Tuesday, December 30, 2008

FedEx: What Part of "Delivery by 10:30am" and "Priority Overnight" Do You NOT Understand?

As in each of the past three years, a Christmas gift for several family members was my annual "bird book," a labor of love that includes the best of my bird photography from the prior year along with narratives and facts about each of the birds and locations I visited.  And, despite the significant work on the book through the early fall, getting it wrapped up and finished came down to the absolute last minute, with my order going out on December 22rd--for which I paid a premium of $50 on top of the $54 FedEx Priority Overnight Express delivery charges to make sure it would arrive by Christmas Eve.

Everything looked good for an on-time delivery; printing house Lulu.com got the book printed and handed off to FedEx early on the 23rd, and FedEx then claimed a "by 10:30am" delivery on the 24th.  The package only had to go from Rochester, NY, to my house outside of Washington, D.C. (something a bit under 400 miles), after all.

On the morning of the 24th, I checked the tracking for my books and saw that they were "in transit" from Memphis as of about 7:00am.  Checking FlightAware for the day's scheduled FedEx flights to the Washington area, I figured it was on the second flight out that morning and would easily be delivered by 10:30am, as promised, and even printed out a copy of the flight path as "Santa's Sleigh."

Come that afternoon, my package still had not arrived, yet still said "in transit."  I called FedEx, waited on hold for a half an hour, and found out it was actually still in Memphis, having been "left on the ramp" and having missed that flight.  Fine; there were more flights to come on Christmas Eve, and the CSR thought I should still get it.

The next two flights were slightly delayed--not due to weather between MEM and WAS, but perhaps due to weather elsewhere delaying their arrival into MEM (though FlightAware didn't seem to think that to be the case).  And yet... my package missed both those flights, too.

I called FedEx back and waited even longer on hold and was told the package had, again, and inexplicably, had been left in Memphis.  "Somehow it didn't get loaded onto the flight," I was told, but the "helpful" CSR explained that they were operating the same schedule of flights the next day and several through the night, so it should make it by the 26th.

Now, note that the guarantee was for 10:30am on the 24th.  They couldn't even tell me it would reach Washington in time to be picked up at the FedEx counters which would be open on Christmas Day.  "I'm sorry," was the only apology I could get; no explanation as to how or why the package had been left behind so many times in Memphis.  Heck, in the 16 hours it had spent there, it could have made it to Washington on a truck; in the then-more-than-24 hours since it left Rochester, I could have driven to Rochester and back twice to pick it up in person!

I'll skip over the Christmas Day fiasco, where the package wasn't loaded onto the first truck to the local counter (and couldn't be picked up at the IAD facility, because it was "farther" away from my house)... and fast forward to today, when I had my request for a shipping refund denied by FedEx "with apologies for the inconvenience" due to the fact that FedEx's shipping terms and conditions allow them the cop-out that weather anywhere in the United States can allow them to skip out on a guaranteed delivery date.

Never mind that there was, according to the FAA, no appreciable weather delay between MEM and IAD (or DCA or BWI) all day on 12/24, and that according to FlightAware only a couple of FedEx flights to IAD had any significant delays--so FedEx can't seriously claim weather delayed the package.  No, they simply are using the excuse of bad weather in the Pacific Northwest (snow in Seattle and Portland, mostly) as the reason why my package got "left off the ramp" at MEM for several consecutive flights on Christmas Eve.

Next step: disputing the shipping charges with American Express.  I doubt that will succeed; FedEx will just play the "weather" cop-out with them as well.  However, this does go down as a huge black strike against FedEx in my opinion.  Though UPS seems to have more overall delivery issues in my experience, FedEx certainly has the more spectacular ones, from this Christmas fiasco to once leaving another Priority Overnight package off the fabled ramp in Memphis for five consecutive days.  Alas, DHL has been subsumed by UPS; though I used them least often, I always got shipments from Japan, Indonesia, and Hong Kong within 48 hours--and usually for less cost than a 2-day FedEx or UPS domestic package shipment!

1 comment:

John Nolley II said...

A quick update: as of this morning, FedEx in a terse note says that they are crediting me the shipping charges. Whether due to my incredulous letters to FedEx themselves, my disputing the shipping charges with Amex, or my complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau, I do not know, nor have I actually seen the refunded money yet--but something did the trick, and for now, FedEx is off my "naughty" list. Still, it should never have taken such effort to get such a simple (and, in the scheme of things, fairly meager) request addressed. What ever happened to good customer service?