The Decline and Fall of FedEx

[UPDATED DECEMBER 17, 2003: If you work for FedEx, please do not email me with your comments about how wonderful FedEx is to everyone across the globe. My experience speaks separately from yours. I recently paid for Overnight Priority FedEx shipping from a software company (FedEx is the only overnight delivery service they use) and the box arrived at 5pm, not by 10:30am as promised on the FedEx tracking website. The software company had no idea what happened. FedEx, of course, blamed the shipper. When my box arrived, I called the software company and read the tracking information on the box. They were struck silly because that label was not THEIR label and I concur that the label was generic. At the software company shipping department’s urging, I then peeled off the “fake” Standard Overnight label and found the original shipper’s label with logo underneath — with a different tracking number — that stated the box was, indeed, originally marked “Priority Overnight.” While I have no idea who replaced the original label, the question of why is not in doubt.]

[UPDATED FEBRUARY 15, 2001: FEDEX STRIKES AGAIN! Oh, how I hate websites that only offer FedEx shipping. I needed a fast fix with a computer memory order. I placed a $600 order with Crucial Technology and paid for FedEx overnight shipping due by noon the next day. The next day came and noon rose and set. When I went to check my order online that afternoon I discovered FedEx put a notation in the system that a package delivery attempt happened at 9:32am and that no one was home! How curious, thought I, that FedEx said I wasn’t home when my wife and I were home waiting for the delivery. We also have a 24 hour guard and doorman and those folks are authorized to accept and sign for any deliveries to me. I was outraged that, once again, FedEx had pulled a fast one. I complained to FedEx directly and, as per usual, they refused to admit their courier lied on the delivery attempt. The local Bronx station refused to re-deliver the packaged on the day it was due and blamed it all on me and refused to credit or refund my overnight delivery charge! They told me they would re-attempt delivery “sometime” during the next day. Oh, how I love it when “Overnight Delivery” means two days!

UPDATED FEBRUARY 3, 1999: This article is one of the most popular we’ve published in GO INSIDE Magazine. My email box is overflowing with mail on both sides of the issue: Those who work for FedEx, and those of us who live and die at the hands of FedEx’s delivery and success rates as customers. I haven’t updated this article until now because I wanted to get a cool feel as to where folks stood on the issue titling this page.

The overwhelming evidence to date suggests that I struck a very deep and bleeding chord of common resonance with many readers who have experienced the same sort of treatment at the hands of FedEx that I detail here. Not all of the messages from FedEx were negative. In fact, many FedEx employees expressed hurt and pain at the changes going on internally at FedEx and they thanked me for standing up for how the Federal Express of old used to deliver the world better than anyone.

The furious mail from partisan FedEx folks was always amusing and always tinged with anger that we, as customers, don’t appreciate them or understand the great stress they’re under in trying to get us our packages on time. My comment on that position has always been to find a better job if working for FedEx is killing you! Don’t blame the customer! Fix the problem from within FedEx! We really don’t care about all the packages you have to deliver in a shift, we only care about getting ours as promised. We’re selfish and demanding only because we’re paying your salary.

Upon the debut of this article, I got a friendly email response from what appeared to be a FedEx Vice-President. He expressed concern about my experience and he wanted to discuss the article in depth. When I replied to his email, however, it was bounced back as undeliverable. Since that note could’ve been a spoof (though it appeared to be genuine and sent from inside the FedEx mail system) I won’t mention the name of the person who sent the mail in case it was a scam. His effort to make amends was appreciated and noted.

Now, please read the original article as it first appeared over one year ago. The disappointment and decline I described still mirrors my experience with FedEx today.]

January 14, 1998

FedEx used to be the King of All Delivery Services, but in the past year I’ve noticed a disturbing and distasteful decline in both the quality and kindness of service that used to be FedEx’s hallmark. I mourn the loss of the old FedEx. Perhaps they never should’ve shortened their name from “Federal Express” to “FedEx.” Did the shrimpy new name bring with it a new short-sheeting of service? When other carriers like the United Parcel Service (believe it or not!), the Post Office and Airborne provide the sort of service that we used to get from FedEx, I suppose I should be overjoyed that there are other, better, choices for fast and good overnight delivery.

Past Performance
In the last six months, FedEx have misdelivered to me no less than six packages, delivered 11 late and “lost” three for a total of 12 days. Each one of these mishaps resulted in complaints being filed with the proper FedEx authorities who guaranteed me these were uncommon incidents that would not happen again.

Concession & Confession
The main folks at 1-800-GO-FEDEX admitted to me yesterday that the trouble is with my local New York City dispatch office and there isn’t much they can do about that from Memphis. I disagree there’s nothing that can be done, and as a FedEx consumer and Publisher of this magazine, I am duty bound to move these complaints against FedEx to this public opinion forum where the rest of the world can nosh these notions and know the pain-of-delivery that has become FedEx.

