13 May 2008

I'm thinkin' about my doorbell

I hate courier companies. FedEx, UPS, DHL are all on my list. Maybe in other countries they work well and perform as described, but not so in Ireland.

I live in an apartment building, seven apartments each with their own external letter box, all clustered together nice and conveniently near the main entrance. Beside the main entrance is a communal door bell and intercom, all you have to do is press the apartment number and magically the person in the apartment knows there is someone looking for them. This piece of rocket science, however, seems beyond the grasp of most international courier companies.

When I worked in an office, a whole three weeks ago, I would use it as my delivery address. Packages would get dropped off at reception and would slowly work their way up to my office through the internal mail, occasionally by way of our India office where there sat an engineer by the same name as me. Unfortunate, but still less painful than the current process now that I am a private citizen.

UPS have been incapable of ringing my doorbell. I have left notes for them, I have signed the back of their 'missed delivery' dockets with directions to the intercom and instructions for its use and taped them to the letterbox in such a way that they physically had to remove them to put the next 'missed delivery' docket in. I have sat in front of the letterbox for 3 hours one morning to intercept them, only to miss them in the less-than-three minutes that it took me to return to my apartment and deal with an urgent telegram from nature. In a fit of desperation I made a deal with our nearby slow food cafe to act as a parcel drop in a scene reminiscent of a Harry Palmer book.

It was thus with a deep sense of foreboding that I arranged to travel to DHL's collection point rather than go through two more days of stress-inducing kettle-watching after missing their first delivery. The collection point is at their new service hub in the Airport Logistics Park. Don't worry if you have never heard of it, because neither had the bus driver. Don't bother trying to find it on a map either, because it doesn't exist. In typical celtic-tiger fashion, the park was only constructed eight months ago on the site of a golf course and a few petrol stations. The bus driver recommended a stop that was in the general vicinity, in the RyanAir sense of the word, and thus 30 minutes later I arrived on foot, by way of a construction site and possibly a go-kart track.

As I waited for 15 minutes for them to locate my package and bring it from the warehouse that was almost certainly in a different postcode, contemplating my return route through the wilds of north county Dublin, I noticed the "Threat Level" sign over the reception desk, proclaiming that this location was operating under a "normal" level of security. Three hours earlier, before my epic bus journey and urban cross-country adventure, I might have wondered why a global player in the war on terror would select DHL for their next jihad. As I stood in the featureless reception preparing to hand over a €32 customs fee it all started to make sense. Not even DHL's recent supply of 2.5 tons of much needed popcorn to the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movement of Iraq could overcome the wrath of a Mahdi militiaman forced to jump through so many hoops to get his latest Netflix pack.

As I vent my wrath here online I am of course falling into the classic trap of every blogger, thinking that a) my problems are worth writing about and that b) anybody that actually reads this will care about such trivialities. However blogs are actually a form of self-medication, akin to using a Turing-test as a counselling session; they are as much about the act of writing as they are about communicating with an audience. If the aforementioned aggrieved militiaman had access to a blog, no doubt Green Zone attacks would decrease as he had access to a more dignified channel to vent his frustration at rising gas prices, the prolonged Democrat primary process that only weakens the party and strengthens McCain, and of course Shatha Hassoun's failure to capitalise on her success after winning Star Academy Lebanon 4.

As for the courier service, it is perhaps not surprising that yet again a free-market response fails to deliver as competent and reliable a service as the sate-run industry it seeks to replace. This has proved to be the case in the UK, and it is certainly proving to be the case here with what limited liberalisation there has been. Its just unfortunate that so many companies only offer courier delivery to Ireland, but then again if everyone used An Post, what would I have to write about?


At 5:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've done some work out in DALP, putting up signs, putting them up again, moving them around... etc. i did get to spend a little time in the new DHL facility too, before it was operational. The security was exceptional. queuing, and signing and frisking and all sorts. inside, the place is quite cool. conveyor belts running everywhere, nice setup, made strange by the fact that there was no parcels at all going through the place which still felt very busy. The logistics park is indeed FULL of yellow golf range golf balls.

i sympathise with your pain caused by delivery companies.. out here in the outer burbs, it's pretty reliable, stuff gets here. i think we're put on the long finger though, being a little out of town, so maybe stuff sometimes takes a little longer than it might.

this comment is pretty random and not really typical of me.

good day to you.

