He Said, She Said: Delivery Networks in the 21st Century

May 8, 2007

I will try to keep this brief, unlike the vast majority of customer service rants.

I ordered a gift for a friend from Bluefly.com. DHL recorded three attempts to deliver the package during the day. No one was home. DHL returned the item to the Bluefly warehouse. I was credited the price of the item, but I was charged $8 for shipping to the destination, and $7 for shipping back to the warehouse.

The DHL online package tracking showed me the three attempts, but it might as well be fiction, because my friend says he never got a notice.

Bluefly would have none of my protests. My problem fell in the Responsibility Gap between the vendor and the delivery service.

DHL says no one can prove the driver didn’t leave a notice. “You’re asking us to ask our driver if he remembers the delivery,” the service representative said.

“No, I wouldn’t expect that. Don’t you have some sort of slip log? Like a checkbook? Or even a barcode on the slip that gets scanned when left?” I asked, reasonably, hopefully.

“No,” the representative replied. “Sorry, but it’s a question of ‘he said, she said’.”

In the 21st century, many of us know that the “last mile” is a huge challenge for companies trying to get telecom and cable services from the main conduits into people’s homes. If my experiences with package delivery are any indicator, the last mile is a great and unsung problem for companies that claim fast, worldwide delivery. GPS may surveil delivery fleets (not sure of that); barcode systems scan packages repeatedly throughout the process. All that tracking, yet the last mile rests on good faith. And when good faith is called into question, the assumption is that the customer is wrong.

It might be time to invest in a personal solution. Too bad you have to be home to receive it.

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