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How to handle shipping problems?
dickbaker




msg:4047955
 11:23 pm on Dec 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

I put a notice last week on my site giving cutoff dates for the postal service and UPS for Christmas orders. What I didn't count on was one mail facility--the one almost all of my orders go through--screwing up thousands of packages. The post office doesn't know where they are.

The packages are arriving, but slowly, and days later than they should have. Meanwhile, I have customers angry with me.

How do you deal with problems that are out of your control?

 

krolik




msg:4047995
 12:30 am on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

We ship most of the packages by USPS but always use priority service to have tracking number. Unfortunately tracking number is not available for international packages, unless you send "express'.

jsinger




msg:4048060
 3:10 am on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Is the problem related to the blizzard in the U.S. East? Buyers in that area should understand delays but what about people out west buying from an eastern snowbound shipper? I think we've seen about two snowflakes so far this season.

We don't sell many gift items but I wonder how sites deal with cutoffs. We have a disclaimer on a few of our products that are **often** bought as Christmas gifts, but we simply don't know the buyer's purpose for sure.

I don't want to be put in the position of guaranteeing delivery by a precise date and being set up for a charge back because we're a day or two late.

dickbaker




msg:4048074
 4:29 am on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's not just the postal service that's late. UPS and FedEx are as well.

It's the storms and other things. I was told that UPS and FedEx aren't guaranteeing anything, even if you pay for overnight (and, no, you don't get a refund if "overnight" takes five days).

90% of my orders arrived on time or before promised. It's just these few that have given me a headache.

One woman was complaining so much that I refunded all of my profit to her, and told her that was my profit, even though she'll get the product eventually.

smartwork




msg:4048078
 4:37 am on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

We don't personally guarantee delivery dates because... well... technically we can't because we don't control the shipping companies. What we can do is guarantee a ship-date, and then if the shipping company wants to guarantee their transit times after they pick up a package from us, that is part of their defined service and therefore subject to their conditions (which may have disclaimers for weather, etc.). The customer has their choice of service.

How to handle your lost packages? That depends if you guaranteed the delivery. If you didn't personally guarantee delivery, you can provide the shipping company's information/disclaimers about the service they selected for their package, but if a customer is under the gun for a shipment and stressing, information that will be satisfactory will quickly become non-existent. Posting the cut-off dates may have also implied your guarantee.

If the lost packages were through USPS, they really shouldn't have been expecting any guaranteed times anyway. Upset people want solutions, and you can't give them one regarding delivery because it's out of your control. What you can do as you try to provide them reasons, is to also provide creative solutions... like generating picture-certificates they can print and wrap in case the package doesn't arrive. Help them out of their bind.

CarlaR




msg:4048097
 5:30 am on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

I dont guarantee WHEN a customer will get their package because I cant control it. When an order is sent out, I send them the tracking number (via Endicia if its USPS). I keep an eye out on all packages sent out, but since the customer has the tracking info, they can track it themselves too. At that point, the ball is technically out of my court though I still give them customer service and assistance. If a package is late, they can see it themselves. They can see when was shipped (within 24 hours of the order) and when they should receive it.

dpd1




msg:4048110
 6:03 am on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't ever guarantee arrival times. I just tell people I'll do the best I can. If somebody wants to wait to the last second, they should know they're taking a chance at something going wrong. That's not your problem. It's like the people that leave for the airport assuming the traffic will be perfect, then start yelling at everybody because they missed their flight. Some people just always want to yell at somebody else for all their problems. I would never give a refund simply because somebody didn't get something exactly when they wanted, especially if it's for a reason out of my control. If they're that difficult, they probably won't be back anyway, so no loss. I have vendors that jack me up all the time. I had a big shipment of parts ordered, waiting to be used in products. After about 5 days, I could have waited longer, but something told me I should check. Turns out my distributor sent in the order and the factory says they never got it. If I had waited, I would have been up the creek. But if I had asked them for a refund because of that, they would have thought I was nuts. If they want to vent, give the the number to the USPS.

mellowmayhem




msg:4048117
 6:11 am on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

In the future, I would have a disclaimer that delivery times are not guaranteed. Say that the courier/postal service doesn't guarantee delivery time either. Perhaps give coupons if they complain about late shipments

I would guarantee delivery, however. That is assuming you can track the shipments. Make it clear that it takes 2 months, or whatever, until you can consider a shipment lost and issue are refund. In the rare case that shipments get lost, you refund. Cost of business.

