No topic has generated more comments from parcel industry enthusiasts this past year than the ongoing tactics used by carriers to avoid paying out guarantee refunds. And shippers are getting madder by the day. The common opinion is that the carriers are effectively reneging on their promises, and it is hard to argue against that point.
It�s a classic case of underestimating the marketplace. UPS could not have imagined the interest its customers would have in claiming refunds for ground packages. And poor FedEx Ground, the industry follower, had to join in and hold on for the ride. But the monetary stakes are high for these carriers. To make matters worse, for the first time, shippers have on-time service performance in front of them each week � not what the carriers tell them it is but what they calculate it to be. It must be hard for the carriers to have their performances put under a weekly microscope, but that was the deal, wasn�t it?
Now, in fairness to the carriers, they never said they would make it easy for you. But when the carriers keep changing the rules, it becomes unsettling. What upsets the masses is the length at which the carriers have gone to discourage the pursuit of refunds. These include:
The 15-day rule. Whether it is 15 days from time of shipment, invoice or scheduled delivery, you better do it quick. And when you consider weekends and waiting until delivery to determine if a package arrived late, that 15 days turns into about five.
The no-one-is-home trick. Since residential ground was included, the carriers wear out the �No One Available� exception when it remains a simple driver release.
System overload. This is the ongoing threat to shippers who dare to use the carriers� Internet tracking. How can you tout the availability of technology while intimidating customers with �per package� charges if they excessively use their Web sites to track packages? It�s not the tracking that�s the issue, but rather UPS doesn�t want to pay for refunds on late packages. Hey Brown, buy bigger computers!
Keypunch �til you drop. With FedEx Ground, you had to enter your shipper number only once at the start of the call. Now you have to enter it for all packages. And the company recently added the additional burden of declaring your credit type: �Is it invoice or credit card?� How�s that for technological leadership?
Big shipper buy-out. If their margins with you are good and you�re a large-volume shipper, carriers probably will approach you with an extra point or two on your incentive if you agree not to request refunds. Nice guys, huh? Don�t fall for that trick. Refunds and incentives should be mutually exclusive. If they are offering you more incentive, you can rest assured that you are a very profitable customer. Stick to your guns and tell them, �No thanks!� If they are willing to concede money to you up front for service failures, then there has to be a reason. And that reason is they do not want to provide you weekly refunds while you keep weekly tabs on their service. Poor service becomes a threat to keeping your business and is a valuable leverage point for you in future rate negotiations.
Third party companies prohibited. Carriers are prohibiting shippers from using a third party company to identify and submit refunds. When did carriers start telling their customers how they should run their businesses? Surely, there were a few Wall Street Journal ads alerting the world, right? Let me get this straight: Shippers can�t use third party companies to help them with their businesses, but carriers can use third party railroads to haul their trailers, third party independent contractors to pick up and deliver their packages and third party delivery agents to pick up and deliver their packages?
Hey Brown! Hey Purple! This is becoming a sham. Getting refunds from you is kind of like trying to win a stuffed animal at your local amusement park by knocking over heavy wooden milk bottles using soft balls. When a tornado destroyed a county fair last summer, the only things left standing were those wooden milk bottles. Your guaranteed service has become an industry embarrassment! Either retract it or honor it! But do something!