What's the number for 911?

Image of FedEx logo A growing number of consumers have abandoned shopping malls and big box stores in favour of the more convenient and cost effective online retail mode. Inasmuch as cost and convenience are driving factors, the online retail model is not without detractors, citing the cost and delay associated with shipping, and the inconvenience of returning items as the model's primary shortcomings.

Last November, my co-adventurer Nancy, asked me if there was anything in particular I might like at Christmas. "A belt," I replied with no hesitation, "a really good belt. Not a cheap-assed Walmart mock-leather piece of shit like the one I've been wearing that's going to fall apart in a month. A good one. It'll be expensive, but it will last a lifetime". It's difficult to find a good belt at a department store, a fact to which my closet, until recently, bore testament to. "Apple Saddlery," I suggested, a local tack store which specialized in bridle leather goods.

Not being particularly fond of the Christmas shopping rush, I suggested we undertake the "belt expedition" in the New Year when the crowds subsided. The sortie ultimately morphed into a spring adventure when, last week, in a Saturday morning apres-breakfast sojourn, we ventured out to Apple Saddlery to perouse their wares. Selecting the finest quality leather belt was effortless. There was, in fact, only one contender: Filson. Unfortunately, after browsing the limited selection of Filson products offered by the merchant, we discovered two things: they were sold out of the size I wanted and they would not be placing another order with Filson for several months. "No problem," Nanz assured me, "we'll just order one online.". Given the superior quality of the Filson belt, returning the item would be a non-issue so the only real disadvantage of ordering online was shipping costs and delays. The additional cost, in my view, was less troublesome than waiting several months for Apple Saddlery to replenish their stock. The only remaining issue, that of unnecessary shipping delay, is a qualitative measure: one in which Federal Express seems to have excelled in.

Nanz ordered two belts directly from Filson on a Saturday afternoon. She received an immediate email confirmation and, on Monday, a subsequent notice that the items had been shipped. Shortly thereafter, an email confirmation was sent by FedEx which indicated that the item would be delivered on Wednesday before 8:00pm. The tracking information, as listed on the FedEx website, showed the item as "In Transit". Though I remained at home all day on Wednesday in anticipation of a chance delivery, I was not overly concerned when the package did not arrive. In FedEx's defence, their website did indicate it as an "ESTIMATED DELIVERY" only.

Wednesday came and Wednesday went; no package. What followed was Thursday, and updated information on the FedEx website. Early in the morning, the package was listed as "At Local Depot". A short time later, as the business day commenced, the FedEx website listed the item as "On Truck - Out for Delivery". I'd have thought that a parcel which, in a little over a day, made it's way from Seattle, via Memphis to Ottawa, cleared customs and ended up on a delivery truck would have surely finished the trip from a depot near the Airport to the Alta Vista area.

Apparently, deductive reasoning is not a prerequisite if you delivery packages for Federal Express. Assuming FedEx employees possess the same skill set as the average person, I posed the following question to the gal at the checkout in the local grocery store. "If you delivered packages for FedEx," I said, "and the package was address to the person in unit #513, what ring number would you enter into the dialpad to gain access to the building?" There was no hesitation, whatsoever, from the checkout gal who I'd estimate to be a teenager still in high school. "Five-thirteen! she proclaimed. I thought it might be an anomaly, so I posed the same question to an OC bus driver. "You drive for a living," I said by way of introducing the question, "if you were driving for FedEx, delivering packages, and you were delivering a package to unit #107 in a building, what ring number would you use to buzz the customer?" The bus driver, like the teenage grocery store checkout gal, answered without hesitation, "One-o-seven!".

FedEx drivers, or at least the one who delivers in my area, have an entirely different skill set. When delivering a package to Unit #505, and not explicitly provided a ring number, the protocol seems to be to naturally assume the package cannot be delivered and to return it to the depot. Seems perfectly logical to me if, as my brief experiment seems to suggest, the average teenage grocery-store checkout gal possesses greater deductive reasoning than the average FedEx courier. I was curious to know if, by chance, it FedEx's practice was standard in the industry so I posed the scenario to a courier with the Ottawa Messenger Group. "If the building had a resident directory, I'd scan for the name on the package looking for a ring number," he offered. "If there was no name on the resident's directory which matched the package, I'd try ringing the same number as the Unit on the package." He continued, "And as a last resort, I'd call the phone number on the package's waybill." It seems pretty clear to me that the drivers from OMG not only have better protocols in place than FedEx, but also have the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time. The FedEx guys, or at least the one who delivers in my area, must be a few Skittles short of a rainbow.

As a consequence of the driver's diligence, a special trip had to be made to the FedEx depot to retrieve the package which, in itself, required the use of a GPS and flare gun. I can only hope that the FedEx guy who delivers to the Alta Vista area never has cause to call 911 because given his lack of deductive powers I can only presume he won't know the farking number....

Submitted by Jeff Dubois, 30 April 2015