Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part V - Customer Expectations

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

To borrow the "chocolate teapot" analogy that a blog I read uses for workplace examples, we are not a company that sells teapots--specific, quantifiable products that you order a specific number of.  No, we are more like a company that sells the chocolate--you place an order about the specific product you want to get (milk chocolate or dark), and then we fill a truck full of the stuff and send it to you.  In the trucking world, there are two types of trucks--long trailers, and shorter trailers often known as "pups."  Some places can't fit a long trailer down their driveway and maneuver it around the lot, so they're forced into getting the smaller trailers, which, as you'd expect, cost more in shipping per pound of chocolate.  But you can only do what you can do, so they pay a slightly higher per-chocolate-pound rate for shipping and move on with life.  Some customers just prefer not to have so much chocolate on hand at once, and order smaller trailers even though larger ones would do.

To further confound things, all small trailers and all big trailers don't have the exact same dimensions as each other.  Some are slightly bigger, some have slightly shorter roofs, whatever.  So we fit what we can in.

We would be fine if someone ordered a quantity less than would actually fit on a truck, though of course that would mean paying for wasted space, so most customers just order a truckload and leave it up to us to fill it up.  Some people prefer being able to unload by forklift and only want palletized product, others want the truck as full as possible and therefore the individual packages are hand-stacked in the truck so more can fit.  Some people prefer the convenience of pallets but also want to maximize the amount of product they receive, so a few extra packages are stacked on the front or back of the trailer when there's a little more room than what the pallets take up.

Which brings us to today's phone call.  A customer who orders once a year and gets the smaller trailers called because she'd been shorted 38 packages.  Okay, the sales guy (who took the call) asks, how many were you invoiced for?  Oh, she hasn't been invoiced yet, she just now got the delivery and she was shorted!  Shorted, I tell you!  Well, how can you have been shorted if you haven't been invoiced yet?  All she knows is she's missing 38 packages.  Well, did you order a specific number of packages?  No, just a truckload.  We look up her history, and she got 38 packages more last year than this year, because last year's trailer must have been an older model that could fit some extra packages, but since she ordered pallets, and only so many pallets fit on the truck, she just got pallets and no extra this year.  The sales guy tried explaining that to her, but she would hear none of it.  He explained that we were only going to bill her for what she received, so she wanted to see her invoice.  Her order hasn't been invoiced yet, because I always wait until the following day so I'm not invoicing people until they've received their order.  She told the sales guy to have me invoice her right away and send it by e-mail (and of course I invoiced her for the number of packages she received, duh).  He said something about the owner of our company, which must have perked her ears up and she asked to speak with him.

He spent about 10 minutes on the phone with her, explaining that no matter how hard he tries, he's unable to make the trailers any larger (we don't have a trailer stretcher, ha!), so when one is on our lot that only holds X number of pallets, without room for extra packages, that's how we ship it, and that of course she'll only be billed for the number of packages she received on those pallets, and no more (and I did the invoice, scanned it, and e-mailed it to her while he was still on the phone with her).  She was positive she'd been shorted 38 packages, but no amount of explaining that if we sent them to her now and charged her for freight, she'd be paying more in freight than the product was worth.  She doesn't seem to understand that maybe she could just order next year's order when she's getting low, regardless of whether it's exactly 12 months from now, or maybe more like 11 months from now.  No, she was shorted 38 packages and wants to know what we'll do about it.

Sorry, lady, but what we'll do about it is only charge you for the product you received, as we were planning to do all along.


[Of course in a business where you order a specific number of items, if you don't receive that number, you should bring it up (politely!).  And of course if you are billed for more (or fewer) items than you receive, you should bring it up.  But neither is the case here.]

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