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Somebody please, for the love of god, fix shipping/couriers
160 points by georgespencer on May 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments
In the past three years I've had to ship items nationally or receive shipped items in the UK on a few occasions. The experience has been universally terrible.

1. Sign-up process is convoluted. This should be so simple. Are you a business or a person? What are your billing details and contact details? Done. Don't give me a Merchant ID or make me telephone you. Don't make me put in address information: you can have that when I send something.

2. Believe it or not, I do not know how heavy my item is or its exact dimensions. I threw away the packaging. I don't have a set of bathroom scales because I'm not a teenage girl. Charge me a premium for not knowing. I don't give a shit. Just don't force me to enter the dimensions of something which I might not have in front of me or schlep it to the scales at my friends' house so that you can calculate how much diesel you need to be putting in your vans. You're coming to my place to pick it up. Why the fuck can't you just do this yourself? Or how about you plug into a product database that knows how heavy stuff is? While we're on the subject: do you have any idea how offensive the idea of printing something is to me? An actual, honest to god physical piece of paper? Why? And then what do I do? Attach it to the box with glue? String? Tape? Fucking hell, you guys go around picking up parcels all day, can't you just do this yourself with special stickers? Charge me a few bucks for it.

3. Don't give me a 25-digit code to track my parcel. That's what, a hundred quadrillion potential shipments? Enough for every single person in the world to send 14 million parcels each with significant room to breathe. Make it very simple for me to get to the parcel I want to track. I can track by consignment or reference number with TNT, but it's not clear which one is provided by a shipper in some cases. Don't you dare fucking say "Consignment number not recognised" when I put the reference number into the consignment number box. Do it for me. You know TNT recycle these numbers? If you log in to their odious website with a tracking number you had to decipher from the wall of text they send you, you sometimes see that your package has been delivered! To someone called Ben! Who lives in Scotland! Oh, no, wait, their crummy service has 25 digit non-unique tracking numbers. Makes perfect sense.

4. Make it useful for me to track my parcel. "Your package is being processed in our network" is a message I've seen a few times. Tip: any time you put a code or a status number into the human-facing message for parcel tracking, you've fucked up. If something is going to DELAY or SPEED UP the arrival of my parcel, that's all I care about. If you're not going to provide me with a useful window to receive my parcel or send it (i.e. a one hour window) then you should tell me where your van is with GPS. Fuck the security concerns; put RFID on your parcels and secure your vans with that futuristic stuff banks use (I think it's a combination of paint, sensors and BIG SCARY WARNING SIGNS). Just don't treat me, the guy who pays for your courier service, like a criminal who can't be trusted to know where his parcel is, just because someone might take a chance that someone is using the same van to ship Faberge eggs in my area and roll it.

5. Don't make me sit at home for an entire day waiting for my parcel. Give me a specific window when you're going to deliver it and try to be there on time. If you're late leaving or there's a mechanical problem or traffic or roadworks or inclement weather, update me. Estimating time is hard. I get that. It's not so hard that you have to identify "Between 9am - 1pm" as your four hour window. Today (May 14) I tried to use Parcel Force for the first time, having exhausted all other options in previous attempts to ship things. They said they'd pick up my parcel betwen 14:00 and 16:30. I arrived home from work at 13:40 to find that they'd been and dropped a note through the door saying "Sorry we missed you." The note was labeled to say that he'd tried to collect the parcel at 14:00, twenty minutes into the future. I called the depot straight away. "What time is it right now?" "13:50." HOW ARE YOU GUYS STILL IN BUSINESS?

6. Find a way or make away, or: I don't care about your difficulty in getting my package to me, it's your job. I don't care that my house is hard to find. It's your job. I don't care that you ran out of vans at the depot. It's your job. I don't care that the handwriting your driver put on the form was inscrutable. It's your job. Get my package to me on time, or find another business to run.

7. If you're going to have a local depot, make it one I can pick up from. "I'm afraid your package is being held in our depot," said the email from TNT. Oh, no problem, I happen to live 45 minutes away from it and since I've been waiting for this oft-delayed package for A FUCKING WEEK WHILST IT SAT IN YOUR FUCKING DEPOT, I'd rather eat the time up and go get it myself. "Sorry, you can't collect from our depots! We're a courier service! We bring them to you!" No, you don't. GNRRGRGHRHGHG.

8. Never, ever make me phone you to find out anything at all, ever. If I have to phone you, I'm automatically pissed. You should phone me to beg forgiveness when my package is delayed. You should email me and text me when you leave a note saying you missed me. You should never call me to say that you're going to miss your six hour window of delivery without saying "but we're going to refund the full price of shipping to you" or "but if you like we'll get another, more reliable courier who understands how to get a box from A to B, to bring it to you today", or "but if you like, we'll get our intern to take a series of taxis across the country, at our expense, to get it to you on time." Because you fucked up when you promised me you'd get it somewhere on time and didn't.

9. Simplify your pricing. Don't make me pay extra to get my package to me by a certain time. Offer me two options: any time the next day, or on a set time on a set day. Make this relative to your load, the schedule of your vans and the scheduled of postal trains/flights/bikes. Show me how, if I can wait an extra two hours, I can save a bunch of money on my parcel because it means it will get onto a super cheap freight train rather than necessitating you chartering a helicopter to bring it to me.

Someone please, for the love of all that is holy, fix this broken experience.

As someone who only receives packages, I also hate courier services with a burning rage.

My FedEx guy used to have a cell phone he'd use to call me (on fedex packages from Amazon, they print the delivery phone number) as he was coming around to my place to make sure I was ready and not on the john or something. It was great. Then FedEx thought good service was too expensive and removed their phones, causing me to miss half my packages because I had headphones on or something.

I then moved to an apartment building with an intercom system. Every time I got a delivery it'd first fail with "we don't have the PIN code for your building". Every time I'd have to call them and tell them to use the intercom to call my apartment.

I've seen some good solutions though:

- In Sweden, the regular postal system shut down all their post offices and started offering their services instead through local supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations etc. So what happens when you get a package mailed to you is that you get a SMS message or a paper slip in your mailbox with a code, and then you go to the store it was sent to to pick it up (for me it's always been the supermarket I go to daily to shop anyway, at most a 5 minute walk). The bonus of not being in a dedicated post office is the hours of supermarkets are far far better than the post offices ever were.

- In Japan, the domestic courier services let you pick a date and 2/3-hour window for delivery in advance. I've never had them miss the window. If you miss a delivery, you can reschedule it online, often to the very next delivery window on the same day. You can sign up online to get "missed delivery"/etc notifications by email.

I think UPS has that: http://www.ups.com/mychoice/

Not all of their regular post offices, just some.

I like the idea behind the Swedish system, but then I think about what would happen in the US. Wal-Mart would get the exclusive contract for services. After that you would be happy to actually receive a package, most likely not your package.

I hate Wal-Mart a lot more then the delivery services.

Wal-Mart would get the exclusive contract for services. After that you would be happy to actually receive a package, most likely not your package.

What about Wal-Mart is it that leads you to believe they'd do badly at being a post office?

