Okay, maybe my situation is a little odd.
We have a house in the country and an apartment in town. We only want to get our mail in one place so while all the neighbours in our country road have RD boxes (Rural Delivery, like a letter box, the postal service delivers most days) we get our mail in town.
Most of our neighbours in town get their mail in the boxes in the communal area and the postman puts it there most days. Well, when we first moved there we had mail stolen from those so we got a PO Box. This means there's a kind of mini locker at the nearest post office and the letters are placed in that. It has a lock, so it is secure.
Long ago I worked for the postal service here in NZ and I know a bit about the process. The PO Boxes are open at the back to allow sorting. But the public aren't allowed into that area (there are locks on the main doors etc) making it quite secure.
So, our usual way of getting mail is from a PO Box and this works perfectly every time, never a problem.
But often when I order something online they won't take a PO Box number because they want to use a courier. That's when the problem starts.
I have used the apartment address but they inevitably try and deliver while I'm out (and I am out a lot). It is pretty much impossible to arrange a time like 'anytime Monday morning', they'll come on Friday, leave a card and come back on Monday afternoon.
I've had cases where I stayed in all day and called the courier when no one arrived. They told me he had arrived but no one was there. Did he go to the wrong door and I didn't notice? It's a tiny apartment, that's not actually possible. They didn't say but I gathered the driver had gone to the wrong suburb that time.
After a few of those I took to using the work address. There is always someone on the desk in office hours so should be fine right?
Most of the time yes. Then a birthday present I ordered for Mrs failed to turn up. I still don't know what happened but I called the vendor and they promptly sent a replacement which (not their fault) arrived too late.
I tried putting a 'hold for pickup' instruction on it. That worked fairly well, but I did have to drive out to the airport for it and they had a bit of trouble finding it. I gather no one ever does this and they didn't really know how to handle it. After much humming and hawing a nerdy guy came out from the bowels of the place and said 'are you Roger Parkinson?' yes 'okay, I know where your stuff is'. And he did.
Okay, so this time when confronted with 'no PO Box' I decided to try the country address. Let's see what happens.
I can track FedEx on the web so I know it arrived in Auckland within two days of them sending it (good). Then it stayed in Auckland 'in transit' for a week. I phoned their Auckland office to find out what they were doing.
Well, they'd passed it to a local courier who were 'waiting for instructions'. It seems they decided the address I had given did not exist. The lady from FedEx added '...but I can see it on Google... okay, I will call them now.' I should make clear I think FedEx did a good job here, their only mistake was passing it to the local courier.
The local courier phoned me and I gave them directions to my house and I told them not to deliver on Thursday morning because I'd be out. He wrote this down (or I think he did, he asked me to repeat several points slowly etc).
Next morning (Thursday) I got a call from the local Rural Delivery lady asking where my house is. I could tell her, but I also pointed out that I was out. And I had told the courier company this only yesterday. They had passed the box to the RD people with none of my instructions. A quick conversation with the RD lady established where I live (she knows the road well, she drives it most days) and that I would be home the next day and, sure enough, she brought it this morning as promised.
The weak link in this chain, obviously, is that local courier. It seems that every interaction I ever have with any local courier (there are lots of them) is a problem. FedEx were fine and the RD people were fine.
I have removed several vendors from my list of people to buy stuff from because they won't ship to my PO Box, and this doesn't happen too often now. So
- if you are a vendor think hard about who you ship through. Your stuff might be great, but if your customer gets this run around he will buy elsewhere, even if it costs more.
- if you are an international courier (looking at you FedEx, but there are others) think hard about who you pass your stuff to. The locals can let you down and make you look bad even when it isn't your direct fault.