I have just spent half an hour on a “10 minute” on-line satisfaction survey sent to me by some company reporting to FedEx. Despite the recent youtube videos FedEx Driver showing how the delivery man mis-treats your parcels, an awful lot gets through without package damage or loss. But not all, and this success rate really differs among the various carriers.
At the end it all is down to the individual who delivers your courier letter, parcel or package, in Spain or abroad. We have wonderful messengers in Marbella who take the greatest of care and we have really unprofessional drivers who kick the packages down our stairs and complain when we have too many parcels for them to collect.
So, why do we use FedEx? Simply because, although not quite as good as UPS they are far cheaper for small Economy deliveries. Why don’t we use TNT or DHL? We physically don’t have the number of staff to cope with the problems that they would give us.
What really is the rate of parcels going missing or damaged? Couriered letters almost never go missing, I don’t think I can remember a single incident. Couriered parcels do get lost, they do get damaged and they can be held up in customs or they can be undeliverable.
Let’s look at all these cases. Lost parcels or lost luggage sent by courier companies. It is easy to see whether a tracked parcel has been lost. Most of them turn up eventually but some don’t. If they don’t they have either been stolen or their air waybill has fallen off. I recently left a camera tripod in Istanbul (Turkey) airport and, returning to collect it, I was amazed at the sheer volume of lost luggage. If it is like this in a single airport, imagine what it is like for a global courier organisation, there must be thousands of tonnes of parcels sitting in warehouses around the world. If they have been stolen, and it does happen, there is nothing you can do but claim on the insurance which always pays out for genuine claims. If they have been lost, a really good description of the package can result in a find but, if not, the insurance will pay out. I estimate that fewer than one in 10,000 packages goes permanently missing.
Damage is more likely than a parcel going missing. However, if a parcel is correctly packaged it is very hard to damage. We recently sold a collection of porcelain plates on eBay and this resulted in around five parcels to the UK and USA. You can see here How to pack a Parcel that we pack so that any parcel can withstand a drop of 1.5 metres. However, what if you are buying from someone else who does not necessarily pack properly? We recently bought four lampshades on eBay and they arrived all broken because the box was not really up to the job. Will we get our claim through? I don’t know but we’ll try. How should they have been packed? Imagine that another box weighing 70kg could be stacked on top of yours and that it may have a sharp and rigid corner angle which can make a dent in the outer carton of your property. The only way to ensure that your goods will arrive unharmed is to insulate them from the outside of the box to make sure an external blow will not reach the contents; to ensure that the contents cannot move within the box by packing them with adequate packaging material of which crumpled newspaper is an excellent example and to make the box crush-proof by using a really heavy grade cardboard and supporting the box with a material such as expanded polystyrene or, even better, the polyurethane foam sold in builders merchants. If you wrap your product in cling film and place it onto a sheet of cling film on a layer of the foam before putting another layer of cling film on top and filling the rest of the box with foam you have a purpose-made unique moulded cocoon for the most delicate of contents.
Customs Agencies vary from country to country. Some are relatively easy to pass, some are really difficult. If you are sending artwork out of Spain you have to clear customs on the way out and convince them you are not smuggling out a valuable national treasure. If you have food or drink going to or transiting the USA you need to fill out a FDA prior notice form which, if you do loads like I do, only takes 20 minutes for each package! If you are sending certain items to the UK such as alcohol or tobacco you have to pre-pay the import duty. If you send electronic goods (like a game console) to Argentina the recipient has to go to Buenos Aires customs themselves to clear the item and pay the import duty. Spain does not allow medicines to be imported, not even herbal ones. There is too much specialised information to give in this section but the main point is that while your package is in Customs is is effectively out of the hands of the courier and in the hands of the Government and no recompense will be paid for any loss or damage or delay by any courier company. It doesn’t happen often but it can happen UK Customs Success.
Lastly, the package can be undeliverable. This may mean that the address is incorrect; the recipient is not answering their telephone; it is destined for a post office box to which, in most countries outside the Middle East and Africa, couriers cannot deliver (use the postal service); the recipient has moved, is on holiday or the business has closed. Or the courier can’t be bothered to find the address! There are normally three attempts at delivery, if these fail the package will be returned to sender. This is a really serious situation because courier inbound to Spain normally costs far more than the original courier charge for the outbound parcel from Spain so the parcel is returned with a charge for the outward shipment and a larger charge for the inward shipment, there can be customs problems on entry and the returned parcel service will probably be Express as opposed to Economy which further increases the cost. Sometimes you have the option for the parcel to be destroyed instead (meaning they get to open it and pocket anything worth keeping).
Thank goodness that these problems occur so infrequently that we can sleep most nights but when they do occur ……..!