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Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger

Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger

Haven’t a good shipping tale to tell in a few months, but here’s another one. Sometimes I think all this tracking information we receive is just designed to drive us crazy. Ordered an animal anatomy book for Christiana to take back for her final (woo hoo!) semester—she’s into doing animal art but never had a reference from her studies. Classes started today so I was excited to see that the book had arrived in our town.

Except it hadn’t—it arrived in the metro Denver area but not at our post office, according to the tracking records. Thought that was strange but figured it would take another day to get to our house because of that.

But, no, that’s not what the tracking information said. Instead, I noticed that tracking said it was undeliverable and that I should contact the sender. Unless the address label didn’t match the shipping records on file with the sender or had been damaged on its short trip across the Midwest, then the package simply ended up at a post office 10 miles or so away from the intended destination.

Once again, didn’t seem fair that the company sending me the package had to send me a new one because the shipper didn’t get the process right. Yet that’s how things go these days.

I tried to call the post office that had rejected my package—in hopes that my package had yet to leave the building. Was not a good sign when I looked up the location online and instant bad reviews for the office popped up with statements such as “they never answer phones” or “worst customer service ever” and that sort of thing. At my local office, there may be lines at the counter due to not having enough workers but I recognize all the clerks by face—they are pleasant and competent, plus I’ve seen them answer phones and spend time resolving problems.

I spent about 10 minutes on hold as the auto-answering system tried to find me an available clerk or a clerk’s voice mail that wasn’t full. I was just in a loop going from full mail box to full mail box. Kind of ironic, right?

After a brief conversation with my local office where the clerk was flabbergasted but had no answers for me since that office did not have the package—or it would have been delivered to me and none of this would have happened—I called back to Barnes & Noble, whose first customer support person had pretty much told me—between the lines—not to expect any results once my package was marked undeliverable. I know, I know, but I still wanted to think I could just talk to someone who could locate the package that had just received its red letter mark a few hours ago and then I could drive over to pick it up myself since it had come so close to me after leaving Illinois.

What did I expect? Do I think I’m living in TV’s “The Andy Griffith Show” and its town of Mayberry, circa 1965?

Ah no, but I’d like to think what we have lost in personal connection we have gained in efficiency—instead it seems we’re less efficient. My B&N support people were nice enough, even if I don’t know them. And though I never got to talk to anyone at that other post office, I did get to talk with the local clerk whose voice I do recognize.

We’ve got all these fancy computer scanners and distribution systems but we don’t tend to support the clerk who would say, “Well, this here package says 80110. What’s it doing in 80130? Let’s get it on over to the other side of town. Shoot, this doesn’t have to go back to the sender.” I know Barney Fife wasn’t a mail clerk, but those of you who know who Barney Fife was in that fictional Mayberry, can’t you imagine him saying that in his twangy voice? In fact, my own grandfather was a rural mail carrier (no twang) and I can’t imagine him just sending something back. No, these days we want our clerks to follow the system, even when they can see what the problem is and how easy it would be to fix. Just send it back—it keeps general production moving along.

Since the tracking said my package was undeliverable, B&N was sending another copy by express delivery—no charge to me, of course. Only now they are sending it my daughter at school in Fort Collins—let’s hope the package goes straight to the 80521 office because I don’t even want to get started about the six weeks 80525 dithered before sending an 80526 package back as undeliverable. Never mind that an 80525 apartment complex and 80526 condo complex shared the same street address—not good planning, but I’m guessing it leads to common problems—but maybe no common solutions.

But, guess what? Tracking information I received the day after the undeliverable notice arrived said 80130 had sent the package on to 80110 after all—and then our local carrier delivered the book before noon on Saturday. The book turned out to be so fantastic that we’ll pay B&N twice after all and sell the second copy to another animal artist in my daughter’s class.

Tracking and shipping news—it just keeps coming these days—more often than what’s being shipped. With any luck, the (second) book will arrive on my daughter’s doorstep before she graduates in May.

