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Amazon Logistics

Dear Amazon,

Once again I must contact you relating to poor service from a courier charged with delivering items bought from yourself.

Item 026-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx, although delivered on the correct date, it did not arrive before 20:30. I’m sure you appreciate the importance of deliveries arriving during a reasonable time frame. All other couriers manage to deliver during office hours.

With the next consecutive item, 026-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx, the courier abandoned the items in a hanging basket by our front door. Something that is not visible until you exit the house.

The latest (and consecutive) item did not arrive on the day specified. The tracking page which barely qualifies as such due to its spartan information still says “It’s out for delivery”, and is “Expected 30 Nov”.
Even a plumber can give you an expected time. The person who services the gas manages to state AM/PM.
I learned via twitter, and not your own help team, that the courier in question, Amazon Logistics, continues to deliver until 21:00! This sort of information should be somewhere in the tracking email. Customers should not have to learn this from a random person from social media who stumbles upon a tweet, replying in a ‘me too’ fashion.

What annoys me is the fact that you have my mobile phone number which was registered with yourselves to receive tracking updates. Not one update has been received for anything purchased with Amazon. There has been no text saying a courier is delivering to us next, no call or email to say package 202-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx would not be delivered on the specified date. Nothing.

The courier you used previously confirmed receipt of a package. They then emailed early in the morning of the delivery date giving a 1 hour window in which the delivery would take place, and a link to a page showing where the van is using GPS tracking. Only once did I receive an item outside of the specified 1 hour, the item arrived 3 minutes early.
I’m sure you can see the differences between the professional courier (DPD) and Amazon Logistics.

I would appreciate it if you could contact me with the following:
Where package 202-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx is and the time and date it will arrive here, preferably within a 2 hour window.
Confirmation that future items will be delivered by a professional courier, preferably DPD.

Regards

 

I’m sharing this across Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. I’m curious to see how people respond.

Amazon

Most of us have an Amazon account. If not for ebooks, then for general online shopping. The wish lists accommodate other web sites, for £80 a year you get free next day delivery on a large number of items, and media streaming thrown in. On the surface, shopping with Amazon appears to be a no brainer.

We’re all aware that they use loopholes to avoid paying tax, that’s not what this is about. It’s other little things that on closer inspection, make you question things. Whether or not keeping an Amazon account is worth it?

Recently Amazon faced criticism for stopping competitive streaming devices like the Chromecast and AppleTV. On paper Amazon’s Fire TV stick beats the Chromecast hands down, but once again, reality doesn’t quite gel with what’s on paper.
The Chromecast offers much more variety. It’s also much easier to set up. What I can’t get past is that Amazon Prime doesn’t work on the Chromecast. Initially I thought it was unlike Google to be so uncharacteristically childish, not approving Amazon so they could push the Play Store. After all, Google gave us Earth, Street View and so much more. For a high profile company they’re altruistic not childish.  Then logic kicked in and you realise almost everything works on it, Google make the developers kit available to everybody for free! The only reason why Amazon Prime wouldn’t work on the Chromecast is if Amazon never bothered to… ah. Could it be that they wanted Prime to only work natively with their newly released Fire TV? Surely not.

Amazon recently switched their courier, from the very favourable DPD to Amazon Logistics.
DPD have delivered here for a few years. Amazon Logistics, a few months.
DPD email me to say they’re in possession of a package. This is in addition to Amazon’s email saying something’s been dispatched which now includes a tracking number that only works after logging in to Amazon.
DPD email me saying they’re delivering that day, delivery should be expected between very precise times like 12:37 and 13:37, the driver’s name and a link to track the van the package is on using GPS. Amazon Logistics are happy with the email Amazon sent earlier to track your parcel, but after logging in you find the details are limited to ‘on the van’.
If DPD cannot deliver, they photograph your front door to show they’ve actually been there, and email you while the driver walks back to the van. Amazon sends you an email saying ‘We tried but failed to deliver your package today’ without even a card through the letterbox!
What annoys me is that there has been no knock on the front door. I have CCTV footage of Parcelforce passing the door and knocking on the front window because there’s been a light on [their delivery driver said he wastes far less time returning to properties after knocking on a window instead of a door – clever guy].
Amazon also has my mobile number for SMS updates about deliveries. No text message has been received. Nothing saying anything is to be delivered today, nothing from their driver saying he’s approaching or at the door, no calls, nothing.
This isn’t the first time Amazon Logistics have claimed to have knocked. With such little communication, and no evidence at all to say they’ve bothered at all, it’s difficult to say whether they don’t know what they’re doing, don’t care, or the driver finished his shift before finishing his deliveries.

