Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Trouble with delivery services

Good day, everyone!

I've recently been engaged with a rather difficult time with the delivery services. I began to think about the whole concept of delivery services and the internals of how they work. But first, what have my experiences been?

This is my second use of this service. The first was in 2006 when I ordered my first laptop computer from I was very excited as this was the first (or one of the first) time I made a purchase from the Internet. I got my "tracking number" from UPS and really liked being able to watch its progress on the Internet. I watched excitedly as it was transported from its shipping location (in Ontario I think) through the country to the town where I lived.

I had been given and expected delivery date (but not time, more on that later). I waited patiently in my apartment for it to arrive, but no one ever came to my door. The next day I logged in to check where it was. The status was no longer marked as "in progress", but rather marked as delivered. I didn't have my package. The name under the "signed by" was "WANG". Suffice it to say, I began to feel a little panicked. I paid for my laptop but didn't have it and it was marked as delivered. What was I to do?

I was still going to school at the time (this was the week before spring break), so in between my classes I was trying to get on the phone with them to track the package down. After a few days and hours on the phone, I finally tracked down my package to a distribution plant in a neighbouring town. Turns out, the driver came to my apartment building but only knocked on the door of the "upper level" (I lived in a basement apartment). My neighbour upstairs had a visitor who simply informed the driver that no one by my name lived in the building. The driver simply wrote "wrong address" on the package...and somehow Wrong turned into Wang and thus it was "Delivered to: Wang" (this after I looked in the phone book for Wang's, none of whom had my laptop, haha).

Or course, even after finally tracking it down, I had to get them to deliver it to me. At least this time they knew I was in the basement, but I only had a day (the Friday before I was expected to leave for the week). My brother's family had been planning to pick me to take me back...but the package would arrive anytime between 7 am and 5 pm. What was I to do? Well my drive arrived in the afternoon and, very nicely and patiently, they stayed and helped wait for my arrival. I felt really bad about asking them to do this, but really didn't know what else to do. So we waited...and continued to wait. Finally, we had to get on the road and really just couldn't wait anymore. I understood completely, I would just have to figure something out. We were literally on our way out the drive way when the delivery truck showed up. I was so happy nothing else was really mattering at the moment, my frustration with UPS fading away. I signed for the package, and held it on my lap in the backseat the entire way home cramped along with my friend who'd come to visit and my niece. I had my laptop and was good to go. You'll actually be hearing more about the laptop I purchased in future blog posts. Back to the matter at hand.

Fast forward three years. I've since purchased a new convertible Tablet PC and am in the process of designing a customized case for it (which I also hope to make the topic of some future blog posts). Since the case would be made of fabric, and designed in such a way as to use the machine while inside the case, I was worried about blocking the ventilation on the bottom of the machine. So I decided to purchase a cooling pad (my third, having two for my previous laptop) to build into the case. I wanted to keep using my previous pad (the first of which having broken), so I began the search for a new one. After considerable deliberation I finally decided on a Vantec LapCool 3. More on that later. I ordered it and paid for it, only to realized it was being delivered by UPS. Well, this time it would be getting delivered to my Mom's house, out in the open with visible house number signs, so it couldn't be so this time around, right? Of course, my Mom also couldn't be home all day waiting for some driver to arrive. So, I decided to call UPS and have the package delivered to the UPS store where I could go pick it up. Unfortunately, due to a mis-communication, I thought the package had gotten delivered and cancelled the request. I was wrong, and stuck without my package. Heading into the store, and providing my tracking number, I was informed that my package would actually be over at the distribution center which was closed for the weekend. I had to leave town, but my family members graciously agreed to go pick it up when they reopened. They opened. They went. The package? Not there. Apparently it had been shipped back the store I'd just visited on the weekend. In fact, the package had been in the very store when I was there. I'm really not sure why this information wasn't known while I was in the store. Nevertheless, the people at the distribution plant apparently thought the package had been picked up by me on the day I went. Strange. So, after paying a small "storage fee", my package was finally release and is now in the hands of my family. Unfortunately, its in another town. I intend to send them a few dollars (adding yet another shipping cost) to send it to me (either by Canada Post or the Bus service, both of which I have shipped with before and had no problems).

Now I understand that the folks at the delivery company see many packages a day, and that mistakes are bound to happen. To be fair, the people I dealt with at the company were quite friendly, and they agree to reimburse people for last packages if they cannot be found. This isn't so much a critique on them but rather on the process. Think about delivery to people's houses. This seems great in principle, but how well does it really work in practice? There are so many things that can go wrong, I'm not sure this is really the best idea. Assuming that the drivers know the streets of the areas they deliver in (which isn't too unreasonable), many houses don't clearly have house numbers visible. In fact, at my mom's house, multiple attempts to clearly display our house numbers haven't worked because they keep disappearing. Assuming the correct house had been found: what about time? How are you supposed to ensure that you or someone is there to take delivery during that time? Most people work during this time, and many others live alone and simply cannot be there.

So it’s a good idea, in theory, but it just doesn't seem practical to me. There are a few ways we can make it better. For example, having packages delivered to work. Unfortunately, you can't always change your delivery address from your billing address (i.e. credit card) very easily. And you might work somewhere that doesn't want this being done. I think the best thing is that if you are going to be delivering over an area, and if direct delivery is impractical, the best solution is to allow the customer to conveniently pick up the package on their own time. Of course, the places to pick them up must be common enough that it’s not too difficult or costly to get them, and where they can be operated at non-standard hours. The other services I mentioned seem to have a little of each, but of course you can't always choose who you want something to be shipped to you buy. Nevertheless, there's always room for improvement. I don't see any reason I was told my package wasn't there when I went to look for it, despite the fact that it was. Well, I should have it soon, so hopefully no harm done, but I will likely continue to try to use alternate services in the future. How do you deal with such restrictions on package delivery?

Take care all.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear you had trouble again!

    I remember the first part of your story like it was yesterday.

    I have many similar stories (also with UPS) where I used to work.

    Our packages we shipped were often damaged, we later learned there is a 50ft drop that all large packages go down a "shoot". Doesn't work well for electronic equipment.

    My 2 cents. Call customer service of the shipping company after your package is delivered, and explain your problem. Ask for a refund.

    You may not get one, and you're only 1 customer right? but if everyone did this, it would force them to reconsider their process. If you continue to have problems, be sure to send them a copy of your blog posts, so they can see the bad publicity they start from just 1 customer!

    Just wait until you order something from the states through customs, then you'll really understand the meaning of the word "headache"!