P.S. The second book did arrive as planned and we did pay to keep it. Thanks to shipping snafus, the author (and B&N) made two sales, so I guess some good came out of what seemed like extra costs to B&N.

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(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Once upon a time a decade or two ago, I believed the tales told to me in business school. Perhaps they weren’t tales before some of the financial ravages occurred that changed how we do business. But those were days before right-sizing and outsourcing and all those great buzz words that might help the bottom line—and I’m sticking with “might” because I believe in a bottom line that reflects more than the latest quarter, but one that also looks to future earnings and growing customer goodwill—were quite so prominent.

Basically, I fell for operations management, not because I am some mathematical wizard who can analytically detail the best way to manufacture a product or provide a service, but because I believe the human decisions about the whys behind a process make a difference in how well an entity serves various stakeholders.

And part of the whys should be having a plan for how that entity responds when the goods are not delivered as promised or when promised or whatever. The manner in which a website is designed or a phone tree is built indicates something of the sort of service that is most valued by the organization. Resources, especially when limited, tend to get allocated toward what matters most.

When I access a website or a phone tree and note that my particular concern isn’t prominent, then either my current difficulty is not common or it isn’t considered as important as other problems to the organization.

This is where I find myself this week. Does a company so famous for its delivery systems not often have a problem with delivering packages to the wrong homes or does it focus more on resolving problems for the businesses that procure its services? Even though I pay the shipping fee to the original business, it’s that business that chooses which shipping provider to use—for all its shipping needs. They are the bigger stakeholder.

Of all the FAQs listed on the website, there is not one that says: Tracking says a package was delivered but the package was not received. Not sure if the “How do I determine what address my package was delivered to?” instructions work since it is their records available to me that show it was delivered to my address.

After a couple days of calling back and forth to the local hub for our neighborhood’s deliveries while waiting for the driver to tell the office if she recognized my house, I have found out she did not. Then I was told to call the original shipper to have them file the claim.

In my perfect little fairy tale world, this isn’t my responsibility. The company, recognizing that it has likely made a delivery to the wrong address, then takes charge of the mistake and does the legwork for me. The company facilitates this because it wants the problem corrected for me, the individual stakeholder, as well as for the larger stakeholder that is the business that chooses to send its deliveries to me and all its other customers through this particular shipper.

Beyond that, the company also tries to understand if something in the process led to the mistake in the first place in order to make changes that will reduce future errors. Plus, perhaps said company realizes that making the initial contact more customer-friendly and efficient in the face of delivery difficulties will improve the experience for all stakeholders—including its own employees and the productive and cost-effective use of their time—which in the end improves that ever important bottom line.

And then we would all live happily ever after.

As it stands, I left a phone message with the original business that sent out my package in good faith last week through the shipper. Any sweet dreams I expected from using the ordered little pillow to better position my oh-so-sensitive “princess and the pea” back for restful sleep will have to wait. If I were really living in a fairy tale, then all these challenges would simply be part of my hero’s journey to reach the happy ending.

Since I no longer believe in such tales, I’ll just say that this whole saga is not an example of best practices—for any of the stakeholders.

———————————————————–

But there’s more after all! In between writing and editing this piece, the doorbell rang. A man I did not recognize was standing there with my package. When he told me it was mine, I had to ask where he lives—inquiring minds want to know how all this really happened. His house is on the 3500 block while ours is on the 3800 block—no wonder I didn’t know him by sight. (And, yes, the correct address was marked on the box twice.)

So while what I said about businesses still stands, it turns out that sometimes you can depend on the kindness of strangers. In a world of people busy not taking enough responsibility for their actions, there are always those who take on more responsibility than is their due. As so often happens, just when my experiences seem to indicate that believing in others belongs in a mythical tale, then something happens that reminds me that there are plenty of people (and entities) living out the hero’s journey every day—in both big and small ways.

Don’t know if my pillow will be the magical solution for which I sought, but I’ll rest easier having remembered that some tales are true—which makes for a much happier ending for this particular tale.

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