I really hope Amazon Logistics is nothing more than a trial. If not, they need to get their act together or leave it to a company that knows what they’re doing.

But to anyone who delivers anything at all, and I cannot stress this enough, don’t try to blag. Following an RTC, I’m unable to go anywhere without assistance. I need help to get out of the street. Our son gets excited following a favourable school report / parents evening because he’s always rewarded with a little something; to us it’s just a Hexbug Nano but to him it means so much more. We even take in things for neighbours because they know there’ll be someone in.

If you’re going to claim you’ve been to the a house and had no reply, make sure the package isn’t valuable to its recipient, make sure you have no phone numbers, make sure the customer isn’t disabled, and above all, make sure you’re not delivering something to a hyperactive child who’s on tenterhooks about a knock at the door!

£0.00

It’s staggering to think that a mobile phone company blocked calls, texts and data because a customer’s account was overdue by £0.00, but that’s exactly what happened.

Computers are brilliant, I don’t need to go into everything they’re capable of because it’s common knowledge. They’re fantastic tools, but they’re only as good as three people:
* the person who built it
* the person who programmed it; and
* the person who uses it.

Most of the time in your personal life it will be the latter. We shake our heads aghast at the person who turns their screen round so the computer can ‘see’ the printer, in the ignorant hope that the error message well go away.  The person who wants to know why the printer doesn’t work when it’s ran out of toner or ink.  The person with a wireless mouse who presses the buttons harder when the batteries are dying.  The fact is that if you’ve used a computer, you’ve almost certainly fallen victim to this sort of thing.  I know I have.

EE Blocked 0.00

Screenshot of my account. Only altered to remove account and phone number.

In business though, it can be embarrassing to the company when something goes wrong. If, say, a company automated the system which blocks an overdue account then you’d expect a bit of logic, such as if the account is at least a full penny overdue then block it. You’d not expect a block activating due to an overdue balance of £0.00. Unfortunately EE did just that.

I’ve only just had it lifted after EE charged me for hidden charges they promised wouldn’t exist, but here we are again.  I’m confident that it’s a value like a quarter of a penny or something like that, but it doesn’t excuse the action of blocking calls and texts. It really concerns me that this sort of thing can happen.

I rely on my phone as a panic button.  If something happens, I need to know I can rely on my phone to do what it’s designed to do – get in touch with people.  After EE’s last let down I opted for a secondary panic button system. It’s been a bit of a wake up call.  We all assume we can depend on companies providing communications services, and not just because of a disability, but because of security.  Confidence that we can reach our kids, elderly family members and people we care about. In order to preserve that, companies need to know when they’ve made a mistake.  If we don’t tell companies they’ve let us down then they won’t know they need to change.  It looks like I need to call EE. Again.

Why you should use DPD

More often than not one person loves a company while the next will have nothing to do with them.  It’s a level of customer service that can vary massively depending on who your interaction is with.  It’s the same with every company providing a service of some kind.  Or so I thought.

Most of the time we don’t give much thought to how or why something works.  We overlook good service because we expect it as standard.  It’s only really when a company lets us down that we sit up and take notice.  Every now and then we give a conscious thought to the good service we’ve received.

