When Robert Duplichan’s bosses at UPS Inc. tell him it's against company policy to feed the dogs on his delivery route, they know he only listens to be polite. Then he goes right on dispensing Milk Bones from his truck to any animal that needs one.
“The dogs are also customers to me,” he said. “I bring them their food, their vaccines, their vitamins. They get a lot of stuff through UPS.”
But Duplichan won’t be delivering his treats or anything else around here much longer. On April 22, he’ll drive his brown truck through Ruidoso, New Mexico’s midtown and the surrounding neighborhoods for his final stops on the route where he has been a welcome and familiar face for 16 years.
Though only 53, he is a 30-year UPS veteran and will be ready to retire in a few more years. On the home stretch, he’ll be shuttling a longhaul tractor trailer on nightly runs between his home base in Alamogordo and the UPS distribution center in Albuquerque.
“Everyone will still be getting my great service, they just won’t see me,” Duplichan said in an interview last week. “When you’re sleeping, I’ll be driving.”
Duplichan says he brings an average of 250 packages to Ruidoso every business day, which means that after 16 years he is closing in on 1 million boxes, parcels and packets.
It’s a job he loves.
“I think I was destined for it,” he said. “My father has some 8mm movie footage of me when I was 4 years old, delivering packages in our back yard.”
It was a homemade comedy film. Every time little Robert put down one of the big boxes, the scene would cut to a close up of a family member crawling out of it. But it was no joke to Duplichan. He said he always had “a fascination with boxes” and still does.
Born in Houston in 1963, Duplichan moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico, in 1975. His father was a Church of Christ minister, and the family moved several times more as he answered calls in New Mexico to Carrizozo and Globe and Ajo in Arizona, to Cedar Edge in Colorado, and to Hart and Newton in Texas.
In 1983, the Duplichans — whose Cajun French name is pronounced DOO-pli-shan — moved back to Alamogordo for good. Three years later, young Robert walked away from his business courses at NMSU-Alamogordo and signed on as a relief driver with UPS.
Duplichan has beliefs about business that don’t always line up with business school orthodoxy.
“I have Southern views when it comes to business,” he said. “My view is that the aim of doing business is to prosper and grow the community, interacting with residents and businesses. That’s why I took the UPS job.”
Duplichan worked 14 years as a fill-in driver on the five routes in Lincoln County and 11 in Otero that UPS operates out of Alamogordo. He was happy when it was his turn to take on a steady route and begin developing personal relationships with customers.
“My customers are the thing that has kept me here,” he said. “I don’t call them my customers. I call them my family.”
That includes the dogs, of course, and all other creatures great and small that he encounters at any delivery address. At one house, the family leaves out food for a pair of elk, and the great beasts block Duplichan’s path to the back porch where he normally leaves packages.
He puts a Milk Bone in their bowl, and they lumber aside to let him pass.
“UPS says we’re supposed to call the people and tell them you’re leaving their packages somewhere else,” Duplichan said. “But that’s not what I do.”