But that's all what you can do in the future, if you haven't already. You need to do something now, for the complaining customers. I think smartwork's idea about picture-certificates they can print and give as a gift might help. Throw a coupon in there too.

dpd1




msg:4048569
 8:19 pm on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

I just noticed this morning that I had numerous USPS shipments just now getting to locations a couple states over, after 6-8 days. And that's west coast. I don't recall repeated delays like that in the past. So I would definitely say that is well into 'special circumstances' territory. Nothing you can do about it. They probably trimmed their work force down too much this year.

Rugles




msg:4048606
 9:13 pm on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

We give ourselves a 3 day cushion for christmas shipping. We got burned real bad one year because a bunch of packages were delayed by UPS (or was it Fed Ex ... i forget). Anyways, our cut-off dates are now earlier than most companies so we don't have to deal with angry customers.

topr8




msg:4048646
 10:02 pm on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

>>How do you deal with problems that are out of your control?

i try to be as polite as possible, give them regular emails, even if they are effectively futile, it shows i'm making an effort, i don't offer a discount or refund, i don't think it helps, you've probably lost them as a future customer anyway if they are really angry.
if possible i talk on the phone, say i've done my best, generally kiss ass etc.

ultimately some people accept that it is beyond your control and just bad luck, others don't accept it - whatever you do i don't think these customers can be appeased anyway.

dickbaker




msg:4048660
 10:21 pm on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

others don't accept it - whatever you do i don't think these customers can be appeased anyway.

That's where I think I made a mistake with the customer to whom I gave a refund. She won't be back. I just saw today that her package will be arriving tomorrow in time for Christmas, and emailed her to let her know. Not a peep back from her. Other customers have been much more understanding.

I lost a sale today because a customer called and wanted to know if he could get an item shipped overnight for Christmas tomorrow. I told him what has been happening with the postal service, UPS and FedEx, and said that he very likely wouldn't get his order in time. He told me he was going to call another retailer who could get it to him overnight. (bang head).

dpd1




msg:4048691
 11:17 pm on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't care what business you are in, you are going to have people that do their very best to insult you, annoy you, and tick you off in general. One story I always remember... In my old profession I got a call one day from a guy who said he had been searching all morning to find somebody, but nobody was available. At first, he was very pleased to hear that I WAS available. Then half way through the conversation he goes... "So, can I ask you something? Why ARE you available?" I say: "Excuse me?" He says: "You know... I mean, everybody in the whole town seems to be working... I'm just wondering why you're not". It took a few seconds, but it finally sinks into my thick head that he basically thinks there must be something bad about me that I'm available. This is after this genius said he spent all morning looking for somebody... So then when he finds somebody, and he insults them. So I said: Actually, come to think of it, I'm not after all... But thanks for calling... Click.

The thing I always tell myself is that... It's not just me, they're doing that to everybody. Your guy will probably go to a place that will tell him what he wants to hear... it won't get there in time... and then he'll yell at them. But they'll still get the money. There's a moral in there somewhere.

Leosghost




msg:4048715
 12:19 am on Dec 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

So I said: Actually, come to think of it, I'm not after all... But thanks for calling... Click.

High 5 ..love it ..dpd1 :)

dickbaker




msg:4048779
 3:56 am on Dec 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

dpd1, that story is hilarious. Your would-be customer reminds me of the people who call to order something because the price is really good, but then back out because they wonder why the price is so low.

dpd1




msg:4048789
 5:05 am on Dec 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I use to work in film production, so I have no shortage of 'stupid people' stories.

MrHard




msg:4048792
 5:24 am on Dec 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

The thing I always tell myself is that... It's not just me, they're doing that to everybody

I don't get them anymore, well I know it's them but it never goes beyond my just knowing.

After many years of experience I have learned to "know" and choose words and voice tones that send them away without them even knowing what's going on, and without there being any anger or basis for complaint, and importantly before it can irritate me and ruin my day. It's like a third sense.

I can't do it yet in person though, just over the phone.

philbish




msg:4048931
 2:53 pm on Dec 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

Its somewhat comforting to know I'm not the only one going through the USPS slowdown problem these last few weeks.

It seems to have all started around December 8th, right around the time when we got a huge snow storm.

*Normal* Priority Mail service is 99% within 2 or 3 days.

These last few weeks, we've had a crazy amount of packages taking as many as 8 or 9 days.

We've had to completely refund some orders, and just tell the customer to keep the product with our compliments.

We've offered to refund the shipping charges (even though we shouldn't).

Some customers accuse us of lying about bringing the packages to the post office when we did.

Its discomforting to hear from some of you that UPS/FedEx can have the same issue.

Recently, I've been upgrading a handful of orders to UPS 2-day air which costs us $18 or so instead of the $5 for Priority, and I'll make a note to do the same next December.

