Archive for the ‘Incompetence’ Category

Service of What Happens When You Don’t Double Check: A Package Lost in Zip Code Hell

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Photo: fanpop.com

It’s not just Santa who should check things twice–so should I.

I didn’t immediately read the zip code the postal clerk put in the computer. She did not post the information in the digital portion of the credit card reader [photo right, below] and I didn’t think to ask her to do so nor did I look at my receipt.

The birthday gift was destined for New Hampshire in plenty of time. I don’t know if it will ever arrive. It has been lost in zip code hell since November 29.

Photo: stateofthenet.net

I first looked at the receipt to track the package a few days after my post office visit. My heart sank: The clerk had inverted numbers so it headed not to New England but to Maryland Heights, Mo.

A clerk at the Grand Central post office confirmed the correct address on the label–it apparently is in the system but nobody refers to anything but the zip code. She admitted that the wrong code would keep sending the gift back to Missouri.

This clerk was correct. I received 25 USPS tracking email notices confirming this–as late as this morning. The package arrived twice in Southern Conn. and once in New Hampshire–though not to the right post office–but it went back to Missouri after that.

I asked her if postmen and women read the full label on a package and she said, “sometimes.” She didn’t have faith in an option to stop the delivery which she said would cost me money and “didn’t always work.”

Back at my computer I found a lost package form to fill out online even though the package is misdirected. I got a standard reply from the appropriate postmaster in the correct New Hampshire town that stated he would look into it. But the automatic tracking emails kept on coming telling me where in Missouri the package was out for delivery.

Light bulb: I found the phone number, called the New Hampshire post office in the right town, left a message for Kirkland S. and he subsequently left a message for me on my phone later that day. He seemed to be optimistic that the package would arrive at its destination because he’d spoken with customer service.

Alas, I got another auto message announcing the package was again out for delivery in Missouri.

I again called Kirkland who admitted to having called 12 numbers before reaching someone in Missouri who would send a person to rescue the package and delete the incorrect barcode so that the machine could not read it.

He explained that up until now a human had not been near the package. Computers read the zip code.  My heart, once lifted, was once again dashed this morning when the auto-tracking email announced the package is out for delivery in Missouri. Kirkland S could not be more sympathetic and he seems almost as frustrated as I am.

I fear that if and when it arrives it will be in shreds. It wasn’t packed to be tossed from truck to truck to truck to truck.

I just sent a slew of Christmas packages and confirmed, on the credit card reader, that each zip code and address were correct.

I consider the mistake to be equally my fault because I didn’t check. Even Santa, as busy as he is, takes time to confirm who’s been naughty or nice.

It’s so easy to type wrong numbers on a keyboard. Mine couldn’t be the only misdirected package. Shouldn’t there be a simple way to fish out mail headed in the wrong direction because of a mistyped digit? Have you run across a similar glitch?

Service of No News is Not Good News

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Photo: dot.gov

Photo: dot.gov

In the time it took us to get home on the 7:06 from upstate NY Sunday night [normally 2 hours], we could have been in London. I don’t blame Metro-North for the downed tree on the tracks. It is culpable of having no emergency plan, exhibiting inertia in extremis, and providing neither communications/information nor safety for its passengers. Goodness knows what they would do if they had to deal with injuries.

Photo: ewashtenaw.org

Photo: ewashtenaw.org

We were whisked off two trains with no explanation other than that only one track was in service. The first train we were on was jammed. Most passengers had suitcases, dogs, cats, bicycles, and packages or some combination.

After the first passenger dumping, when a second train arrived, a trainload of disconcerted people piled in the closest doors. We ran on the platform with our suitcases toward the back where the cars were emptier and we could sit. With many still on the platform—us included–the nasal beeping noise warning that the doors are about to close rang out at its standard time. But the numbers of passengers to embark was many times the usual. The warning was the only sound. Where was a conductor to say: “Please move along quickly but don’t worry, we’ll wait for you all to get in.” Nowhere.

Settled in the second train we were soon shocked when a conductor announced that we must all exit the train at Pleasantville and take a bus to North White Plains. Still nobody said why.

yellow school busThere must have been 1,000 people pouring out of the station on to the street. Eventually we saw three traditional yellow school busses. The scene reminded me of exiting the train station in Venice to access water transportation. In Italy it was also crowded and unnerving but we didn’t wait long and soon we, and our suitcases, were on board a vaporetto.

