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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In which Lady Bracknell is decidedly unamused

Is there any greater scourge of modern life than parcel carrier firms? Are there any which are capable of delivering to the address on the parcel on an agreed date? Do any of their drivers have the first idea of how to find a particular house when it is situated on a street which has an even slightly unusual numbering system?

One firm from which Lady Bracknell will never again place an order employed a driver who claimed to have left the parcel in question in her shed, thereby indicating that he had made no attempt whatsoever to track down Bracknell Towers: had he done so, he would have realised that Lady Bracknell has no shed.

Before Christmas, Lady Bracknell received a telephone conversation from an honest and decent young chap further up the street who had returned home to find two parcels addressed to her ladyship on his doorstep. He was kind enough to deliver said parcels in person, for which service Lady Bracknell was extremely grateful. She then dictated to the Editor an email communication to the firm from which she had ordered the goods, expressing her disappointment that, despite the quality of the items sold by them, she would not be able to place any further orders given the unreliability of their chosen carrier. Part of the purchase price for the goods was immediately and cheerfully refunded. Whilst in some ways a gratifying result, this signally failed to resolve the underlying problem.

Some days ago, Lady Bracknell (again, via the good offices of her Editor) placed an order with a certain online domestic pet requisites store for, amongst other things, two very heavy bags of The World's Best Cat Litter*. The online store sent her an email when the goods had been despatched. This email contained both the parcel reference number and the carrier's website address. It explained that, were one to enter the reference number into the appropriate box on the website, one would be able to track the progress of the parcel. Despite the Editor's best efforts, the website stubbornly and persistently refused to recognise the parcel reference number.

Lady Bracknell returned home from her various external obligations at about 4.15 on Monday afternoon to discover a note from the carrier to indicate that an attempt had been made to deliver her parcel. She phoned the automated "helpline" to hear that she could arrange for redelivery for the following day if she did so before 5pm. She followed all the necessary voice prompts, and spoke clearly (as is her wont) and slowly (which she finds rather more difficult) at all times. Having at no point spoken to a real person, Lady Bracknell was by no means sanguine that all would go as planned.

Nevertheless, she remained at home between the hours of 9.00 and 5.30 yesterday in constant expectation of a ring on the doorbell. Readers will not be surprised to learn that no attempt at delivery was made.

Having once again had obligations outside Bracknell Towers today, Lady Bracknell arrived home to find - wonder of wonders! - a note from the carrier. This one told her that her parcel would be retained for collection at a depot several miles away for seven days, and then returned to the sender.

If Lady Bracknell were capable of driving herself several miles, and of lifting heavy items into (and back out of) the boot of a car, she would not pay through her aristocratic nose for delivery. Girding her metaphorical loins, she telephoned the "helpline" once more, this time refusing all options which seemed likely to lead to an unproductive conversation with a recorded voice.

The upshot of her frustrating conversation with a woman who did not even bother to apologise for the failure of the automated "helpline" is that the parcel is promised to be redelivered Thursday next (the next weekday on which Lady Bracknell can guarantee to be at home constantly between 9.00 and 5.30). It would be ill-advised of the carrier to attempt to levy an extra fee for this "service".

In the intervening period, either Caspar and Bertie will have to keep their legs crossed, or Lady Bracknell will have to impose on the good nature of Dude the chauffeur, as she is entirely incapable of carrying even a small bag of cat litter home from the nearest supermarket.

*The claims made for this product by its manufacturers may strike Lady Bracknell's readers as being exaggerated, if not downright misleading. They are not. The product is not cheap but, as with so many things, one gets what one pays for. Neither is it as expensive as it might initially seem, for it is extremely economical in use. Lady Bracknell wholeheartedly recommends its purchase to those of her readers who share their homes with feline companions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Should your Ladyship require the purchase and carriage of heavy items I am, of course, ready, willing and (back permitting) able. This is, after all, why I receive my handsome retainer *
The Rolls-Canardly is spick and span, filled with petroleum spirit and ready to make any predominantly downhill journeys you may require.

I remain your humble etc.


* For the benefit of our colonial readers, I should point out that “retainer” in this context is not the barbaric implement commonly used to enforce perfect dental uniformity on children who might otherwise run the risk of growing up with the unique appearance which God and genetics bequeathed them. Rather it is a sum of money granted, normally by the aristocracy, to ensure the continued availability of their staff even during periods when there is nothing for them to do. **

** Hence expressions in great English literature such as “I rang the bell to summon old Scrotum, the balding, wrinkled but faithful family retainer".

8:18 am  
Blogger A Christian Stepdad said...

One does sympathise with Her Ladyship. Perhaps this is not quite in the same league of personal inconvenience, but I used to run a publishing company that used a PO box number. This led to the discovery that while Parcelforce would cheerfully collect and take payment for parcels addressed to a PO box, they would not actually deliver them to such. Instead the parcels were returned to their originator, with myself named as sender. Thus several authors received their manuscripts back by return post and assumed them to have been returned by me without comment. Hurtful to them, and professionally damaging to me.

9:10 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Perhaps the Dude would be so kind as to liase with the Editor at their place of work tomorrow?

Lady Bracknell is horrified by the events related by Christian Stepdad.

9:55 am  
Blogger BloggingMone said...

Delivery services can be a real nuisance. But if the tracking system had accepted the number of your parcel, you probably would have been taken by surprise about the journey of your ordered goods. Last year I ordered a computer, which was assembled in Ireland. To me it would have been a sensible idea to carry it to England and from there to Hamburg, where we do have a harbour as well as an airport. I managed to track my parcel and found it went from Ireland to Belgium, then to the Netherlands, was brought to Luxembourg next and finally flew in from southern Germany. Does that make any sense?

9:58 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

We bought that litter for our cats once, but they ate it. Daft animals.

4:59 pm  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

Last year I had an experience which may have some bearing on the delivery problems. Having ordered items from a large, reputable organization, I was surprised to find them delivered by an elderly, arthritic gentleman in a private car.

Concerned that such a person should be apparently dumped back on the job market despite age and disability, I made tactful enquiries, whereupon he revealed to me in several chats the murky underside of the delivery industry, post-regulation.

The keywords are "franchising" and "sub-contracting".

In other workds, a reputable organization employs a large, apparently reputable, delivery service. Which then proceeds to contract-out through as many stages as it takes to get down to my elderly friend (who is only doing this on a casual basis to keep active, and he can't get on with ibuprofen either, although cortisone injections did wonders for his knees - I tell you, we developed quite a rapport).

At his level, the delivery men barely make enough to pay expenses, are self-emploed (so no employer's NI contribution) and are responsible for supplying their own transport (so no employer's vehicle insurance).

Is it any wonder that the service is unreliable and inefficient? I did not like to ask my friend whether he was bonded in any way, to secure monetary compensation for undelivered goods, but I doubt that he was.

Further more, Royal Mail are little better. I have recently had bank documents delivered to the wrong address, including my new credit card.

Fortunately I have honest neighbours.

9:30 am  

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