First of all shipping companies are geared to service larger business no the piss-ant customer that does 1-2 shipments per day. There are automated solutions for all this stuff that makes it very easy. No shipping company in their right mind would change their workflow to make it easier to a "home" user. Why they heck would they.

Parcel dimensions are weights are important because the actual shipment cost calculation is based on cubed dimensional weights. So the package dimensions are important. It's a bit of an international thing between all the major couriers and post services. Normally the calculation is:

DHL: (L cm x W cm x H cm)/5000[2] or 4000[3] depending on certain import/country criteria

FedEx: (L cm x W cm x H cm)/6000 (new) or /5000 (old, still used in Asia) for international shipments, (L cm x W cm x H cm)/7000 for domestic shipments

UPS: (L cm x W cm x H cm)/6000 or /5000 depending on certain import/country criteria

The final change is based on the higher number of the actual weight or the dimensional weight.

Don't get me started on fuel surcharges.

Tracking numbers are can be large for a variety of reasons. Unique values being one of them but some companies keep them know for multiple years. And the numbers are assigned per piece you are shipping.

You make a lot of good points but the reality it all these companies make their money from corporations. And corporations for the most part automate the hell out their shipping solutions. As for the courier companies, every time they have to deal with a bad label or anything that requires a human to step in to help process the shipment you are slowing down the production line. Watch a couple videos of a Fedex or UPS sort facility to get an appreciation of what they deal with daily.

    First of all shipping companies are geared to service larger
    business no the piss-ant customer that does 1-2 shipments per day.
    There are automated solutions for all this stuff that makes it very
    easy. No shipping company in their right mind would change their
    workflow to make it easier to a "home" user. 
I think the OP is asking for the creation of a company that does focus on "home" users, precisely because their current shipping experience is so fucked up.

    Why they heck would they.
Because there seems to be a huge demand for reasonably-priced, "home"-user oriented shipping. Dealing with the current system is a huge pain in the ass if you're not a huge company, and the OP (like me, and others, I'm sure) would be willing to pay a premium for higher quality service.

That's what businesses like PostNet and FedEx Kinko's are for. Take your package there to ship it if you don't want the hassle, or use their address to receive stuff. They will happily sign for your package and call you when it gets there.

Why is any of this a problem? Don't businesses like this exist in the UK?

I've never seen one. We have the Post Office, but there's a good chance that the item is bulky, what with me wanting it sent via courier instead of just putting it in an envelope, so why should they assume that it's convenient for me to take it from my house to a store? What, you want me to pay for a taxi to your store when you guys have vans that drive around dropping off boxes all day long?

> Why is any of this a problem?

I agree. It's 2012. This can be done so much better.

But I don't want to go to FedEx Kinkos to ship a package. I live in the city and its a pain in the ass to walk 5 blocks with a couple of big packages and stand in line at a Kinkos. I want shipping a package to be as simple as receiving a package. Then, I want to be able to receive more useful information on the package's status delivered in real time to my smartphone.

Then use the USPS. You can go online and print a label complete with postage and request a package pickup. Pickup doesn't cost anything.

"huge demand for reasonably-priced, "home"-user oriented shipping"

It doesn't matter how large the demand is if you can't do it profitably. And at the prices necessary to make money focusing on home shippers, you probably wouldn't have much demand.

>As for the courier companies, every time they have to deal with a bad label or anything that requires a human to step in to help process the shipment you are slowing down the production line. Watch a couple videos of a Fedex or UPS sort facility to get an appreciation of what they deal with daily.


I worked as a FedEx loader/unloader for a year in college. We wear these cool wrist-mount computers with scanner rings to inventory the packages. A smudge, tear, wrinkle, or glossy tape can make reading the barcode a pain. When that happens you have to set the package aside, key in the numbers by hand, confirm the info, and then you can load it. Oh, and this is all while you are getting swamped with about 1 package every 3 seconds that might also need to go through this process.

As another poster points out, I was advocating the creation of a better shipping company for human beings, not for companies who are addicted to the margins they make on shipping a gajillion parcels a year where they know the weight to a zillion decimal places so they can make a penny more on fuel costs.

Looking over your points I notice that almost none of them have applied to me as a home user that ships probably slightly above average amounts of packages. For example,

• I've never had to call someone.

• I've used flat-rate boxes where I don't need to measure out my stuff.

• When pricing things out, the only thing I have to choose is generally whether I want insurance and roughly how soon I'd like it to arrive.

• I've never had to print something out. Generally I write in sharpie or print the address info and the clerk adds their own good looking sticker right before I pay.

• I have picked up stuff from my local depot. A few times...? Confused on this point too.

I'll agree with you on

• The time slots for packages to arrive are annoying if you don't accept packages being left at your door. This is also true about plumbers, cable techs, phone people, etc.

Is it a difference between business and residential customers?

I'm in the UK, using couriers (people who come to my place to pick stuff up) rather than post office (I take my heavy item to them and they weigh it and ship it).

> I've never had to call someone.

This is a broadly applicable CS issue which everyone in the startup world would do well to remember: time dilates when you're waiting. Customers waiting in a store to speak to an assistant disproportionately overestimate the amount of time they've been waiting (i.e. a 2 minute wait feels like 10 minutes).

I call to chase them CONSTANTLY. Today for example, I called to say that the guy had come early. They took my details and said they'd get him to come back. At 4pm, a couple hours after I'd spoken to them, I called again. "Oh yeah the driver didn't answer my message. I was going to call you." Every courier I have ever used has made me fight them to give them my money and get my item shipped.

> I've used flat-rate boxes where I don't need to measure out my stuff.

You can get those from a post office in the UK, but I'd rather they just let me pay extra for the guy to box it himself. That way you can kiss goodbye damaged during/before shipping disputes, too.

> I've never had to print something out.

It's the default option for a whole bunch of couriers in the UK.

> I have picked up stuff from my local depot. A few times...?

Royal Mail will allow you to. So will any couriers who use them instead of having their own depot. Big couriers will not allow you to collect your item from their despatch centre, you have to arrange for redelivery.

I've had royal mail pull the future thing on me a few times. Picking up from the depot is no joy. The depot near me is open for about 3 seconds a day and there's always a queue of at least 40 people on saturday (closed sunday), which is the only time most people can actually fit in a trip to the depot, what with all those pesky jobs they have to go to.

If you have 40 people queueing outside you deport every saturday to pick up stuff you didn't deliver, then you're not doing it right.

I feel you pain. Perhaps it's better in the states, but here in the UK it's a fourth rate service.

> If you have 40 people queueing outside you deport every saturday to pick up stuff you didn't deliver, then you're not doing it right.

Does anyone in line go home empty handed because the depot closed before they got serviced? If not, then it sounds as though the depot has optimized for the minimum number of employees to get the job done during the window, without worrying about the variable queue length.

At the end of the day, most people triage on price, and these companies are not irrational about that.

People leave empty handed all the time. I've tried to pick up a package from the depot near me twice, queued for ages and not once been able to actually collect my package. I've had to arrange for my flat mate who get's friday off work to pick it up for me on a quiet day.

I'd say the right way to do it would be to have full day opening hours on a saturday. The variable length of the queue on different days provides some great insight that's currently being ignored.

