I was always impressed by Fedex’s success record and efficiency in delivering packages where they needed to go and on schedule. Clearly, it was a well-oiled precision machine. I have now seen a different side of Fedex—what happens when you throw in a monkey wrench. Quite simply, it can’t handle it.
The service collapses and everything done by each and every player along the way is wrong. I also experienced a serious lack of integrity among the supervisory personnel when the matter was escalated. In summary, when Fedex is asked to do something outside its normal activity it turns into one of the worst-performing companies in the world.
My nightmare—for so it became–with Fedex lasted from the morning of August 29th to the afternoon of August 30th. By the time it finished playing out, not only was the result failure, but I felt like I had been put through what amounted to torture. Everything which every Fedex representative did was wrong, and I encountered universal ineptitude. Please bear with me, because you cannot grasp the depth of the ordeal without a description of all the individually little things they put me through—in the process of failing to do what I was requesting.
Here is the story. A package I sent to Virginia was due to be delivered in the early afternoon of August 29th. Without getting into details, it contained something that I valued highly. That same morning, however, I learned that the recipient had just left for a month’s travel (of course, she should have told me, but that is another story). Upon my calling, a Fedex representative informed me that the driver, working out of the Manassas, Virginia, station, had the box, but said he’s send a message to him to not deliver it, and it would probably reach him in time. I was pleased.
When I called back at 2:00, a woman told me the box had been delivered at 12:30. But a message had been sent to him, I said! This message, the woman answered, had been sent via an indirect route that could take up to 24 hours to reach the driver. I complained loudly—there would be no one at that house for a month!– and she was condescending. She offered me no good options. I called again at 4:00 and reached yet a third person.
This person told me he would call the driver directly and ask him to go back to the house and pick up the package. This was interesting, because it was the first indication that a) the representative could reach the driver directly, which I’d been told was absolutely not possible and b) that the driver could be sent back the same day to retrieve it. So everything agents #1 and #2 thought they knew was wrong. And of course, speed was crucial to avoid the package being stolen. I even offered to pay extra for having the driver go back out that afternoon.
At 6:00 I called back. As the package had not been picked up, I escalated the issue to the supervisory level, to a woman named Donna. She was so nice and so sympathetic. Everything the Fedex representatives had done was indeed wrong and she was so sorry! She would get on the phone at that moment and find the driver and tell him to drive out to the house to get the package back. This should take her about half an hour.
She would call me back, and if I wanted to reach her all I had to do was call the main number and ask for Donna in the Customer Advocate team. And then she disappeared. She never called me back and she never answered my messages. In the multiple calls I made that night I learned that no driver ever went back that evening.
There was no alternative to creating a new order for the package to be picked up the next day, presuming it had not already been stolen. As the driver was going to be dispatched out of the Manassas, Virginia, Fedex station, I called there at 8:00 on the next day, September 30. I gave Zack, the supervisor, all the background, and stressed the importance of the driver going there as early as possible.
Zack was so sympathetic! He was disturbed about what had happened, and promised to send out the driver to pick up the package early. He was going to call me back as soon as he had something. Well, as was the case with Donna, Zack never called me back. I tried calling him but I never managed to find him again. I talked to another manager named who said the record was indicating that the driver had gone out at some point, but it was not clear if he’d gotten a package or not. The record eventually showed that the carried had arrived only after 12:30. So much for my pleading that he go early and Zack’s assurances.
When I called Manassas in the early afternoon, Fedex had yet one bit of torture for me. Using the tracking number I provided her, a young person informed me of what had happened, reading from the data base. In a tone of authority, she said the carrier would have to return because the package had not been ready for delivery. “You mean the package was not there? That means it was stolen, “ I said. Absurdly, I had to satisfy her so that she’d transfer me to a supervisor. I had to waste time and energy going through the story and explaining that the carrier knew full well that the package’s absence meant it had been stolen. Why in God’s name were they saying the package was not ready for pickup????
Eventually I understood. Fedex’s procedure is so rigid that the driver has to check off an explanation from a specific written list. “Stolen” is not included, so he checked off “not ready.” Interestingly, this designation triggers that he is going to return twice more to see if the package is “ready” because that is what the protocol calls for, although he, I and everyone else involved understand that Fedex’s delay allowed the package to be stolen before the driver’s first trip.
That is where the situation stands now– Fedex’s repeated ineptitude allowed my package, which contained things that were important to me, to be stolen. This is profoundly sad for me. Furthermore, the company turned the process itself into a painful personal ordeal; as long as this description has been, I’ve provided only the highlights of something that became sheer torture. Between the 29th and the 30th I talked to a good dozen representatives over many phone calls that easily consumed six or seven hours of that 24-hour period. And I still face more difficulty ahead– the task of being reimbursed for its full value, which is sure to be protracted, deeply frustrating and probably unsuccessful.
What I have found in Fedex is a huge systemic failure when responding to anything that deviates from normal procedure. Repeatedly Fedex representatives worked on the basis of an understanding of specific rules that turned out to be incorrect in crucial ways. The first representative could have contacted the driver in time to stop the delivery; the second representative could have offered to send the driver back that very afternoon.
The contents of the box could have been saved from falling in the hands of thieves. Furthermore, the company is so rule-bound that, knowing the package was stolen, it puts down its absence to its “not being ready,” and then proceeds to carry out the protocol which this triggers. Dealing with the individual representatives is aggravating and time-consuming, because each person demands from you a complete explanation of the whole sequence of events.
I remember with special vividness when I was already exhausted trying, as I described above, to convince a representative that the package’s absence was due to theft and not to the “package not being ready,” as the database said (and if the system says so, it must be true, right?).
I am even more pained, however, by the shabby personal behavior. Supervisors Donna and Zack both talked such a good game. Both commiserated with me so sympathetically and both vowed to solve the problem. Donna was going to send the carrier right back out to get the package on the 29th and call me back, and Zack was going to send the carrier out early on the 30th and call me back. Neither did what they promised and both avoided having further contact with me. It is not just unprofessional, but there was a total lack of personal integrity. Is this what Fedex teaches them—to promise the customer whatever he wants, because in the end that customer is unable to find that supervisor again?
This experience, in conclusion, has given me a peek behind the curtain. The well-oiled, precision machine is only one side of Fedex. I have glimpsed mediocrity, lack of proper training, poor judgment, and shabby personal behavior. I would say that Fedex has a lot to fix, but I have no reason to think it cares.