So, I got the Powerbook (6,8) from the great folks at Terra Soft Solutions. It was shipped by USPS expedited air mail. This means that the service was great within the US (as you would expect) but that after leaving the US, I was not told it would be handed off to Parcelfarce (until I figured this out through a few google searches), who managed to screw it up as per their wonderfully high service standards. I was able to track it to the local sattelite depot via their website (which doesn’t automatically check international inbounds because that would obviously take a little more CPU time and users are obviously happy to find the check box for that anyway). Pop quiz:
You’ve got a laptop turning up expedited air mail, for which you’ve paid in the region of 250 USD. Your carrier says your package is “out for delivery”. What does this mean?
More than three or four of you thought this meant that it is sitting on a van en route. In fact, Parcelfarce have a different set of definitions than the rest of us. For example, in this case, expedited 3-4 day delivery means that if you have VAT charges exceeding 90 or 100GBP to pay then they will not take the package on the van (because you need to pay VAT and their drivers don’t do that – which is fair enough, I wouldn’t want them having safety concerns) and instead they’ll send you a SNAIL MAIL letter explaining the charges and invite you to pay. How quaint. How British. Now utterly not International Expedited air mail delivery. I asked them why their website couldn’t just tell me how much I needed to pay and let me pay – it knew there were charges, but lied about what was happening with the package and certainly didn’t tell me how much I owed – their own internal staff interface knows this stuff (as the friendly guy in the depot told me, along with the fact that the line they fed me about upgrading is something they’ve been saying for around 7 years *and* that they’ve trained their staff in a new system which is months behind schedule. He said he wouldn’t remember how to use the new system – coming soon to a depot near you!).
So, it’s lucky I was tracking the package on the morning and saw that it was out for delivery at 08:04. When nothing turned up within an hour (I live 15 minutes from the depot) I decided to call to find out where on the route I was. I then learned the package was sitting on a guy’s desk (having gone thousands of miles around the world quite successfully prior to this) and that I needed to pay VAT. Fine. I offered to pay by credit card. Ok. But I won’t be able to get the package the same day because all the vans have left and they don’t have any more (someone start an online fund – seems Parcelforce are short on vans now) so I can pay and wait another day for my International Expedited Air Mail delivery to go the last few miles. Turns out all the vans leave before they bother to answer the phone in the mornings – so there’s a catch 22 situation there. I tried calling just after 08:00 but went through to an annoying voicemail system which I eventually managed to break out of (via the “do not call this number” number) only to go to a voicemail. Fine. I’m frustrated and annoyed at them (but it’s not the guy at the depot’s fault – and I never take it out on them – that’s for the Parcelforce management to deal with). I eventually just paid for a taxi to go pick it up. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m *NOT* going to voluntarily use Parcelfarce and if I end up having to tollerate them, I’m picking up in person.
Anyway. I called their head office and spoke about my issues with their service. I only got my package vaguely on time because I took proactive action. Luckily it wasn’t a business critical package on this occasion. I tried explaining this to the MD’s office but was fed various buck-passing lines about customs and how it’s all not Parcelfarce’s fault (they know that name very well, apparently they hear it quite often, I do wonder why). It’s not acceptable to pass the buck. It’s not the UK government’s fault. It is Parcelfarce’s fault for not living in the 21st centuary and letting customers go onto their tracking site to see where the package really is and giving them a chance to pay. The person on the telephone seemed unwilling to accept these simple facts so the conversation broke down and I had to talk about an ombudsman complaint route. There isn’t one (they’re unregulated, great). I can however complain to them (fat difference that’ll make here) and apparently their relationship with the USPS is longstanding and they rarely get complaints. Well, I’m going to have to pass this on to BBC Watchdog as an example of woeful inefficiency.