The Croaking Frog: Liars in Uniform

I hate being lied to, especially when the liar is someone you are supposed to trust and depend on his / her / their service. Being lied to be friends, family or loved ones is one thing, and you deal with it on a different psycho-social level. You call them out on the lie, perhaps give them the cold shoulder for a while, or (depending on the severity of the lie) break off ties completely, especially when the lies border on emotional abuse. But that is a topic for another day. Today I have a big chip on my shoulder with the couriers and mailmen.

It is bad enough that there is a huge backlog of undelivered mail in Germany at the moment due to the ongoing strikes. Letters and packages have either gone missing or will stagnate in whatever warehouse they were parked in last week, and there are no clear answers as to when things will be back to the regular efficient service. Whatever can´t be done online will suffer a terrible fate these days and time-sensitive documents run the risk of arriving late, if they arrive at all. That leaves the courier services, who are already overworked ever since lockdown began in March, with more people confined at home for Home Office and doing significantly more online shopping.

The trouble with many of these couriers is that they don´t know or care about the customer as much as your regular mailman does. Our regular DHL teddy bear who delivers the packages in our building knows us all by name and face, and knows whom to leave the packages with if you are not home. He will even make the odd comment or two if someone moves out – his heavy Berliner dialect is to die for and very endearing. We all freaked out when he went on holiday and his replacement got everything mixed up or the packages simply went missing. The other regular is the one from Hermes, who will go out of his way to make arrangements with a neighbour and ensure the package is in good hands. Before he left on summer holidays he asked around two weeks before if we were expecting any packages so he could leave instructions. Now THAT is customer service. Again, all hell broke loose when the sub took over…

My new business cards were supposed to arrive last Thursday with GLS, a courier service I have always had trouble with in the past. This time was no different. After receiving the notification from both the vendor and GLS that the package was arriving on Thursday, I made sure I was home to receive it, forsaking the good weather and maybe run an errand or two. The day ended and there was no sign of GLS or my cards, with the doorbell remaining silent as a grave. Lo and behold, when I checked my emails at 18:30, GLS had sent a disgustingly cheerful confirmation email saying that they were happy to inform me the package was safely delivered to my address, received by me, and all was well. I was livid!

Of course I wrote GLS back immediately and reported the missing package, which is still missing up to now because nobody else received it, and I filed a complaint. To this day I have yet receive an acknowledgement or an apology from them, and there is no trace of my cards. Nada. Vanished into thin air.

Naturally, I also informed the vendor of the missing cards. Unlike GLS, the team at Vistaprint took customer service to a whole new level and the other extreme. A new set was immediately printed for me, free of charge, and I was told that if the first batch ever arrived I was welcome to keep those as well with their compliments. I had to grin when the confirmation email with the tracking number led me to the UPS website, which is a whole different animal. Their packages land in a licensed shop in the neighbourhood and you just have to waddle over to claim your package there if they missed you at home. Why the grin? Well because it is basically a liquor store in the guise of a small supermarket next to an obscure tattoo parlour behind the tram station, so it is rather like going on a covert operation to retrieve something, and I always find myself looking over my shoulder. At least with the DPD packages, the rare times I receive anything through them, I can pick up the package at a nearby gas station and will keep them there for seven days before returning to sender.

When you put on a uniform, any uniform, you commit to the corporate identity and live by the standards and principles that the customers have come to know and trust. Regardless of whether we talk about corporate or public service, society bestows a good deal of trust on men and women in uniform. Mind you, I know of privately run couriers who are making a killing during these trouble COVID-19 times, and some of their employees end up paying out of their own pocket for items rejected by the client at the end point! A betrayal of this trust should come with severe consequences. Can you court-martial the courier? I guess not, but it should be an option!

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