Eastern Mountain Sports are a big company specializing in niche sporting clothes and other outdoor things.  I like EMS high performance socks because they wick away moisture and pad your feet in all the tender places when you’re breaking in new shoes.  The socks I buy from EMS are expensive — over $20 a pair — but the high monetary cost is offset by the total comfort and conditioning they provide to feet that are always in motion on the rough streets of New York City.

A couple of days ago, I placed a large socks order with Eastern Mountain Sports and I paid — as I always do when ordering online — for Overnight Shipping.  I need overnight shipping because my schedule is tight and I have to have a guaranteed day of delivery or I will miss getting my stuff on time by a factor of three or four or seven days or more.

Every company defines overnight shipping in their own peculiar way and I don’t read the fine print on shipping pages because companies always under-promise and over-deliver; and the fact that “Overnight” to UPS used to always mean by 10:30am and has now, over time, often morphed into “By the End of the Day” is a disappointment I still cannot fully abide.

Now, when you track a package on the UPS website and see delivery by “10:30am” — you’re heart skips a moment with joy and delight as you realize you will not have to spend your entire day, and sometimes all night, waiting for a UPS knock on your door.

My EMS delivery tracked on the UPS website for a guaranteed 10:30am delivery yesterday.  My regular UPS guy always takes care of me, and when the delivery didn’t happen at 10:30am, I called UPS and they confirmed they were late and that the error was theirs.  At 11:15am or so, my doorbell buzzed and my UPS guy apologized for not having the package in my hand before 10:30am.  He also told me to call UPS to get my shipping charges back since it was UPS policy to refund late deliveries to customers.

Here’s what I emailed to Eastern Mountain Sports Customer Service this morning:

Hi there —

I paid for overnight delivery for order [redacted] that was supposed to be delivered by 10:30am yesterday and it was delivered late.

My UPS guy told me I can get my shipping back because the delivery was late.

When I called UPS, they told me they’d be happy to refund my shipping, but that I had to go through you as the vendor first — because you need to request the refund from them for processing.

Can you please refund my overnight shipping charge?

Thank you.

db

Here is what Brian, in EMS Customer Service replied:

Hi David,

I reviewed your order and I see that it was placed on 1/17/12 at 8:39 am. I checked the tracking information and I see the package was delivered on 1/18/12 at 11:11am.

On our shipping information link found on our website we state:

http://www.ems.com/helpdesk/index.jsp?display=ship&subdisplay=shipMethods

Nex Day Air, (1-2 business days)
Most items may be shipped to the 48 contiguous United States via Next Day Air service. You can expect your order to arrive within 1-2 full business days. Delivery will occur Monday-Friday, excluding federal holidays within the United States. Signature required for delivery. Your order must be received and clear credit authorization by 12:00 p.m. (noon) EST or your order may not be processed until the following business day. Please note: No Saturday or Sunday delivery is available with this shipping option. For delivery on Saturday please select “Saturday Delivery.”

We make no promises that the package will arrive by 10:30am. Your package was delivered in the timeline that we post on our website. As a result we are unable to refund you for overnight shipping. I apologize for any disappointment.

Oh, boy, do I hate it when Customer Service people turn into wonky robots and cut-and-paste their inhuman and cold responses to you from boilerplate language on their website.  Disingenuous apologies are like stakes of solid ice driven into your melting heart.

What Brain failed to acknowledge is that a promise was indeed made to me — by UPS — and it is now Eastern Mountain Sports’ moral duty to support and adhere to the devotion made by their shipper of choice.  UPS told me I would get my shipping back, but EMS are telling me I get back nothing?

It was time to fire up a New Post for the Boles University Blog to take Eastern Mountain Sports to task for their disconnect in honoring proper promises made on their behalf by UPS.  Before I started typing all of this in WordPress.com, I replied to Brian:

You may not make a promise, but UPS did.  Delivery online was deadlined by 10:30am and it was shipped UPS Red.

The package was not delivered on time according to UPS and I want my shipping back.

As I was setting up this article and researching the truth, Brian from EMS replied again — slightly more human this time — but still a bit wonky and persnickety:

Dear David,

I now understand your expectation was to receive your package at a time that was consistent with other packages you may have had delivered in the past by UPS Overnight. When our warehouse team packed your order, it sounds like they upgraded the shipping to deliver the package in the morning instead of the afternoon. The option was made as a courtesy and was not intended to create a deadline for delivery.

We are sad to hear that our attempt to speed up your delivery has resulted in a feeling that you have somehow been cheated or overcharged. I forwarded your request to our warehouse managers and they reached out to UPS. UPS agreed to refund our overnight shipping charge. As a result we will refund the $29.99 overnight shipping charge from your order. It will take a few business days to process the refund. You should see it post to your account sometime next week. I hope this information helps.

I don’t like Brian’s condescending tone in the second paragraph because it undermines the proper solution he ends up providing.  Why take a swipe at a customer when you’re trying to do the right thing and resolve the matter?

Hmm…

Do I reply?

Or do I just take the refund and run?

Reply, did I!

Thank you, Brian, for doing the right thing.  I’m in the process of writing a blog article about my experiences with you this morning and I will include this new information.

This was my second order from EMS and I had both orders shipped overnight and both were marked — on the UPS tracking website — for 10:30am delivery.  I did not ask for, or expect that early morning delivery, but I certainly was impressed by that delivery promise no matter the circumstance.

If you are doing customers some invisible, unspoken “favor” in the warehouse by sending orders UPS Red and having UPS mark a 10:30am delivery promise to your customers on their tracking website — but you don’t mean that promise in the end and you make that hard point by cutting and pasting shipping boilerplate from your website — then you’re actually being disingenuous and a little bit cruel.

Brian has yet to respond.

I’ll let you know if and when my Eastern Mountain Sports shipping refund goes live on my credit card.

I am always amazed by this sort of initial naysaying in Customer Support.  This could have been quickly resolved by EMS by just contacting UPS and seeing what was promised and not delivered and then processing the refund.  EMS isn’t out any shipping charges — UPS eats the shipping for the late arrival — and for EMS to deny my refund because they didn’t feel like giving it back to me stings and makes me not want to order from them again.

In the end, I spent a lot of time writing this article and EMS ended up finally doing the right thing anyway — I’d just like to know where I can go for a refund to get my morning back.

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