It started a while ago, I can’t recall when exactly, but I’d expected a few items that day.  One arrived with the postman.  I’d queried if there was anything else for us.  When Parcelforce delivered the second, again querying why there weren’t more.  His response, and I’m paraphrasing here, was “Don’t ask me mate, that’s all they’ve given me”, as he kept walking not only towards the gate but past it, not closing it on his way.  The missing item was apparently lost somewhere in the postal system.  I had to wait in case it turned up late.  It didn’t and its replacement arrived by second class post, at the cost of the seller. It made me wonder how much money is lost by having to send replacement items because the customer hadn’t received the first.

A short while later I got an email from DPD.  They’d notified me that an Amazon delivery was with them and they’d be delivering it the following day.  I could track it on the day of delivery.  Having used delivery trackers in the past, my apathy knew no limits and I thought no more of it.
Delivery day, and I’d received an email saying the item would be delivered within a one hour window of hh:mm.  Not at some point that day, if the weather’s nice and we can be bothered; not that morning or that afternoon, but a one hour window.  That stood out.

I’ve now had a few things delivered by DPD.  Without exception, they’ve always stood out above other couriers.

  • The drivers are courteous, polite and friendly.  Even passing you in the street.
  • Their web site lets you track your parcel, properly.  I don’t mean you refresh the page to see “in transit” showing, I mean you get to track the van it’s in on the map.
  • You can even see which member of staff is delivering your parcel, where in the queue you are and approximately how long it will be before your package is delivered.
  • Their twitter staff can see your account and advise you, in a very timely manner.

They’re just professional.

Today I had cause to contact them.  I was expecting an SD card.  The trouble is, in the past Amazon have sent something the size of an apple in a box that could comfortably fit this computer, all cables, and the monitor in.  Because of Amazon’s inconsistency with packaging, not knowing what size packaging they’d used this time, I got in touch with DPD via Twitter.  I asked if the delivery driver could wait a little longer for me to get to the door – I normally need a wheelchair but I get away with crutches to get to the door.  It wasn’t a problem, DPD got in touch with the driver.  Problem solved.
Thankfully Amazon had used an envelope, not a box far larger than its contents, so the driver didn’t need to wait for me to get to the door.  He posted it through the letterbox.  [Additional kudos to the driver for using common sense here]

What really stood out for me is that by the time I’d retrieved the envelope, there was a photo of our house (taken near the gate) and another of the envelope being posted through the letterbox, both on the tracker page of DPD’s web site.

This folks, is why it pays to use DPD.
Most companies say they’ll deliver it within 24 hours.  Some say within 6 hours.  DPD say within 1, and even let you change that if it’s inconvenient.
Some staff walk away from you while talking to you.  DPD’s drivers said hello when passing in the street.
Some companies have policies to make customers wait on the off-chance an item is delivered later.  DPD haven’t lost or misplaced anything of mine.
Some companies tracking system says ‘In Transit’.  DPD’s let you see where the van is on the map, where you are in a queue and roughly how long you have to wait before their driver pulls up.
Some staff push cards through your letterbox saying they couldn’t catch you without even ****ing knocking!  DPD got in touch with the driver while he was making deliveries.
Most companies say they’ve delivered your item.  DPD took photos!

From the customer’s point of view, nobody else even comes close.

@EE – how not to do it

I’ve been with Orange since January 1996.  When you’ve been with a company that long you expect a certain amount of hiccups.  Nobody’s perfect, and where there’s humans, there’s human error.  Unfortunately, since 1996 Orange has changed hands a few times and each time the level of customer service has deteriorated.  None more so than when EE took over.

May 2013 was a frustrating time.  I’d been forced on to a 24 month contract because Orange no longer recognised their own contracts.  I started the month on Everyday 50, a 12 month contract charging 50p per day for 50 minutes of talk time.  Add to that £5 a month for 500MB of 3G data and it covered everything I needed.

The trouble came when I tried to upgrade.  Orange had become EE and with it brought new software.  Unfortunately, the programmers didn’t think to incorporate all active tariffs, (presumably only the ones available to buy at the time).  As a result, EE refused to let me upgrade and keep the talk plan.  They grossly miscalculated ‘a customer’s value’ because I was on a daily tariff, not monthly.  This was stupidity worthy of Vodafone.