FYI FedEx says they don't allow pickups at their depot where I live, but I just drove up there, parked and waited until someone asked what I was doing there, and they gave me my package (after I showed photo ID).

I live far from a hub. Used a certain nameless shipper for dealing with DELL because that's all they use(d at the time).

Each time hardware would arrive, it would be physically tortured - once a huge dent in the bottom of the frame (did they drop it repeatedly on a guardrail out on the freeway?), once broken IN HALF!

Sending was equally fun. A large multiprocessor cabinet was to go overnight. Pickup time: the guy brought a van too short. He simply dumped it over on its side and slid it in (despite THIS END UP stickers all over). Off to the terminal!

Didn't see it for a week. They had no idea whatsoever where it went. Turns out the guy was late to the airport, so just dumped it into a truck going somewhere. A truck on an odyssey of discovery apparently, finally turned up a week later in Tennessee.

Why would you protect the company name?

Its one local clown making them look bad.

I work next to a hub. I want the option to just walk over there and pick it up there rather than wait for hours, refreshing the "track package" page waiting for "delivered" so I can run to the dock only to find it is already being carted around the building looking for my desk. Email me when it arrives at the hub, and I'll pick it up before the truck would have left to haul it around for hours.

Some guys I went to school with have started a company trying to solve this problem. It involves having your package delivered to a glorified electronic mailbox in your area. The courier delivers it to the box; you get an email with a pin code for retrieving your parcel. http://corporate.bufferbox.com/

Such a system has been deployed countrywide in Germany, by the former national post office. It's really, really useful, especially since you can even send off packages from there.

I agree. Its a broken experience. One thing to note however is that you've got two different people to appease- the sender and the receiver.

The receiver wants all the best tracking/delivery/notification options possible. The receiver might not always explicitly state that they want the cheapest, but they will often factor it in. Often the shipper wants the place that's closest to them who is cheapest.

Its not dissimilar to the airline system. Everyone ranks things that they want better of on flights (service, seats, legroom, meals, nice planes, etc) but (nearly) everyone searches by first price and then by rough schedule, often rewarding the cheapest. I hate US Air, but if it comes to a flight that's on US Air which is $100 cheaper than one on something else... I unfortunately often choose US Air.

Actually we choose based on price for two simple reasons:

1. Thats pretty much all airlines (can/do) differentiate on. The mainframes running pretty much all the ticket/seat allocation worldwide are sooo old they only handle pricing. And no-one can fix them because everyone plugs into it.

2. Actually thats all we really do care about.

(2, is less true. I am going to be taking my kids on a long flight soon. I would pay extra for an on board creche / nanny. But there is no way of putting that flag on any flight search so no point in offering it.)

This is a perfect example of how technology encourages a flight to the bottom. You have US air. Why? Maybe they only use lemon scented paper napkins. You would like to search for flights that never use lemon scented paper napkins, but you cannot, so there is no way to tell if spending 100 dollars more will make you happy so why bother?

And maybe its only worth 50 dollars to you not to get lemon scented ...

You're right, that essentially, we just want to get somewhere... but flying (in the US at least, my last Air France flight in 2007 was wonderful) has become a degrading, terribly uncomfortable experience. I'd rather take a Grayhound bus than fly (and between Boston and NYC I do), and most planes are just busses with wings.

Gone are the days of in-flight martinis, flying being a somewhat classy experience, and anything resembling comfort.

At this point, maybe its not even worth the airlines trying, as the TSA degrades the experience at the door.

The airlines have to try. Flight safety is expensive.

I mean you can conceive of solutions:

* Why does the luggage not get treated like container transport. Load up cages next to check in desks for the same destination.

* Take back control over your booking. There is absolutely no need for any airline to not take bookings direct. Want to sell through your partners - fine but they come to your API/site to actually book it. Then everyone has real time info. Think that will drive your prices down? No, don't sell at loss making prices.

I could go on. I am having a hell just trying to find somewhere nice and sunny to take 2 children. There is just so many options and so little information to trust.

But this problems exists for every service - hair cutting, selling houses and airlines. One and only one URI is really selling an actual seat or an actual house or an actual chair with a hair dresser.

So one and only one URI should publish what is available.

And then aggregation and search is simple(ish)

It seems to me that the next evolution of the search engine is to tell the people selling stuff that they don't need to do SEO, or marketing. They just need to use a standard micro data / format for whatever they are selling.

A long time ago I worked for an ISP that gave 1MB of personal disk space free to everyone. We bumped to to 10 then 100 when we realised no one actually used it.

This failure to put our own stuff online is the cause of huge problems - real estate agents, facebook, AOL, every walled garden, every agent, all stem from people and businesses not publishing their own needs.

Must stop ranting now

I had a strange experience recently trying to book a ticket through Hipmunk/Orbitz. I found a ticket. Tried to buy 3 times. Each time it said the ticket was no longer available, but it kept showing up in search results (stale cache on the server?). Same ticket was found on the airline's website for $20 more, which I was able to purchase.

Why it's more expensive to purchase direct, I don't understand.

Airlines and hotels often have agreements with the aggregators that they will not offer fares lower than what they are making available through the GDS aggregators.

This is why hotel sites will offer discounted prices based either on prepayment, or package deals, so that the price isn't directly comparable to Expedia, etc. It's also why those deals are sometimes the best - with sites like Expedia/Travelocity taking something like 30-40% of the nightly rate (versus a much lower % for airline tickets), hotels should be willing to bend over backwards to get you to book directly.

Also, it's possible to put a hold on a ticket without buying it; I'm guessing here, but if you're looking at one system the available fares list might reflect that some seats are on hold (by not showing those fares), while another system might not, resulting in different fares being visible... that will generally show up as a difference in the lowest-priced fare, since most of the search sites highlight that parameter when displaying search results.


I'm also scratching my head as to why we're now ~3 (maybe 4 counting ITA?) levels deep for purchasing of airline tickets? Hipmunk -> Orbitz -> ITA -> Airline

That seems to be the sign of a broken system.

Well, you can also do it in one layer: http://google.com/flights

There is a lot of "slack" in how travel is priced due to all kinds of agreements about what rates you're allowed to show. That's partly why package deals can be so good. These are not simple problems to solve, even in a best-case scenario.

Sometimes you can actually game this. For example, I have noticed cheaptickets.com sometimes fails to update their prices quickly enough. All of the other websites have moved their prices to the new fare, but they slack behind. I know there is an issue since the airline does not ticket their mistake immediately (i.e. make the ticket more than a stub and actually consummate the transaction). I wonder who takes the hit on this?

If you look into all of the issues surrounding the United and Continental merger, there some fascinating material exists on airline reservation systems and back-ends. In summary, I think they get build to defense contractor standards, which does little to reassure me.

The hard truth: If it isn't worth your time to buy a scale or measuring tape, you aren't giving them enough business to be worth making all these expensive changes.

This is like me walking into my local supermarket and asking them to replace the meat section with a giant vegetarian foods section — yes, it would make me personally overjoyed, but it probably wouldn't be a good business move.

Not to mention that the "fix" for this "problem" is simply to guess high.

