I love cheese. I love crackers. I love wine. I like to play a game whereby when I am consuming these together, every time something runs out the presence of the other two components offers a cast-iron excuse to replenish plate or glass: “I’ll just have some more wine to go with my cheese and biscuits”, “I’ll just have some more crackers to go with my cheese and wine”… you get the idea. It’s a game for one or more players which can go on for hours.
So lately I have been experimenting with getting posh food delivered so that I can be adventurous with my cooking and eating. Abel and Cole has proved a massive success. Gorgeous vegetables, yummy organic meat and reliable, friendly delivery man.
And we sampled some absolutely world class cheese at the Chatsworth Country Fair earlier this month from Neal’s Yard Dairies. Imagine my delight when I found out that you could order online and get it delivered to your door (for an exorbitant extra charge). I was considering signing up for their exciting “Cheese of the Month” scheme as well as ordering yummy Colton Basset Stilton and mouthwatering mature cheddar.
But here’s the thing, we all know that waiting in for deliveries can be annoying and frustrating and the only guarantee is that the doorbell will go when you are on the toilet/teaching a singing student/out, but my recent experience has been so outrageous that I felt moved to share it.
When you order online from NYD, you are given a provisional date for delivery and you’re also given a link so you can track your order. You’re advised that UPS will contact you the night before your parcel is due to arrive. Obviously you provide your address and postcode.
The first time I ordered cheese, I was given a provisional date of delivery on September 6th. UPS didn’t email me on 5th and on the morning of September 6th I received an email saying my parcel would be delivered on 7th. So far so good. I go out for the morning to buy wine and crackers in Tesco. While I’m there I receive two emails from UPS. One advised me that the delivery was going to take place on 6th after all. The second said that my parcel had been delivered. To the wrong address. I live in a village called Hasland. It had been delivered to an address in Scarcliffe which is 6 miles up the road. A little internet research just now suggests that the name of the road is the same. The postcode and town are not. The parcel had apparently been signed for. I wondered which lying and lucky so-and-so was greedily enjoying my cheese.
I ring UPS. I wrangle with their automated phone menu for several minutes, mainly because none of the options on the phone menu were relevant to my specific issue. Eventually I get put through to a real person…who cannot do anything about the problem. They suggested I contact the retailer. It wasn’t their fault apparently. After roughly 25 minutes of calmly expressing my dissatisfaction and frustration, and making sure that UPS did in fact realise that they were to blame for delivering my parcel to the wrong town, I extracted a promise that someone from the depot in Sheffield would talk to the driver and then call me back. Which they did. The driver had left the package on the porch. It had not in fact been signed for. It had definitely been left in Scarcliffe. They were unable to tell me why. I then hatched a plan of enormous cunning. I decided to track down the address in Scarcliffe and was all-set to re-claim my prize… but first I wanted to put my wine in the fridge.
I pulled up at home and went in to unpack my shopping. Nothing on the doorstep. No delivery note. I picked up my car keys, opened the front door and what should I find on the porch but my cheese!!! Amazing. No need to risk being prosecuted for trespassing in Scarcliffe. I happily put it in the fridge and awaited the return of my husband and a very jolly time was had by us both. It was just as delicious as we’d remembered. We thought it would last us a month. It lasted a fortnight so on Saturday evening when the fridge’s cheese level was getting worryingly low I decided to order some more.
It was very hard to choose which particular package to go for, but I decided we would be a bit adventurous and was very much looking forward to sampling Appleby’s Cheshire, Kirkham’s Lancashire, Stichelton and Lincolnshire Poacher. Salivating at the prospect I filled in my details and was promised a delivery in two day’s time.
I received no email from UPS on the Sunday, but I hadn’t received an email the night before my last delivery so I wasn’t unduly perturbed. I started to be a bit impatient on Wednesday. The link tracking my order seemed to be broken so I rang NYD. The incredibly helpful lady sorted it all out. There had been a glitch in the system at their end apparently and my cheese was dispatched for a guaranteed morning delivery on Thursday.
Surprise, surprise, I received no email from UPS on Wednesday evening. On Thursday though I received one with a link for me to track my package. Off I went to buy anticipatory crackers and wine. My package was slowly wending its way North and while I was in the supermarket it had got up the motorway as far as Castle Donnington. I continued to track its progress and was astonished to see at 10 am that it had been re-routed to Southampton. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, so I rang UPS. I was still unimpressed by their phone menu. I was even more unimpressed by their rude and unhelpful representative who informed me that the misguided insertion of the letter A into my postcode had led to my cheese being delivered to the wrong end of the country. SA for Southampton, S for Sheffield. Clearly UPS weren’t able to read and obviously they have no system for checking that a postcode marries up to an address. Odd for a company whose sole purpose is to deliver parcels.
I explained that my package was perishable and that the mistake should be rectified as soon as possible. UPS said that I couldn’t change the delivery address on my item until an attempt had been made to deliver the package, and that only NYD would be able to alter the postcode. I rang NYD. They offered me a full refund with no quibbling at all which I accepted. I set off for the Chatsworth Farm Shop to buy some consolation cheese, exciting organic wine and posher crackers.