It was only when I asked for a PAC (necessary to port my number elsewhere) that EE sat up and took notice.  I was offered a 24 month contract with extra talk time and data thrown in.  I took down the details and went away to consider my options.

When I called back, I’d expected notes on my account outlining the offer.  After several calls I’d found:

  • Some people couldn’t find the notes, or the person I’d spoken to (including a team manager at North Tyneside call centre who suggested if I didn’t take her basic package I should go).
  • Others could find the person, but not the notes.
  • Some found the person and the notes, but couldn’t find the gratuitous extra minutes/data.
  • Some found the person, the notes and the extra minutes and data, but couldn’t activate them.
  • One person found the person, the notes, extra minutes and data but could only activate part of it.

Ultimately, the person who offered me the package got back to me and activated it.  He really was very helpful, and checked everything over before submitting.

I have fallen victim to too many of Orange’s little mistakes over the years.  I was adamant it wasn’t to be the case this time.  I asked if there were any additional charges, hidden charges or anything else.  There would be none.  The line rental was all I’d pay unless I used more minutes or data than in the bundles.
But, thats just not true.

The trouble is, EE (a company I now lovingly refer to as Exceptional Extortionists) failed to mention that I’d be charged for delivery receipts on texts, for calls to freephone numbers (ironically, they’re not free or even included in your monthly minutes) and worst of all, a fine of £3.58 every month for not giving EE control of my bank account via Direct Debit!
None of the above were mentioned.  I even received the wrong phone.

When this was queried, an apology was made, a refund for the Direct Debit payment was applied to the account and I was told she would make sure I wouldn’t get any more, but only for the duration of the contract.  Once the contract is up, the fine will apply.  It turns out the fine has applied ever since.

When I called, I discovered the question of whether EE see you as a valued customer or the means of making money, was answered.  It turns out you can pay EE to jump their queue!  Your call isn’t important to them; your money is!
Although I was repeatedly told “the credit to the account wouldn’t be coming from his pocket”, he didn’t actually credit the account.  He promised the bar on the account would be lifted within 20 minutes, and hurriedly explained it was the end of his shift and had to go! 35 minutes later he called back to explain the buck was to be passed back to the woman who had credited the account and who’d promised I wouldn’t get charged for the remainder of the contract.  The phone call I was promised at 14:00 the following day didn’t happen.  When the buck was passed I’d expected a call back the following day, not to have to wait days for their member of staff to wander back in.

While the bar was into its fifth day I called EE – I’d waited long enough for them to call me.  [I hadn’t told EE but this phone is part of a ‘panic button’ system due to a disability so having it barred has the potential to impact on us a fair bit.]  After having to repeat everything only four times I managed to speak to someone who took on board my complaint.  He apologised, credited the account for what I was incorrectly charged and is sending a letter of apology.  I’m £12-odd in credit.  I suppose that’s what happens when you keep rounding up your bills to the nearest whole pound.

I thought that would be everything sorted, but the bar was still in force.  I called EE on the sixth day to query why it hadn’t been removed overnight.  No reason could be found.  I chalked this one down to either an interruption before it could be done, a technical failure or it was simply overlooked.  What really annoyed me is after explaining everything I’d gone through, the excessively cheery woman told me to “be careful not to go past my (allotted) minutes in future” [something I’ve never once done with this contract] and to “be sure to promote EE to all my friends” and to “tell everyone how good they are”.

So, I’m going to do exactly that.

EE are good at:

  • Making promises they can’t keep
  • Repeatedly letting customers down
  • Giving incorrect information
  • Not advising customers when promises can’t be kept
  • Poorly composing a brief for software developers (active tariffs)
  • Badly training their staff
  • Valuing everything above their customers
  • Ignoring what a customer tells them
  • Self promoting

and they excel at being unable to make calls to customers, and keeping those customers up to date with relevant information.

Why is it communications companies are unable to communicate?

Weaker passwords

So many web sites, so many passwords.  Unless you’re willing to risk using fewer than ten (or possibly only one) password for every site you use, you probably have the browser save the passwords and use a random password generator.