Don't have a scale to weigh a package that feels about the same as a pound of butter? Enter the weight as 5 lbs. They'll happily charge you more and deliver it.

This is what I do, but then nobody's happy. I'm probably paying over the odds, and they're probably shipping goods in a van which is underweight. They could fit another parcel on there and make more money.

This actually formed part of my experience with UPS. When the guy said to me "How much does this TV weigh?" I had no idea: the TV was in my parents' house a few hundred miles away. And why the fuck should I have to weigh it? He wanted my parents to take a heavy TV set and put it on some scales in order to weigh it. When I told him to make it up he said "but we might get it wrong and undercharge you!" I don't care. Just charge me a penalty or something. Shipping is one of those things that I don't have any sort of inclination as to how much a competitive price is.

At this point, you're not looking for a carrier. You're looking for a moving company, someone who comes to your house, wraps up the object, transports it to the desired location and unwraps it. There are definitely companies in that business, but UPS/Fedex/et al generally aren't, because that's not what their customers want.

Amazon uses something similar to this if you order a TV from them - they have someone who actually brings the TV into your house, unwraps it, connects it and takes away the box.

No, I'm looking for a courier whose responsibility for the item extends to packing it up for me. I don't have packing materials. I could obtain them, but these guys are in the business. How many claims do they have to deal with for goods damaged in transit every year? How many could be solved if a guy with a few rolls of bubble-wrap and a pre-printed box of the right size wraps up the item for you.

Again, ad nauseum, I am not in any way suggesting that UPS or FedEx should be doing this.

Here in the US, UPS, in fact, will do this for you. (http://www.theupsstore.com/products-services/packaging-shipp...) They won't go to your location, but I think that's more because there isn't sufficient demand for that service (at a profitable level) than their not wanting to do that. You can also hire intermediary services that will show up at your house, wrap an item and ship it via a third-party carrier (transparent to you.) I've done that for large items that had to be sent via rail, like furniture.

I know you're frustrated by folks saying that you're suggesting UPS or Fedex do this, but your post title suggests that's what you're asking for, and it's also rational to view it as more likely that those carriers would create this service, or someone would create it as an overlay (MVNO-style) utilizing their existing shipping networks, than creating an entire new shipping system - the cost would just be astronomical to create a whole new transport network for this.

If there are enough low-volume customers willing to pay a premium for a higher level of service, then it might might economic sense. Sure, a small individual customer isn't giving them enough business to be worth making all of these expensive changes, but the aggregate of all small customers combined might.

It isn't quite like replacing the meat section with a vegetarian section... its more like adding an organic foods section to a supermarket. Those supermarkets still might make most of their money on things like the meat, but certain people willing to pay a premium for perceived quality take advantage of the organic section. People who want meat can still buy meat, but there are enough people who buy organic to make it worth dedicating the shelf space.

Edit: I wonder if the reason we don't see this level of service in the market yet is because the type of players who would benefit most from these features are likely to be small local/regional carriers who lack the expertise/resources to develop and implement the technology. If I'm in Chicago and I need to get some time-sensitive documents to a law firm by the end of the day, I call a small local courier.

Perhaps the best solution would be a third-party SaaS platform that offers these advanced logistics/tracking/service features and targets smaller local/regional carriers. A single third party developer could spread development costs over a large number of customers in order to build a much more robust platform than would be economically feasible to develop in-house.

Integration with the small couriers systems would be a problem. You'd probably have to design the thing end-to-end then get them to migrate

(note: I'm only just discovering EDI, it might be thai this isn't as big a problem as it appears)

I don't anything about couriers' systems to have an idea whether or not it would be feasible to build something that integrates with them (or how difficult it would be to design one end-to-end).

If you could design the thing end-to-end, I wonder if switching barriers would make adoption difficult.

The harder truth: You've misread my putting forth the case for a disruptive personal shipping company as my attempt to get UPS and FedEx to change their businesses.

(That'd be kind of odd on a site where discussion centres around technology and startups…)

When you can't get the vegetarian food you want from the supermarket, you go to the smaller, pricier, vegetarian outlet.

The problem is that it isn't cost-effective for large national players to fight for this business, and small players face powerful barriers to entry.

One potentially viable solution to addressing this problem might be an adaptation of the "Shipping Consolidator" business model (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Package_delivery#Role_of_parcel...).

Shipping consolidators pick up a shipper's parcels, sort and route them, then enter them into the Postal system for final delivery.

A shipping consolidator startup would be able to offer many of the value-added services on your wishlist without facing the barriers of starting a stand-alone national carrier or the limitations associated with local/regional carriers.

Of course, you lose control of the actual handling of the package after turning it over to a 3rd party carrier. Still, I'd imagine that a shipping consolidator using RFID data could develop a sufficiently sophisticated predictive model capable of providing much more accurate delivery estimates than those provided by the UPS, FedEX, et al.

My big gripe right now with UPS is that the person who delivers our package has put us on her black list, and I've tried several times to get things sorted out to no avail.

Here's what happened: I ordered a fairly pricey vacuum for my wife that was on sale and had it shipped to our house. I received a notification that it was on our porch at about 2:30 PM and arrive home about 4:00 PM. There was no package there. We reported it as missing. The company we bought it from shipped us a replacement immediately.

A week or so later, the UPS driver comes by and tell us that b/c the vacuum went missing, we'll have to sign for every package. Since then, every single package, big or small, requires a signature IN PERSON (not just sign the piece of paper). We've asked her to leave it on our back porch, allow us to sign, etc, but apparently this is some kind of punishment.

The thing that annoys me is that they left a $400 package with the contents clearly displayed on the outside on our front porch before, and now need a signature for a $10 book.

Anyways, I'm pretty much fed up. On top of it, we gets lots shipped to us since we're Amazon Prime customers. Arrgh! No accountability with these services, and when you buy something, most of the time you can't specify the delivery service :(

that sounds reasonable. seems like they had to pay for your missing $400 package, and they would like to prevent that from happening again. i see no problem here

I think the main problem here is that I can no longer release liability for smaller packages (which appears to be a punishment by the driver who probably caught a lot of flak and not a necessity). Most of my packages are < $50 and I'm not too concerned with losing one of those to theft. I'd happily sign a release on those. On the other hand, with this particular > $400 package, neither the shipper nor UPS decided it was necessary to require a signature. As to what happened to the package? Who knows, maybe somebody stole it, maybe it was mis-delivered and not recovered.

I've asked UPS/Fedex to leave it with my landlord, but they don't (my super is, ahem, "very friendly" person - so he sternly told me it is not "part of his job" to collect a package, if I am not around, even if I request him). This after calling them, being put on hold for 20 mins, and then patiently requesting them, more than once. Now I have to ship everything to my work, and carry it back to my home, an hour away :( good luck to me if I decide to purchase some heavy item.

What I can't understand, is why the delivery people don't carry cellphones. It costs almost nothing to own a cheap cellphone. Plus I'd think a phone call is much cheaper than coming back two more times to deliver, no? What am I missing here?

It would be nice to hear their side of the story too.

I've started getting packages delivered to work, as well, but I actually bike to work so if it can't fit into my panniers, I'm out of luck.

