Monday, 10 August 2009

Canada Post and UPS vie for Crappy Service Award

It's midnight in Halifax last Sunday and the sinking feeling of disaster strikes as you walk to your car in the parking lot and cannot find your keys. A quick phone call and you realize that you have left your keys back in Ottawa with your family. What to do?

Sending the keys by urgent courier the next day would seem to be the best course of action. But wait, the next day, Monday, is a civic holiday in both Ontario and Nova Scotia and all public and private courier services are closed. Quebec is open for business however. Hmmm, Gatineau is just across the river in Quebec so shipping from there would would work, n'est-ce pas? A call to Fedex, however, reveals that Gatineau isn't operating Monday either since that side of the river is served from Ottawa. Thanks for warning me, at least I know. To ship Fedex would require driving an hour and a half down the highway towards Montreal to reach the nearest area served by Montreal which is operating and moving parcels.

What about Canada Post? Maybe they are operating in Quebec? The website seems to suggest so - viz the Public Holiday Schedule. The next morning, just to be sure, phone up the nearest Gatineau postal counter at Marché Jovi and ask specifically, whether the Priority Next AM will deliver a package by the next day in Halifax. Answer: Yes. (It is interesting how few postal counters are in Gatineau as an attempt to locate one in the downtown area using the Canada Post "Find a Post Office" search tool proposes only locations in Ottawa when using the postal code of the Quebec-side Canadian Musuem of Civilisation - K1A 0M8 - as the search point.)

Drive to the Marché Jovi postal counter and ask again whether there will be a pickup and whether the Priority service will get there by Tuesday noon. Again, yes. Notice the sign above the counter touting the service "In a panic? Use Priority Next AM". Away the fateful package goes.

Later that day in the evening something seems not right when the online tracking tool gives a "no information available" message. The next morning, same story. The next afternoon in Halifax, no package has arrived either. Now learning the irony of the promotional blurb - panic, if present before the shipment, will be maintained and boosted further by Canada Post!

Canada Post customer service telephone rep says no follow-up or investigation is even considered until 24 hours after the delivery was due and then a case will be opened which they promise to give results of after another five business days. Another day passes and still no online status of any sort. Keys have disappeared.

Desperate person in Halifax enquires about getting replacement key made by dealer but is told that car would have to be towed to the dealer and, by the way, dealer cannot give an appointment to have key made till the following week. (btw, Replacement car keys make an interesting story. So glad that house key replacements don't work like car keys.)

After two days and no word or sign of the first key, a second spare key is sent by separate courier, this time UPS Express, whose tracking system appears to operate and shows key no.2 getting all the way to Dartmouth by early the next day.

Day 3, out of the blue Canada Post delivers the first key in the early afternoon. A few hours later after the fact, tracking information mysteriously and miraculously appears in the tracking tool.

Meantime, the key via UPS seems to have got stuck - no delivery that day, as per the service promise. All through day 3 and day 4, there is no change in status in the tracking system. Suddenly, late in the evening of day 4, a note appears in the tracking system that the delivery contains "multiple address errors". Funny, the identical address was eventually used successfully by Canada Post. And there was no attempt to contact the recipient's telephone number given to UPS nor does the tracking system show any attempt to load on the delivery truck. Looks suspiciously like an after-the-fact attempt to cover up the fact that the package was forgotten in the Dartmouth terminal for a day.

Canada Post is apparently going to refund the shiping fees automatically. UPS meanwhile is making it difficult to claim the shipping fees, saying it is necessary to go through the local UPS store where the package was dropped off.

Unfortunately, there is little the consumer can do when it is really necessary to ship something quickly. We are at the mercy of big organizations whose objective is to automate and reduce costs. Funny how the revenue generating systems always seem to work while the delivery and tracking systems flounder. Reminds one of airlines and their handling of baggage.

The whole idea of having to pay a huge premium to get one-day delivery service in Canada compares pitifully with the UK where ordinary first class mail gets delivered reliably the next business day, i.e. for 39p or about 71 cents vs the $35 it cost for the Premier Next AM. And the UK Post Office delivers six days a week. Guaranteed one day delivery costs £4.95 or $9.00.

Oh, and this episode suggests it is a good idea to keep the spare set of car keys inside the car. The CAA can pop open a door in a few seconds.

Update late August - both Canada Post and UPS have refunded the shipping charges, so they at least got that right.

4 comments:

frosty88 said...

UK is a fair bit smaller country and more urbanized than Canada so it makes sense to can make a blanket guarantee easier.

Not that I'm a fan of Canada Post nor UPS especially UPS due to their extraordinary high brokerage fees.

CanadianInvestor said...

frosty, fair point about size ... makes me wonder what counts most in postal delivery end to end. There is huge number of potential transfer points in the UK, which is where things usually get screwed up. Does it offset the natural distance advantage?

An advantage the UK has for mail delivery that Canada doesn't is good train service. I highly recommend a visit to one of the world's best museums - the Railway museum in York - where the postal service use of trains is laid out amongst many other delights.

Anonymous said...

Well, the whole mess can be avoided by keeping a spare key on the outside of the car. I'm often leaving my keys inside the car, left in another jacket, etc. etc., and find that the outside-hidden-key is a lifesaver. Saves the cost of a CAA membership too.

But I do feel for you, loosing keys just before a long weekend!!!

Blair Conrad said...

I was shipping a birthday present to my grandmother the other day (Regular Parcel™ - not
Priority™ Next A.M., so the story may be different) and was talking to the behind-the-counter Postal Person about the tracking number. She, sounding exasperated at Canada Post, explained that it's really a delivery confirmation number, not a tracking number, and that she wished it were labelled as such.
So in at least some cases, when we try to use the number to monitor a package, the fact that it doesn't give any information until the package arrives is a feature. This appears to be confirmed by the How Track Works web page. Craziness!

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