The Last Straw
I reached the end of my tether yesterday when a very important computer part was due to be delivered. Our network was down, and we’d spent a lot of money to expedite shipping for this special part. Unfortunately, our supplier uses only FedEx for shipments, so we knew we were stuck in the land of the unreliable and the unknowable, but we had no choice. We waited all day for the delivery.

You Weren’t There
At 7:00pm I called FedEx with my Tracking Number and asked them why my package hadn’t been delivered. She told me a delivery attempt was made at 3:48 pm and that we were closed for business and the FedEx courier left with package in hand. I laughed because I’d heard this excuse so many times in the past! (This is the old FedEx trick of “blaming the customer” and the New York FedEx Couriers use this method quite often in my experience because they can’t find the address, don’t feel like delivering, have fallen behind, need to meet their delivery quota, or they want to go home.) I told her the building has a 24 hour guard station and they will accept all deliveries if no one answers. I also told her there was no “Attempted Delivery” slip left, either. The FedEx 800 Operator quickly backed down from this “you weren’t home” position and she called the New York Dispatch Station directly for the lowdown.

7:31 pm
I was then connected with Steve, the New York Dispatch Manager, who told me I would have my package that night! He told me that the fault was theirs and that I would have my package by 10:30 pm. Huh? I was shocked. I’d never heard of FedEx delivering a package after 8:00 pm. Steve told me that, since this was a vital computer part, he was personally guaranteeing delivery that night. Uh-huh. He told me that, at 7:34 pm, he didn’t presently have any Couriers available to deliver my package, but that his next shift of Couriers arrived at 9:30 pm and that I would have my package by 10:30 pm. Uh-huh. Steve told me that since the hour for delivery would be late at night, he would call me when the Courier left the station. Uh-Huh. I told him thank you, hung up, and knew that Steve had tried, unsuccessfully, to sucker me.

10:34 pm
By 10:30 pm I had no call from Steve notifying me the Courier was on his way and no FedEx Courier had shown up with my package. You can’t call the FedEx Dispatch Stations directly, so I had to call the general 800 number to find out what had happened to my package. I went through the whole story with Melody, a Supervisor in Memphis, and she tried to contact the New York Dispatch Station on my behalf and they wouldn’t answer the phone! I asked her why they didn’t answer and she didn’t know. I asked her when I would get my package and she didn’t know. I asked her why Steve lied to me. She said she didn’t know, but he obviously did. I asked her why she, as a Memphis Supervisor, couldn’t get in touch with New York and she couldn’t tell me that, either! Melody then suggested I call Fred Smith, Head Hoo-Ha of FedEx in the morning and complain. I told her I would and she gave me the phone number.

8:26 am The Next Morning
I woke up and called the FedEx 800 number to try to get a new delivery date and time for my vital computer part. I went through the whole story, and she called the New York Dispatch Center for me. I was then told that New York Dispatch had no idea when my package would be delivered because there was no Manager to be found in the station! It seems that after the morning sort, the New York Station Manager had taken a break and no one could find him to help me find my package and get me a new delivery time! The FedEx 800 Operator, with disgust in her voice, said simply… “Gee, I can’t disappear like that when I’m working.” I appreciated her humanity, her insight and her honesty! I hung up the phone to call Fred Smith to report this comedy of FedEx errors.

Calling Fred Smith
I called Fred Smith at FedEx (901-369-3600) and was transferred to a woman named Susan who, instead calmly taking my complaint, started to argue with me! She berated ME for expecting a delivery after 10:00 pm at night! I told her it wasn’t my idea! She then told me that the Manger in New York was NOT on a break and that I didn’t understand how FedEx worked! I asked her why the FedEx 800 Operator could not find nor locate the New York Station Manager when she called the station! Susan shouted that she had no answer! When I politely informed her that this was a toll call for me and that I didn’t want to spend my money and time arguing with her and that I simply wanted my complaint recorded and filed with Mr. Smith, she started yelling at me for taking up so much of her time! I hung up the phone and picked up my computer and began to write this piece.

Conclusion
There’s simply no doubt in my mind that FedEx is a shadow of what it once used to be. These fights for FedEx delivery go on daily with not only me, but other folks I knew who used to love FedEx. The FedEx Couriers used be like Santa Claus — bringing you gifts overnight and on time — and now they’re simply empty promises and shells of their former superb service. I used to ship everything FedEx. No more. Now I use Airborne, UPS and the Post Office exclusively because they’re much more reliable and dependable than FedEx. I can’t choose the shipper folks use to send me stuff, but when I find out it’s FedEx, I shudder at the horror of having to deal with the New York Dispatch Center when I used to jump with glee.

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