What annoys me the most is their working hours. You're delivering stuff at people's homes and yet your truck drivers only work something like 9-5. Guess what, other people work too, they're obviously not going to be home in that time window. I really think there's solid business in it for someone to set up a location where people can get their stuff shipped, then that company sends a guy on a freaking bike to get it to the recipient in the next hour (after notifying them they got the package) wherever said recipient is at that moment. I'd pay premium for that.

I've often thought that an alliance with Starbucks or one of the other all-pervasive coffeeshops would work well. ${courier} delivers to a locker at ${coffeeshop} during working hours. Customer picks up from ${coffeeshop} on their way home using their loyalty card to swipe the locker open.

${coffeeshop} gets a customer incentivized to get a customer loyalty card and who may well want to grab a hot beverage while they're looking over their new purchase. Plus whatever deal they figure out with the delivery company.

[Edit:] I like the suggestion in one of the comments above for Ocado (or presumably one of the other home-delivery supermarkets) to tackle this problem. That would seem to be an even better fit - companies who expect to deliver to the home out of business hours and who are far better at honouring their timeslots. Of course for these customers the recipient is the customer - which probably explains the radical difference in service.

Sounds great in theory. In practice I've not yet seen the option on checkout (which is apparently the only point at which you can search for suitable lockers).

If you read the page you'd see the second section titled "Finding an Amazon Locker Location"

has a link "Search for a Locker"

Also, the second section opens with:

Amazon Lockers are currently located in Seattle, New York, and London. If you live in Seattle or New York, you can search and select a locker location during the checkout process or in Your Account by following these steps below.

I'm not sure what your complaint is.

If you still don't understand, try reading the link.

I'm in the UK as is the original poster.

I'm not complaining, I'm just unable (at present) to do this. Even if I could search for a locker I still wouldn't be able to use one without the option on checkout. When/if Amazon roll this out further it will be delightful.

"If you read the page", "If you still don't understand". I did, I do. Please note HN policies on politeness.

>In practice I've not yet seen the option on checkout (which is apparently the only point at which you can search for suitable lockers).

You replied with a blatantly untrue statement proven wrong by the very post you replied to. A link to search for drop points is right there. Do not tell me to coddle to someone who willfully posts incorrect information out of laziness or carelessness.

Especially when I was giving you exactly what you were looking for. It just doesn't happen to be in your part of your country at the moment which apparently is enough for you to come whine about it.

I had to take a day of work to get a package from a delivery service - How in the WORLD is that easier than just posting it? What possible benefit did that add? Then, it turns out they "Can only estimate to about 2 days", so when the guy didn't show I had to take a SECOND day off work. Then, when he couldn't find the buzzer I was told I had to drive to the warehouse (1 hour away, only accessible by car off a highway, which I don't have) or it would be sent back overseas.

I have never used a service as bad or as useless as UPS. It boggles my mind that they even exist.

I feel for you (had a computer broken by UPS when moving many years ago).

I just have things shipped to my work address if I care about the item [esp. things like electronics, which can be damaged when the delivery guy throws^Wdelivers :) them.].

Something that seems universal: dropping off a courier delivery card without actually attempting delivery.

Why is this? Do they do this more often for residential addresses? Are they incentivised monetarily to power through as many "deliveries" as possible in a day, and residential deliveries take up too much time?

I don't understand it, it seems a failsafe way to get a recipient to enter rage mode to drop off one of those cards when they've done something like taken the day off to receive the item.

my apartment is on the fourth floor and the regular couriers know that, that's why only receive packages from small firms who are delivering first time

Finally, somebody talks about this! ;) We're fixing many of these problems for local deliveries with: www.postmates.com

I've used postmates several times and have been consistently impressed with the quality of the experience. The polar opposite of traditional parcel delivery.

Bring this to the UK right now. It'll be easier to scale over here. Plus, I'll give you all my business.

How much does it cost? If it says on the site, it isn't prominent.

Yes, Parecelfarce are notoriously rubbish and regularly pull stunts like the one you describe. (google "parcelfarce" and insist on that spelling. I get "about 428,000 results" returned ...)

I know a few people who would happily dance on their grave if another company were to put them out of business.

My first thought was a shipping window that narrows as it gets closer. I.e. On Monday you can predict arrival on "Friday" with 95% confidence. At Friday 11am you might be able to predict arrival at Friday 11:30 - 11:45 with 95% confidence.

Also, is it possible to apply a technical fix to the social problem of the driver writing an incorrect time on a slip? I.e. insist on it being a printed slip? It's probably more common that they send the slip without making a serious effort to ring the doorbell and deliver.

That happened to me with UPS. I watched from my upstairs window as the guy got out of his van, went to my front door, and waited. Then he put the slip through and left. I ran down and asked why he hadn't knocked or rung the doorbell. He blamed a faulty doorbell. I rang the doorbell and it worked. He grinned. "Fair cop!" Unbelievable.

I don't get it, if he's not saving any time or effort, what's in it for the driver to not deliver your package?

He doesn't have to speak to me, log the parcel, sign anything, etc.

While this is perhaps more rant than insight it's quite true that in the UK the courier firms are painful for individuals to use (not so much a problem for businesses I think).

The classic example - I'm single, work during normal business hours and as a freelancer I am reluctant to take high-value time off work to collect low-value items from couriers who do not honour their delivery slots. It's basically impossible for me to receive parcels from most courier firms.

The problem is that the people paying the courier firms are not generally the people feeling this pain.

Apologies for that. I wrote most of it yesterday, but then today I've had renewed frustrations with the final major courier I haven't yet used (my safety) and I just got pissed.

You're right that it's broken for individuals in the main. I'm in the office 10 hours a day: if I get items shipped to me there, or picked up from me there, that means schlepping it all the way to the office / from the office. So I was pleased to be able to choose a two hour window at which to be at home. Of course the guy turned up half an hour early. It makes perfect sense.

My friend had the best quote on this: "All courier services make normal people seem like Larry David-level assholes."

I was half inclined to flag it but let's just say I recognized your tone of mind :-)

I fully expect Amazon to purchase UPS or FedEx and do just this. Amazon has to much on the line when it comes to shipping and as things stand now the entire process is inefficient. Amazon would be looking at $MM in savings by integrating one of the major international shipping companies.

The individual consumer will only benefit from Amazon's customer service influence when it comes to shipping procedure and policies.

"Somebody please, for the love of god, fix shipping/couriers" . In my opinion the "Someone" must be the online retailers. When I see to which great lengths Amazon goes to provide a great customer experience, and then it's all destroyed by the courier - it hurts. The only thing that prevents me from buying online instead of going to a brick and mortar store is shipping.

It seems like there are a lot of great people shipping locally. In London there are a whole bunch of same-day and same-hour couriers. At my old agency we'd order DVDs for directors from the HMV on Oxford Street and a bike courier would bring it to us. There's a great courier service who launched with Argos recently called Shutl. But scaling this to a national or international business is hard.

As always I'd like to see an Apple solution to this problem. A premium price paid for a premium experience.

Would these local couriers not be able to handle the first-leg in order to get your package to one of the larger carriers?

