Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fun with transportation

You might think from watching the FED EX and UPS commercials on TV, or from reading their brochures that transportation and shipping is easy and once everything is in the system it goes perfectly. With GPS in the trucks, and online databases what could possible go wrong?

Occasionally things just seem to be jinxed. No matter how many checklists we have, once things get in the hands of the freight business there is no certainty at all about where a shipment will end up or when it will arrive.

A few weeks ago FED EX delivered an overnight package destined for us to a woman two blocks away with Alzheimer’s disease. Why they delivered a package to a residential street two blocks away I can’t fathom. FED EX emailed us the signature and printed name and I looked in the phone book and got the lady’s home care provider to hold the package until one of our staff drove over to get the package. It was important legal documents. When a person from FedEx finally called me to say they couldn’t figure out where the package was they were stunned that I had called the name in the phone book, and we already had the package. High Tech solutions can’t replace a simple phone call and common sense.

Dealing with large shipments and airfreight can be frightening. A few years ago Eagle airfreight lost 6 cabinets with NetApp filers. How they could lose 6 refrigerator-sized cabinets still astounds me. But they lost them, and after months of wrangling gave us a check for $50.00 as insurance. Our insurance company had to cover the loss. We don’t use Eagle freight anymore.

International freight and transportation can get even more convoluted. Whenever you stick customs into the mix everything gets twice as hard. Using FedEx and UPS helps a lot. However, when shipping to England we have found that it makes no difference if you ship overnight on Thursday or Friday. Equipment arrives on Monday anyway.

You can spend hours on the phone with people who are all very nice, but getting a definite answer sometimes is impossible. Yesterday, I was helping a truck driver load up a shipment, and we were talking for a few minutes about the crazy job he has and the bizarre environment of transportation and freight. Before he left he said, “ If I did not laugh I would go crazy” He was right, but sometimes I need a beer to loosen up my sense of humor after dealing with these folks in the strange world of freight.

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