Delivery Disconnect

Those of you who knew me back in 2007 have probably heard my infamous moving story. After living for a few weeks with practically no furniture, I finally got my stuff around Easter time.

ABF, which was good on the pick up of my cubes in St. Louis was nightmarish in Washington, D.C. — if I ever leave town, I will use somebody else. The rub is that to have these cubes dropped off, you had to be there to sign for them. Then you had like 24 hours to unpack them before they got hauled back. Seeing as I started a new job in town, I didn’t want to immediately take days off, as I thought that was unprofessional.

So, I waited. Holy week came around, and my boss was kind enough to give us Good Friday off. Not a federal holiday, I called ABF and said “Can you deliver them on Good Friday?” They said “Well, we’ll be short staffed, but sure, even though we won’t know for sure when they’ll come on Friday.” That was fine with me, I responded. I had the whole day off.

Holy Thursday comes around and I am on a Capitol tour. The Alexandria Police Department calls. ABF had dropped off the cubes, without my signature, on my neighbor’s front lawn. He called my landlord, and I got the call. The tour ended.

I set up a temporary command center at my desk, conferencing in ABF and my parents. People were not pleased. If this wasn’t resolved or handled appropriately, the police would tow my goods and impound them. Likely damaging them in the process.

Thankfully, I sweet talked (read: bribed with a big ass bottle of Maker’s Mark) my neighbor into calming down. Postal Service retirees can get really cranky. Crisis averted. My college buddy “Random” was a saint and helped me move all my stuff into the cramped basement on Buchanan Street. I’m not complaining, all of my stuff made it cramped.

Now, most people get pissed off when the cable guy or other service provider gives you a broad window for them to visit. Nobody likes taking a half day or working from home.  There are fewer infuriating things than hearing:

An associate will be at your house between the hours of 9am and 5pm.

I mean, come on, seriously? Yesterday, IKEA confirmed that they will make a delivery at my house today between the hours of 6pm and 10pm. They called twice to confirm. One robot, one human.

Today, the delivery guy calls me and says they are ahead of schedule, and asked if anybody is going to be home before 6. I said, no, I won’t be home until just before 6.

The guy was sort of dejected, because here I was telling him that he’s gotta abide by that 4 hour window I was promised.

At first, I was happy. You know “haha, sticking it to the man.” But then I sort of felt bad, nobody wants to work late, and presumably, this guy is good at his job since he’s ahead of schedule (or people didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.)

It got me thinking, isn’t there a better way we could structure this? Right now, companies do deliveries in a variety of ways:

  • Some just tell you the time and you gotta be there or make another appointment
  • Others fine you if you set up an appointment and aren’t there
  • Others tell you a time and give you the option to cancel/reschedule it.

The old saying is “Time is money.” Not many folks are going to be able to take deliveries during the daytime, unless they work at home, have days off, or have a spouse who stays at home. More people get off work early sometimes, and most people are available in the evenings.

Maybe companies could build a feature into their system that gives people a discount to be subject to the whim of the system, another discount for those who choose times of lesser demand, and a premium for those who can only accept goods at a certain time (if it is busy.) Similarly, if people could rush home, like what I’d have to do to help this guy finish his deliveries early, they could get a discount for helping cut costs.

Of course, this would have to be dynamic and vary from day to day, and from business to business. And it would have to be clearly explained to consumers — who have sometimes a hard time understanding relatively simple concepts like “overdrafts.”  I am surprised that adopting a system like this isn’t all too common. It should be. 

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One Thought on “Delivery Disconnect

  1. I remember the day when you moved away from the Pridelands.

    It was sad. But I know that you looked up into the stars and remembered who you are.

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