Yes, but our excessive consumerism doesn?t help either
Photo by glassdoor.com
?Okay, it says it?ll be delivered by Monday. It wasn?t due here until Wednesday. So I guess it?ll be here by Tuesday night!?
I contemplated to myself after checking the tracking information for my packages, specifically ones that contain Christmas gifts for immediate family members. I have always made it a point to get my Christmas shopping done early and this year even more so, as I found myself needing to get more gifts than I usually do. Things would go smoothly: My packages would be here on Tuesday, I would get my gift wrapping tools between Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday would be a gift wrapping fiesta. Boom. All my Christmas shopping and wrapping would be done early!
Oh, but if only that were true.
What I didn?t take into account was that my packages were being delivered by the infamous LaserShip, leaving my family?s gifts in a sea of uncertainty.
A number of you may be asking: What?s Lasership? LaserShip has been able to partner with several major retail stores and services including Amazon, Zara, Blue Apron, and Ulta Beauty to name a few. If you?ve done your online shopping with any of these places and live on the East Coast or Midwest, chances are you?ve had a package or two delivered by LaserShip.
But for those of you who don?t know, Lasership is a last-mile delivery company that services the Eastern and Midwest area of the United States. As of 2018, the company has 64 facilities and 4 sortation centers. They started off as a document delivery service in 1986, but by the ?90s had been able to enter into the small parcel business right when the internet was becoming ?a big thing?.
When you visit the LaserShip website and take a look at their mission, they seem to portray themselves as the ?small company that could?. The company has experienced rapid growth since it?s founding, and they attribute that to their ability to ?deliver packages to you faster than national carriers?.
But how could a company that ?delivers faster than national carriers? be arguably the most hated service in the industry?
Here?s an Example
As stated before, my ?expected delivery date? was on a Monday even though originally it was supposed to fall on a Wednesday. Then I predicted that this package would actually come on a Tuesday. This workaround wasn?t new for me, and chances are it isn?t new for anyone that has had to have packages delivered to them via LaserShip on several occasions. I kind of just learned to roll with the inconsistency. But now it?s primetime ? the holiday season ? and LaserShip seems to be struggling even more than usual.
I?ll use my own package tracking as an example. Reference the screenshot below. Items I ordered on December 1st had shipped on December 6th. On December 9th, my items arrived at the LaserShip facility, approximately 40 minutes away from my place. However, the items were actually supposed to be delivered to my place by then, according to their tracking. I planned for this, knowing that it would probably be stuck at the facility for an additional night. I thought that my items would get to me by Tuesday, December 10th.
Photo provided by the author
There was nothing there still. Even more peculiar, the tracking information hadn?t updated and still told me my things would be coming on the 9th.
About noon the next day, December 11th, I receive an email saying that my delivery would be delayed (as if I didn?t know that already). But the kicker is: the ?new? expected delivery date was still December 9th! Did LaserShip create a time machine so that they could go back and correct their wrongs? Not at all. At 4:43 pm I receive another update stating that the delivery will come the next business day.
But finally ? as of December 13th ? my items were ?out for delivery?. Though it would be too early to celebrate just for getting the notification. There have been times in which an item that is out for delivery either never comes or is falsely identified as being delivered. When it comes to them delivering, I?ve picked up a Believe-It-When-I-See-It Mentality.
I would love to say that my experience was just a fluke, a one-time thing, a once-in-a-while mess up. However, this is actually extremely typical.
If you take a moment to call LaserShip?s customer service line, you?ll be disappointed when you realize you?re not likely going to be talking to anyone. The longest I?ve waited is 40 minutes before calling it quits. To this day I?ve never spoken to a LaserShip rep and have questioned if they actually exist.
Photo by lasership.com
But one interesting thing about their voice prompt is that you are told to ?leave feedback on their Twitter page?. In my experience, I had never heard of a company telling callers to refer to their Twitter page for help. I ended up doing this a couple of years ago and the results were shocking. All of the mentions and hashtags toward the company had absolutely nothing good to say. Anything between extremely delayed packages to accusations of delivery drivers stealing, I could see that their mode of operation is a complete mess.
And even today, that hasn?t changed. If you go to Twitter and search tweets mentioning LaserShip, you?ll be met with confused and angry customers. Everyone is accusing delivery drivers of stealing, complaining about their late delivery, criticizing companies for using such an unreliable carrier, etc. And several will bring up these questions: Why is this company so disorganized? How is this company still in business?
Companies Benefit from Cheap Service
I was beyond intrigued when I came across all those angry customer reviews. And I also wanted to know how a company that seems to be notorious for not getting the job done (or at least not as promised) can still thrive.
Amazon is LaserShip?s dominant partner. While shipping providers like FedEx and UPS are more reliable, they still don?t have the capacity to meet the demand of Amazon Prime customers who expect deliveries either same-day or next day. A courier who has worked for LaserShip, FedEx, and UPS confirms that it would cost as much as $50 on Amazon?s side to have a package deliver via FedEx rather than a cheaper carrier.