At 5:46 pm, Blogger tpy said...

Your posts are consistently entertaining/engrossing/informative. If I had my own internet award, I would bestow it upon you.

Personally, I enjoy posts that show slice-of-life mixed with a good dose of problems-with-modern-society. If I didn't, I suppose I wouldn't do so many myself.

I was worried when you left the Big Company that you might begin taking strolls through parks and smelling roses and forgetting your true tech-love. Fortunately, I think that is turning out to be a vain worry.

At 6:59 pm, Blogger spewbuntu said...

They are indeed a shower of cock knockers, no doubt about it. Living in the sticks where there is little or no phone coverage doesn't exactly make the process any easier. Generally it involves them leaving message on your phone around 7:30 am saying, I was in your area but I don't know where you live so I've gone now, I'll be back next week, fantastic, what a service.

DHL are by far the worst I've come across, they really haven't a clue what is going on. They tell you your package is in Dublin, so you drop in to their depot but then they tell yo,u no that package has never been in Dublin, it's in Belfast with a sub contractor, here's the number. Then you find out that they are unable to write down a telephone number correctly, it takes several more phonecalls for them to admit that they actually use subcontractors. You finally get in contact with the sub contractor who says he's nearby but doesn't have time to meet you, he doesn't actually work for the sub contractor but his friend does, she broke her arm so I'm filling in and have to be back in belfast by 5. JEEBUS!!!! I've taken to just telling them to leave it in the local shop, they seem to be able to manage that task.

Always best to send it with An Post, at least the postman knows where you live.

At 10:38 am, Blogger Kate said...

the most shocking thing I found about DHL was their inability to deliver parcels/documents to me while I was a member of their staff When looking to get some documents couriered from Cape Town to Ireland, DHL Ireland were unwilling to do it unless I had a business account (again, I was a staff member - DHL "Global Logistics", somehow separate from DHL "can't delivery parcels") though if I set up a business account they would courier them for sixty five million euro. Plus VAT.

A quick call to DHL South Africa and they arranged pick up the same day and delivered to my work place within 48 hours. For less than fifty euro.

Needless to say my working relationship with them ended shortly after and I re-entered the world of multi-national bend over barrel-ism. I get my deliveries faster to here than I did when with DHL!

SO Unkie Dave, when you hitting the South East?

At 7:18 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps our Post Code System for use on GPS and SatNav will help resolve some of these problems - see details on Location Based Post Codes (PONCodes) here - http://www.gpsireland.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=47&Itemid=79

You could pass your PON Code of apartment or mail box to the courier and you will be able to determine your PON Code at www.gpsireland.ie

Feel free to contact me at gary@gpsireland.ie or Tel: 021 4832990 for further info

At 11:09 am, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

I had no idea that there was such a shared depth of feeling for this topic, I definitely seem to have struck a nerve.

Steve - I imagined when I was at DHL that the inside looked like the warehouse in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" crossed with the door machine in "Monsters Inc" - nice to know I was on track.

Mr Tim - cheers for the support in my retirement, as you can see I am as grumpy and indignant as ever, job or no job.

Spewy - the country shop option is always the best, while collecting my package I could also arrange a funeral, have a pint, buy some livestock and find out who didn't go to mass last week. The lifeblood of rural environs.

Kate - I now hold you personally responsible for all delivery failures as you once had a tangental connection to my problem. Get used to it, I have suffered for the last 4 years in this way. The Sunny South East will be soon, early June perhaps?

Gary - interesting system, particularly if it gets used by the couriers. There is an old adage about horses and water however, as my problem is not that the courier companies can't find me, they can, its just that they seem ignorant of the existence and operation of doorbells. Unless you can include a set of graphic instructions on the satnav display, I'm still going to face the same problem.

At 9:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually it was pretty much exactly like you've always imagined Willy Wonka's chocolate factory to be.

At 1:31 pm, Blogger spewbuntu said...

Congratulations UPS, you've made it onto my list too!


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