Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The thick clueless layer of Fedex

(How FedEx FeXed me)

The picture is very appropriate: it is the cube grenade I ordered at Hugh MacLeod's @gapingvoid gallery
It shows company hierarchy as we know it: sociopaths on top, losers at the bottom, and a thick layer of clueless in between to protect the upper layer from the bottom one

I bought it because it will remind me of the division of powers, and I will hang it in the master bedroom, which also serves as my home office

Little could I have known that I'd encounter a multitude of cluelessness on getting the pic from there (US) to here (NL). This is its tale:

April 29th, my order gets shipped. I patiently wait. Could have tracked it but that doesn't change a thing as it's out of my hands until it's in my hands, so I didn't

May 23rd. I get notice from the gallery that my order has been returned due to an "incorrect address". They show me the address they have, and it's pretty perfect. So I wonder, and go to the @Fedex site to see who I can contact.

No bio. No URL even. 20 Tweets there in almost three months, not a good sign. I try to decipher the hardly legible white and slightly dark grey on a light grey background, of course reading from top to bottom, and left to right - that's what we Westerns do

Calling a customer service telephone number in the US? Not likely. Job inquiries? No, not really. Follow other Twitter feeds (@Fedex itself is one of them?!) looks good, there's @FedexCares there, so I hit that

Wow. 20 tweets in 5 months - I guess they care a lot huh? Not about customer complaints, that's for sure.
Next, I find @FedexEmily who does International Shipping - I somehow overlook Customer Service but I'll get to that.
So I tweet to Emily:

Dear @FedexEmily, Fedex couldn't manage to ship my order from US to NL - help is much appreciated

At around the same time, the helpful Tim Kelly has managed to alert Al, who tweets:

@MartijnLinssen If you can email your tracking number to me at, I'll be happy to follow up.

Emily also finds me and tweets:

@MartijnLinssen Hello, do you have a tracking number? Please send it via dm and we'll take a look at it.

There. Bad start, great continuation though. All the rest of the communication goes on via email, save one reply from Emily

How did that go? Very, very, very bad

First Al tells me that Fedex doesn't deliver to PO boxes. I ask him for a link to the international shipping instructions, and he gives me a link to a 10,000 word page showing the Netherlands country profile for Fedex. Useless and very customer unfriendly - the average ToS has less words

Meanwhile I've found Fedex's international shipment instructions myself, where it clearly says that Fedex doesn't deliver to PO boxes inside the US - so what Al says is not true

I ask again: Why did my package get returned? His answer: Because the recipient's phone number was not provided, the package was returned to the sender

Not true either

"Provide complete sender and recipient addresses, including phone numbers and ZIP codes" it says. That's a tip, not a disclaimer. Two lines down it says "FedEx cannot deliver to P.O. boxes within the U.S." - now that is very, very clear. This doesn't say "FedEx cannot deliver without phone numbers and ZIP codes" (of course it doesn't).
I understand that a phone number can be convenient in case of distress, but if you have a correct address, why call?

So, this time, I try a little bit harder:

And that is not something you can check on picking up the package? I'm sure it is

Destination country is known, so you know Postbus equals PO Box, you don't see the phone number, so you refuse to ship it - that would make sense

Why do you need my phone number for delivery, if I may ask?
When the exact same package is now shipped with the exact same address data, INCLUDING MY PHONE NUMBER, will Fedex call me? They should, but won't, of course - that'll cost dearly in terms of time and money. And no point in calling people when delivering to a PO Box because they'll never be around the PO Box anyway

Al, please just tell me: you guys screwed up badly, you are very sorry, and will ship it via FedEx® International Next Flight to make up for this so I can have it tomorrow. The apology would make up for some, the shipment would do the rest

Al knows how and when to pick his fights, so he replies:

Dear Mr. Linssen:

I apologize for any inconvenience. If you have any further questions regarding your shipment, please contact our international department at (800) 247-4747.



A little later, Emily sends me an email, telling me the address was incorrect, had no telephone number. They tried to call the shipper for three weeks and then returned to sender - they say

Now you know about comma splice, don't you? It's deadly. Was my address incorrect because it had no telephone number, was it incorrect yet it had no telephone number? The possibilities are endless.
I asked Emily as well why Fedex picked up the package when there wasn't the apparently desperately needed phone number on it, but it has been 21 hours since then and I'm not expecting an answer anymore

Today, I looked at the tracking information, and low and behold:

Oh my. Just a zip and a town? Now that must be hard to deliver to, isn't it? This must be what they mean by "incorrect address". A quick call to the shipper or consignee could have quickly solved that, for sure.
Oh well. Case closed then right?

Wrong. Remember big Al -utterly misleadingly and incorrectly- telling me they don't ship to PO boxes? Ah. So they had my PO box and correct address after all, but it just wasn't on the package?! Or the delivery guy had a bad day or eyesight, or both

That must be why it left the depot for delivery, but returned the next day without a delivery exception, and probably just lay in a corner gathering dust.
Now I understand why Fedex never answered my question satisfactorily - they screwed up, and they knew it - but lied to me several times trying to disguise it

So, I present to you the thick clueless layer of Fedex: the delivery guy, the depot, the customer service, and their international shipping department - and who knows who else

Update May 27th 16:00 CET: I got an email from FedexEmily telling me she'd "send me a reply once their Netherland operations provide additional details concerning my shipment". It's been 36 hours since. Safe to assume FedEx really FeXed me, and prefers lying to their customer over a proper product, service and reputation

Update June 10th 9:45 CET: I got an email from FedexAl telling me that "As a courtesy, I have arranged a credit for the shipper for the cost to send your item to and from the Netherlands".
I appreciate that, and let FedexAl know.
On a side note, he also told me that in the future they'd need my telephone number to deliver to my P.O. Box. I checked the international shipping instructions, but they haven't changed...

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