Saturday, 15 May 2010

Parcel Farce

Being the gentle, easy going soul that I am ;-) there aren't many things in life that I can claim to hate. But I hereby announce, loudly and to anyone who's listening, that I hate, loathe, and detest parcel delivery services.

Living as we do in the middle of nowhere, it's often much more convenient, and almost always cheaper, to buy stuff online. Twas ever thus: it was the same in our Norfolk years. All the wine for our restaurant, for example, came to us from our various suppliers via courier. Our front door was a good 100 metres down a cobbled pedestrian-only loke (narrow alleyway); did any of them have sack barrows or trollies? Did they hell. No, every box had to be carried, painfully and with accompanying moans, down the loke. One used to refuse to do it, claiming back problems. And did any of them ring the blatantly obvious house door bell? Er - no. They would always knock - ineffectually - on the restaurant door, which is not especially useful when you're blasting away in the kitchen three rooms away. And then drive off and report a 'failed delivery'. Or occasionally leave a dozen boxes of wine outside the door, for everyone and his wife to help themselves to ....

That's assuming, of course, that they'd turned up, in the right place or, indeed, at all. On the Friday before one Bank Holiday weekend our Neal's Yard Dairy cheese order simply didn't arrive, leaving us running frantically round the county at 6pm looking for enough small-producer cheese to see us through the four or five days until it could be replaced. (It turned up, smellily, six days later in the barn of someone's (unoccupied) second home at the other end of the village. "Well, the courier couldn't find the right place, could he?" was the response from the delivery company. Ah. Of course not. Silly me).

And it's not a lot better here (did I really think it would be?). Invariably we get a phone call from the driver, who's parked outside La Poste in Rimont. Occasionally we even manage to pick the phone up, though not often as it's not terribly easy when, for example, you've got a bucketful of rapidly going off plaster. But assuming we do, the conversation usually takes one of three forms.

1. "Can you give me directions?". That's easy. But it is unnecessary: we're clearly marked on all the main maps, Google maps, Google Earth, Geoportail and all the SatNav systems. "Don't you have SatNav?" I asked someone last week. Apparently not. "Well, what about a map?" No, no map. Useful.

2. "I'm at La Poste. Can you come and get your parcel? Now?" Er, no. I'm paying you to deliver it. "But it's too difficult / too far / there's an R in the month". Tant pis. "Bof putain de bordel de merde fait chier ...".

3. "I'm stuck in the mud on a footpath that goes to a lake". Yes (sigh), you have got a SatNav, and you've asked it for the shortest route. (Listen, all ye who rely on such things. SatNavs are NOT intelligent beings ...).

This week however has offered up a new form of courier entertainment. A package I'd been expecting for some time had still not turned up, so I decided to use the tracking service. Address unknown! Failed delivery! Await clarification from customer!!! it screamed. Ignoring the question of just how said customer was supposed to know that, eventually I managed to track down the name of the offending courier. Heart sinks: it's Chronopost, known throughout France for their ineptitude, their bloody-mindedness, and their premium rate telephone number for all enquiries - yes, that would be one, for the entire country. Having pressed the required 72 buttons to get to speak to a living, breathing entity, I was informed that I had 'only' twenty-eight and a half minutes to wait to do so. (It was actually 32, which I suppose is close).

And the outcome? They had, it transpires, been attempting to deliver to my telephone number.

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