The loneliness of the long distance seller

loneliness of the long distance runner

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, a short story by Alan Sillitoe, was one of the set texts the chief frocker studied at school back in the early 70s. The plot, briefly summarised, involves the deliberate 'throwing' of a race by a long distance runner as a defiant gesture against the repressive forces in his life.  It was also the inspiration behind a 1962 screenplay and a little known Iron Maiden song of the same title.

So what has that got to do with the price of frocks? Well, after a few more frustrating experiences in the cross country delivery stakes, it occurred to us that long distance selling can also be a bit of a Sillitoe-like marathon run. Even when online sellers are the fittest for purpose, most efficient communicators and prompt dispatchers of customers' orders,  their efforts can still be frustrated by the external forces of failed or delayed deliveries, effectively throwing away all their good work in the long distance run to final fulfilment.

To add insult to injury, as we have blogged before, claiming compensation can be so difficult that it is often not worth the effort. Unlike distance sellers, whose direct responsibility it is to ensure goods reach their customers, no such corresponding duty applies to Royal Mail, so we are not running on a level track.

We should perhaps be grateful that only a tiny number of our orders ever go astray, but using a signed for service as standard should surely mean that they all reach their destinations? Not so, according to Royal Mail, who will only guarantee special delivery items at pretty extortionate rates. Courier companies, on the other hand, compensate as standard (although we are fortunate enough never to have had any couriered items disappear without trace).

As Christmas approaches, delivery services are all under immense pressure, with backlogs reportedly building up in courier warehouses due to an unprecedented surge in online shopping following Black Friday (another of our bêtes noires). Customers' interests are of course fully protected by the  Consumers Rights Directive 2013 (formerly the Distance Selling Regulations), but it is frustrating for all when the process fails on the final stretch.

So far this silly season, we have only had one of our outward bound parcels take a detour, and it is currently just 'delayed' in Royal Mail terms. Both our own and our customer's fingers are crossed that it will arrive in the next few days since, according to Track and Trace, it is still "being progressed through our network for delivery". We do appreciate the strain posties are under, but having to take the hit in the event of the non-fulfilment of a service you have paid for always leaves a bitter taste.

record player

Like a Long Playing record...

As customers of distance sellers ourselves, we have experienced one disappointment and a near miss this past week. Firstly, an ebay purchase, which was despatched promptly by an efficient business seller, failed to arrive. Being a relatively low value LP, it was sent without tracking and simply disappeared in (or perhaps outside) the postal system. Our seller was responsive to communications, apologetic (despite the circumstances being out of his control) and refunded both the purchase price and postage without quibble when it was clear that the item wasn't going to arrive. It is little wonder that Steve at parkgaterecords has 100% positive feedback as an ebay seller and we will be returning with confidence for future purchases of vintage vinyl. He will unfortunately be out of pocket through no fault of his own, however, which seems grossly unfair when Royal Mail can simply renege on responsibility for covering the full extent of his loss.

Our near miss last week involved a courier service which failed to deliver the goods we had ordered within the specified 48 hour timescale, turned up unexpectedly on two occasions when no one was here to sign the receipt and eventually finished the 'race' five days after the promised delivery slot. The poor driver had by then almost lost the will to live, but it was his company's system at fault - creating extra work for him, huge frustration for us and unnecessary delays for others - by having no efficient tracking and notification system in place. By contrast, DPD provides a reliable one hour delivery window with real-time tracking and we have never been disappointed with their service to date.

In allied news, a parcel we sent to the USA (tracked) two months ago finally returned 'home' the other day marked "unclaimed", despite our super-sleuth American customer having desperately tried to liberate it from her local delivery office where it was allegedly being held to ransom for a simple signature. They just couldn't find it.

It's not all doom and gloom, though, as 99% of our orders arrive promptly, only a small number are delayed and very few are damaged in transit or don't actually make it to their destinations.  At least this year there have been no added complications like postal strikes or adverse weather conditions to cause transport chaos. Although we have no control over third party service providers, our customers can rest assured that their interests are our priority and, whatever happens during that final furlong, we will always ensure that they do not lose out.

Finally, if you're planning to order from us for pre-Christmas delivery, please remember to check out our last order dates.