I have a question to
ask… and unfortunately, I believe I already understand the answer.
guessing but already without question certain, technology and
efficiency and all sorts of other things that make the company
dollars while repeatedly ticking us all off is involved to a significant
degree. And I say “us all” because I am convinced I am not alone.
did the delivery services become so careless and impersonal?
can begin with where I think the answer is found.
love my GPS. (This is a quick aside… promise… and will matter
later.) Funny thing is, when you use your GPS or similar apps
enough, you begin to discover quirky little flaws in the programming.
And I don’t mean a business that used to exist but doesn’t now,
or one that does exist but isn’t listed. It might be a spot where
the system thinks you can’t make a turn and tells you to drive
an extra half mile. It could be a place where it gives you directions
to get off a highway at an exit that actually adds time onto the
trip. I’m talking about those little blips where your familiarity
with a place reveals a miss from the GPS or app.
been thinking about these things every so often, when for whatever
reason I have the GPS on and running, taking me home or along
paths I know, and suddenly an unexpected instruction is offered.
And it occurred to me that there was a really good chance that
while on vacation or heading around parts unknown, I’ve actually
accepted the misleading directions, still got to my destination
safely, and never knew about the glitch.
funny thing about a GPS is that they tend to ignore traffic and
red lights in arrival estimates. Not all of them do… and to say
they completely ignore them would be misleading since you can
find some that adjust immediately, and the clock ticks along when
you come to a complete stop. But still, if you catch three or
four red lights, it’s easy for that estimated arrival time to
bring this back to the delivery companies and our packages. Imagine
if you are working for one of those companies and you have your
day mapped out for you in one of the most efficient ways available.
Mapped out in such a way that those three or four red lights adding
a minute or two on one trip now involves several adjustments covering
your entire shift at work, and we’re actually talking about some
truly significant delays on your schedule.
is where I’m guessing. And I say that because I don’t work for
one of those delivery companies, and I’m not completely aware
of how their daily responsibilities are scheduled. But I can tell
you that I’m convinced it has something to do with why I haven’t
seen the face of a delivery driver in years, though I have been
home and readily available to answer the door when many packages
were left outside the door of my house. And after seeing packages
left in the rain and the snow and so on, the events of yesterday
got me thinking (and writing).
two months ago, Terry and I sent some garden tools back as part
of a product recall. It was quite the process -- notification
sent to us… went online to register for the recall and request
that they send us the materials… have a box shipped to us so we
could return the tools… place the tools in the prepaid shipping
box and drop it off… wait eight to twelve weeks for new tools
to arrive. In fact, it was such a lengthy process that a person
just might be tempted… you know, especially during the winter
months when not using the garden tools… to completely forget about
it during that eight to twelve weeks. (Which I sort of did.)
week ago, my mother sent a package to me. Dad had a tracking number
for it and was all over the process, sending along updates and
anticipated delivery details. And the day after I thought the
package was going to arrive, I happened to be on the phone with
my father and I mentioned I hadn’t seen it yet. His response was
quick: “I thought it was supposed to be there today, not yesterday.”
him on the phone, I walked to the door, opened it, and found two
boxes on the ground. Now… allow me to offer a few things for your
up -- I had been home all day. I hadn’t gone anywhere.
And that means, as has become the custom lately, the packages
were dropped off and left without a knock on the door, without
a signature requested, and so on.
item -- The weather has been awful this winter. Snow
and cold and all sorts of inhospitable things have become the
norm. Driveways, walkways and stairs are safe, but definitely
not clear and dry.
-- I wasn’t heading out for anything. Not on that day. Not on
the next day. And not on the day after that next day. It was,
so to speak, my weekend.
to those two packages sitting in the snow outside the door. The
garden tools were wrapped in a clear plastic trash bag. The package
from my parents was not wrapped at all, and was wet along the
edges. If it hadn’t been for my expecting a package from my parents,
the garden tools would have sat there for days before I found
them. (I believe I’m supposed to be grateful that they were the
ones wrapped in a bag.) And if I hadn’t called my father, I probably
would have left both packages outside for at least one night.
few years ago Terry and I went with some dear friends out to California,
and we spent several days visiting wineries and vineyards, and
had several bottles shipped back home. When discussing the shipping
with the various places, we worked with them specifically to make
sure that they would arrive once we were home (including looking
at calendars to time them for days we would be home and not at
work), since a signature from someone of legal drinking age was
required to complete the delivery.
two of the boxes being sent with wine inside, we got home from
work to find “we were here” notices on the door. And, since someone
had to be there to receive the packages (and couldn’t just sign
the waiver on the back of the notice), we found ourselves in a
wonderful whirlwind of stupidity. When we got home, the delivery
company had closed for the day… that meant the packages had completed
day one of the “three attempts and we return it” process. And
by the time phones were active the next day, the packages would
be on the truck again, meaning we couldn’t pick either up at the
nearest shipping center that day. Which brings us along to day
three, when a package could be available after not being loaded
onto a truck and held at the nearest shipping center, which I
would now like to mention was a thirty-minute drive out of our
way (becoming an hour round trip) and not at all convenient in
any way at all.
two incidents weren’t the only time we faced this problem. And
you can probably guess how excited and happy you can be when given
with an extra hour of driving on your commute, after a long day
at work and with dogs waiting for you to get home, so you can
go out of your way to get a package that you arranged and paid
to have shipped to your door. Sure… it’s just lovely.
now we head back to the GPS.
anything that delays the driver along the route for the day is
a problem. That delay could be an accident and it could be a string
of red lights. That delay could be talking to a person face to
face. And so, we have for a variety of reasons… possibly included
in this essay, and likely many others not mentioned here… arrived
at a place where the companies play their own version of ding-dong-ditch.
(How many of you have heard the doorbell ring, immediately gone
to the door, and opened it to find that in less than twenty seconds
from the sounding of the bell the driver had returned to the truck,
gotten inside, put it in gear and begun to drive off while leaving
a package on the stairs? Me too.)
want to understand, or at least be understanding. It’s not an
easy job. I wouldn’t be thrilled about dealing with the weather,
unfamiliar pets (no matter how friendly), labeling errors that
weren’t my fault but have me spinning in circles, disappointed
recipients, and all sorts of other obstacles that I’m certain
are routine parts of the day.
trouble for me is that this is another example where speed and
efficiency really seem to be replacing common sense and responsibility.
And go figure, with the removal of common sense and responsibility,
along come results that tend to be far less reliable when it comes
to being speedy or efficient. And for better or worse, it changes
the way I do business and hurts some companies. No exaggeration…
if getting a case of wine sent from my favorite vineyard is going
to be more expensive and mind-bogglingly exasperating, then I’m
going to learn to be satisfied by stopping at the liquor store
on my way home instead. Less time, less money, less frustration.
Win, win, win for me… and a loss for that vineyard I would have
loved to reward with my loyalty.
make no mistake, the world is changing. Just ask at your local
post office about the fun these days involving mail and delivery.
(Actually, don’t… I’m sure you’ve already heard, and they probably
would prefer not to be reminded.) In all honesty, I am a huge
fan of the US mail and these companies that deliver packages.
But I am stunned by how many companies seem to be thinking about
the immediacy of a single sale and losing sight of long term business
from repeat customers. And, amazingly enough, quite often it really
seems like the answer to a happy customer could very much be as
easy as knocking on the door and putting a package in a bag when