Field Reports

Field Report: How Words Work

Sergeant K

We are not required to say anything as soldiers in The Field. It’s not like we have to ask every customer who comes in if they want to open a Target credit card. We have our repetitive information exchanges. For instance, I say, “What are we up to?” to every customer, indicating that, apparently, for their duration of time in The Field, we were partners. We were a team. We were “up to” something. Private Ryan asks how people’s days are going.

Private Ryan is much better at customer service than I am.

We both understand people pretty well, though. And we both have thresholds which, when crossed, turns us into impatient, face-making, silly people.

The 18 boxes threatened to destroy all semblance of threshold we had left.

We’ll get to that in a second. Let’s revisit December!

December was pure chaos in the shipping world with the highest number of packages shipped in the history of the world. (Not sure this is true – the number I’m seeing is 3 billion packages – but since The Field was responsible for approximately 2 billion of these, I’m assuming.) (I know that last number might be off by just a bit.) We had 6000 customers in 22 days. That’s an average of 2000 customers per Field soldier. I think there were years in The Field when they saw 6000 customers total.

Instead of offering customers company credit cards, we did say the same thing to most of them. And that thing was, “Statistically speaking, if these companies are going to lose packages, they are more likely to do so now than ever before. Therefore, if you want more than $100 insurance, please let us know. Because if you don’t add the insurance, we can only go after $100.”

Insuring your packages isn’t like buying extended warranties on electronics or cars. Yes, we’re the most over-insured country on the planet and I promise you my rants about this topic are pretty epic. But if the thing you’re shipping is worth $400 and FedEx screws it up in any way, the only way we can pursue $400 is if you pay $6 more for the insurance. Private Ryan and I refuse to weigh in on insurance 99% of the time. December 2020 was the only time we even semi-encouraged customers to go one direction or the other.

Another common phrase was, “We can’t insure gift cards or checks or cash. Also it is still illegal to ship cash because it is undocumented money so don’t do it. You will get nothing for those no matter how much insurance you put on it.” “Why can’t you insure gift cards?” “Because someone, somewhere, would spend the money on the gift card, send it to someone, insure it for the amount on the gift card to begin with, and then claim that amount to the company. Yes, if there is a way to cheat the system, someone has found it and ruined it for everyone else.”

I specifically remember one customer who told me they had $1000 worth of gift cards and $400 cash in one package. I specifically remember telling said customer all of the above and discouraging them from sending basically any of it and for sure not all of it in one package.

Did SpeeDee deliver that package to the wrong address? Of course they did. Is the address they supposedly delivered it to not an actual house but rather an empty lot? Of course it is. Is the customer extremely upset that this package did not make it and is now complaining about the amount of money in said package and that “no one told me I couldn’t insure gift cards?” Of course they are.

One customer told Private Ryan that she would “ruin him” if he didn’t locate her package. “Your job is not to just put labels on boxes. Your job is to ensure the package gets delivered to the right place.” Actually, Miss, our job is to… put labels on boxes. (There’s more to that, of course, but at the outset, that’s what we do the most.)

“Do these people think we are driving these packages in our own vehicles places?” Private Ryan asked me.

“Remember that customer who thought we had a company plane?” I responded. “They know nothing but what they think they know.”

Customs in Mexico and Zambia are holding our shipments hostage and not responding to the shipping company in any way. That’s fun. And FedEx in France and Great Britain is legitimately just not allowing a package to be delivered and not giving a reason and not responding to their own company workers from the U.S. who are inquiring.

If a coup happens in Europe soon, I feel like they will Trojan Horse it through disgruntled FedEx employees.

Which brings me back to the 18 boxes.

We in The Field understand that you in The Outside may have super important things that are time-sensitive and that you are VERY concerned and anxious about these packages. We are aware of this and do our best to reassure you using our special-occasion “patient and understanding tone of voice” as we explain how it works. Your job is to listen and trust us. We know this is hard.

Your job is NOT to tell us that you have 18 boxes of vitally important things and that you put a call into FedEx Express for a pick-up and that they DID NOT COME and you’re just watching their trucks drive by, taunting you. Therefore, you are wondering if we can ship the 18 boxes with our FedEx Express pick up. While we doubt your story about Express trucks driving by to taunt you, we can assuage your fears by telling you they will pick up in The Field.

“But what if they don’t?”
“What if they don’t what?”
“What if they don’t pick up today?”
“Sir, that is not a possibility.”
“But what if they don’t?”
“That’s not even an option. They pick up from us every day.”
“What time do they pick up?”
“4 o’clock.”
“What if they’re early?”
“They cannot pick up before 4 p.m. They have to scan a barcode on our shelf and the barcode doesn’t unlock until 4 p.m.”
“Well, I’m going to send my person there with the boxes now.” (It is 12:30.)
“Okay, that’s fine.”
“And she will sit there until they get picked up.”
“That’s not fine. She doesn’t need to sit here.”
“She will sit there to ensure they pick up.”
“They will pick up. She doesn’t need to sit here. Just have them here by 3:30.”
“But what if they’re early?”

He called four times. Each time sounded a lot like this.

The worker finally came and dropped off the boxes and we manually entered every single one into the database. At the time, a different carrier’s truck was picking up. About a half hour later, he called for the final time.

“The Field, this is Private Ryan.”
“I never said this to anyone.”
“The truck was there when she got there.”
“That wasn’t the right truck. It wasn’t 4 o’clock.”
“You told her they were on the truck.”
“I helped her carry them into the building and stack them on the floor.”
“Sir, that’s because they are still waiting to be picked up as it is currently 3:45.”
“They need to get on the truck.”
“They will get on the truck.”
“When will the tracking numbers be online?”
“At some point tonight, they will be scanned in.”

Look, people, I’m not at work today, but I almost want to go in just to track one of these numbers to see if they got there.

The final side note on this situation is that these 18 boxes were going 2 hours away to a place in Iowa. If you are THAT concerned, THEN WHY WOULDN’T YOU DRIVE THEM YOURSELF?

I heard Private Ryan offer to sell his business to at least five different customers yesterday.

One last note — On New Year’s Eve last week, we closed at 1 p.m. This allowed me to do some IT work, swapping computers, loading printers, playing with the settings on some things. I’ve never had that opportunity unless I go in on the weekend. It was pretty great. However, if you’re curious, the average number of times a person will pull on the door even though it is locked, all of the lights are off, a sign is on the door announcing our early closure, and they can’t even see me is: 83.

Also if we don’t answer the phone, the average number of times a person will call back in rapid succession is 7.

We all have vacations scheduled now. Most of them involve Alabama in some way. I don’t even know what to say about that.

Colonel C

We’re going to Alabama in a few months! I’m so excited! And we got a new microwave that’s the size of a small car! And it looks like it’s from space! This is the best birthday week ever!

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