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Fred's Views


Tracking my Order with FedEx

I've been "tuning in" to the FedEx web site while a package I recently ordered (See "Canada: Not Ready for E-Commerce, Pity" for more details) is being shipped. I hate to give away the punch line in the very first paragraph, but here goes. (Actually, I'll stick it in the second paragraph.)

The web site (UPS has a similar one) displays each time your package is scanned. Essentially, each time it moves along the route. So far, it has taken my package 13 hours to move from Toronto, Ontario to Toronto, Ontario by way of Boise, Idaho and Kansas City, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee! As I write this, the "Package is being held for duties and/or taxes", which is exactly what it was doing at 11 p.m. last night. In between, as I indicated, it has had quite a journey, it just has gotten any closer to me!

Now I'm sure that FedEx will tell you there is a very good reason why my package had to clear customs, fly to Boise and Memphis, fly back and clear customs again. It may have something to do with how much more convenient it is to fly all the packages to one hub and then fly them back out to their true destinations. I could understand that if, for example, the package was going from Toronto to Buffalo or Montreal. Fly it to the hub in Memphis and then on to Buffalo or Montreal. But why fly it out of Toronto and right back again?

It may be that the firm I made the purchase from located it in its warehouse in Toronto, rather than in whatever state it is located in. Then, instead of drop-shipping it to me, sent it back to the firm which then sent it on out to FedEx and to me, eventually. It could be something like that, but the readout on the FedEx site doesn't seem to indicate that it ever left FedEx's or Canada Custom's hands.

Still, it's fun to watch my package being bounced all over the place. Now, if I were really desperate to get my hands on it, I would probably be fuming right about now! I could have driven to Toronto and picked it up personally in far less time, after all.

I've yet to see how informative FedEx will be as the package homes in on me. My experience with UPS and another, less known company (so less known that I've forgotten the name), has been that the information breaks down when it nears the destination. For example, I had to wait two or three extra days to get my package because I didn't know it had left the Hamilton terminal for final delivery and didn't call my son to make sure he got up and answered the door when it arrived. As a result, there was no answer and I had to wait for re-delivery. I was fuming then!

Of course, what this country really needs is luggage tracking just like FedEx's. Imagine sitting in the plane as it whisks you to sunny Acapulco and watching on your notebook as your luggage makes its way to Paris, or Rio de Janeiro or Cairo! I'm just glad the post office doesn't have such a service. It wouldn't be much fun trying to convince the bill collector that it's in the mail when he can clearly see on his computer that it hasn't left my terminal hub!

This may explain why buying groceries on line has not yet caught on. Just imagine having your napkin neatly tucked into your shirt neck, with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other as you watch your dinner being whisked away to their hub on the other side of the world.

On the other hand, it kind of restores my faith in human nature - and government bureaucracy. My package apparently sat in customs for over four hours. I don't know exactly how long "overnight" delivery is supposed to take, but FedEx is beginning to run out of time.

I suppose the lesson to be learned here is sometimes there is such a thing as too much information. Before the Internet, I would send off my mail order by regular mail. Three or four weeks later, usually, my package would arrive. In between, I'd just get on with my life, pausing once in a while to wonder where my package was at that moment. But mostly I just lived my life and didn't worry about it. Now, however, I'm upset when my package takes more than a day or two. And more to the point, I waste a great deal of time checking up to see where my package is every ten or fifteen minutes. Which reminds me, it's time to check again. ... Oh, wonderful! It's off to Boise again! (Just kidding, it's still in Customs.)

Followup: The package apparently cleared customs late in the afternoon and stayed at FedEx in Mississauga most of the night. In the early morning it went to St. Catharines. By 7:15, it was on a delivery truck and two hours later I was unwrapping it and preparing to install my new RAM. The website did tell me when it had been loaded for final delivery and everything went just fine.

Copyright © 2001 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.


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