One of the things I like best about living in a large city is I don’t have to order things online so much anymore. It’s not that I’m worried about my identity getting stolen or that I don’t trust the internet. It’s just that I can’t remember the last time I ordered something online and received it without incident.
Often, it’s not the company I order from. I know better than to use dodgy merchants, and tend to only use big guys like Amazon.com. The point of failure is always the shipping. To date, DHL is the only major shipping company that hasn’t screwed up the complicated task of “put this box on the doormat”. Next most successful is the US Postal Service. The worst? I can’t figure out if it’s UPS or FedEx. I do everything I can to avoid using either company, but unfortunately most major vendors choose the carrier that has the best price at the moment so you don’t get any say in the matter.
Why the rant? I placed an order for a book and two CDs on Wednesday morning. I need the book for research at work, and one of the CDs is needed for my wedding which is approaching very quickly. Since I leave Tuesday, I didn’t want to rely on free shipping or standard ground. Next-day was too costly, but 2-3 day ground seemed most reasonable, with an expected arrival date of Friday (today). I came home and asked the people in my apartment complex’s front lobby if any packages had been left for me, and they said no, nothing from FedEx today. I figured the delivery guy must have left it on the doorstep. Nope, no boxes. Did he even leave a sticker? Nope. Hmm, I suppose he just didn’t make it by today right?
No, the tracking system explains that “Resident was not present. Package not delivered.” This is not inaccurate. I was at work, because for some reason that eludes me most home delivery services only deliver during hours that the majority of the population is working. The procedure in my apartments is that when a resident is not home, the shipping people leave the package with the front desk. This has worked fine with the USPS so far; I’ve had two deliveries that went off without a hitch (so long as you don’t count “bending a package marked ‘Do not bend’ that had thick cardboard inside and took significant effort to bend” as a hitch). There are two suspicious things here.
- It is the policy of every major shipper to place a “Hey you weren’t here” label on your door when you weren’t there. This policy exists for people who don’t use the internet to track packages and to prove that drivers are actually following their routes instead of goofing off. You can’t claim the driver didn’t come by because the sticker is right there. I had no sticker, so I asked the lobby if anyone else got FedEx stuff today.
- The front lobby saw no FedEx trucks today.
So, I’m left with the notion that the driver had a tight quota, the cruddy traffic lights in this area slowed him down, and since no one is home at 11AM on a weekday anyway he played “Whose package can I safely pretend they weren’t home with today?”. Unfortunately for him, I’ve been selected for this game in the past.
I complained to FedEx and for a change I’m actually at least getting them to investigate what happened. It won’t do me any good, because they don’t ship on weekends. I paid 100% more than the cost of standard ground to receive my package before the weekend, and I did not receive services that match the premium I paid. The real shame here is there’s no one to complain to. In the past, I’ve complained to the shipping company, but I never get a refund of any sort nor do I ever get the package any faster. I can’t complain to the vendor, because once they put the label on the package it’s not their fault. I have complained to vendors in the past, but all I get is smug “Whatever just because USPS is cheaper, faster, and more reliable for your packages doesn’t mean we’re even going to consider letting you pay a premium to use them instead. You will get FedEx or UPS and you will like it.”
I understand this situation is kind of not a big issue, since honestly if the driver did visit (of which he left no evidence) then he is following one of the protocols (he might not know the front lobby holds packages for residents even though they have to open the gate for him). But I have a history of horrible service with the big shippers. If you care to be bored, continue reading and I will detail them so maybe some sympathetic employee will send me the $5 it would take to make me feel like the situation was resolved.
Incident 1 – FedEx Next-Day is not so fast
I was working at one of my first jobs about 6 years ago. We were assembling computers for this company that was contracted by the state government to get students to assemble computers for much cheaper than the cost of constructing a factory and hiring people that wanted benefits. It was a pretty good idea, and paid way better than anything else I could get at the time. Our paychecks came via FedEx from some state agency, and of course the first check had some hang-ups and they ended up a week late. To compensate, they sent the checks via FedEx next-day once they got them working. The day of delivery came, and as the end of the day approached we got more and more curious about the whereabouts of our checks. We went to the front of the building to find a “You weren’t here” sticker attached to the front door. We asked the office workers if they saw the delivery guy (they worked in plain sight of the door) and a few of them mentioned he just kind of walked up to the door and put a sticker on it. He didn’t even fill it out on the spot; he had it pre-filled so he could just stick it on the door and run.
