So, I need to show how I do portraits and I needed to pack stuff like my six by six foot frame, my big flashes, my frames and my clamps and umbrellas and all the little fun lights I like to play with. My partner/client asked me to send all the heavy stuff via UPS. Normally I avoid them like the plague because they can be horrible to deal with, especially for a freelancer who hates just hanging around the studio waiting for that "We'll be by sometime between noon and 7pm..." thing.
My partner sent along a sign in and password and presumed I'd be able to hop on line, navigate some of the absolute worst automated programming in the world today and then magically my packages would be whisked away safely. Oh that it was so easy. With my key board in front of me I entered the first circle of Hell. The non-responsive interface. Before I was in too far I asked my contact if I could just drop the packages by one of the ubiquitous UPS stores and have them wayfind their own path through their own cruddy software. I was assured it would be no problem
Into the vehicle go the three large 50+ pound cases and I drive off to the local UPS shop. I haul all three cases in a wait for too long and finally it's my turn and I explain what I need to do and the person behind the counter just shakes his head and tells me, "I can't access nobody's accounts. They don't let us do that. You need to have them air bills printed out and attached to the boxes and then I can take em."
I put everything back in the car and race back to the studio to try again. This time I get an error message about the client's address. I call the client and am assured that the address is hunky dory. I push onward. Finally we get to the summary page: Three packages, three day shipping, $685. Right, I could just buy the cases a seat on Southwest Airlines for that. We try again for ground delivery and the price drops by half. Now the problem is that the magnificent software (done, no doubt by the lowest bidder in the universe) won't allow me to print out the airbills I can see on my screen ostensibly because I am not the account holder.
I call customer service and a very patient and knowledgeable operator actually assists me and walks through the whole process until I've got airbills printed. Then I ask, "Can I now drop these by the local UPS store and have them receive the cases?" She replies, "Oh sure, unless you've declared a value of the cases." No, I always ship thousands of dollars of lighting equipment uninsured because of my deep faith and belief in prayer...... "I insured them." She replied, "Well, in that case you'll need to take them to the main terminal (in the middle of rural Texas on the other side of the nuclear waste dumps, just south of the active volcano and slightly north of the massive septic tank truck spill....still in the process of being cleaned up..). My heart sinks at the thought of wasting my day driving around and waiting to wait for some more waiting. And then she throws me the bone...
"We can arrange for a pick-up." Yes, Please. "What time would work for you?" How about between now (noon-ish) and two p.m? "Okay, just let me enter that into the system. Yes, you are all set. Is there anything else I can help you with?" No, thanks for all your help. Be sure to kick your I.T. people in the balls on your way out of the office tonight....
I pull the equipment from the car, slap on the labels and get back to work on something more interesting. I'm happy the cases will go out on time and make it to Denver in plenty of time for my presentations. Then Dave calls....
When I come back from getting coffee there's a message on my phone: "Hello, this is Dave from UPS and it looks like we have a req for a pick up from you. Is that a residence or a business? Anyway, I'm calling to let you know that we can't be there by that time and maybe you could call me back.."
Rising anger and frustration as I hit the number Dave just called from and, after twenty rings, I get a recorded message from UPS and am offered an "800" number. I go back through Dave's message and at the end he's made the mistake (from his point of view) of leaving me a direct line. We go through the typical back and forth of what constitutes a business address and I tell him that one of his people set up the pick up times and I don't want to wait here all day for someone to drop by. Not only that but it's lunch time and I can probably go to the Jason's Deli that's half a mile from here and find six or seven UPS trucks all herding together.... Dave's current placating offer is that he's pretty sure he can have someone here by 7pm. Yes, somewhere in the next 7 hours. Oh joy. I tell him that's not going to work.
Dave promises to call me back in fifteen minutes with a pick up time. It's be a lot longer now and I'm starting to think that the second circle of hell is opening up and reaching for my ankles. I miss the days of skycaps and $25 per bag airline charges, etc. Why is it so hard to get stuff done now? Did all the embracing of technology usher in (to somehow compensate) a new and receding level of competency on everyone's behalf?
I can only imagine what the next shoe to drop will be..
I hate shipping stuff. I always have. In the future I'll just tell people I have to drive. That way I may arrive tired and road sore but I'll be able to bring all the stuff I want and control it on every step of the way.