I'm in London, so access to a larger carrier isn't an issue (in theory). I can literally see the Parcel Force depot in question from the top of my building.

On paper Parcel Force aren't that bad. They said they'd be here between 2-4pm. I got home in plenty of time for that. The problem is that their driver lied to me, them and then turned up in a grumpy huff at 7:00pm and snatched the parcel away from me with an asshole stare.

You know what would have been quicker and only twice as expensive? Flying the damned thing to Glasgow myself. £60 on the plane and 3 hours to get there and back, vs. a 5 hour wait in my house.

I agree completely, a little hack for #5 however:

Call the courier company and ask for the drivers (direct, cell) number, he can give you a 30 min. window. He even told me that is always better to get the drivers number, because the central often times has no clue where the driver starts his route.

Has worked multiple times with FedEx here in Switzerland.

Good post.

The logistics industry (in the UK at least) is in utter turmoil. I have about 10k ecommerce merchants using our platform and I hear these points on a daily basis.

Speaking to a few logistics and delivery providers recently they tell me the cost of delivering this service has tripled in the past three years. However this hasn't been passed onto the merchant / customer, this industry is living in an artificial bubble and I predict its going to pop. The truth is the price has gone down as companies such as Yodell have arrived to disrupt the space with rock bottom prices (and rock bottom service), this puts huge pressure onto the other providers who are dropping services at a rate of knots.

Its not an easy thing to fix, especially as there are so many interconnected services and companies.

I just got a parcel from Yodell for the first time the other day, are these the same guys as Hermes? The driver was the same and the service was piss-poor (missed first delivery despite being in at the time, was left a blank card, phoned premium rate phone number which was automated saying minimum 10 minute wait, instead opting not to pay went online and re-scheduled delivery which was not honoured, parcel finally arrived randomly at 9 o'clock at night driver just chucked in the porch and drove off).

No Hermes is a different company, same piss poor attitude.

With any luck Ocado will step up for this one, it seems an ideal fit with their current business model.

Totally hear you on all accounts! This is a problem that needs a serious solution - I'm working on an idea right now to solve it, BufferBox (corporate.bufferbox.com). Essentially we allow shipping to self-serve kiosks and when a parcel arrives, an email is sent to the user with a PIN code so they can pick it up 24/7 on their schedule.

In the UK, there is a service that may be able to help you on the receiving end - myByBox (my.bybox.com). Hopefully it has help you out a bit!

We're working to bring a similar service to North America because we believe it's essential for eCommerce to grow to the next level. We've been running a pilot project to gather some data (bufferbox.com) and now we're working to expand.

I live in the UK and I have had things delivered a few times by a company called Hermes, or as I like to call them, Herpes. It is literally a joke that this company is legal, I have complained to every retailer that uses them and often will not purchase from them again if they chose to use Hermes just to save a few pennies. There is no telephone number, parcel tracking is a nice work of fiction, and if you paid extra for next day and they use Hermes expect anything up to 10 days. There should be much more oversight and heavy fines for running shoddy operations like this.

I always think the answer to some part of this is some sort of secure parcel box / "bin" outside the house which has a barcode on it that the courier can scan in order to verify they delivered the parcel. An advanced bin could have a small camera to photograph the courier to provide verification from both sides.

The non-advanced version surely wouldn't cost more than $20 to sell, and this (small) cost is pushed to the end users, in return for which they get convenient and secure deliveries when they're not at home.

The trick comes from the various sizes and shapes of things people have shipped.

The more plausible approach would be to run a store-front with convenient hours near residential areas to make up for people being unable to have, say, a large or expensive item shipped to their home while they're at work.

This store-front could have a secure 24x7 vestibule with lockers of various sizes/shapes to accommodate most general packages, each locked with a combination emailed to the recipient. (or perhaps a central unit would allow a credit card to be swiped, or NFC device read to unlock the appropriate box.)

Very large or awkward packages could be kept behind the counter. Staffing this from, say, 8 to 8 wouldn't be terribly expensive and it's a service you could easily charge another dollar or so for. To say nothing of additional shipping charges you could capture, from having real human beings available to help people ship things.

You would, essentially, be re-inventing a US post office with better hours and on-demand PO Boxes of interesting dimensions.

This is being tested by Amazon in the US, actually.


It sounds like there's some competition, too.


I have one more itch to scratch: please let me pay with me debit/credit card! The other day a shipment from GLS arrived. This actually was the second shipment, because they claim I wasn't home when they tried the first time. Even thou i WAS home, sitting in the kitchen all afternoon to intercept the GLS guy so that he wouldn't wake up our little one...

When GlS came the second time I was at home. I just don't have a couple hundred bucks worth of cash in my pocket. I mean, come on! Cash only? Really GLS?

Courier companies have been optimised around a B2B experience -- where it doesn't matter what time it's delivered, because there is always someone at the front desk.

Drives me insane too. A failed delivery must have a reasonable cost in terms of time/money/capacity. I'm surprised there hasn't been an economic driver to sort this out.

Someone like Amazon needs to get in on the game - either with their own service, or partner with someone. If any company is suffering because of a crappy courier experience, it'll be them.

Why don't you just drop your packages off at a UPS Store? They seem to do almost all of that stuff for you, obviously for a premium.

Obviously you can't do that from your home, but you probably don't have all the tools to do a lot of stuff at your home and you have to go somewhere for it. Plus, if you are going to/from work in the first place, it seems like a pretty trivial thing to do. Stop off to drop a package off, or if their website says you have a package, pick it up.

Because I live in the UK, and the nearest UPS Store is on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA.

I think "Mail Boxes Etc" is probably our UK equivalent of UPS Stores. Amongst other things, they can do packaging and labelling and act as a broker across the various couriers. I've had good experiences with MBE but I've only used them to ship high value items internationally - I don't know how cost effective they are for other stuff. And obviously, they're still at the mercy of the couriers (though you can at least tell them which ones you want or don't want to use).

No such thing as an UPS store where I live.

Sounds like you all have it rough in the UK. I wonder if UPS' acquisition of TNT will change any of this.

For me personally, this problem is solved as I can leave packages on my door (or have them left there) all day without issue. I also have a UPS store and Fedex Kinkos within 1.5 miles and 2 miles, respectively. I'm not sure if I have ever heard of anyone having packages picked up for personal (rather than) business purposes.

If you have a PO Box, the USPS will also take package deliveries. You have to sign up for the service and use the address of the Post Office and they will leave a notice in your box when the package gets there.

It's a way to get deliveries from companies that won't ship to PO boxes. My local PO told me about it a few months ago, but I haven't had the need to use it.

I once had to keep an airport taxi waiting at my front door while the courier (purolator) was on their way to deliver my airline tickets. I totally agree with almost all of this list.. You forgot the whole customs mess though. I've had things stuck in customs for weeks because the department of homeland security had some new forms I need to fill out to ship a CD-ROM into the US.

Fixing customs is a big ask, and there will always be unavoidable amounts of red tape because you can't just vote with your feet and go to another customs provider.

It would be possible, although insanely difficult, for someone to disrupt the courier market.

