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Can't Call UPS? Perhaps It's Time for 'The Dog'

Spiderman, Batman, and Spawn almost met their match: the United Parcel Service strike. But, now the action heroes are on their way to the comic book stores, thanks to "The Dog" - Greyhound.

The Dallas-based bus company, which has seen its package volume double since the Teamster walkout, is just one of the package-delivery services that has seen its business blossom. Almost anyone with a network of vans or trucks, is trying to pick up some of the 12 million packages moved by UPS every day. And with UPS's customers now saying they need to diversify their delivery business, other courier services are jumping into the fray.

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For example, there is Texas Overnight, an Austin-based, package-delivery service that will start training 13 new couriers to help the company service its 436 new accounts.

"This is an opportunity we could not have created ourselves," says Gary Gunter, president of the delivery service.

Or, there is Newark, N.J.-based Guaranteed Overnight Delivery (G.O.D.), which sees an opportunity to win back business it lost to UPS in the under-150-pound shipment category. "This has given us a chance to be more cost-effective so we can compete more effectively on price," says Karen Crawford, vice president for sales and marketing.

Many of the shipping companies say they are not trying to pick up new accounts. Instead, they are trying to win a larger share of the business from current clients who also use UPS.

G.O.D. says it learned this the hard way. Two years ago when its unionized competitors went on strike, the nonunion company took on new accounts. "They said, we'll love you forever," says Ms. Crawford. "They left us as soon as the strike was over."

But many of the package-delivery systems can't add new customers because they don't have the capacity. That's the case at Pittsburgh-based Roadway Package Systems Inc., (RPS) the nation's second-largest package delivery company. "We would have to build a hub or a satellite system and building is not a short term fix," says Sandy Weinheimer, public relations coordinator.

Even companies who don't normally compete against UPS are picking up extra business. That's the case at New York-based Quick International Courier which is getting extra business because Federal Express is so backed up. "I'm sure it will all go back to normal once the strike is gone," says Bob Mitzman, the president.

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Mr. Gunter in Austin, however, expects to hang on to some of the new accounts because of his lower prices. To keep his service levels up, he has his full-time people working overtime and his part-timers working more hours. "They're even getting some real work out of me," he jokes.

That's also the case in Dallas where Paul Griffith, the general manager of Greyhound's package express, has helped load buses. On Tuesday, he helped fill a bus with oil rig supplies, tires and an exercise machine. "We left the seats in but filled the entire bus as a freighter," he says.

The Greyhound service attracted Baltimore-based Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest distributor of English-language comic books. Normally, Diamond ships 25,000 parcels per week by UPS. However, now it uses Greyhound to get Batman and Robin to its own warehouses and distribution points in 25 cities.

Paraphrasing the words of Diamond president Steve Geppi: "In this industry, comics are like fresh produce, they must be in the stores before the ink dries," says spokesman Charles Degliomini.

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