But… I couldn’t help wistfully thinking of my NYD parcel smellily mouldering in the UPS depot in Southampton. I felt it was such a waste of such very lovely cheese. I hadn’t yet totally given up on my treasure and decided to make a massive effort to get UPS to actually do their job properly. I decided if I got my cheese before close of play I would ring the lovely lady at NYD and pay for it again over the phone. That after all, would be fair.
How do we best complain in the age of social media? What tends to get things moving? I thought I might have more luck with Twitter. I tweeted and immediately got a reply giving me a special email address for complainy customers. I sent all of my information and received an auto-reply saying that someone would get back to me in 24 hours. I thought sadly of my cheese and tweeted again, asking for the contact details of the depot. No can do said UPS. The only number available is the main switchboard. I tweeted back humorously “Wot no phones in Southampton?” “You are tweeting to social media in the USA” came the reply “We don’t have the information”. Bugger. I considered driving to Southampton but realised I would be unlikely to get there until after the depot closed.
I reply to UPS’s auto-reply with the heading URGENT. Perishable Cheese Sitting in Southampton Depot. I receive a reply asking me for my phone number. No one rings me. Four hours later my cheese is still in Southampton. During the afternoon and evening I receive no fewer than 4 emails from UPS – each apologising that the last person to be in charge of sorting out my problem has left for the day and asking me for my information again. I send back increasingly irate replies. Eventually I receive a response
“Please be advised that UPS does not provide a protective service for the transportation of perishable commodities. These items will be accepted for transportation solely at the shipper’s risk for any damage arising from the perishable nature of the item. I suggest that you contact the shipper for further assistance.”
I reply that they have known about my perishable item sitting in Southampton for SEVEN HOURS and have done nothing about it. I receive another email “The status of your package has changed, exception reason: incorrect postcode. We are trying to obtain correct postcode”. At this point I become seriously annoyed. I have, of course, put my postcode on EVERY SINGLE BIT OF CORRESPONDENCE ALL DAY.
The icing on the cake is the final communication of yesterday from yet another person at UPS (Maria, Christine, Katya and Maja had all it seems now left for the day). My package would be delivered the following day. Because I am very cross, in spite of my usual attitude to best-before dates and penchant for cheese which is practically crawling out of its wrapper, I email them back and in BIG SHOUTY LETTERS say that it’s pointless delivering my PERISHABLE item which has been SITTING IN SOUTHAMPTON ALL DAY DESPITE THEM KNOWING ABOUT IT SINCE 10AM as it will have gone off by the time it arrives. I email NYD and list the iniquities, inefficiencies and general rubbishness of UPS and suggest they might like to adjust their choice of courier.
I have a glass of wine and another glass of wine. The Chatsworth cheese is delicious. I go to bed.
Now this is where it gets really good…
I am awoken by my phone’s email beep. “You have a parcel coming” cheerily announces UPS. I swear at my phone. I spend the morning learning my music and preparing lunch for my friend who’s coming to visit. I am in, within hearing range of the doorbell and with good visuals of my driveway for the entire time. I can categorically state that no UPS representative has been within 50 yards of my front door.My friend arrives and we are sitting down to lunch when my phone beeps:
So… it says it has been delivered to the “rear door”. I check – no parcel. Aha maybe the side gate I think (obviously forgetting that the UPS person would have had to be invisible, silent and driving an invisible van for this to be a possibility). No parcel. I check the front door, behind the bins, the end of the driveway. Nothing. I examine the email more closely and yes, there it is. They have delivered my parcel to Scarcliffe. AGAIN. TO A POSTCODE THAT IS NEITHER MINE, NOR THE ONE IN SOUTHAMPTON.
At this point I become so enraged I actually scream. I ring UPS. Again. I battle through their phone menu. I am put through to a representative. I explain. Again. I am given the same non-excuses. Again. I tell them they are the worst company I have ever had contact with. Again.
While I am on-hold because eventually the representative decides she might be able to provide me with some more information which 5 minutes ago she said she didn’t have, my doorbell rings. A smiling UPS man is rather bewildered when I collapse in hysterics at his feet. Held tenderly in his arms is a rather smelly box of cheese. He didn’t understand why I’d received a delivery notice involving Scarcliffe as he’d come straight from the depot in Sheffield. Returning to the line, the UPS representative on the phone told me categorically that the package had been delivered to the back door of an address in S44 and that someone had signed for it. “That’s interesting,” I said “Because I’m just signing for it myself as we speak at my front door in S41”.
UPS emailed me about 20 minutes after he left, offering a refund for the value of the items, despite my having told them that I had already received a refund from NYD.
The well-travelled cheese is now in my fridge. I fully anticipate it being extremely delicious. I mean, cheese is a way of preserving milk, I’m sure it will be ok… I certainly can’t bring myself to bin it. If it tastes as good as it smells I will ring NYD tomorrow and pay them for it. It doesn’t seem right to have it for free. I will, however, take the delivery charge off the bill!