or … how certain companies are ruining this world
A brief interruption from our C-programming tutorial series to talk about an issue that I feel very dear to me. I have always tried to be a balanced person, but this brought back a sense of expectation in me that also the world around me should have been balanced. You know, “give to get back”, “everyone be good so that there is a virtuous circle” and all of that, right?
Well, already here we can see the first mistake: never expect anything, from anyone, around you, not even your dearest one. This does not mean you need not trust people around you a priori, it just means, do not expect any kind of behaviour from people besides yourself.
While attending the HEMU in Sion, Switzerland, I met a great composition professor who told the class one simple phrase:
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are coherent with yourself
That phrase resonated inside me like a wake-up bell for hours and hours, and I realised this was my purpose: to fight for coherence everywhere around me. Soon enough it would have become clear that I needed to restrict my scope to just my life, but still, this is the purpose driving my everyday life.
I have constantly done my best to behave in a coherent way, both at work and in everyday life, and while this has not widely paid off in human relations, it has left me able to sleep at night, sure that at least I didn’t behave against my inner beliefs. Once more, I want to specify that being coherent doesn’t mean being a total jerk and be happy about being coherent on that, pretty much the contrary!
So, what happened?
Quite recently, two events have struck me as completely incoherent, and I feel like I need to talk about this. Nothing life-threatening or health-related, so you can relax a bit after this tense introduction. This is a two-part tale of something that we are probably living every day and, sadly, we are not doing enough about this. The first part is about a delivery from the UK I received at the end of November, while the second part is about my current Internet Service Provider (ISP). Let’s get started.
A package from Brexit
Knowing all too well how in Italy you need to forget about August and December as months, we ordered a quite nice package of tea-ware from tea expert Mei Leaf around the 20th of November, hoping it would arrive safe and sound by Christmas. They are UK-based and, already in the first half of 2021, they had published a video on YouTube where they explained the situation with shipping through Brexit and how they managed to strike deals to have all expenses waived from the final customers. If you want to learn more about this, just browse the web for IOSS (Import One-Stop Shop), where every import of less than EUR 150,- is regulated in an elementary and straightforward way: you pay all expenses to the seller and the courier won’t need to ask anything more from you at delivery. For above EUR 150,- there is some more paper to do, but still, the recipient of the package should still pay nothing at delivery.
There was a promotion ongoing for Black Friday, so we took the plunge and created our nice cart up to around EUR 130,-. The system churned a while until a charming screen came up saying that our order was eligible for IOSS and that it was guaranteed no expense would have been charged at delivery. Add shipping in, about EUR 25,- (really low for international shipping from UK to Italy), and then VAT over EUR 155,- at about EUR 34. Mind this step because it is important: we paid VAT at the source!
A few days later I received an email from UPS, the courier chosen by the sender for this package, asking for a few documents to help with custom clearance. I complied, the package was cleared, and they didn’t say anything more about me needing to pay a fee at delivery. As you probably already guessed, I had a not-so-nice surprise waiting for me in the shadows.
Fast-forward a couple of days and my package arrives with a nice UPS guy ringing my bell and telling me there’s mail for me (please notice that he didn’t mention any fee). I went down to meet the courier, and he said, with nonchalance:
It is EUR 64,55 for the delivery
I was open-mouthed a few seconds but, I can’t deny that I expected it, all thanks to the infinite amount of trust my country has instilled in me during these years. I tried in vain to explain to him what IOSS was—there was even the IOSS stamp on the package, hilarious!—, he just said he couldn’t give me the package without taking the money from me. Furthermore, I am sure all of you have exactly sixty-four euro and fifty-five cents with you at all times because this pleasant fellow said that he accepted only cash or, drumroll, …checks! In 2021 … checks? Really? No, seriously… really?
I went back home and took seventy euros, expecting—you recall what I said before about expectations?—that he would have had the change. Well, he did not, so he gave me a few coins from his pockets (more and more absurd!) and kept the rest, about EUR 1,50—not bad, but definitely I will never see those again. To add insult to injury, the courier did not give me any customs parcel, just a piece of paper saying that VAT was 0 EUR, customs VAT (what is that?) 34,05 EUR, and Others 30,50 EUR … Others? Oh, and by the way, nothing of what charged made a precise count with the 22% VAT applied in Italy. Those numbers seemed completed made up from nothing, and I kept not understanding even when I saw a copy of the customs parcel.
I complained about this on Twitter and got an e-mail address of UPS to write to and a phone number (nice how they are all scared about you venting on Twitter, one should think about it). I also wrote to Mei Leaf about this, and they were very kind to reimburse me the extra VAT charged, while they said they could do nothing about the “Others” expenses. Of course!
I called their support center, which mysteriously is unreachable after 12PM because of Covid-19 restrictions. Oh, really? So now these companies are having issues with Covid-19, while all the others have had to move on and do something about it! They all work from home, with their own computers, their own phones—yes, it’s awful—but they could easily keep their timetables and keep doing the passable job they were doing before. I wrote emails to three different e-mail addresses because that was the result of three different calls to the support center. Only one replied, saying that they would think about what they could do.
A ray of light?
Yesterday, Monday 20th December 2021, almost one month after delivery, they eventually deliberated that they had made a mistake and that they would give me back what was wrongly charged. I was relieved, but to be certain, I asked what would happen now. Another clerk answered saying that I would be contacted about the refund, but that this would not take a short time.
After this very (too) long recount, I come to the coherence part of it: why, I ask, why do I, and by extension, any customer, need to wait for something that was wrongfully taken to be returned to me? Because I know, this will take at least one month. But wait, when the package was delivered I had to pay immediately… Immediately, versus months of waiting, but it is the same money! Just ask me for an IBAN code and send the money back. Sure, you have departments, and you are not in the same department, and you do not talk to other departments because companies are willingly organised thus, to make customers get lost and lose hope before anything can be done about it.
This happened to me now, but I can safely bet that it is happening at the same time to countless other people who, possibly, do not know what to do, what their rights are, what could be done! Of course, a lawyer is too expensive to call if you are alone, but this practice should be stopped by a class-action. Why are companies allowed to take money immediately from the customers but are not obliged to give it back when they are wrong?
Because that is the way of the world!
Thank you, Mr. Congreve, but I do not agree. Only because something is the way it is now, that doesn’t mean it has to stay this way.
Let’s imagine that, for just a week, the roles would invert and companies would need to wait even just a couple of weeks for money, while customers would get to use their products and services straight away. What would happen? How would they feel? Would they like it? Would they behave differently afterwards?
I simply ask for coherence: if I, the customer, pay you in advance for your services—or, as in this case, are plainly robbed—, then you, the company, need to comply immediately, and just give back what you took.
Of course, not all companies behave awfully like UPS, but there are certainly man of them, and they should be stopped, at least by good competing companies which put customers at the core of their way of doing.
I have been rambling enough about this today, but stay with me because tomorrow’s part will be even crazier and, somehow, funnier. For now, thank you for reading today’s article.
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Until the next one, this is Michele, the Music Designer.