Bibliophile Lass (bibliogirl) wrote,
Bibliophile Lass

The tyranny of the delivery

There seems to be a fine line to be drawn, for a company who sells things which must be delivered to people's homes, between promising the world on a stick and expecting your customers to become slaves to your slightest whim. Sadly too many companies seem to prefer the indentured-servitude approach.

Four recent examples:

1) I ordered some items from a mail-order catalogue - some towels and a hanging rail for clothes. The hanging rail was intended for use at the new house while we were waiting for wardrobes to be delivered.

When I placed the order, they told me the rail was currently out of stock but they would be getting more in on date X (I forget precisely what X was, but it was about a week before we moved; long enough for them to deliver it before it was needed) and that it would go straight out at that point.

I called them the day before we moved to enquire as to the whereabouts of the rail. "Oh, we won't be getting more stock in until date Y." Date Y was about three weeks after we moved. "But I was told you would have more stock in by date X?" "Oh, we obviously didn't have enough come in to fulfil all the orders."

Result: one company I shan't be shopping with again. A shame, they had a lot of nice kitchen-related stuff :(

2) The dishwasher. Plus points for the company concerned: they would deliver on a Sunday. Minus points: they would not give us even an approximate delivery time until the previous evening (about 7pm on the Saturday), and it could have been as early as 7am on the Sunday... In the end they gave us a four-hour timeslot (which was very accurate - something like 12:49 to 4:49; I suspect it was an estimated time and a very large error bar) and they turned up right at the start of that. Possibly even before the start of it, but in any case not at 7am, which was what I was worried about.

3) Our previous cable company at the old house. I hadn't given them notice until today because it was possible that one of us might need to wait in for deliveries, painters, etc. and therefore it'd be useful to be able to work from there using the existing broadband access. (This is now not likely to be an issue. Everyone who needs them has keys.) They wanted 30 days' notice - fine - and also wanted to come round and pick up the cable box - fine, in principle. "The earliest someone could come to pick it up would be Thursday between 12 and 6?" "You want me to sit in an empty house for six hours? I think not..." I offered to post it back to them, but they didn't seem to like that idea. When they call me back (sometime in the dim and distant future, I'll bet) I'll suggest that they pick up the box from my office, somewhere where I will be between 12 and 6...

4) I suppose I shouldn't praise these guys too highly since I haven't had the goods yet! We needed a stepladder, some kitchen steps and a loft ladder for home, and didn't have an easy means of buying them locally - well, no, that's not quite right; we had an easy means of buying them (the Incredible Melting Credit Card) but no means of getting the stepladder home. However these guys had all three items in stock and offered next day delivery for free; for a premium they would even do pre-09:30 delivery. Should be with me tomorrow.

The point I'm not making very clearly here is that so many companies assume that there will be someone at home all day when they're making delivery policies or assigning delivery times. I can barely think of anyone to whom this applies - and most of those who fit the bill are parents, or people of my parents' generation. Most firms will offer 'morning' or 'afternoon' slots, but even those aren't that helpful. I don't mind paying a smallish premium for delivery at a guaranteed time (assuming it's a guaranteed convenient time; guaranteeing that I can have a delivery at 04:00 is not much use), and I can't believe I'm the only one.

When my parents retired, before they moved out of the area, my mother always said that she was quite happy to wait in for things for me (and she did, on several occasions; thanks, Mum). This wasn't an entirely unmixed blessing since she doesn't drive and getting from their home to ours by public transport wasn't easy, but we could usually arrange for my dad to drop her off and then we'd pay for a cab home for her, or something like that.

It's often been said that between my group of local friends, we could almost keep someone employed as a one-person concierge service - waiting in for deliveries, picking up stuff, handling admin. Maybe we'll get round to it one of these years.

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