Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Is it me, or was this truly stupid?

Today, I had to hang around the house for a little while this morning - my minivan was in the shop for routine service and a couple of minor problems. It was finished and ready by late morning. But I digress.

The reason for this entry is United Parcel Service. UPS is an important part of my wife's life - not because she's an eBay geek or anything, but because she works for A Giant Consumer Products Company from the Midwest, and she works out of a home office. They are constantly shipping huge quantities of product to her, and she, in turn, is regularly shipping products out to company reps in department stores across New England. In addition, she gets sales reports, marketing collateral, and all kinds of other stuff.

Yesterday, she shipped out 12 boxes of gratis product (freebies that reps can earn as incentives) that she re-packaged and shipped out in boxes re-used from other goods she's received. No problem, right? Well, while I was home this morning the local driver dumped one of the boxes back on our front porch - it had been rejected as "hazardous materials that were in discrepancy with the published description". Well, it's perfume. All 11 of the other boxes were perfume, too - and they got delivered, as do literally dozens of boxes per month. I was home, Jane was on the road, so she asked me to get to the bottom of it. I called UPS, and the initial agent was helpful - he told me that that was probably a mistake of sorts, and he'd get in touch with the right people to figure out exactly what went wrong. Meanwhile, he took my number for follow-up, and told me to go ahead and leave it on the back porch for re-pickup later in the day.

Fine, mistakes happen. So a little while later, I'm back in my car on the way to a client. And the phone rings, with a local phone number. It's someone in the local Lynnfield UPS office, calling to tell me that perfume most certainly is hazardous, and that if all the other boxes have gone without incident it must be because Jane wasn't shipping stuff properly. She'd have to declare all that going forward. I asked how it might be possible that Jane's employer, who was even farther up in the Fortune 500, could possibly be sending all this product out themselves without hazardous material declarations. And why hasn't a problem existed until now, anyways?

She told me that they'd have to discuss this with the company. Wonderful. I left the discussion by telling her that frankly I didn't care what their policy was, I wasn't interested in any follow-up, I simply wanted a reasonable answer as to why one package out of a dozen identical ones was rejected. She was unwilling to provide clarification any further. I told her that was fine - as far as I was concerned the two companies were more than welcome to have a pissing match over the issue - and if it resulted in (given the scale of this) thousands of shipments per day potentially going to another carrier I was going to put my money on the company shipping the products.

I considered telling her that the only way perfume bottles were hazardous was if they were shoved directly someone's ass, but I had positively admirable restraint. I hung up instead.

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