The box which I mention in my OP, which was due to be picked up between 14:00 and 16:00 GMT (still sat in my hallway now at 17:30 GMT, despite being "guaranteed" to get to Scotland by 12:00 noon tomorrow) is costing me £30 to ship. I'd have paid double that to someone who makes my life _simpler_.

Now looking at my third phone call to the courier in question just to find out what they've accomplished during the last two hours of radio silence in pursuit of operation "Get a man in a van to pick up his phone then go to an address on his route".

I have something currently on it's way to me via Interlink (UK). They sent me an SMS message yesterday to confirm the date, with options to reply via SMS to change it (reply 1 for tomorrow, 2 for the day after, 3 for the day after that etc). This morning I had another SMS message and an email to confirm the driver's name and a one hour window for delivery. That solves number 5.

Number 5 and Number 6 are handled exceptionally well by DPD in the UK. I don't send stuff but when I'm ordering something by courier I try my hardest to shop at websites that ship with DPD. You get a text message before they arrive and never had a delivery fall outside the one (or two) hour window they give and their customer service people are not morons

Oh wow, going to try them before I pack things up at my current startup and change industries. Thanks :)

nooooooooooo dont try DPD. look at trust pilot first. average score 2 out of 10 from 880 posts. they are truly awful

I do not usually ship stuff, but can see how this can be annoying. ##5-9 are a very big pain point for me as there is usually no one at home during work hours and delivering to work is not really an option (large downtown office tower with security systems and such).

Sometimes I wish I could order a delivery to some local outlet (like FedEx has these Kinko stores)

You can.. at least I do with UPS all the time. It's called "hold for pickup." You put your name and phone number on the package, but use the address of the UPS shipping facility itself.

When the box arrives there, they give me a call, let me know it's waiting, and that I have 5 days to come pick it up.

Yea.. I do have to drive to pick it up, but at least I'm not at the mercy of the driver's schedule. Once it's there, I can get it when it's convenient for me.

Ah yes, I posted a similar grievance last year: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1879251

Apparently shutl.co.uk is closest to helping out with this, but unless we can get major retailers to change, we are stuck.

I live in a city with a very rigid street-naming and numbering convention (i.e., even if you've never heard of it before, given a street number and postfix such as "14th terrace" is already enough information to know whether it's north-south or east-west running, approximately where in the overall grid of the city it's located, and what kind of street it is--for example all "lanes" are cul-de-sacs). The problem with that is the courier companies all come to rely on that system extremely heavily, and, luck of all lucks, the cul-de-sac that I live on was mis-named by the city as a "court" instead of a "lane".

Both of the big-name companies here (UPS & FedEx) give phone numbers on their tracking systems that you can call when they are unable to deliver a package, but a) nobody is actually notified of the failed delivery, so you have to know that a package is coming in and actively watch the tracking page to catch the failed deliveries, and b) the people you talk to at that number are either incapable of or unwilling to make any kind of permanent note in their system that can fix chronically failing addresses.

For several years we put up with about 80-90% of our packages failing delivery (moreso from UPS than FedEx, but both were pretty abysmal) due to "incorrect or incomplete address," being forced to notice this on the tracking system on our own, then calling to tell them that no, the address is not incorrect, the street itself is misnamed and yes we've called to explain this dozens of times in the past and can you please put some kind of permanent note in your system to ensure this doesn't happen anymore.

A couple years ago, after another failed delivery from UPS, I decided to try a new tactic and looked for public UPS twitter accounts that I could tweet in the hopes of bringing it into a more public sphere. I found @MikeAtUPS and tweeted him that another delivery had failed, it happens a lot, and nobody at UPS seems to be taking the situation seriously. He directed me I think to a corporate support email, which I followed up on, including links to the tweet and response. Amazingly, this actually worked. They responded immediately with an apologetic email, said they had made a correction in their system (though, I'd heard that one before), and that this shouldn't happen again.

And it didn't! After that, UPS stopped failing our deliveries (with the very odd exception). FedEx slowly started to get better over time as the drivers started to learn the area better, and also stopped being an issue. So maybe the lesson is, skip the outsourced help desk numbers and go public with your grievances if you want to be taken seriously.

As an aside, USPS has not once ever failed to deliver a package or even drop one off later than the expected delivery time. If it's an option, I will always choose them over the private courier services 100% of the time.

UPS is an interesting beast in rural areas, I always preferred them to FedEx. Where I grew up there were no road names before the 911 push a couple years back. The UPS drivers learned where all the people were and what landmarks the locals used for navigation. It did make for some interesting conversations with vendors ("ship it to: house 311 behind the school").

FedEx never really got the whole rural concept. Even with the names, they still have so many problems.

It must be regional.

I also live in the country and both UPS and FedEx deliver to me regularly. Even on overnight deliveries, I can leave a signed note to the driver that it's OK to leave the package if no one is home. Often if there is no one home and it's raining, the driver will try the doors on any vehicle outside (we have multiple cars/trucks) and put the package on the driver's seat.

That's just completely dumb.

Definition of a court:

an open space enclosed wholly or partly by buildings or circumscribed by a single building

In other words - a cul-de-sac.

Lane: a strip of roadway for a single line of vehicles

So, your community must be full of braindead idiots who never went to school to learn what words mean.

It's not a local community, but the whole city. Not sure who came up with the naming conventions or when (the city was founded in 1957, so I'd assume the naming conventions were also established shortly thereafter), but I agree, it's a little backwards.

Most of your questions are already covered by Deal Services: http://www.dealservices.nl/en/home

This is an incentives problem and won't change for as long as we blame the delivery companies. Blame the company who chose the delivery company.

I will point out that at least #5 is "solved" by DPD and Interlink Ireland to a reasonable level of accuracy.

That was a good read. Goes well with a Monday :)

welcome to japan - where all of the above has been solved by couriers like sagawa and kuroneko yamato ;)

i love this glad its not just me who was nearly crying with frustration at DPD. avoid avoid avoid. heres what i emailed. lets see wot happens. >>>

quite seriously i have never come across a Company who is so appalling - i really hope there is someone on this at a senior level at DPD.  if the company i worked at had vast majority on trust pilot scoring 1 some people would be out of a job. do your drivers read the reviews? because they are the face of DPD and should understand they are driving DPD customers away in droves.

heres my experience. if you have any ideas on how we get the parcel delivered be delighted to hear. out of principle i will not come and collect it. i want a driver to do the job they are paid to do.

1 get a text to tell us delivery slot. we are home all day so wait delivery. doesnt arrive. look on tracker, driver says we are not in. blatant lie. if we werent in wheres the calling card?

2 try and find a number to call dpd to complain. no numbers published. send an email complaint form. no response. send another one. no response

3 get a text next day to say delivery that afternoon. we are home all day. no delivery. go on tracker driver again says we wernt in but no card left.

4 by trying a number of google searches eventually get a dpd number. call sat am. told offices close at 1 so call closed. i was phoning at 11

5 call dpd mon am. wait 20 mins eventually get through. explained driver twice lied that we wernt in. operator said we must have given wrong address. advise operator to not make assumptions and when looking on system she found that the  second driver had actually put that a gate was blocking the way in. this is a gate that we and postman, dustman and other couriers open and drive thru with no problem every day. in fact that same day another courier made a delivery so dpd driver clearly inept.  first driver proven to have lied as on your system he said we wernt in. we were. he didnt leave a card. he didnt attempt delivery

6 was told delivery was rearrnaged but as i was at work could i leave the calling card signed to say leave in secure place. i didnt have a calling card i explained to the operator. was told i could leave a signed letter giving authority to leave parcel in safe place.

