submarine parts. It was in all the papers at the time, but because it happened before the Internet, I can’t find any reference on the internet.

Paul Coppin

Up here in the frozen north, UPS is the US’s revenge for us burning the White House ca1812. While generally get good service from USPS, the routing is bizarre. Purchases I make on Ebay from the Buffalo area (an hour from my place) go to the USPS int’l service center in NYC, thence to Montreal where they usually barcode several times for a week, then they come to Mississauga, Stoney Creek, Hamilton and finally to my place, where the mailman leaves a card telling me I can pick it up the next day at my local postal outlet in a drug store. Canada Post is telling me that soon I may have walk a block to get the card as they want stop door to door service.
The Ebay/Pitney Bowes “Global Shipping Scam” has its origins I believe in the Cdn tax authorities offering rebates for shippers collecting taxes at source (up to 15%, I believe). I am telling American vendors that participating in that scam is driving business out of North America. I now shop Australia, the Pacific rim and Asia. Even the euro is trading more favourably against the Cdn dollar than the greenback. An Indian vendor got a piece of photo equipment to me in 2 1/2 days via their regular use of DHL, which I can clear and settle on line directly from the waybill. The vendor shipped the item shipping included… B&H Photo in NYC has added Purolator to their international shipping (ironically owned by Canada Post), on a precleared basis with only $8 shipping. Everybody else was at least 25+ without the taxes at import. Cost me less with combined shipping and taxes and was on my doorstep (by ground), in two days. CanPost took 3 days to get a package crosstown with a “missort” in the middle which added another overnight wait. With the US/Can exchange at a 15% premium currently, even the euro looks good, and Aus$ are par or below.

I leave a reply but i:’m afraid it will go to sks


Stuff from the UK and China gets here faster.
the beauty of international registered parcel post. with the tracking number you can see the delays. international orders arrive in canada within a couple of days. then sit in the post office for weeks before they are delivered.


My experience has agreed more with Alan Robertson than Anthony. All of the delivery services can occasionally mess up. UPS has been very good at delivering my Amazon orders. The local UPS store also has much more attractive personnel. But USPS has been no slower or more unreliable in my experience, and is generally a lot cheaper. I haven’t used Fed-Ex very much lately, especially now that .PDF documents can be signed and E-mailed.


Alan Robertson says:
March 15, 2014 at 4:03 pm
Try getting UPS to pay for shipping damage. They pay employees to deny claims, no matter what.
Everybody that ships anything has horror stories about UPS paying up.
In most cases, you aren’t the customer. The seller is their customer. Your recourse is with the seller.

I had a software business for 10 years and sent thousands of packages all over the USA. My experience with the US Post Office was very good, as it was with UPS. I know it’s easy to complain about the post office when standing in line and many of the clerks move like they’re 90 years old. But overall I find it hard to complain about their service. I know I can mail my Netflix movies and they arrive the next day, pretty much guaranteed.


UPS charges obscene brokerage fees for parcels to Canada. There are outstanding class action lawsuits against them here. Their closest office is 150 miles away from me and it is impossible to arrange a delivery from them. They are expensive and not very good at their job. On the other hand, I have never had a bad experience with USPS but the best mail service of all is from Chinese state mail. I buy electronic components from China, cut out the middleman, and shipping is free to nearly free. Delivery is always about 10 days, but very reliable and the price can’t be beat. Go commie entrepreneurs!

I’ve always wanted to be in on the Business Plan Meeting that financed Federal Express.
“You mean to tell us that the quickest way of
sending packages from any Point A to any Point B
is through Memphis?!?

Jon Reinertsen

I was rather amazed a while ago to discover the bright yellow trucks with DHL on them I have been seeing all over the place were actually the German post office parcel delivery. It seemed rather strange to me, that they could deliver from overseas quicker than Australia Post could move a parcel across the country. (Australia post by the way no longer deliver, you have to go to a mail centre to pick up your parcel) I suspect if UPS was delivering to somewhere outside the USA they might just be more efficient.

Heh _ heard about a pier in Alaska – but then I found this .. a bank that was delivered by USPS … :-).


If it were sent by Canada Post, you’d be lucky to get in within a week.


Human nature is human nature and there is very little incentive for the USPS to do things differently.
Priority mail is still much cheaper than UPS though. I live in Sonora which is about the same distance to the Bay Area. If I send a package before 11:00 am. 2nd day mail, it will arrive overnight.
I’m for privatization of the mail, though.

Leonard Jones

Did not need to read the full story. Private enterprise will always win this battle.
If the pony express would have done the job quicker, imagine that in England,
a carrier pigeon beat an E-mail sent from one person to another in that country.
The answer is that the government of England so weighs down the system in the
U.K., that a WWI communications technology was faster than an otherwise
technologically advanced nation.


garymount says:
March 15, 2014 at 4:14 pm
“This reminds me of the time a company I worked for sent submarine parts to a customer and they got an Andy Warhol painting instead. Guess who got the submarine parts.”
Hope the Warhol was watertight.