I work from home. One benefit of this is that I am usually available when a delivery of some sort is made to my house. My wife orders various items online and the delivery men turn up punctually, often after a small courtesy call to check we are in. This, I have come to realize is a system which generally works very well. Indeed, even on those rare occasions when we are not at home, a note will be left with a number to call and we can arrange for redelivery at a convenient time. I know there are probably other places in the world where this is the norm, but my experiences in the UK never seemed to be like that. If memory serves, waiting for a delivery in the UK was always a bit hit and miss. The promise would be made that something will show up, say, between 9.00am and 4:00pm on a Tuesday, and then duly be delivered at 3:00pm on Wednesday, when once again you weren’t in. Then you had to go to a post office somewhere and get it yourself. That kind of thing. Here I can specify the day and time of the delivery and more often than not it will arrive at that time.
I may be being a bit harsh on UK deliveries. Memory probably erases the countless times when things ran exactly as they were supposed to, but a recent debacle has left me in a less than generous mood about UK deliveries and with a greater appreciation of the fact that both the public and private delivery systems in Japan just seem to work.
You see, not long ago it was my brother’s birthday. I ordered quite a nice gift online and was assured by the relevant company that delivery would be made within five days. Well, the birthday and some two weeks passed and there was still no sign of the present. I was disappointed. I emailed the company, whose website promised to reply to all queries within 24 hours. They didn’t reply. I found a UK number to call and spent rather a long time listening to recorded apologies about the unusually large volume of calls they were having. Really, I suspect that what they were in fact having was the usual number of calls for which they never prepare enough call-center staff. Better would be a message saying, ‘We apologize for keeping you waiting but we can only answer you quickly when we have an unusually low number of calls.’ But that, in terms of this story, is neither here nor there.
Anyway, after considerable button pushing, swearing and a swift upswing in my blood pressure, I was eventually connected to what now seemed to my mind to be an unreasonably cheerful woman. I explained my problem, she took my details, checked the computer and assured me it had been delivered within the five days as promised. I assured her it had not. She then told me it had been delivered to a safe place. I said that I hadn’t asked for it to be delivered to a safe place; I had wanted it delivered to my brother’s house. She laughed and explained that it had been left in a safe place at my brother’s house because nobody had been in. ‘And where might that be?’ I asked, as there had been no card informing of the delivery. ‘It’s in the playhouse in the garden,’ the woman said.
There was a small silence as I let this information sink in. I mean, I suppose it was safe. As far as I am aware, the area has had no wendy house burglaries whatsoever in the last few years, but still, without a calling card, how was anybody meant to find it? The woman admitted that a note should have been left, and apologized for the oversight. ‘But,’ she said, ‘at least it was delivered!’
I explained to my brother what had happened. He went outside and discovered a pleasant surprise in his children’s little hideaway. He thanked me, before adding, ‘But it’s ridiculous that they didn’t leave a note.’
But maybe they did. It’s probably in a safe place, too. Under the big stone next to the oak tree at the bottom of the garden, perhaps.