Friday, July 21, 2006

Is Sears of the 21st Century?

What the hell happened to They seem destined to become the Sears of the 21st century.

Selling books and CDs aren't enough - now they sell groceries, diapers, band saws and car tires (really). Just like Sears during the 1980s, 1990s and into their glorious redemption by K-Mart, is becoming so unfocused and crappy at everything, I think they're goin' down! You'll know they're in trouble when you see the catchy slogan, "The Softer Side of"

What has really honked me off is that I needed a copy of Ray Anderson's "
Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model" for a book club kind of discussion group Walt Nord is hosting at USF. This is not your typical Barnes & Noble or Borders shelf stocker, so I ordered it and a copy of "The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition" from (just in case editing had completely changed since the 14th edition...apparently it hasn't).

The two books combined qualified for Amazon's "Free Shipping," which I don't like since the books never seem to arrive (you get what you pay for). Since I was ordering them on Wednesday July 12th and the book group was meeting on Firday, July 21st, I figured I should really pay for the shipping to make sure I get the book on time. Ironically, I thought about paying for 2-day shipping, but then I realized that would be alot more money and if there was a problem with the order (serious Alfred Hitchcock forshadowing), I'd be pretty pissed paying $10 or whatever to not get the books on time.

Well, well, well. What do you think happened? I couldn't make stuff like this up because it's just too crazy.

On Wednesday, July 12th I placed the order for two books that were in stock and "usually ship within 24 hours."

On Thursday, July 13th, I was initially surprised and pleased to see my order was being place with DHL. OK, it's not FedEx or UPS, but DHL is good too - no? The books were shipped from Allentown, PA, which is 1,108 miles from Tampa, FL. estimated a delivery date of Thursday, July 20th, which seemed like a pretty conservative estimate. I mean, even if it were coming via the US Postal Service, that distance is pretty reasonable for a one week delivery. DHL's gotta be quicker than that. Since I was going out of town Thursday through Sunday, I was a little nervous that the books might be delivered before I got homw.

Well, no update to the tracking until Sunday night, July 16th. The books were now in March Air Force Base, Riverside CA!!! WHAT??
My books went from Allentown, PA on Thursday and apparently took a 2,666 mile Greyhound Bus trip to March Airforce Base in Riverside California. (Look, a plane would have gotten there in a day. Three days? That's a Greyhound bus or Amtrack!)
The books were now 2,473 miles away from Tampa. In other words, in three days, the books had traveled 1,365 miles further from me than they were on Wednesday.

Hey, but it's DHL, right? Maybe they're like FedEx and they ship all their stuff to a central hub (California doesn't seem very central, but I'm no logistics genius). I still don't know why the books are on an Airforce base, but I did some Googling (love that that's a verb) and found out some enterprising folks turned a decommisioned Airforce base into a semi-commercial venture. Well, let's see what happens next.

Well, on Monday, July 17th, the books must have been a little tired and thought, "Why come all the way to the West Coast without seeing the Pacific Ocean?" Or maybe, "Allentown was so dull and the warehouse so dark, let's go to the beach." I don't know. All I do know is somehow the books went 76 miles further West to Hawthorne, California, which appears to be very beachy based on Mapquest. Seems like an odd place for books to go. However, Hawthorne is close to LAX - so maybe they were trying to get on a commercial flight to get to my house. (I think they were totally trying to get the chicks in LA, but I suffer from attribution biases like that.) What still seems weird is why would you fly the books into March Airforce Base and then drive them ~75 miles to LAX? Wouldn't it be more efficient to fly them into and out of LAX? Whatever, I'm not a logisitics expert.

Tuesday, July 18th, no tracking update.

Wednesday, July 19th, no tracking update. (Those books must be taking full advantage of those Pacific Coast beaches!)

Thursday, July 20th, no tracking update.

OK, now I'm kinda freaking out. The book group meets on Friday and I don't even have the book. I panic and start searching to see if Barnes & Noble finally did the obvious and put their brick and mortor store inventories on-line. Amazingly, they haven't! Damn it! (This is soooo obvious as a way to leverage the on-line and bricks-and-mortor model. But then again, I'm no logistics expert.)

Hey Jeff Bezos, ever heard of a "promise by date?"
I ordered these books and paid for standard shipping so I would have them by this week.
However, it is Saturday morning and I still don't have the books.
The tracking number was useless - as it shows the books were shipped from Allentown, PA to Los Angeles, CA and then it stops there on the 17th of July (ironically on their way to Tampa, FL).

Since the PROMISE BY DATE was July 18-20 and I still hadn't received the book on July 21st, I called customer service, who informed me DHL handed the books off to the USPS, and I "should" get them by Monday. I would like my shipping costs refunded, since I obviously I am not getting the books any sonner than if I had done the "free shipping."