I can't figure out exactly why some USPS packages are being delayed. At first I thought maybe it was because of a mountain pass being closed, but then I realized there were still a handful every day this month that got delivered within their 2 to 3 day timeline. And a big number that took a lot longer. So I'm not sure, are some just sitting around at post offices for a few days before moving anywhere?

dickbaker




msg:4048947
 3:44 pm on Dec 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

So I'm not sure, are some just sitting around at post offices for a few days before moving anywhere?

One of the Priority Mail packages was supposed to go to Michigan, but wound up in Pennsylvania. Another was supposed to go to California, but wound up in Hawaii.

I have nine customers from last week whose Priority Mail packages were very late. Six have been delivered, leaving three who won't have theirs by Christmas. And I know they'll blame me.

Philbish, I wish I could tell the customers to keep the products, but they range in price from $250 to $1400, and my profit margins are only 10-15%.

dpd1




msg:4049076
 11:42 pm on Dec 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

Seriously guys, I think you're selling yourselves short by giving refunds... The shipping situation is highly unusual. I could see maybe sending them a little gift or coupon or something, but total refund... Wow, that's a big hit to take because the PO had a meltdown. On Amazon, they have a ton of schedule info about order deadlines... But then they simply state that "If you live in an area experiencing an unexpected service delay", to add on a few days to that time. So I bet that's how they get out of any late stuff, and I doubt they would give refunds. The little guys shouldn't have to take a worse hit than the big guys.

When I have something go screwy, I send them a little gift that is cheap to make and ship. Lately I've used a photo CD with tons of photos of stuff I know they'll like. I also use that to send to some people who have supported me on forums and such, promoting the products. I sent one out to a guy on a forum the other day, and he's plugged my products like 5 times since then. You can't buy advertising like that.

dickbaker




msg:4049101
 2:38 am on Dec 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

In hindsight the refund was a bad idea. That customer is ticked off enough already, so much so that if I gave her a full refund she wouldn't be satisfied, even though the item arrived in time for Christmas.

A couple of customers have sent some pretty nasty emails. The most recent was titled "Christmas without present." The customer lamented his son having to look at a picture of the gift he should have had.

The son is a police officer, and the gift is an aid for defensive shootings. This isn't Little Timmy and his teddy bear. If the son is old enough to kill as part of his job, I'm sure he can grasp the concept of the mail being late.

CarlaR




msg:4049103
 2:58 am on Dec 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

Dickbaker - that's the bittersweet about the holiday season for us. The sweet part is the increase sales (even if its just a little bit) and the bitter part is the pressure to make sure they get their packages on time. :( I'm sorry you had to go though that.

dpd1




msg:4049388
 9:14 pm on Dec 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

ha ha... Wow, your customers are laying it on pretty thick. I don't think you have anything to feel bad about DB. If anything, they should be the ones that feel ashamed... Trying to lay some guilt trip like that on people.

I went through my slips yesterday, and over all, most worked out. There were numerous ones that got there yesterday that I didn't think would. So that's not bad.

albo




msg:4049959
 6:48 pm on Dec 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

FWIW, folks: deal with it calmly. I suspect the pleased customers outnumber the difficult ones, and just don't call often enough to give you sweet talk for good service.

I've often had *amazingly* fast FedEX shipments, watched via tracking number. (Amusing to see where the driver stops.) I never call back to praise the shipper, though.

I'd say, give a guaranteed order turnaround, a shipper tracking number, and let most common-sensed customers be able to deal with it upon reflection.

If the shipment *absolutely* doesn't arrive, then, that's simply a case for collecting insurance for the merchandise from the carrier and refunding the purchase to the customer, after a reasonable time.

(Oh, and, how about you? Are you a difficult customer when your shipment is delayed?)

dickbaker




msg:4050023
 10:58 pm on Dec 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

(Oh, and, how about you? Are you a difficult customer when your shipment is delayed?)

Last year I bought my wife's gift online the Friday before Christmas. I had it shipped UPS 2nd Day. It should have arrived Tuesday the 23rd, but it arrived Friday the 26th. I considered it my fault for waiting until the last minute.

dpd1




msg:4050055
 12:20 am on Dec 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

Ditto... I ordered something that said "in stock" the other day well before Christmas. 1 1/2 week later I realized they hadn't even shipped yet. Oh well. I get delayed or screwed up orders from vendors constantly... Unless it's just a blatant screw-up on their part, I let it go. But hold it against a seller because the PO or another shipper had a meltdown? Never. That's completely unreasonable.

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