There are a number of apps which will generate passwords for you.  You can set the password strength and it will give you a unique password each time you ask for one.  If you’re hoping to get the same one twice, you’re probably going to die before it happens.  The apps give you nice, strong passwords.  Other apps will save the details for you, password keepers.

It’s not often, but from time to time I’ll come across a site which doesn’t allow the 40-50 digit passwords I tend to use.  Sometimes I’ll add a more, sometimes take a few off.  When I exit the app, the contents of the phone’s clipboard are sent to the PC.  From there I’ll often drop the password in to a .txt file and save it in Spideroak.  For those who don’t know, Spideroak is much like Dropbox but is fully secure, only decrypting the contents at the user’s device.

For the first time I’ve come across a web site which not only limits the length of the password, but doesn’t allow most of the special characters (for example !£$%^&*{[]}@’#~<>?/`¬\|etc.).  Eon Energy only allow the basic 0-9, A-Z, – and _.  For the first time since using password generators I’ve been effectively told my password is too strong, please use a weaker password, twice!

We’re living in a world where everyone is using stronger and stronger passwords.  Those with Microsoft qualifications need at least two special characters in their lengthy passwords.  Google, Twitter and Dropbox are amongst many sites using 2-step security, requiring a password and a code either generated by / sent to your phone.  These sites don’t require payments or personal information to use them, but they still offer 2-step security.

I didn’t sign up with Eon.  I was tempted to type in ‘password’, but in the end I was afraid it would be accepted.
Eon - too longEon - invalid format

Apology to @DPD_UK

It would appear I owe DPD couriers an apology.

I’d ordered three items via Amazon for Ian-Ogri’s birthday. Amazon had emailed me saying one had been despatched, and the other two were despatched within a minute or two of each other. One of those items was delivered by Parcelforce, another by DPD. My partner, @Carole29, signed for the DPD item.

When checking DPD’s tracking facility I could see that the item had been delivered, although the signature showed my surname. Amazon emailed me, advising me that an item had been delivered but the signature differed from that of DPD’s site. It showed ‘D FOR [my surname]’.

Leaping to the wrong conclusion with great haste I’d assumed that the tracking number was for two items (it made sense, especially as they appeared to have been despatched together). I’d also tweeted as much, mentioning DPD in the tweet. DPD looked in to the complaint and respecting privacy, this continued privately via DM. Their last message to me (at the time of typing this) was “Thank you. We do only have the one parcel, I am sorry.”

Something didn’t ring true. I had two different digital signatures, one [my surname], the other D FOR [my surname] and neither Carole’s name. I needed to take this up with Amazon themselves.

It was only after complaining and wasting DPD’s time that I checked Amazon’s order page. Much to my surprise, the missing item, the discrepancy, turned out to not have a tracking option! If DPD is the courier, it would appear to be completely coincidental.

I’d like to apologise to DPD for my mistake. I’ve wasted their time and sent an embarrassing tweet which no doubt has resulted in bad publicity. I hope this blog post will in some way rectify this.

Arriva Driver 110714

So rarely these days does someone go above and beyond the exclusivity of their duties and responsibilities within their job description. On Friday a bus driver from Arriva did exactly that. A bus (4045) lacking even the meagrest concept of disabled access needed to be boarded. Thankfully the driver (26182) showed understanding and empathy. While other drivers responses have been curt, explaining that a pushchair or pram occupyied the disabled bay and the drivers were unwilling to ask to have them folded, driver 26182 took a different approach. He waited. He allowed me to accept the bus couldn’t be lowered, there was no ramp and boarding the bus was unlikely.

Thankfully I have one worn out but working leg which helped me to board the bus. It took a few minutes but we weren’t rushed or pressured in any way. He asked if I was ready before disembarking. At our destination we were offered assistance to alight from the bus. From his approach I inferred he cared more about the safety and wellbeing of his passengers than strictly keeping to a timetable.

What stood out for me was he later looked in to the Disability Access laws, timetables and guidelines, found us and advised us of them. He wasn’t aggressive or condascending, but polite and understanding.
He explained what he’d found without sounding like he was looking for excuses.

