Long UPS strike could be devastating to area businesses

August 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Not wanting to take any chances, Peggy Cushwa mailed her nephew's birthday present three weeks early.

With United Parcel Service on strike, there is no such thing as a guaranteed speedy delivery.

In its second day on Tuesday, the Teamsters strike inconvenienced thousands of Tri-State area residents.

If it drags on for more than a week, area business people said it will become a serious problem.

"If we can't ship, it could kill us," said Per-Olof Backman, owner of Alice's Country Cottage in Hagerstown.

Backman, who was dropping off 36 packages at the Hagerstown Post Office loading docks, said he normally sends up to 125 packages a day through UPS.


This is the beginning of the busy season for Alice's, which sends its fabric gift items to shops around the globe. If the gifts aren't on the shelves, people can't buy them and the stores can't reorder.

"It's do or die now. We can't afford to lose a minute," Backman said.

The timing is even more critical because the company just expanded at the Hagerstown Business Park off Burhans Boulevard.

"If we were General Motors with a cash reserve of $25 billion, we'd be OK. This could literally destroy something we worked hard on for 18 years," he said.

Cushwa, who owns Maggie's Hang-ups in Hagerstown, said the strike has been aggravating for her framing business even though she can still get the supplies she needs.

"I know I have things sitting in UPS limbo somewhere," she said.

For frame distributors like Day's Shoppes in Hagerstown, the strike is having a more immediate effect.

"It's crippling us," said owner Angela Day, who cuts frame molding to size for East Coast frame shops.

The strike is a big worry for Pam Reed, owner of the Book Store Etc. in Hagerstown, who is going to New York this weekend to stock up on holiday merchandise.

"It really is having a widespread effect. It really comes to a grinding halt," she said.

Reed expects to lose money from special order books that customers get tired of waiting for, she said.

The strike has also been frustrating for people planning weddings.

"My brides are just panicking because their gowns aren't in the store," said Joyce Hill, a wedding planner in Williamsport.

Last Thursday, she sent one bride a package of wedding favors to choose from via UPS. The woman hasn't received it yet, although UPS is promising to deliver all the packages in its system using management workers.

Some businesses haven't yet felt the effects of the strike.

Tri-State area pharmacies said they don't rely on UPS for the bulk of their medicine shipments, a telephone survey showed.

Some people at the Alexander House in Hagerstown receive their medications through UPS, said Manager Jean Hettenhouser. But no problems had been reported by Tuesday.

Some people who would normally send packages via UPS are waiting out the strike, said Hagerstown Postmaster Robert Gingell.

"I don't suggest they do that," Gingell said. The longer the strike wears on, the more packages will be flooding the Postal Service and other carriers.

The post office isn't accepting more than four packages per visit at its front counter.

Bulk shipments will be accepted at the loading dock behind the Hagerstown Post Office and at mailing services like Mail Boxes Etc.

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