Tuesday, 30 April 2013

DHL is also incompetent

Back in February, I posted a long whinge on the incompetence of the US Postal Service (update: the item was finally delivered after nearly 5 months, mostly lost either somewhere in New York or Illinois; the tracking record has a huge gap).

DHL’s litany of shame. Click for an enlarged view.
Now it seems DHL has joined the campaign to make the South African Post Office seem competent.

I ordered 20 copies of my new book, The Day It Rained Forever, from the printer, CreateSpace. For once, I paid for priority delivery, which turned out to be DHL, because I wanted some soon to give to friends who proof read, and in the hope that it would turn up during my university’s environmental week (now past). Since I didn’t know it was being sent by courier, I used a PO Box. As soon as I had tracking information from the supplier, I contacted DHL to change delivery to my street address. Acknowledgement of that arrived yesterday (29 April). Just as well the original estimated delivery date 26 April has slipped a tad. Here’s how.

First, DHL attempted to email be an invoice for customs charges, but misspelt my email address. I had a call on my cell phone in which I corrected the error, and also gave them my ID number, needed for personal customs clearance (since I was not doing this as a company). After I didn’t receive an invoice, I phoned, then the invoice appeared in my mail, and the person I was talking to explained that I couldn’t pay the customs charges by credit card but by electronic transfer to one of three banks. Since I dealt with none of their banks, I would incur a delay of 48 hours unless I found a way to pay directly to one of their accounts. Their suggestion: go to a branch and pay over the counter. This is idiotic for two reasons: banks aren’t open all that long, and they made this suggestion a couple of minutes to 3:30pm, when the branches close. And the bank charges they would incur from a cash deposit are far higher than the charges they would incur from a credit card transaction. So I just did a transfer from my bank and sent them the proof of transaction. They acknowledged payment as follows:
25 April 2013
Dear Philip Machanick,
AWB: ###########
Thank you for your payment on the above-referenced shipment.
Please be advised that the clearance will be submitted to Customs for further review and we expect their response within 8-12 working hours from date and time of receipt of this message.
You may track the clearance and delivery progress of this clearance on our website at
Should you have any further questions or enquiries, please feel free to contact our Customer Service desk at 0860 345 000.
Thanking you,
DHL International Express
So I thought: great, they have the money and things will proceed. Well, no. That was Thursday. On Monday 29 April, I receive a call on my office phone from DHL telling me Customs are rejecting my ID number (South African IDs have a check digit so if you get one wrong, the chances are it will be rejected). As I was talking to this person, who denied they had my cell phone number on record, my cell phone rang and it was someone else from DHL, with the same issue. They duly sorted out my ID number, and I am hopeful that the package will eventually arrive.

Now what I wonder is: why did I pay $60 extra for priority delivery? I’m not convinced the South African Post Office would have taken as long, and they certainly could not have been more frustrating to deal with.

And my local Post Office is actually able to process a credit card transaction.


It has finally cleared Customs.
I await further developments. Meanwhile I love the irony of the text at the top of the tracking page:
Note that “speeds” so far has meant it has sat in the same place for almost a week.


On 1 May, I contacted DHL once more to point out that this thing was taking a ridiculously long time. After again being fed incorrect information (the fact that I had redirected from my PO Box hadn’t made it to the summary visible to the DHL rep), I think I conveyed a sense of urgency, because it actually left Johannesburg the same day (a public holiday).

Finally, it arrived: I had a phone call from a subcontracted local courier at 12:50 on Thursday 2 May. I told them I could be home within 15 minutes, and I spotted them a few blocks off from home, heading to another delivery (with the intent of getting back to me) and managed by hand signals to attract their attention, and they went back so I didn’t have to wait. Someone, at least, was efficient – not DHL, a small local courier.
I contacted CreateSpace, my supplier and pointed out that they are DHL’s customer and if DHL wouldn’t pay attention to me, they might pay attention to their paying customer, with this response:
I researched your order #40187287 and notice you pay a considerable amount of shipping for an order that did not arrive as soon as expected. Because of this, I processed a refund in the amount of $139.99 for the shipping cost. You should see the refund credited to your card ending in #### within approximately one to two weeks.
We always want to guarantee success on our deliveries and I'm sorry to hear DHL failed to accomplish this. We will escalate this further with them and assure you we will do our best to make sure this doesn't happen again.
DHL didn’t make me happy but CreateSpace did. Thanks. 

Yet Another Update

October 2013. I needed 20 books by 24 October, so I again ordered using priority shipping. CreateSpace has fixed the problem of DHL tracking showing something is stuck in the system. They now use a DHL service that consolidates packages into a bigger shipment, with no tracking information. Unbelievably, they have dispatched the shipment to me 3 times now, and not one instance of it has arrived, and no one has a clue where they have ended up. I appreciate that this mode of shipping costs a lot less than sending packages individually, but even the much-maligned South African Post Office can track ordinary parcels with no special features, not express or registered.

CreateSpace has again refunded the shipping. I am contemplating options of sending it again to a different address, or asking for a refund for the books as well.

1 comment:

Philip Machanick said...

Please don't post comments advertising other shipping services.