For perspective, Amazon recorded $10.1 billion in net income in 2018. And if a powerhouse like Amazon is willing to cut corners and sacrifice customer satisfaction by using a less reliable delivery service, it is no question that less profitable companies would do the same.
Working for LaserShip
LaserShip?s business model relies on independent contractors to serve as couriers for the deliveries. They currently have over 5,000 independent contractors compared to about 1,500 employees. These independent contractors are expected to drive their own cars and pay for their own gas or vehicle repairs. The drivers are paid per package delivered, typically around $2.00. This is meant to incentives drivers to make as many deliveries possible in a very short window of time.
?LaserShip primarily handles the most demanding aspects of delivery, while simultaneously being the least capable of performing that job.?
The company doesn?t appear to have much of a detailed screening process. The main qualifiers are: own a vehicle, have auto insurance, have a driver?s license, and a smart phone. The last one is likely because of the need for drivers to use a GPS for their routes. There are facilities, however, that require a drug test screening. Numerous consumers have caught LaserShip drivers on video, usually with doorbell cameras, carelessly tossing packages. Sometimes they don?t even bother leaving the vehicle, throwing what could be fragile items straight towards the direction of the house. Funny enough, the difference between tossing a package and actually placing it at the door could be as little as taking an additional three or four steps.
Photo by Vincent Delegge on Unsplash
Dispatchers at LaserShip are required to print out (yes, physically print) the maps and routes for drivers. However, according to another former Lasership delivery driver, these dispatchers were ?slow, sloppy, and inconsistent?. The later the dispatchers prepare these materials, the less likely the drivers will have time to deliver packages at a suitable hour. The result is having packages delivered as late as 9:00 pm. Glassdoor reviews show that even on the employment side of LaserShip, there is not a much unity or cohesiveness in management styles.
One common complaint is that drivers leave packages in lobbies, or sometimes even outside of an apartment complex just a couple of feet away from the street. This leaves the packages more susceptible to being stolen or damaged due to inclement weather. It turns out, however, that drivers are rarely given codes/keys to access buildings.
In 2015, a former LaserShip driver gave a lot of insight through a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread. The driver addresses some of the most common complaints and concerns when it comes to their deliveries. Another accusation is that drivers steal packages. While there?s no way to prove the level of truth to this, it may not happen as frequently as people think. As stated before, drivers are paid per each package delivered. While the intention is for drivers to deliver as many packages as possible within a day, it can also breed laziness.
Theoretically, a driver can claim a product as ?delivered? even if it isn?t. I know from experience that an order I was expecting to come one day was marked as ?delivered?, but there was nothing at my doorstep. I feared that my packages were stolen when, in actuality, my delivery wasn?t going to come until the day after. According to this LaserShip delivery driver, little to no repercussions take place when they don?t deliver (other than not getting paid). Unless it is reported, the likelihood of there being real repercussions for a driver that inflicts damage to a package is pretty low as well.
Really, there is no excuse for the careless handling of people?s packages. Nor is it right for people to pay additional money for expedited shipping only for their packages to be delayed an additional few days or weeks.
Companies Won?t ?Just Stop? working with LaserShip
Despite what all of these people complaining on Twitter may believe, simply begging a company to stop using LaserShip isn?t effective.
Even in some of the complaints I?ve read, people don?t say they?ll stop shopping at the company. The phrases usually say something like ?I?ll only shop in-store from now on!? or ?This happens every time I order from you; you always use LaserShip!? The ongoing narrative isn?t that people are unsubscribing or no longer consuming from that company, they are either going to opt for a different shipping standard or just only shop in-store. In other words, not much harm is done to the company in question.
It takes a lot to create a significant change in how a company conducts business, and threatening to cut off service isn?t one of them. Especially if it is not even done on a massive scale.
LaserShip doesn?t escape all of the blame, but it does seem odd that a company is expected to handle some of the most difficult aspects of delivery while simultaneously being the least capable. As stated in this article, realistically no one can keep up with the demands of Amazon, and the expectations that Amazon has created in its customers.
On any given day, LaserShip will mess up just a little. However, now that the holiday season is upon us, these folks are getting worked to the max. Even more established companies like FedEx and UPS struggle to get orders through to customers on time during the holiday season, so I can?t imagine the hustle and bustle going on with LaserShip carriers and the facilities.
LaserShip has been seemingly making more efforts to combat their issues such as updating their mapping system and requiring carriers to take photos of their deliveries (though I assume this photo would go to the Lasership facility, as I have yet to encounter one with a confirmation of delivery). We can only hope things can get better for this company that has barely pulled off a C- rating with the Better Busines Bureau.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all hopefully undamaged items!