Should I stop purchasing Delivery Confirmation?
May 8, 2006 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Bah! My online store made a sale on April 24th for around $40, and shipped out the order USPS Priority Mail. Delivery confirmation (no insurance, no signature involved) indicates it was delivered on April 26th. Today, I get an e-mail from the customer asking where it was. A correspondence later, the situations seems that she never received it.

My margins on this particular sale were not high; the customer has no previous history of making purchases from my site. I have no reason to suspect that she is lying.

Should I just send her a new order and take the hit? Or is there something else I can do?

And should I keep paying the delivery confirmation? At 35 cents a package, I've paid over $70 so far as "insurance" that this doesn't happen. But since there's no reason to believe this won't happen again, should I just be using that $70 to offset the loss?
posted by arrhn to Shopping (12 answers total)
Delivery confirmation doesn't really mean anything. You can get a signature required, that adds a little protection.

For the sake of your good business name, I would send her out a replacement. Assume your customers are honest until given a good reason not to... If you have to raise the prices of everything on your site 50 cents to account for the occasional lost order, so be it, price you have to pay.
posted by jellicle at 5:43 PM on May 8, 2006

To add to what jellicle says - do the above, but make sure to keep track of repeat problem customers. Whether it's their fault or there's something else going on, some people become repeat problems and you just have to shitlist them and explain that you're just not able to fulfill their needs. Then you can direct them to your competitors. I mean this all in the nicest possible way, but sometimes it's all you can do.
posted by whatzit at 5:52 PM on May 8, 2006

Is the product that you sell something that is likely to attract shady characters? Is it something that someone would likely want to try and scam you out of a second helping? If not, just take the customer at their word. The $40 is nothing compared to the negative word that can be spread by one unhappy customer. But maybe on the replacement you might want to require a signature.
posted by spilon at 6:18 PM on May 8, 2006

Do you have proof of postage? If so it shouldn't be your problem. You should be able to obtain a proof of postage at no extra cost which will save your ass in situations like this.
posted by fire&wings at 6:30 PM on May 8, 2006

I think the best way to proceed is to ship another AND contact the postal inspector in her area. They can be quite good at times tracking down packages, believe it or not. Now, given the delivery "occured", it was likely stolen, but this is especially great when it's just accidentally lost at the post office.
posted by kcm at 7:19 PM on May 8, 2006

Did this person have it delivered to a post office box? I once had an eBay buyer contact me about a package that delivery confirmation said had been delivered... she said that she never received it, but it turned out that the box I sent was too large to fit in her post office box, and she either didn't get the slip that it had arrived or she lost it. In any case, she asked the postal clerk and it was there in the post office the whole time.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:21 PM on May 8, 2006

Others have given you good advice, but I wanted to mention that if you print your shipping labels and pay the postage on line at the USPS web site, you can get delivery confirmation for free. I think you can even track delivery confirmation packages on line as well, but I've never bothered looking into it.

Also, I know around here, if the box is too big to fit in my curbside mailbox, they'll just plop it on my porch where anyone could just pick it up. Luckily I am home when the mail arrives, but it's possible it was delivered to their house and then stolen from either their box or porch. It happens.
posted by Orb at 7:32 PM on May 8, 2006

According to our mailman and post office contacts, all delivery confirmation does is confirm that it arrived at the post office - the signature is a staff at the post office saying "It arrived at the post office". It does NOT guarantee when it was delivered at the final destination.

Your customer should contact her local PO and work with them there, with the tracking # and circumstances and they should assist them in tracking the package down.

This actually happens quite a lot. Can you use another shipping service?
posted by cajo at 7:32 PM on May 8, 2006

Instead of paying 35 cents per package to USPS, pay it into an account you keep specifically for (a) covering replacements for occasional lost shipments (b) paying for shipping those replacements by a more expensive method that has proper end-to-end confirmation. Start that account with $100 in it, see whether it's grown or shrunk by the end of one year, and adjust your per-package payment accordingly.

Using an external insurer is only really warranted when a potential loss is (a) rare (b) more expensive than you're likely to be able to afford. If you're regularly shipping stuff, you're pretty much certain to experience occasional shipping losses, and you'll save money by making provision for that within your own business.
posted by flabdablet at 11:41 PM on May 8, 2006

I've had this happen before. What it turned out to be was that the postal delivery person couldn't get a signature because no one was home, so they left a little note to have the person come up to the post office to get it. Someone else took the note and retrieved the package, and didn't notify the intended recipient (who later figured out who took it).

I've also sold to businesses who sent an employee to sign for a package but according to their inventory it was never received because the employee still had it.

I would say do not reimburse or reship the package -- it was signed for by somebody, and that's ll the proof you need. From as best as you can possibly tell in frankly all honesty, the recipient does have the package and is either lying or doesn't realize it for some reason (such as a family member, etc, receiving it). The delivery confirmation... is confirmation that it was delivered. You've done your part.
posted by vanoakenfold at 1:50 AM on May 9, 2006

I had this happen with an eBay package this spring. We filed a search form (or whatever its called -- "Locate" maybe) with the Post Office. Turns out it was misdelivered. I live at (names are changed here) 14 Clinton St and it was delivered to 14 Clifton St.
posted by anastasiav at 7:36 AM on May 9, 2006

What jellicle said, and also consider this: If you replace the package without giving the customer too much hassle, you might make a very happy repeat customer.

Getting new customers is hard, especially if you're a small-volume online retailer. Making this customer happy, and likewise for others in this situation, creates goodwill and turns you into the "Nordstrom" or "LL Bean" of your market segment. That's a good reputation to have.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:03 AM on May 9, 2006

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