December 19, 2011
Every year, millions of people buy gifts, wrap the gifts, box up the gifts, and make the annual journey to the post office, UPS Store, or FedEx Office to send the parcels to their loved ones. One driver of the growth of e-commerce is the added convenience of avoiding the wrapping, the packing, and the standing in line.
In past years, I'd go online to order my gifts for my family in Missouri. We would order from various sites, request the wrapping, and the gifts were on their way. It works, but it is kind of impersonal. I found that I missed the fun of the wrapping and the packing. And there is nothing like actually holding in your hands the gift you are going to give. So this year I went back to the old way of doing things.
I don’t regret it. It was fun to get the gifts, to be in the crowds. Shopping in advance, we picked out gifts from the lists we had been given. It gave me time to come up with the right packaging to protect the gifts and minimize the dim/weight charges (and if you don’t know what dim/weight is, we need to talk). I even used the computer and color laser printer to come up with festive shipping labels to personalize the packages. Just some added effort to show some love while the packages moved along their way.
I typically use “Big Brown” for ground shipping services. Not out of loyalty; just habit, the pattern of where I live and where I go. During the holiday season, I always consider the “ship by” date to be seven days before the big event, knowing that even three- and four-day transits can run an extra day at this high-volume time of year. This year, Friday was the “ship-by” day. It was a busy day, and my plans for the day put the UPS store out of the way. The FedEx operation center was right in my path for the day, so “Purple” this year.
When I ship things at the UPS store, I just have to bring in the boxes with the address on the label, and the friendly clerks enter the address into the computer straight from the box. Customer-friendly, and always so cheerful.
Not so friendly over at FedEx. When I walked into the customer center, the agents did not look up for a while. As I stepped up to the customer counter, the agent pointed me over to another counter to fill out the air bills. Before I turned around to fill out three sets of papers, she asked me what the destination was for the packages.
When I said Missouri, she said that ground service might not make it in time for Christmas.
Whoa. Only 1,500 miles? When did service degrade to five business days to Missouri from DC?
I filled out the ground service forms and took my packages back up to the counter. Even though I had filled out the forms for ground, the agent continued to suggest the air service. I insisted on ground and watched as the agent entered the information from the paper tickets into the computer, measured the boxes, and then totaled up the charges. It came to $34 for three packages.
When I got the receipt, the delivery service days for each package appeared next to the tracking number. Two days to St. Louis, and three days to Kansas City.
Christmas is in seven days.
As I turned and left, I heard the agent again intoning to the next customer that ground might not make it before Christmas, and suggesting air service.
There is up-sell, and there is BS. “Would you like fries with that?” is up-sell. “It may not reach its destination by Christmas,” a full week before Christmas, is bold BS.
What do you think? Do you think the up-sell was the behavior of a single agent, a station margin-improvement plan, or a “Purple” corporate profit-enhancement plan?