Another first-class setup by the Johnsons. Reasonable booth rents in everyone’s favorite venue. Not too big, not too small, plenty of parking. Intelligently laid out, with abundant customer service for dealers and civilians alike, and donuts, donuts, donuts. It felt like a mini-Bustamante affair, comfortably enclosed in that familiar black drapery. Good, solid Saturday crowd of interested and (mostly) educated customers…
It wasn’t the Johnson’s fault that the weather was wet and wintry, at least by Pasadena standards. Nor was it their fault that I never found that one, spectacular, BIG thing to buy (though there were a number of interesting purchases with lower ceilings, known by some in the trade as “chowder.”) Nobody’s fault at all. It was, however, someone’s fault that this event was nearly ruined for me by incompetence. And that “someone” is FedEx.
You heard me. Fed freakin’ Ex delivered my five boxes, each clearly marked, “Hold at Location” to a FedEx office on North Los Robles Ave. in Pasadena, just a few blocks from the fair. I had been advised by my Massachusetts FedEx people to send those boxes early, as bad weather was expected in California, which could have an adverse effect on shipping time. So I sent my five boxes a few days early. They beat the bad weather and arrived in California those same few days early. Following FedEx advice from both my home base in Massachusetts, and my destination in Pasadena, I then called the FedEx folks in California – not once, but twice – and asked them to hold the five boxes for three extra days. “No Problem!” they cheerily responded, and I went back packing my suitcase.
Flash forward to last Thursday, when Greg and Anne Marie show up in their snazzy rental car at FedEx on North Robles Ave. in Pasadena. I show them my ID and shipping documents, and out come my four boxes of rare books, manuscripts, and ephemera.
“Where’s the fifth box?”
Turns out some idiot at the FedEx shop on North Robles Ave. decided that box number five was unclaimed, and sent it back to Massachusetts.
Stay cool, Greg.
Hours of fruitless phone calls ensue, inquiries pursued with surprising calm by Greg who, unbeknownst to the dopes at North Robles Ave., is ready to rip someone’s head off.
The robot assistants at FedEx are no help. After three calls I discover how to reach a human in customer service.
The first human assures me nothing can be done until the box reaches Massachusetts.
Two more conversations with heavily accented humans follow, the second of which yields results. Turns out box number five was only sent back to Massachusetts yesterday! And they’ve located it in a depot in northern California! And they’ll call me tomorrow and let me know when the missing box arrives back in Pasadena!
At setup Friday I discover that business cards, receipt pads, calculator, and book stands were among the items in the missing box, as well as untold thousands of dollars’ worth of goods. But not until 4:30 that afternoon do I realize that North Robles Ave. has not called me, as they said they would. I call them, and the whole ugly cycle begins again. After an hour or so of working my way through Customer Service robots – human and otherwise, I reach Juan, who has a solution! He will intercept the package and have FedEx overnight it from wherever it currently is back to Pasadena… if not in time for the Saturday opening, at least in plenty of time to take up to San Francisco with the other four boxes, to exhibit at the ABAA fair next weekend. Juan will call me at 9 am and let me know when the box is scheduled to arrive. Older (having aged about a year in the last two days) and wiser, I record Juan’s contact information. I also initiate a Complaint Report, for which I am issued a corresponding 9-digit number.
Saturday opening is so busy and distracting that I forget about my predicament until an hour before closing, when I realize Juan has not called.
I call Juan’s number.
There is no Juan. No one has heard of Juan. And furthermore, there is now manifestly, absolutely nothing anyone can do to help me, because box number five is more than halfway across the country. “We can guarantee arrival at the sender’s address in five days,” they tell me cheerfully. I hang up.
The box will probably show up in Massachusetts. And after it does, I’ll sell its contents in due course. However, unless that FedEx truck crashes and box number five is destroyed, I will not be compensated for the loss of potential sales at two major book fairs. I’m screwed, but no major harm has been done. It will go down as just another learning experience. (I am SO sick of learning experiences. What makes it worse is the certainty that they will only stop when I stop.)
Now I need to figure out what to do with that 9-digit number for the Complaint Report. Like, who do I complain to?
I hesitate to ask FedEx.