I consider myself a pretty savvy business person. I mean, I work for major companies, I receive packages with review products delivered daily by UPS and FedEx, FedEx twice a day. So when I ordered an American Girl doll last weekend for a special little girl in North Carolina, I chose ground shipping, there was nothing saying that it was not the normal ground carriers and I know that from WI to NC with FedEx or UPS she would have it by Friday. Well, today I called as I had not been sent a tracking number and this is when I learned about how a sneaky little bait and switch game is played on customers without them knowing.
Now if you are not familiar with American Girl, let me fill you in a little bit. I used to be a regular customer when they were the original Pleasant Company, and my daughter was very into collecting the dolls. I will tell you everything was sent to me in 3 days or less through ground shipping. Now Mattel owns American Girl, and I have not placed an order in the recent past, because I have all boys except for my daughter who is now past that stage. Anyway, some of the things that irk me a bit about the company are that there was no free shipping option, even though any doll and just the basic accessories are going to cost well over $100 and upwards of $200 without adding very much. Also, for every little item you add, such as the hairbrush the shipping increases by a significant amount. Now, most companies offer free shipping on amounts over $50, not American Girl, they offer free shipping once a year in November and if you missed it, well they think there is always next year. I guess American Girl feels if you can afford their products, you can afford the shipping. So, I accepted it for what it was, and placed my order. Told a very excited little girl that her doll would be there this week. Today, I decided to check and I was given a FedEx tracking number, that I was not emailed as I should have been according to their website. When I called FedEx, I spoke to a very nice representative who explained to me what FedEx Smart Post was.
FedEx SmartPost is when your package starts out FedEx but is shipped to the post office to then be delivered by the US Postal Service. She also explained that it is well within the Post Office’s discretion to hold the package for up to 3 days before attempting delivery. So now this doll which could have been shipped Priority Mail in 3 days or less for what I paid or sent UPS or FedEx in that time frame as well can end up in transit for 12 days or more. Wow, you would think I paid some economy shipping rate for times like that? What is even more aggravating to me is I see nothing about the details of the “ground carrier” shipping they offer. If they think this is such a great service why not put down in print what it actually is. Even going to the FedEx site I cannot find much at all on it. The FedEx rep even shared with me how many companies are doing this without informing the customers of the shipping process. She also told me UPS has a similar service. Well, to say I was upset did not even begin to cover it. I had an excited little girl messaging me while I was on the phone, to see if the doll was coming today or tomorrow. Now, I was left to burst her bubble and let her know, it could be Monday if the Post Office doesn’t exercise its right to take 3 days before delivering the package.
I called American Girl after the FedEx rep told me that there is a way they could reroute the package. I was first given a standard rep who could provide me very little and then I was transferred to a more seasoned rep but she could also not offer anything for me. When I asked to speak to someone else I was put on hold for a long time and then told there was nothing else they could do. She told me I was the first one that ever complained about FedEx SmartPost and that she would note my comments. I highly doubt I am the first to call with a complaint about SmartPost and I asked her right out why it was not on the website? She had no answer, except to say it says ground shipping and the time frame. When I explained to her that I was a seasoned member of the media and when I see ground shipping from WI to NC I do not think 10-12 days. I also do not think ground shipping is some snail mail version of FedEx especially when I am paying enough that the package could have been shipped Priority Mail or FedEx Ground to begin with and arrived in 3 days or less. She did not have much to say about that either and hastily told me there was not much that could be done and goodbye. I fired off some strongly worded emails to AG Public Relations and Mattel Corporate.
Well, a half hour later the same woman who I spoke to called me back. This time she had a little more empathy with my situation and she offered that I could buy the doll and all the accessories again and pay rush shipping and then do a call tag on the original doll. It was then, that in my mind the voice of Dana Carvey as the church lady came through loud and clear, “Isn’t that special?” Was she kidding? This is what she offered me! When I asked her about contacting FedEx and getting the package sent by FedEx all the way to its destination (I cannot believe I even have to say that.) she replied, that was not possible. Nor was any other solution except me buying everything over and this time paying rush shipping charges for FedEx real ground delivery. As I was on the phone with her I had posted a tad about this on my personal FB page and in minutes my friends were telling me similar stories and how they got the old bait and switch from other companies. Then I thought, if someone had alerted me, I would have made sure that I was getting “real” ground service or “real” priority mail. So, I kindly told her that I planned to take this to my blog and let other people learn from this, so that there does not need to be disappointed girls, boys, or anyone who is used to dealing with one shipping service and is aware of their delivery times. She also told me that shipping rates were going to go up in 2012 and went on and on about the fuel costs and when I explained to her that the amount to ship the package priority in the first place was much cheaper than what I paid, she once again showed empathy for my situation.
FedEx and UPS had their share of bad press over the holidays by hurling packages over gates and flipping off security cameras and while I love my delivery guys this is just another slap in the face. However, this time, I think it is the companies using these SmartPost services that need to step up and take their licks. Come on American Girl, stop the craziness, if you are going to ship our package through two different carriers so that a package that could be delivered in 3 days now takes 12, how about letting us know? Maybe put something like: Times are tough, we can’t lower prices or cut shipping rates, but we can keep our shipping rates high and cut the services. We are now shipping FedEx SmartPost when it says Ground and that is not FedEx Ground. Try and scour up some information of the service on Google and then if I were you I would probably upgrade to rush shipping which is the old FedEx Ground.
So this is my rant. My rant on companies that don’t really care about customer service anymore, companies that really don’t care if you buy from them or not. Companies that think it is fine to keep customers in the dark about shipping services and companies that just don’t get it. I just want to do my part to educate my readers that there is some shady stuff going on in shipping and I wish I had known prior to placing my order. Hopefully my words will enlighten others and one less little girl will go to bed in tears. Thanks American Girl!!!
Oh and just to let you know the little girl I purchased this for, has never had an American Girl doll, she is not a spoiled brat with 12 dolls on the shelf, stamping her foot for another. She was over the moon when I told her I was getting this doll for her and has had her share of hard times so this was something very special to her.