This week millions of shoppers will have asked themselves: ‘are British couriers uniquely useless?’
In the past couple of weeks I’ve heard stories of (and endured) missed deliveries, damaged goods and the old favourite of fictitious ‘You were out’ cards.
Complaints are generally rewarded with the whiney excuse that the courier “is busier than usual”.
Colour me callous, but if the rest of British industry can scale up to meet their peak periods, why shouldn’t we expect the courier industry to do the same?
It’s not like Christmas moves around in the calendar, it’s always the same date every year, giving couriers ample time to ensure they have the infrastructure in place to deliver the items we’ve paid for.
Yet year after after, they fail spectacularly.
How many Christmas gifts will end up arriving next week because a lazy or incompetent courier couldn’t be bothered to do the job it charged a retailer to do?
One reason couriers are so poor is because, with a few honourable exceptions, the companies who hire them are pathetically passive. The carrier knows no matter how badly they foul up, there’s almost no chance they’ll lose a contract.
The call centre staff taking the irate calls often don’t work for the brand the customer is buying from, so they lack any authority to bollock the courier when they drop the ball.
And let’s be honest, when we’ve wasted a day needlessly waiting in, that’s what we want to happen.
We want the company we bought from to gather up our annoyance, our frustration and our anger, roll it up into a large ball and shove it down the throat of the miscreant courier.
What we often instead get is the whiff of a suggestion that we’re being unreasonable to expect people to deliver goods on time, when we should be delighted that we get to wait in for a second day.
Am I alone in refusing to order from companies who use certain big name couriers?
Retailers need to understand that the poor service their chosen courier inflicts on the end customer reflects badly on them.
When a seller uses a poor courier, they’re signalling that they lost interest in providing a decent service as soon as the money left the buyer’s card.
In many cases I come away convinced the seller is happy to accept the complaints as the flip side of shaving 10p off the cost of each delivery when they last put the contract out for tender.
Increasingly I’m buying less and less online because I don’t have the confidence that the delivery process will work for me.
When I do order online, I tend to do so only when ‘collect from store’ is an option.
Instead of waiting in for a courier not to arrive (let’s not kid ourselves, few of us expect the delivery to take place on the promised day), the purchased items get delivered to a nearby store where you can collect them at a time convenient to you.
In the past few months, just one ‘collect from store’ order went wrong and that turned out to be due to miscommunication within the store. In the same period I’ve endured dozens of failed courier deliveries, all due to failings on the part of the courier.
My single New Year resolution for 2012 is to stop dealing with companies which want me to use their cheap, lazy, flaky courier instead of being able to pick up an item in-store and at a time of my choosing.