ME and Ophelia

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

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Never miss out on a home delivery again?

Someone wrote to MetaFilter on the problem of internet/mail order deliveries arriving at home when you're out. Seems this is a growing problem, that maybe deters people from shopping online, especially for expensive goods. Who'd be there to receive the order when you're away or at work?

One reader suggested giving out your work address for delivery. Good idea (if your work approves) but not very convenient if the package is large and you travel home on foot, by bike, train, bus or underground.

Another suggested - for those in the UK - giving out your Royal Mail Post Office address for delivery, where you could pick-up outside business hours. Good idea if the Post Office is close to your home, you have a car or the package manageable.

Same applies to Collectpoint (with 1600 locations across the UK, your nearest collectpoint is never far away - so if what you’ve bought is not quite what you wanted, you can return it in the same way). If a package was large or heavy and you had no car, you'd need to arrange pick-up or drop-off with a friend by car or taxi - or get some sort of trolley.

My mother and her elderly neighbours only shop by phone and inevitably have to deal with returns. They are loyal to one particular mail order company because the 'returns' service is so efficient. One phone call to the company and a courier arrives next day at the door, label is made up ready and goods are returned in their original packaging, without a quibble.

Another solution, discussed at Meta Filter, would be to purchase a specially designed gigantic letter box that's lockable. Or to build an outdoor storage box with a fastening that can be padlocked; leave the padlock undone so the delivery person can put the package into the storage box and snap close the padlock. Good idea, if one was expecting not more than one delivery per day (and if the padlock didn't get stolen before the goods arrived).

Here's another solution that would be good for perishable items: arrange for the order to be sent to a home delivery service such as Beck & Call who, for a small fee, would deliver to your home between 7 am and 11 pm. It makes more sense to pay a small fee to a holding bay that delivers outside of business hours.

Some years ago, I managed a mail order business. It was a nightmare. Goods were perishable (large outdoor plants and shrubs) and delivery problems and returns took up most of the customer support resources. Customers weren't at home when they said they would be, ie: in hospital, on holiday, urgent business away, ill (deceased!) ...the list of reasons is huge. On certain items - and especially when stocks run out - there's a 28-day order fulfillment cycle - and it's not always possible to give every customer an exact time/date for delivery.

IMO there's huge growth potential for home delivery services. People are now getting more confident using plastic payment cards online. It may be just a matter of time before it becomes the norm to get the best deal on purchases made over the Internet, which would create a demand for efficient and reliable delivery services prepared to serve customers outside of business hours.

Most of my purchases are over the phone, by mail or online. The most expensive and recent item is a laptop, purchased via Apple Store Online. One powerbook did get lost by the carrier but was replaced within two weeks. I was at home during the day to receive the delivery. The carrier did not phone in advance to check that I was in. If I had been at work, I'd use a service like Beck & Call - after checking fine print on policy re goods damaged or lost in transit.

It makes sense to pay a small fee to a holding bay that delivers outside of business hours. Instead of burning up car fuel, getting stressed over parking and loading. Kinder to the environment too: one van delivers to several homes, rather than several cars to and fro, clogging up roads and parking spaces to pick up goods. If home delivery services became truly efficient, people could shop at supermarkets more easily or by phone and have their goods delivered.

The problem of traffic congestion here in this small seaside town is mainly caused by shoppers. The main street gets noisy, smelly and stressful. Reminds me of the olden days when horse and carriages packed the streets and created chaos. It's still barmy and chaotic today: one person in a car, parks - and takes up the space that a holidaymaker could use - goes grocery shopping, comes back an hour or two later, loads and leaves... while another car waits in line to do the same thing.

Recently, I've read that one should not push a young child in a low pram along a pavement on a busy street because the child could develop breathing problems from the fumes from car exhaust pipes. There are bans on smoking in certain areas, even in the outdoors. But no bans on stinky vehicles polluting our lungs and giving us cancer. I've lived in London where black soot (not dust) would settle on the inside of window ledges - and on my face makeup - even cuffs of white shirts were blackened at the end of one working day. Read more in the war outside your door.
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Note: Benedict Ely and Charles Doyle founded Beck & Call Delivery in August 2000. This London based service, delivers packages and parcels to residential customers at a time convenient to them. The challenge for the business was to honour the promises echoed in their mission statement to be at the, "beck and call of customers".

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 5/26/2004
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