Bed sheets and broomsticks

January 10, 2012 / Writing / 2 Comments /

I put my foot through my bed sheet the other night. I only own two – one for the bed, one for the wash. Mine is a small house and storage is limited.

So, I ordered a new sheet in the John Lewis sale. Free delivery, within five days. Lovely. Very kindly, John Lewis even tell you that they’ll send you an email on the day of delivery so you can arrange to be at home between 9am and 6pm.

On Wednesday I received my email. My bed sheet had been despatched. As previously instructed, I duly waited in from 9am until 3pm. I’m not good at sitting at a computer all day. A lack of fresh air, daylight or exercise makes me a little antsy. I figured a quick call to JL would confirm whether or not I was waiting in so with good reason.

The chap in John Lewis was ever so sweet. Let’s call him Alan. That’s not his name, but it’s a nice name and I think it goes with his charming Edinburgh accent. Sweet, charming, and as much use as a bed sheet in a delivery van.

“I canae see that your package has been despatched and I canae see your email. You ordered it on the 2nd so it should be with you in five days.”

Thank you, Alan. I’m aware of when I ordered it. Your email says it has been despatched. I’d just like you to confirm if “despatched” means “wait in all day from 9 ’til 6 for a courier”, or if it means “it’s in the post and could arrive any time from now until March”.

Perhaps, if you can tell me who the carrier is, I can make up my own mind about whether to wait in for another three hours, or make the most of what little daylight there is and leave my desk for a brief dose of reality.

“”Well, I dunno. … You’re asking a lot of very detailed questions – can I ask why?”

Yes, Alan, you may ask why. The reasons are these:

If it’s sent by HDNL and I miss the courier, I can phone the local depot, speak to a real person and rearrange delivery. If I miss a City Link delivery, the depot is a ten minute walk away. If it’s sent by Royal Mail, whether I’m in or out, the parcel will be carefully plonked on my front doorstep in full view of any passing sheet thieves.

If it ends up in the hands of Parcel Force and I miss the delivery, I’ll probably never see it again unless, in six months time, it appears in the back garden, half rotten and covered in mud, having been discovered by the local foxes.

Knowing who has charge of my sheet will enable me to make an informed decision whether to wait in for the rest of the afternoon, and quite possibly bite someone, or to throw caution to the winds and frolic in what remains of the sunshine.

And no, Alan, these are not a lot of detailed questions. They are the basic questions that you might expect from anyone for whom “dunno” is not a sufficient answer. And frankly, Alan, “dunno” is pretty piss poor response for a company that trades on its reputation.

After 23 minutes of tail chasing, manager consultation and hold music that had me on the verge to a coma, it transpired that the code the lovely Alan had in front of him all along was a delivery code that indicated my sheet is in the hands of Royal Mail. Thank you, Alan. I was polite. Honest. I may have sprouted horns and witch’s hat, but he couldn’t see them on the phone.

Clear communication isn’t complicated. But it does require that those we employ are given at least a rudimentary introduction to the inner-workings of our company processes. How can anyone answer a question if they don’t know how to interpret the information they have in front of them?

On the other hand, perhaps its the processes that are at fault.

My package arrived this morning – by CityLink. They’re the wrong sheets. Instead of a double sheet, I’ve been sent five singles. I should return them, but I can’t get through to John Lewis to find out what to do. Perhaps I could stitch them together into a giant flag and try and communicate with them by semaphore.


  1. Annie

    January 11, 2012
    / Reply

    You could always get on your bike and take a day trip to John Lewis at Home on Purley Way...well, maybe not....

    • Ask Auk

      January 11, 2012
      / Reply

      Next time I will. The traffic on the Purley Way is nothing compared to the hazards of online purchase. I may still have to. JL haven't replied to emails, tweets, and I can't get through by phone. I know this is parochial in the extreme, but I need to change my sheets!

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