We’ve been unaccustomed to Arriva North East’s drivers having people skills or their staff to show such kindness. Whoever you are, you have my thanks.

Ticket from 11-07-14

Ticket from 11-07-14

What Sky says vs what Sky means

Yes, Sky again. It’s only a month since the last issue with Sky was resolved.  How quickly Sky reneges on their promises time flies. There’s a letter on my desk from Sky.  They say when my account is transferred from O2 to Sky I’ll be on a discounted rate for twelve months.  I received an email last night saying that it’s coming to an end on the 1st of March. In real terms that’s not even twelve weeks, much less twelve months.  I’m going to call them this afternoon so this can be sorted out.  There’s obviously a reason why they’re the cheapest. To be honest, if I had to pay £23 a month for a 4Mb service I’d be tempted to spend the extra £7 for EE’s fibre-optic (around) 40Mb service.  I really don’t know if they’re purposefully trying to annoy customers, scam them or if they’re just completely incompetent.
Sky says vs Sky means

Sky high.

Back in 2011 I signed up with Sky.  I was excited to be getting broadband, and although Sky weren’t the cheapest they promised to connect me a fortnight before anyone else.  They promised me I’d get a download speed in excess of 3Mbps, they delivered 0.8Mbps.  After five weeks they’d agreed they hadn’t kept their promises and agreed to release me from my contract without penalty.  In the two months it took to sign up with Sky and leave them, the only aspect they’d excelled at was the leaving process.  Or so I’d thought.

Three months after leaving Sky they’d started billing me again.  Attempts to resolve this were unsuccessful and ultimately I ended up with a bill for £175.42.  Today was to be an unvoiced ultimatum, either progress was made or it would be escalated to OFCOM, Trading Standards, etc.  I’d had enough.

Today however, has been something of a success.  After 1¼ hours on the phone to Sky the bill is now sorted.  Granted, they didn’t call back when they said they would.  I was curious to see if they were capable of keeping a single promise but, although it was 1½ hours late, they did call back. Staff were unable to offer any explanation as to how the bill came about other than to say “it shouldn’t have happened”.  They claim the original contract was never successfully cancelled, although that doesn’t explain the letter I received three months after the cancellation (and migration to a competitor) welcoming me back to Sky and outlining that their speed test suggests I should be receiving an estimated 0Mbps download speed!  Their computer speed tested a line which didn’t exist, hence the lack of speed.

Estimated download speed of 0Mb, but only because the line doesn't exist.

Estimated download speed of 0Mb, but only because the line doesn’t exist.

 

So, after calls, tweets, complaints, more tweets and more calls I have once again left Sky. I owe nothing.  The slate has been wiped clean.  It’s been a mentally exhausting day.  The service you receive from Sky, like many large companies, varies greatly from staff member to staff member.  Some promise faithfully certain notes don’t exist while others find them with ease.

Strangely though, it has taken far less effort to get Sky to write off a debt which never should have existed than it has been to have them issue a letter of apology.  Ten minutes was taken up by Sky’s staff trying to find a generic apology letter.  At one point, in frustration, my sarcastic side offered up “It’s simple enough, just ask a manager to pick up a biro, some letter headed paper and find an envelope”.  I know I shouldn’t have said it but Sky deals exclusively in communication.  Surely apology letters, even if generic, are able to be found with a certain degree of ease?  The conflictive advice and confusion I’ve witnessed today make me feel like the love-child of a Mandelbrot fractal and a Rorschach test.

 

Unfortunately, either February or March (the letter couldn’t specify which month!) my broadband with O2 will be officially migrated to Sky and unless steps are taken I shall once again become a Sky customer, even if by default.  I have a month to find a service provider I can trust.  I believe it’s time to shop around.

 

I can’t speak for everyone though.  You may have better luck with Sky.  My perspective remains unchanged.  From my experiences, customers can trust Sky in the same way they can trust the sky at high altitude – only for a short time, and with unfortunate results.