True Story No38

 

Deliveries !

Like most people I don't like changes.

If I get used to a particular service, like spares deliveries, it fits into the way I work. Without parts to replace faulty ones I can't fix things, so spares and their availability are pretty critical.

I used to get my VCR spares and i/cs and suchlike for TVs from a small firm in London. Delivery was 60p and if I ordered before 6pm the postman brought the package the next morning about 9am. This went on like clockwork for years and years.

Business being so good, that firm decided to expand and move into larger premises. Unfortunately, when they moved they couldn't manage to have stuff delivered the next day. It would take 2 days. The excuse was that the Post Office was too far away. This delay may not seem important but if you have a limited amount of room then partly dismantled TV sets and VCRs soon mount up and affect productivity.

I switched to another supplier. They too began to fall down on deliveries. To guarantee same day despatch, the order had to be placed before mid-day. This usually meant that no sooner had I got an order phoned through, then I would find I needed another chip or whatever, as of course I continued to fix things after 12 o'clock. This meant more postage costs and their charge was £1 a time.

Because the routine had changed, and because I'm getting older, I began to forget to order stuff and the heaps of things around the workshop soon reached the ceiling.

Once firm "A" found that orders started to fall (other people must have had the same experience?) they started raising their prices so now I only go to them if (a) no-one else stocks that particular bit and (b) if I can negotiate a sensible price. Firm "B" often advertised stuff they didn't have and sometimes couldn't even get hold of. During a telephone call an order for six items would shrink to two items. Bearing in mind I'd still have to get the parts from somewhere, the goods/postage ratio began to get uneconomic.

Many years ago I'd opened an account with a BIG company, not usually as cheap as the smaller firms. Soon however their spares prices began to look reasonable. Availability was normally ex-stock and if one ordered enough stuff, postage was free. Delivery was always 1:30pm if I ordered before 6pm.

I got used to this and could plan ahead. For the next 5 years customers' collections could be planned to the half hour and workshop space was manageable. I had to wait for an order to reach the required free-postage level and that meant perhaps only one or two orders a week with the consequent backlog of TVs waiting around in bits.

Then improvements began. One could order up to 7pm. This was useful and had a bonus that the phone call was cheaper after 6pm. Unfortunately though, there seemed to be a grey area between 6pm and 7pm. For some reason things ordered between these times would sometimes go missing for a day. Workshop throughput started to get tricky.

I found that Parcel Force would be called on for heavy items and they would turn up on the dot at 1:30pm but lighter items would turn up at 9am the next day... or, more likely two days later...by normal "first class" post. Again planning got to be tricky. Sometimes I added a really heavy item, like 2,500 sheets of printing paper, to an order just to guarantee the parcel would arrive the next day.

For a while that worked and planning became a science once again rather than an art, as it had gradually become.

Things changed one day out of the blue. The Parcel Force chap said it was them that had ditched cut price "bulk" customers as a strategy to concentrate on "premium" customers.

The shipper said it was Parcel Force "unreliability".

I don't know which was true. Occasionally, before the change, when chasing a missing order, I'd be told that the P.F.man had gone before all the parcels for that day had been handed over to him. I don't know whether that was an excuse or not. It may have been that the Packing Department had gone home before all the day's packing had been finished?

Anyway deliveries were via a new carrier. A knock on the door just after 8am heralded the first delivery from that company. Fantastic.. I could start work earlier and clear away the TV sets and VCRs sitting around the bench. They'd be collected before noon even.

After a few deliveries the early knock ceased. Now that the delivery chap had got used to his new round we had been put on the back burner. Deliveries were now around 3:30 or 4pm. Not very convenient.

As I write this a new Royal Mail service has just got underway. For a few tens of pounds one can have letters delivered before 9am. The R.M. spokesman was questioned by the Radio 4 chap. "Not a very large take-up I understand?" "Not what we'd hoped for was the response.. not a large number of people have taken up the offer". "In fact", the Radio 4 chap went on to say, with undisguised glee, "only ONE CUSTOMER in the whole of the UK has paid up front!". The R.M. spokesman went on to say that the new service wasn't intended to be "profit making". Was this a way of stressing the LOW COST of the service? I can't immediately think of another reason. If it's non-profit making, R.M. are wasting their time offering it! I thought I must have imagined what he said.

What if I stayed up all night fixing TVs so I could guarantee that they'd be ready by 9am and not make a profit. If anyone got to know they'd have me certified.

I think the public in this country are being taken for a ride. What did we used to get for twopence halfpenny (that's about one "P" in todays money). We used to get two deliveries a day and more in big towns. You could post a letter in the morning and it would be delivered in the afternoon. One could post a Christmas card on Christmas Eve and it would be delivered the next day. That is if the postman didn't fall over because of the number of sherries he'd had before he reached your address! The postman's visit was something to look forward to as he used to deliver proper letters. Now the postman delivers very few letters and tons of rubbish. I think there ought to be special skips outside the sorting offices and the first thing the postman should do is to dump all the junk mail before he starts his round. Then maybe we'd all get our post before 9am and the postmen could knock off early and put their feet up.

A young chap on Radio 4 the other day said he'd worked in a Royal Mail sorting office during his vacation and had been truly amazed at the goings on. It cost a lot of effort to DELAY second class mail. In fact it seems that second class mail, because of the extra handling it receives, should be MORE EXPENSIVE than first class mail. Isn't this a nonsense! The reason some first class mail deliveries take longer than they should is that they sometimes inadvertently get sorted into second class. The logic of first and second class mail escapes me. Why not have a flat rate of 10p for letters and £1 for junk mail?

Anyway, not only are deliveries starting to get delayed, the packing of the parcels is getting a bit slipshod. A CD laser tray was squashed through the letter box in its jiffy bag and dropped onto the doormat in pieces. A line output transformer in a jiffy bag had its ferrite yoke in pieces. A BIG plastic clock arrived in a SMALL box whose flaps weren't closed together and there was a big scratch across its face. The number of "returns" are rising. It doesn't cost me anything to post these, that is in monetary terms.. but in terms of time it is unacceptable. I have to gather the information; ring the supplier; wait while details are entered on the computers; describe the problem; then produce a covering letter and pack the item. Then I've got to make sure I'm in when the carrier arrives or visit the Post Office if it's a small item. Not to mention a re-order and the ensuing wait.

The reason for most of these problems may lie with the people employed to carry out the various tasks?

Today I heard a loud crash at the back door. Unusually I was in the house and not the workshop. I went to see what the noise was.

Lying on the gravel in pouring rain was a parcel.

It was the "2003" CPC catalogue.

The plastic wrapper was split and there was mud over the exposed paper. That is; the edges of all 2,500 plus pages.

I picked it up and tackled a pair of delivery drivers sitting in their white van outside in the road.

"Look at this catalogue. It's wet and muddy".

The driver said, "my mate didn't want to get wet, here's another", handing me a slightly dog-eared copy less wrapper, lying in the back of the van.

I took it and remarked it wasn't much better than the first. "Have them both", he said.

"Do you realise these catalogues are worth about £20?" I said. "We're delivering them free", he said.

"It's got to last me a year", I replied.

I reurned to the house and started wiping off the mud.

A knock on the door a few moments later, and there was the driver holding a pristine shrink-wrapped copy.

"Have this one", he said, removing the wrapper.

Then he noticed that there was an address label on the back.

He borrowed a pair of scissors and cut off the label.

"I'll report it as undeliverable", he said, relieving me of both the muddy copy and the dog-eared copy.

I now have a clean dry copy without dog-ears but with a hole cut in the back cover.

You just can't get the staff nowadays!

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