Couriers gnaw away at the last shreds of my sanity

We’ve put men on the moon, sewn human ears on to mice and worked out how to set the oven timer – so why can’t we persuade couriers to give us a ring 15 minutes before they turn up at our houses?

Under Elvish law, couriers are forbidden to carry mobile telephones or give you any indication as to when they might arrive within a 12-hour window. They could arrive at any time between 7am and 7pm. They might not arrive at all. Who knows! By the time you realise that no one is going to turn up, there won’t be anyone left in the office to complain to because, unlike you, they can’t hang around for 12 hours on the off-chance that something might happen.

Equally, when your courier does arrive, they are contractually obliged to knock on your door with all the force of an arthritic spider, ensuring that unless you’re within two feet of the letterbox, you won’t hear them.

It’s as nerve-wracking as waiting for your exam results or for a loved one to come out of an operation. The added bonus is that your fate isn’t resting in the hands of an academic or a highly-trained medic, but rather in the paws of a swarthy youth with “I wish my wife was this dirty!” written in the filth on the back of his van.

I can narrow it down for you - hell be with you before 2010. Maybe

"I can narrow it down for you - he'll be with you before 2010. Maybe"

When you’re waiting for that all-important knock on the door, even a trip to the toilet becomes like a game of Russian Roulette – it’s best to drink nothing, lie in a sleeping bag under the letterbox and set up CCTV cameras outside your front door just in case you take your eye off the ball for a nano-second.

Yesterday, I had a lovely day chained to my sofa waiting for a van to arrive to collect a portable DVD player that managed to work for less than two hours, or for part of one horrendously long film to be precise.

It gave up the ghost part-way through Lord of the Rings (a feeling I can sympathise with) and although it offered full Dolby sound, the picture was reduced to a set of Paul Smith-like rainbow lines.

Actually, I thought it was quite attractive. My son, on the other hand, did not and I endured an evening of impassioned sobbing which only abated when I promised to spend a day waiting in for a courier to arrive and pick up his cursed, useless Christmas present.

I couldn’t do any work, because my computer is in a room at the back of my house and I might have missed the fairy-light knock on the door. I couldn’t have a bath. I couldn’t go and get a paper. It was like being under house arrest.

A calling card from a courier service is one of the most terrifying sights known to mankind, instantly erasing yet another day from your precious holiday entitlement while you wait around listlessly for another 12 hours, desperately hoping the knock will come before the school run.

Calling the depot and asking if anyone can give you even a rough estimation of when a courier might be arriving is as productive as attempting to assemble a 1,000 piece jigsaw in a rowing boat halfway across the Atlantic. In a force eight gale. Blindfolded.

Yes, the depot knows where the courier is now. No, they can’t divulge that information. Can they guarantee not to arrive when you’re out of the house collecting your children from school? No. Can they tell you whether the courier is likely to arrive within the next six hours? No. Is there any chance the courier could give you a quick buzz on their mobile when they arrive at the address on the list before your house? No.

This is customer service in its most elastic definition.

In the time it took for a courier to come along and pick up my faulty DVD player (and at the time of writing, we have not reached that promised land) I could have done a little research on the internet and built my own.

I could have flown to South Africa, taken an intensive driving course and passed my test, given birth, broken the world record for the longest ever continuous wheelie on a BMX or driven to Aberdeen without breaking the speed limits. I’d even have had time for an Olympic Breakfast at one of the few remaining Little Chefs on the way.

On this occasion, not fearing change has been my downfall. By embracing internet purchasing I have consigned myself to an uncertain future, hanging around, occasionally opening the front door and hopefully peering down the street and having heated email debates with someone called Sue whose knowledge of the Sale of Goods Act would comfortably fit on the head of a pin.

There’s nothing like really having to work for your statutory rights to make you feel like a valued customer. Revenge burns deep in my black heart – and I’m not talking about withdrawing my custom or making a complaint. I want them to suffer. Ideas gratefully received (for Sue, particularly – I’ve Google Earthed your office, Sue, and I’ll be with you soon. Some time between 7am and 7pm).


7 Responses to “Couriers gnaw away at the last shreds of my sanity”

  1. 1 momentlover
    February 10, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    i’ve felt this way about courriers too! this was great!

    check out my blog for a good laugh. I’m new.


  2. February 10, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I have had the same experience with the cable and telephone companies. To add insult to injury, the phone company said they showed up and if I was going to make another appointment for them to come over between 7 and 7, then I would be charged an additional fee.

  3. February 10, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    …and the meter reader, and the guy that services my boiler, and the guy that does the electrical safety inspection…

  4. 4 Ram Venkatararam
    February 10, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    As a former courier myself I can assure you that the 12 hour window is reasonable and required. Couriers work alone, are generally introverted and almost always painfully shy.

    It can take hours to work up the nerve to make that long journey down the path to some strangers house and tap lightly on their door. The fear can be paralyzing, crippling. It sometimes requies numerous pints of beer just to get you to the door. And smokes. And sometimes a movie or a really long nap.

    Don’t hate them. And don’t pity them. Admire them for working to overcome their debilitating shyness in order to ensure that you can shop without getting dressed.

  5. 5 brucehood
    February 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Fawlty DVD player???

    Hmm you need the latest from Sony


    I would love to post this on my own blog but my publishers would die.


    • February 11, 2009 at 10:25 pm

      Bruce, the link rules. And it was Sony.
      Should never have bought a portable DVD player anyway. When is it ever essential to be able to watch The Dark Knight WHILE ON THE MOVE? Never.

  6. February 13, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    “I could have flown to South Africa, taken an intensive driving course and passed my test, given birth, broken the world record for the longest ever continuous wheelie on a BMX or driven to Aberdeen without breaking the speed limits. I’d even have had time for an Olympic Breakfast at one of the few remaining Little Chefs on the way.”

    This reminds me of Eddie Izzard’s geography lessons… “The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and then Switzerland.”

    But really, I like the way Sony handled my camera repair: They E-mailed me a label, I printed it out, drove the camera and label to the UPS store, paid $15.00 for shipping and packaging and it was out of sight and mind. Not a single courier was involved or injured.

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