We confronted a very different situation in Pleasantville. Like Cinderella’s sisters—remember they tried to squeeze their huge feet into the diminutive slipper–hundreds surrounded each bus with hopes that they’d be one of the 45 adults to make it inside. It was survival of the fittest, strongest, pushiest and youngest. Friends who exited the station from a different place reported a woman pulled a man off a bus by yanking at his leg. One said, “I can still see a woman pushing her bicycle onto the bus. She was the first on and there was no room for the bike.”

Between our luggage and the ridiculous, frantic crowds we weren’t going near the mobs to try to get on. A vest like this--not this person. Photo: article.wn.com

I approached a man with a florescent orange vest with RR logo [like the vest in the photo from wn.com, at right–not this person] who was texting in the shadows behind the crowd. I asked what the backup plan was as clearly we weren’t fitting on a bus. He said there were four busses [we’d seen only three] and that it takes 25 minutes to drive to North White Plains. Half an hour later a fourth school bus arrived causing another riot scene. That one left with every inch of space filled with people—even in the aisles–which looked dangerous. The other drivers took the maximum permitted and didn’t leave the station until the aisles were empty. The crowd had become more frustrated by this time and this driver didn’t fight it. 

We spoke with the only police officer we saw. He knew—and did—nothing but said: “I’m here to make sure you don’t kill one another,” and then he walked away. He wasn’t near the mobs.

 vintage train setIn all this time not a chirp from Metro-North. We wanted to know if a crew was working to remove the tree, if someone was scouting up grownup busses with room in the belly for suitcases—anything official. Passengers continued to spill out of trains from up north to face scant transportation with us.

After an hour+ our friend John stormed into the station and down the stairs to the platform followed by Bob and us. He said it was clear that the only way we’d get back to the city was by train. Guess what we found: A train with people pouring out of it because it was changing direction and was now heading to Grand Central. There had been no announcement to alert the passengers upstairs.

I’ve enjoyed and depended on the railroad in many countries as well as here. I am fond of many of the conductors who take our tickets on the Harlem Line. Yet I feel ashamed that a major source of transportation in the NY metro area is as backward and unprepared as this line was on Sunday.

Why:

  • Would the RR accept more passengers from other stations when it couldn’t deal with those already waiting for busses in Pleasantville?
  • No megaphone or intercom updates from headquarters or the employee on location?
  • No local authorities to organize the passengers so we’d have a safe, fair way to get on a bus in a civilized manner?

And, how well could this crew handle a derailment with injuries or other emergency?

Photo: iridetheharlemline.com

Photo: iridetheharlemline.com

Service of “I Don’t Know” According to The President and Secretary of Health and Human Services

Monday, November 4th, 2013

I don't know

In recent history I can only once remember saying “I don’t know” or words to that effect in a business situation and leaving it at that. I was put in a tough spot by a client in a meeting. She was accusing her colleague of doing something dastardly and I didn’t want to get in the middle. I may have shrugged and wrinkled my brow. [I forget details of uncomfortable nightmares.] But the effect of my response/silence was that I didn’t know.

I don’t mean to imply that I know everything. But I wasn’t in PR for long when I realized that I couldn’t possibly answer each question media would ask about my clients, their products or organizations. It was my job to find out and get back fast. So that’s what I say and do. There’s a finality to “I don’t know” that implies “you’re on your own to find out.” In addition to providing answers my insecurities help: I hate to look dumb.

Looking dumbIn some way I admire the nerve of the President and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for having the guts to say that they don’t or didn’t know about major issues–the impending Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act computer glitch to name one. It’s not as though, like President George HW Bush, either admitted to not knowing what a bar code is. Bar codes had nothing to do with that President’s job nor did it involve a major initiative of his.

Again due to insecurities I’d have wanted a dry run of the computer system driving the health care program well before deadline. You generate a lot less anger being the one to deliver bad news rather than having a client or constituency discover it on their own. Say you’re a contractor. Far better you call the client to announce that “we didn’t finish installing the appliances in your remodeled kitchen before the deadline of your moving to your home,” than for the home or apartment owner to return from work to discover this development at night when it’s too late to stop the moving van.

computer glitchSo what kind of strategy and result did the President and secretary expect by playing dumb confronted by the monumental computer glitch? And how come Secretary Sibelius wasn’t clear about some of the rules of the new insurance system regarding citizens already insured by their employers? President Regan hardly knew an answer requiring detail but had at hand the appropriate point-person for the answers. That would work.

How can you administer a project if you or your reports are not up to speed? Can you think of one good outcome of the computer glitch?

speeding cars

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics