Monday, July 13, 2009

It'll Be There on Wednesday

Where do I start. My wife and actually many others think I'm obsessed with food and they think it's weird. I don't really understand. Why is it weird? It's got to be at least 33% of the reason I decided I would make Paris my home - maybe I'll share the other 66% another day. Also, having an addiction to all things food must be better than being addicted to crack for example. Nevermind, since I've been pondering this food addiction (by the way - possibly the best panini in Paris can be found at Caldo Freddo on rue Montorgueil) I thought maybe I'd write about something else I've been passionate about -- well maybe passionate bordering on insanely irritated with for the last ten years -- the shipping experience in France.

Today, I feel like just recounting my most recent experience. I could probably write a whole book by now on the most inefficient country (leaving out countries which still lack mechanized vehicles for transportation)
for actually getting something delivered to your home.

Being fond of the internet and convenience, I tend to order as much as I can online. Usually you can find whatever you want in a couple of clicks, often times much less expensive than in a shop and most of all, you don't have to schlep half-way across town to buy those "what would we do without you" Tommee Tippee trash bags for our daughter's -- well, you know.

Anyway, you would think these things are easier to find, but they aren't. So my latest find was on (translation - Hello Baby!). I was a pretty happy guy when I found I could order these, get them delivered to my house and save a couple of euros. Who wouldn't take that deal for baby trash bags. Click, click, register for the site, enter card number and then forget it about -- well, not this time.

The first thing I found odd was when you confirm your registration instead of the typical userid/password combination you select on *every other website known to man* on Allobebe you receive some kind of ancient customer number (10 mixed digits) and your postal code is your password....right, like I'm going to remember that the next time I visit the site. Strike 1!

I think I made the order on a Wednesday or Thursday. On Saturday morning, I get a text message saying that I should call Mory to schedule a delivery for a package. Luckily I have a few brain cells left and I figured this must my trash bags. How I put that together, don't ask because I don't know any Mory and usually I quickly forget what I order online until it shows up. So I call Mory and and get a message telling me to call back during normal business hours. Umm, why did you send me a text telling me to call when you aren't open? Surely you could program that into your sophisticated supply chain management system (click "voir la carte" for some excellent animation)??

Monday morning, time to call Mory -- well, it just rings and and rings and rings. I figure maybe Mory has the day off like me -- not everyone works in France the day before a bank holiday - we're lucky like that. I decide to take a look at the email Allobebe sent me confirming my order. It said something like if I don't get my package within 10 days I should let them know - nothing about looking out for a text message indicating I should be calling to arrange for delivery. They give me a couple of options to get in touch with them -- phone or email. I should tell you now that it also appears they have outsourced their customer service. So I give them a call, a woman answers and tells me there is no one around right now who can help me so she will take my name and number and call me back. Huh? This is getting increasingly bizarre and I'm pretty certain I'm not going to be too happy with the ending.

I send off a little email as well just to cover all my bases -- I have yet to determine if the French appreciate my sarcasm. I told them they should consider using the French post office and that it works well -- that's a whole other post - or maybe book. Anyway, I've now spent way too much time on this and it's time to head out for the day and along the way enjoy the above mentioned panini.

Walking home, I get a call -- it's Allobebe babbling about a problem I'm having -- I'm not understanding much of what she's saying, but I finally get into a groove. She tells me I can expect delivery on Wednesday. I ask her about what time will that be. "I can't tell you that sir - it could be anytime during the day." I freak of course and pretty much go ballistic on her. After all this time in France, I still can't understand or accept the fact that it is expected behavior that one organizes themselves to stay at home all day to await delivery for anything except maybe a refrigerator or a sofa...but a simple package of trash bags?! And don't tell me I should use one of my 35 vacation days either -- vacation is vacation!

Thanks to my outburst or what I'd rather believe were superior negotiation skills, the lovely woman on the line told me she would try to arrange for the delivery to occur before 1pm in order to prevent me from carrying out many of my threats such as posting I hate Allobebe to my twitter account. Ooops, already did that.

Oh, I forgot to tell you -- I asked her why don't you alert your customers to what they can expect when it comes to delivery procedures on the site. She told me I could read the "conditions generales de vente" (terms and conditions) -- I did - they don't say anything about this nonsense. And furthermore, if you decide to cancel your order because you can't take the day off work for delivery that will cost you 10 euros.

Allobebe just lost what I imagine is another customer. There is a long way to go before anyone will say they are satisfied with shipping in France, but someone at La Poste must be smiling today with the compliment I showered on them. If anyone wants to revolutionize a country, please come to France and show La Poste how they could better invest the 3.4 billions euros they've already spent on modernization by helping small companies like Allobebe acquire and retain customers because of their amazing delivery service instead of -- ummm, I have no idea where that money went -- new bikes?

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