One of the magnificent days in the life of an author, after months of writing, more months of production, and then months of waiting, comes when your new books are finally ready to be shipped from the publishers warehouse.
Publishers know how to ship books so that they will arrive in good condition. So your author copies, in pristine condition, are carefully packed at the warehouse. Sometimes, they travel 1000s of miles, from one stop to the next, magically making their way to your destination.
From Delight to Fright
As an author of 68 books, I’ve experienced the delight in opening a box of my latest books and holding a copy in my hands for the first time. This experience seldom happens, however, when a certain carrier of record is involved. The carrier seems predisposed to hiring aggressive, angry, ineffective delivery men. I say men, because this has never happened with female delivery personnel.
As far as the book boxes might have traveled, and as many places as they might have rested, when the packages are ready to be delivered to my door step, here’s what happens: The driver takes a box out of the truck, strides up my sidewalk, and then, instead of walking up the two steps of my porch and laying the package down, he throws it. In throwing the package he saves perhaps two tenths of a second.
When the book boxes are thrown, if they fall flat the odds are that there will be no damage to any of the books. If one corner of the box, however strikes the flat cement of my porch first, then the books in that corner of the box are going to be damaged. In other words, brand new books, in pristine condition, that I have waited months to receive, and which have been shipped thousands of miles across the country, are now irrevocably damaged on the last .001% of the trip because this company hires hostile, angry delivery “professionals” who could not care less about your package.
I have chased such delivery men, after what they’ve done to my book boxes. I have called the company incessantly. I have complained at the local, regional, and national level. Each time I am told – year after year – that they’ll “look into this situation.” Yet, as months pass, and other boxes of books arrive, I receive boxes in damaged condition as a result of the last second in the delivery process.
A Handler Confesses
Confirming what I already knew to be true, an ex-handler from the company anonymously went on record in a national magazine, and exposed the horrors of the company’s delivery system. For example, it is par for the course when boxes arrive squished or bent out of shape. Such packages move along a slide with hundreds of other packages and eventually are crushed from behind. Also heavier packages can slide on top of other packages, and the ones below can burst open.
On a driver’s typical day, he will stand on one package to reach another. Submit a damage claim and often you will be denied because the tape you used on the box wasn’t wide enough. In fact, if you don’t prepare your vital packages in accordance with strict delivery rules then you have no claim. Fair enough, but this hasn’t been the issue in sending or receiving packages. My publishers and I are aware of the regulations. That doesn’t stop the flow of damaged boxes courtesy of this company.
Unbeknownst to almost any layperson, the trailers in which their boxes sit could have holes along the roof. When it rains, boxes can get wet. The drivers know this but in their haste to make their daily deliveries, they do not stop and file the necessary paperwork to have their trucks repaired.
Any Old Way
Shipping anything at holiday time? Shipper beware! Delivery services hire legions of seasonal packagers. Such workers are under-skilled, exhausted, and pre-disposed to handle your box any old way, never mind if it’s upright or getting crushed.
Don’t bother to write fragile on your package. Handlers might encounter hundreds of such packages during their shift. No one cares what you write on the side of the box. In one instance, a supervisor illustrated how to load a package on the truck. The supervisor picked up a small package and tossed on to the top of the stack of boxes.
Unfortunately he missed and the box crashed on the trailer floor, whereupon he re-tossed it back up. Amazingly to the newbie, the box said “fragile.” The supervisor saw the newbie’s sense of alarm and said, “they all say fragile.”
After posting my complaints on Facebook and elsewhere, the company predictably offer me corporate speak: “We will continue to assist you if you follow up via email to us.” I respond, “Do you have any flaming idea how much time I have spent, on the phone, at length, with local and regional supervisors who have said that they would ‘look into it’”? And yet the careless deliveries continue, year after year, regardless of who the drivers are.
As an author, I’ve had 100s of packages delivered over many decades: this company’s delivery people, in general, are the least attentive, least caring, and most likely to destroy packages. It isn’t close: All other delivery services, on average, are superior.
What does work? If you can, request that your publisher use a different delivery service. When you’re sending packages, have a child-like drawing on your box! No handler is going to risk having a package, sent by some child, becoming all mashed up. Short of that, you’re playing Russian roulette with packages every time you interact with such delivery ‘services’ as the brown truck company.
May they go out of business.