Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XII

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.

We've incurred charges from trucking companies for "helping" to unload our trucks before.  Apparently, the drivers get a little extra pay for this, so they can be pushy and/or disingenuous about this service when talking to our customers, and make it sound like since they're standing around anyway, they'd be happy to help unload.  Then we get a surprise fee on our freight bill.

So we added a note to our bills of lading, right above where the driver signs to accept the load, saying that they are NOT to load, unload, or handle our product at all.

Then the other day, we get an invoice that has an unloading fee on it.  I called the freight company, and the billing person said that her supervisor wouldn't let her write off that charge, since the customer signed for it.  Sure enough, on the bill of lading, just above our note about the driver NOT being allowed to unload, someone had hand-written "driver unload" and signed.  

I asked to speak with the billing supervisor, and told her that whether the customer signed off on it or not was moot--their contract is with us, and our "contract" states that they may NOT unload.  Even if our BOL didn't have that note on it, they should be calling us to authorize any action that was going to add a fee to our bill, and especially since we DO have that note on there, they should have called (and, of course, didn't).  She did agree with that, and agreed to remove the charge, but suggested I call our customer anyway to figure out what happened, which I planned to do anyway.  At the very least, I was curious whether it was the driver's idea or the customer's.

So I called the customer and asked her what had happened that day, and she said she honestly couldn't remember.  But she was surprised that they (the customer) were supposed to unload the load themselves.  Now, we do have two types of customers--private customers that can afford to buy an entire truckload of our product at once, and stores that resell it to private customers who can't (or would rather not) buy an entire truckload.  This was a store.  Their entire business model is to buy and take delivery of large shipments and parcel them out to shoppers in smaller increments.  Weird that they feel it's not their job to handle these large loads.

So it's still not entirely clear whether she ASKED the driver for help, or he offered it, but she did take him up on it (though the driver never contacted us or his company, so that's on him).  I let her know that if she wanted the driver's help in the future, she'd need to let us know so we could authorize the freight company to authorize the driver to help, but that we'd be passing the charge along to her if she did request help.  

She said, "Fine, I'll pay the fee this time, but I won't be ordering again.  Your product is too..." now, what's an adjective I can use to stay anonymous?  The chocolate analogy doesn't really work here, but let's just say that she said the product is too brittle.  Softer is better, but of course the product can be TOO soft.  But in general, being too brittle is seen as a bad thing, industry-wide.  We have a few types of products, with varying degrees of brittleness, and at first I assumed she was complaining about the dark chocolate, as it does tend to be the most brittle.  But no, she was complaining about what she called "vanilla."  Now, we do sell white chocolate, but there wasn't any white chocolate in this load, so I was confused, but once I asked her the color of the packaging, I figured out that she was referring to our milk chocolate (not even close to "vanilla," but it (along with the white chocolate) is one of our SOFTEST (in a good way) products!  She said, "that's what your sales guy says, too [um, yeah, because it's a quantifiable thing, and we quantify it in two ways, both of which say it's nice and soft, but apparently you know better], but all I know is what my customers tell me, and I'm constantly having to take the stuff back because the customers say it's too brittle."  I said that's really odd, as our dark chocolate IS known for having that problem occasionally, but the milk chocolate she got (not white chocolate like she keeps saying) NEVER has that problem, and pretty much can't due to our manufacturing process.  She did say that the chocolate doesn't go to the usual type of customer our product goes to, but another type (let's say our typical customer is someone who's going to use it in candy, and she sells this product to ice cream people).  But still, brittle is brittle and soft is soft, and I don't know how they can say our milk chocolate is brittle, but whatever.  

So apparently my call about the unload fee was the straw the broke the camel's back on this unhappy customer, and we probably won't get any more orders from them.  Sounds like it's good riddance anyway, though.  Ugh.

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