Invisible iPads and TNT Swiss Post

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[Monday update - the folk at TNT got back to me after this post (they're on Twitter) and took care of things - they let me know this morning it would be delivered between 0930 and 1030, and indeed the shiny was successfully delivered at 0956. Thanks, TNT Customer Service!]

I will admit I'm a techie nerd, and I'll also admit without shame that I pre-ordered an iPad on the first day pre-orders opened up for Switzerland. Indeed. I pre-ordered in the first couple of hours. I think it's a nifty gadget and do actually have some planned uses for it (mostly to do with replacing the netbook I use for noodling around on during my commute). I pre-ordered for delivery to my home because, well, I may think it's a nifty gadget but I don't really have any desire to go and stand in line at the Apple Store on launch day with a lot of people who seem way, way too excited at the prospect of getting their hands on a gadget. I think it's cool, but.. y'know, I'm not religious.

Ordering a new Apple product online is.. well, for a gadget nerd it's the equivalent of buying pornography by post for delivery "under plain cover" rather than proudly strolling into the sex shop and walking out with a bag labelled PORNO FILTH. It's discreet, it comes right to your door, and it gets delivered in a plain brown box rather than one labelled SHINY APPLE STUFF PLEASE MOCK ME.

Enough self-justification, anyway. Let's just accept that I ordered one, and move on. You can't judge me, dude.

Apple sent me the "your order has shipped" mail last Saturday. You know the one - the mail that says your stuff shipped but which really means it's going to be shipped soon. I knew to ignore that one until I had tracking, which I eventually did on Tuesday as Monday was a public holiday in Switzerland (and in the Netherlands, where it was shipped from). By Wednesday lunchtime (the.. 26th) it had reached the local depot. I knew it was unlikely to get delivered that day, but stayed at home for the afternoon anyway mostly because missed deliveries are a bit of a pain in the ass to deal with - in general you can't collect from depots here, you have to arrange a re-delivery.

No delivery, but well, tomorrow for sure, right? Given that my past experiences of deliveries through TNT had always been very good that seemed like a foregone conclusion, so I stayed at home on Thursday 27th as well. My co-workers were starting to mock me a little by this time. 

By mid-afternoon - huh, not even "Out For Delivery", and I dropped TNT a line via their web feedback form. I promptly got an email back from a very helpful customer services representative who assured me that they had a lot of shipments from Apple to deliver, but that they were doing special evening deliveries and mine would be delivered in the evening.  Cool! Well, that's still a day before the official release date, so pretty good going.

So I stayed in all evening.

No delivery.

The next morning (Friday 28th), with the package still merely "In Transit", I mailed my helpful customer services representative ('HCSR' from here on in) to ask why it hadn't been delivered. The reply was that as they'd told me before, they were very busy due to a high volume of shipments, and that if I wanted I could pick it up from their depot that afternoon or Saturday morning. The fact that they had failed to be able to send out for delivery a package that had been sitting at the local depot for nearly 48 hours was, I guess, neither here nor there.

Their depot is in Urdorf, out to the west of Z├╝rich - not the sort of place you'd choose to go to and anyway, TNT are supposed to be a delivery company rather than a pick-it-up-from-our-depot-in-Urdorf company. However, I have a life and a job to go to. I could not in good conscience spend a third day working from home waiting for the same delivery. I replied that okay, if they weren't going to able to guarantee delivering it on Friday, I'd collect it on Saturday morning, no worries. HCSR mailed me back with the details and confirmed that they'd contacted the depot to put me on the list of people who'd be picking up. I even got a second mail correcting the opening hours a little later. I thanked HCSR, we exchanged pleasantries and wished each other a pleasant weekend and I assumed that would be it.

Fast-forward to this morning (that's Saturday 29th). The story, for dramatic effect, now shfts into the present tense. I drive over to Urdorf in a Mobility car and easily recognise the depot by the line of people waiting outside looking annoyed. I join the line, which is being attended to by one rather harassed and grumpy guy who's spending 5-10 minutes finding each shipment in turn. A woman ahead of me is about to go spare when she's told that oh, her shipment has been sent out for delivery despite her calling to ask for it to be held. This, folks, is a really neat trick - arranging for people to collect packages at the depot, then sending then out for delivery at the precise time you can be sure nobody will be in because they're over at the depot attempting to collect the package. Genius!

A couple of people do actually manage to extract deliveries and depart with them to ragged cheers from everyone else in the line, but I, in my turn.. get told that it's out for delivery. 

You. Must. Be. Kidding.

Now I'm really angry. I'm not angry because I'm desperate to get my hands on a shiny gizmo (which, well, I'm not), I'm angry because now I've been screwed around over a simple delivery pretty much beyond the edge of sanity. I've waited at home for two days (one of which was overoptimistic, I'll grant), I've been told a delivery would come at a certain time and had it fail to show up, and now I've actually gone to the effort of setting my alarm on a Saturday morning and spending money on a Mobility car to pick it up from the depot to be told that it wasn't even there. 

Leaving the depot (the line has grown to about 15 people by now) I drive home - Tara is at home but might well have been asleep had a delivery arrived, and besides I didn't want her to get woken up because - as previously mentioned - it's Saturday morning. As of the time of writing I'm waiting in to see if the delivery shows up, which on balance I think it's fair to say I'm not overly optimistic about.

[Update at 1500 - Just now the tracking changed to Unsuccessful delivery attempt - recipient not at home, timed at 12pm. No card in our mailbox and someone has been in all day, so this is now definitely above the level of mere comedy and has become total farce. I called TNT, but the Swiss customer service people don't work weekends and all the folk who pick up the phone can do is rebook shipments. The helpful chap on the phone has requested a redelivery for Monday morning. In the meantime I think I am losing my will to live.]

You know, I don't even care what's in the box now. I'd be equally furious if it was just a box of turds which I'd been expecting to take delivery of. I'd be standing outside the depot yelling WHERE ARE MY TURDS until the police came to take me away. The point here is that TNT Swiss Post, who are supposed to be a delivery company, have been so staggeringly incapable of handling a large volume of shipments which they'd been expecting for some time. This is, I hate to say it, a level of unpreparedness and incompetence which is almost British. It's certainly not Swiss.

Other shippers in other countries (including TNT in other European countries) have got their deliveries in on time, even though they might have had to lay on extra resources to do it. What's even more astonishing is that this is Switzerland, where they're in general really, really good at stuff like this. I also know that TNT Swiss Post are usually speedy and efficient at deliveries (it's because they've delivered stuff a day earlier than expected in the past that I stayed at home on Wednesday).

The final straw was probably the experience at the depot - a big line, only one person dealing with it, no extra effort appearing to be made to ensure that people who had already received very poor service were taken care of. Hell, it wouldn't have hurt to have had a pot of coffee or something out. Maybe a couple of managers could have come in to help out rather than just leaving one guy to deal with everything.

I don't know if anyone from TNT Swiss Post will read this, but if you do - look, the reason I'm angry and frustrated is not that my iPad hasn't been delivered, it's because your company has consistently failed to deliver on its promises, has failed to manage expectations properly, has wasted my time, has cost me money which ended up being wasted, and has failed to cope adequately with a surge in traffic which other carriers (people whose shipments came via UPS report no problems) have been able to handle. From what I read online and from what I saw at the depot, I know there are a lot of customers in a similiar position to me.

TNT Swiss Post failed to rise to the challenge, has let down a lot of customers, and this is a shame because I know you can do better than this.

"Sure we can"? On this occasion, no, you couldn't.

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