How DHL Ruined Our Christmas Contest

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I wasn’t going to write about the depressing conclusion to our Wizbang Tech PS3 Christmas Giveaway because, frankly, it was just too depressing to get into. Only the good natured understanding of our winner Joanne and her son has given me the energy to put into words the disappointment that one shipping company managed to inject into what otherwise was an excellent contest.

In late November we came into possession of a coveted Sony Playstation 3, the “hot” (as in totally out of stock) Christmas item this year. Wanting to do something special for our readers we conceived a fairly elaborate giveaway that stretched over two weeks and ultimately had 25 readers vying for the prized gaming console. On December 16th, Joanne was randomly selected from among the 25 finalists as the grand prize winner and we immediately set out to arrange shipping so that the unit would arrive prior to Christmas.

Wizbang Tech editor Thomas Grace got the unit off to Joanne on December 19th, sending in 2nd day air via DHL, with plenty of time to spare in case of delays. The unit was double boxed to prevent “accidental” loss, lest someone along the route get happy fingers… We picked the contest award date specifically so that we could be assured that the winner would get the prize and get to put it under the tree; in this case as a present to her 14-year-old son.

In hindsight, perhaps choosing DHL was our downfall, but according to their website they’re all about putting customer service back into shipping, and they claim to have pumped millions of dollars into automation and tracking capabilities. In fact here’s what they claim about their 2nd Day service:

  • Guaranteed delivery by 5:00 pm the second business day
  • Shipments guaranteed up to 150 lbs
  • Total visibility and tracking from pickup to delivery
  • Automated shipment processing and solutions

That marvelous new automation system is described like this in their holiday shipping PR:

Technology investments at the DHL Air Park in Wilmington, Ohio, the company’s principal air and ground hub, will provide customers more shipment visibility this year by providing precise, guaranteed updates for millions of customer packages. The new small package autosort at the DHL Air Park, part of a $160 million U.S. hub automation and integration initiative by DHL, includes state-of-the-art conveyor and sorting hardware, together with a proprietary software solution, to enable more rapid processing of shipments, increased efficiency, and 100 percent traceability for all material transiting the system.

As of today here’s what that $160 million automation system has to say about our package:

12/21/2006 1:55 am Transit through sort facility. Wilmington, OH
12/19/2006 8:13 pm Departing origin.
12/19/2006 6:20 pm Picked Up by DHL

That’s not a typo, the package hasn’t been traceable since December 21 and no one at DHL can explain why it’s not traceable. Over several phone calls we’ve been given just about every conceivable answer as to what may have occurred; the packages was put on a truck, put on a plane, held at a closed location, etc. but when pushed by increasing frustrated Wizbang editors the customer service reps admit they’re just guessing.

And that’s the truly disappointing piece of this whole debacle. DHL’s whole focus on adding value to their shipping services by adding “world class” customer service seems to have passed us by completely. By and large we’ve received quite a bit of misinformation disguised as actual status information. We were told the package was on a truck, and would be couriered to Joanne’s house on Saturday, that the package was on a flight to Newark, that the package was in a DHL station in New Jersey that was closed for the weekend, etc. none of which turns out to be the case. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that the package arrive at their hub and then disappeared from the “100 percent traceability” system.

As of this morning DHL reports that the package has not yet arrived in New Jersey (duh) – something those of us at Wizbang and Joanne’s house are painfully aware of. Its last known location was Wilmington, OH (again, duh). They are ordering a “doc search” (whatever that means) in order that each potential location along the route may be searched. That appears to be a tacit admission that the PS3 is likely to be gone for good…

All the time and effort that went into the PS3 Giveaway, and all of the excitement Joanne felt at being able to give that gift to her son just melted away this weekend thanks to hours of phone runaround with DHL.

For us, DHL is the Grinch who lost Christmas…

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