Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The final mile

This entry has little to do with photography - although there is a tangential thread of relevance that runs through the tale with which I am about to regale you.

Like many of us these days I shop online for items large and small, expensive and cheap. I order from a variety of suppliers, who in turn rely upon a variety of couriers to get their goods "the final mile" to my door. Their choice of courier is critical, because a bad choice reflects in turn badly upon the supplier, calling their judgement into question, obliterating any goodwill they may have accrued through the product selection and ordering process and, ultimately, damaging their brand.

There is one courier in particular that operates within the UK market. For the purposes of this blog they shall remain nameless, more or less. For the sake of brevity I shall henceforth refer to them as "The Undeliverables". For unfathomable reasons a very large organisation that will also remain nameless - let's call them something totally unrecognisable, like ..."Danube" - rely upon them to fulfil many of their orders - in spite of page after page of complaints upon their own customer forums and consumer review sites elsewhere.

In recent weeks The Undeliverables have messed up deliveries to me on four separate occasions.  Reasons have ranged from "can't find address" (while everyone else on the planet, from prosthelytising God-botherers to pizza-delivery boys can...) via dumping parcels on the drive outside the front gate, to the old favourite "nobody home" (I was in, expecting them, and listening for the doorbell - which never rang...) My favourite was when the driver managed to walk straight past my large, white, front door with a big bell-push on it to knock timidly at the small, brown back door some feet beyond...  

Not my front door...

The Undeliverables pride themselves on having a high-tech approach to keeping you, the customer informed.  This only works if the information they provide is accurate and reliable.  Actually, it is worse than that... by tantalising you with a track on a map showing that you are "....delivery #20" and that your parcel is "...85 minutes away" it makes it a hundred times worse when your parcel does not in fact materialise for one of the reasons listed above.

The Undeliverables like to come across as media-savvy too, encouraging you to Tweet your experience.  I have - on every occasion.  Their standard response is to ask you to PM them your consignment number so that they can "look into it".  It took me three loops of this particular Kafkaesque cycle before I discovered that they don't keep details for more than 72 hours - thus each subsequent failure triggered no alarm in their systems, no "we've heard from this chap before".  Like goldfish, each new problem was, to them at least, really new...

As a result of these experiences I have taken to avoiding them at every opportunity. You'd think that this would make life difficult, but in fact it has been up to now quite straightforward.  At the mention of The Undeliverables name on my delivery notification, I email or telephone the supplier and request an alternate method of carriage.  Most up to now have been happy to oblige, particularly since I make the point that I am happy to pay extra carriage charges to avoid The Undeliverables having any part in the process.

Up to now.

Today I came across a company that refused to countenance my request to deliver via another means.  I offered to pay double their quoted carriage fees in order to avoid The Undeliverables, but they were having none of it.  The managing director himself, who appeared determined to explain and justify his every decision, refused point blank to countenance my request.  "We have insurance" (I don't care) "We have a contract" (I don't care) "We can't make exceptions" (I do care, since other, larger organisations can and do when reasonably requested to do so in return for additional fees) "They're as bad as all the others" (No, they're not - the others are merely incompetent; The Undeliverables seem to take a special delight in being spectacularly, inventively, creatively incompetent).

I explained my unwillingness to have my purchase entrusted to The Undeliverables.  The managing director remained determined to enlighten me as to why his way was the right way.  I was not interested.  Even after I explained - politely - that I was therefore cancelling my order, he remained hell-bent on justifying his stance.

I am the customer. I am not interested in why you have chosen to contract your order fulfilment with a brand-damaging courier.  All I want is the item I have ordered, delivered speedily and reliably.


Net result:
  • One lens order (see, I said I would get back to photography) cancelled 
  • One company that I have never dealt with before and now will never deal with again, has lost a sale
  • One negative tweet
  • One negative entry for said company on TrustPilot
  • One lens now ordered elsewhere, that will deliver tomorrow via Royal Mail (who have never yet had a problem finding my front door...)
  • One blog entry as above
So, apart from the fact that the item in question was a lens, what has this to do with photography, I hear you ask?

Remember the final mile?

Whether amateurs or professionals, as photographers we spend hundreds, nay thousands of pounds/euros/dollars/quatloos on our kit.  We spend more thousands in going out and about at home and overseas and taking photos with same.  Our task is not complete until we have then processed those photos and presented them, as prints or online, for others' enjoyment and approval.  Our final mile is delivering the image, to the best of our ability in our chosen medium.  It matters if we are professionals, because we are being paid to deliver. It matters if we are amateurs because we should take a pride in what we do.

It seems to be far easier than delivering a single poxy parcel... 

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