This guy had no intent of delivering the package; for some reason he didn’t want to waste the time.
Incident 2 – UPS Strikes out too
My first Dell laptop died the third day I had it. Actually, just the display died, but still it’s not much use without a display. I was obviously still under warranty, so a technician came over and fiddled with it and decided to order some parts to try and fix it. The parts were sent UPS next-day. Since it was near the end of Summer, we were home all that day, and in fact we had the front door wide open because it was a nice day outside. Around 4:45 I started getting kind of worried that the UPS guy might not show up, so I checked the tracking status. “Resident not home – could not deliver”. At 10:45. When we were sitting on the front porch and would have noticed a UPS truck. There was no sticker, and in fact no sighting of a UPS truck at all by the 3 people that were home at the time. Once again, I got a driver who was busy doing something else.
Several Incidents – FedEx
I had several of the same problems with FedEx when I lived in Tennessee. It was kind of a small town, and the first time I was ever making decent money, so I ordered stuff online frequently. I believe FedEx handled 6 of my packages, and I believe I received 1 without incident.
The first one I didn’t mind. It was a piece of computer junk that cost too much, so they wouldn’t leave it on the doorstep without my signed consent. I signed the door-handle thing they gave me and checked the box “Please leave it on my doorstep if someone steals it it is my fault”. They replaced it with a copy of the same label. I signed it again. This time, they replaced it with “This was the final attempt now you have to come to pick it up.” Well, it wasn’t that bad since the facility was actually half a mile from where I worked, but they were open the odd hours of 2:00-4:00 only so it took an extra day to get it.
I figured after that they had my signature on file and I’d get the next thing just fine. It was a cheap book and didn’t require signature. Except they left the door handle thing. I called and complained, but I was told that it was FedEx policy that they couldn’t leave things at apartments. Fine, I won’t fault someone for following policy. At least they were leaving notices they’d been there, right? I prepared myself to have to always pick up the packages myself from the people I was paying to deliver things to my house.
I found a loophole to their policy. If you live on the second story or higher, and your package weighs at least 30 lbs., the deliveryperson can’t be bothered to bring it back down to the truck. This was the only package that I had successfully delivered to my house.
UPS gave me no troubles, but the only thing they delivered was a this stupid 50 lb. CRT monitor whose box was so big it barely fit in the door. I suspect this has something to do with why they didn’t follow policy.
DHL delivered 4 packages without incident.
Incident 4? – Don’t ever next-day USPS from Tennessee to Mississippi
From time to time, I had the need to ship something home from Tennessee in a hurry. Since I no longer trusted UPS or FedEx, I tried using USPS and paying for next-day service. Except somehow, the package would always get delivered like this: Knoxville, TN -> Mobile, AL -> Charlotte, NC (MISROUTED) -> Mobile, AL -> Jackson, MS -> Destination. Of course, the misroute from Alabama to North Carolina caused the package to take longer than the guaranteed 24 hours.
I shipped two packages next-day. This happened twice. The only reason I’m happy is when I brought the tracking printout as proof that the package took longer than 24 hours to deliver, my money was refunded. I completely forgive and still trust the USPS because I know when they screw up they are willing to eat the cost of their screwup.
I’d comment on how they ship things but nobody uses USPS for shipping for some reason. I get my mail every day without incident though so I don’t really need a sticker to show the letter carrier came by. I guess there’s something about being reliable and cheap that scares away the big vendors.
Finally I am done
So in short, the reason I am so hacked off and motivated to waste an hour documenting my anger is because I have horrible luck with shipping companies. Over the last 7 years, in three different states, I have had the same problems happen with pretty much 4/5 of the packages I have shipped to me via FedEx and UPS. I have no one to complain to, and when they screw up your delivery they don’t have any obligation to make it right. I pay a premium in instances where I consider my package high priority, and it does nothing to guarantee that my package will make it on time because if the driver decides he’s not going to visit my house I’m just out of luck. I think I should at least get the $3-$5 that I paid for the expedited shipping back if the driver didn’t leave a label. There’s no way to scam that and get your package faster; 3-5 day is the next step up, and if you pay for 2-3 day, but purposefully make sure you can’t pick up the package until the 4th day you have gained nothing.