After working as a shipping manager for Arrow Lighting Co. for the past 10 years, Michael Parker never thought his job description would change.
But as the UPS strike headed into its second week, Parker was forced to become creative. In fact, he's become less of a shipping manager and more of a travel agent.
Parker booked a one-way Greyhound bus trip to San Francisco for a 40-pound package of light bulbs.
"We stood there at the bus terminal and waved goodbye to the package," said Parker, whose Valencia-based firm makes industrial-sized lightbulbs for warehouses. "It was too expensive for the package to take a train or a plane. A $30 bus ticket was the best we could come up with."
The 600-mile scenic trip up the California coast might be among the more unusual methods that small businesses around L.A. are using to ship their products. But the strike by United Parcel Service workers has forced many L.A.-area businesses to innovate in all kinds of ways.
"Our employees are getting the same reaction each day from customers frustration and anger," said David Mazer, a Postal Service spokesman in Los Angeles. "Fed up with the lines, some are just walking out of the Post Office to do it on their own."
That's the case with Roberta Langevine, who owns Telegraph Publishing Inc. of Los Angeles.
During the first few days of the strike, Langevine said she wasn't panicked. She mistakenly thought that UPS competitors would be able to easily accommodate the 50 or so book shipments her company puts out each week.
"We were fine until (UPS competitors) placed limits on the amount of packages you can send in a day," she said. "Then they hit us with time limits of when things could be sent out."
So Langevine took matters into her own hands and launched a completely new line of business delivery.
She rented a U-Haul truck, packed the boxes and burned rubber. The 48-hour round trip took Langevine east to Riverside, north to Sacramento, and then back to L.A.
"I'm going to do the same thing next week," she said. "Only this time, I'm going in on a (bigger) rental with a friend of mine who is having the same problems with her own business."
Langevine said renting the truck saved money, but expended a lot more time than the minute or so it takes to fill out a delivery slip.
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