7 wrote a letter to leave for driver confirming parcel could be left, signed it and supplied my number. left this clearly displayed on porch window

8 came home to find that driver had been - 3rd time lucky! but hadnt left the parcel even though they took the letter!!! left card saying sorry not in

9 phoned dpd again spoke to a very helpful Heather who agreed this was unsatisfactory. while i was on the phone she typed up instructions which covered every scenario we could think of - parcel must be left as 4th attempt, customer not in but gives authority to leave, letter and card will be left to confirm this, gate just needs opening then drive through, any problems finding house call customer etc. she also said she was delivering messages direct to depot to ensure message got through

10 i left a signed letter, a completed card, huge letters pointing to this saying "for dpd" left notes at the gate as well. left for work thinking surely this time.....

11came home  no delivery. went on tracker. driver couldnt find property and didnt think to phone me for directions

so 4 attempts. no sign of parcel. drivers clearly useless. Any ideas? Sarah

Sent from my iPad

What you are demanding is incredibly expensive, especially #4 and #6. #2 would necessitate an incredible amount of arbitrage (i.e., increase prices even further) because it would severely impact their ability to maximize parcels shipped. #5 is available from both UPS and FedEx...for additional cost (on the recipient). If you really want #9, then you may end up with $100/parcel pricing.

Of course, there are companies that do everything you indicate you want. But if you don't know who those companies are, you clearly can't afford them. Alternatively, you can use the USPS, which does almost everything you describe above except #5.

> What you are demanding is incredibly expensive, especially #4 and #6.

Useful tracking needn't be expensive. The delivery driver knows when he's heading to my house. Even just telling me his lat/long at the point when he leaves the delivery prior to mine in a text message would allow me to usefully calculate where my parcel is.

> #2 would necessitate an incredible amount of arbitrage (i.e., increase prices even further) because it would severely impact their ability to maximize parcels shipped.

I'm fine with that. Like I said elsewhere, this is costing me £30 to send. I'd have happily spent £100 to get it done fuss-free.

> #5 is available from both UPS and FedEx...for additional cost (on the recipient).

Again, fine with additional cost. I've used it from UPS before and it didn't work.

> If you really want #9, then you may end up with $100/parcel pricing.

I'm more than happy to pay it.

> Of course, there are companies that do everything you indicate you want. But if you don't know who those companies are, you clearly can't afford them.

Yes, you're right, I'm not wealthy enough to be able to afford a hassle-free shipping experience. I know of plenty of companies who will bike a parcel to anywhere in the UK for me directly for an amount I could afford. I could speak directly to the driver and have him call the recipient when he arrives. That's not the point.

The point is that it takes 90 minutes to fly to Scotland from London. It would cost me about £80 return.

I've been sitting at home for 5 hours waiting for this package to be picked up. It is costing me £30 to send.

It cannot be the case that we live in a world where it is genuinely more convenient for me to fly by plane for three hours in order to give someone a box than to have a professional courier do it for me.

>> #2 would necessitate an incredible amount of arbitrage (i.e., increase prices even further) because it would severely impact their ability to maximize parcels shipped.

> I'm fine with that. Like I said elsewhere, this is costing me £30 to send. I'd have happily spent £100 to get it done fuss-free.

It's not enough that you want to pay £100... there have to be enough customers willing to pay £100 to balance out the loss of customers who would pay £30 (as well as the decrease in unit volume that would result), and there probably aren't.

For the major couriers, there probably aren't. For a new courier service who approach the market from the top up rather than the bottom down, who knows?

At least here in the US, such services exist - there are high-touch courier services that deliver same-day with very high service levels. They're also very expensive and used by almost nobody other than bankers, lawyer and advertising firms that can expense the costs to big corporate clients (and even then, the firms will generally use a normal carrier unless the package is very timely or sensitive.)

Most people don't want to pay the $6 or so for UPS shipping... Paying $200 would restrict your customers to a very small part of the market shipping very high-value goods (jewelry, bearer bonds?)... I wonder if even armored car shipping is that expensive on a per-item basis.

There are a few in the UK but it's usually inner-city or highly personal: they don't make use of overnight vans so for me to pay for something to go to Scotland from London via one of these guys is going to cost me a whole lot more than $200.

I disagree. Trite comparison, but: "Most people don't want to pay the $999 for a Pentium PC… paying $1999 would restrict your customers to a very small part of the computer market." If you offer the quality I bet it's possible to make a really profitable business out of it. Think how many times these items are important: heck, I just wanted my TV so I could play Battlefield 3, but I'd have paid more than I did to get it sent to me. How much would people pay to not have a crummy experience with a courier if they used a courier a couple of times in a year?

Not suggesting I know the answers, but I think it's an interesting area for innovation.

I don't disagree that folks would pay more for a better experience, but I think they'd pay a few bucks - maybe up to double. Not 10X. Paying $200 for shipping would be like paying $10,000 for a PC to play BF3. Most people who can spend money like that have someone who takes care of their shipping and receiving, because their time is valuable.

Consider this: for $50, you could probably get someone who lives on your street to sit around all day waiting on your behalf for your package to arrive.

I don't know where you order your stuff, but I haven't had any of these problems. The only thing I can really agree with (even though I haven't had it myself) is the "being held in depot because you didn't stay home all day long to receive it"-issue.

Also I think it's fairly normal to require an address when you sign up--you usually sign up if you want to order something.

The "where you order stuff" part is irrelevant.

It's the shippers who are at fault. I have used TNT (through Apple Store Online); FedEx (my choice), UPS (my choice), DHL (my choice) and today Parcel Force (again my choice) to ship things.

The best one was UPS. They couldn't get their heads around the fact that I wanted to ship something from my parents' place to my new place. "So can you just tell me what the dimensions of the TV are?" "I told you. It's not here in front of me. I don't know. It's about a 30" screen." "What's the depth?" I DON'T KNOW OR CARE. Normal people do not know these things. Make me pay £5 extra for each piece of information I don't know. Just pick it up and take it to where I want it.

"We currently do not ship internationally", anyone? That message right there, when I'm shopping online, annoys me to no end. Clever way of doing business.

Even more, if they know my address (since I'm a repeat customer and am logged in) and they won't ship some items to me because of my country - is it really too much to ask to mark those items clearly in the item selection? And filter search results based on which items I can actually buy?

Even Amazon currently just says "can't ship to this address" at the very end of checkout. What am I supposed to do at this point of web interface - quickly move to another country and then input the new address?

Or simply get out of Europe. It's burning anyway.

./~ And the cities of Europe have burned before And they may yet burn again And if they do I hope you understand That Washington will burn with them Omaha will burn with them Los Alamos will burn with them ~/.

- Billy Bragg, Help Save The Youth Of America

(if Europe is burning, everywhere is burning - where to get out to?)

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