Yesterday I received a call from a store I had ordered some items from; I placed the order almost a month ago, but they what I needed was out of stock and it took this long also due to the truck drivers’ strike of last week that pretty much paralysed Italy.
On the phone, they told me that they had shipped the items and gave me a tracking number for Poste Italiane’s tracking service. The service name is PaccoCelere1Plus, which would be translated as QuickPackage1Plus. “1” means next-day delivery, and Plus means that the price has gone up because they added origin pick-up service which is only available in a handful of towns. So, anyway, I paid 12 euros for this kind of shipment (instead of the usual 15.30, but that’s probably because this store buys pre-paid batches of forms, so they pay less).
All of yesterday the tracking code wasn’t working. No surprise there: “real time” is an optimistic phrase at best. This morning I tried it again and it said that the package was last seen in Pescara (less than 20 km from where I live) and it was out for delivery. Great! That courier’s trucks usually come to my part of town in the afternoon; a month ago they came here at 4 pm, more or less.
At around 3:30 I left the house, but before leaving I saw the truck passing by. It didn’t stop, but I didn’t worry as it probably had something else to deliver farther away, and I thought it would stop here on its way back. After a while I got a call from my mother (whom I had asked to keep an eye on that) informing me that it did indeed go back, but didn’t stop.
I came home at 4:30 or so and checked the tracking again: it was “awaiting delivery” in the Pescara deposit. I tried calling 803160, which is Poste Italiane’s only call center; it’s a toll-free number, at least. I dug into the menu system: 1 for postal service (Poste Italiane isn’t only about postal services; they also double as a bank and, more recently, as a mobile carrier; and none of those services are carried out properly), 1 to have information about packages, 3 to talk with an operator. I got a few seconds of Vivaldi, something that sounds extremely bad on a phone line, and a female voice on tape told me: “The number you have dialed is busy at this time, please hold the line”. I held the line, I really did, but it didn’t take much effort: after two seconds the connection dropped. I tried several more times and, not getting any farther than the destroyed Vivaldi and the tape, I decided to look for the Pescara’s SDA deposit. SDA is the name of the courier division of Poste Italiane, and I don’t even want to know what it means (perhaps “Seriously Damaged Appliances” knowing how they handle packages).
I went to http://www.sda.it and couldn’t find the number of the local deposits anywhere. I just googled for “sda pescara” and there it was. I called the number and immediately a tape asked me to dial the number of the extension I needed or just wait. It sounded to me like one of those “if anybody has anything to say against this marriage, speak up now or shut up for ever”, but I still had some faith and trust, so I waited. Some ringing tone, and another tape told me that all the operators were busy, but advised me to wait. I only pay a flat fee for landline calls, so I waited. It kept ringing, but nobody ever picked up. I gave up.
I tried to call the national SDA call center, which is a 199 number – that’s mildly expensive. The first thing I got was another tape telling me that it was a free message, but the call would cost 14.25 cents per minute (when exactly you start start paying is left as a surprise for when you get your phone bill, they like to entertain like that). I went through another menu: 2 for information and help, 0 to talk to an operator. I heard another ringing tone, and after some thirty seconds I heard a microdrop in the connection, followed by another ringing tone; the call was probably forwarded to some other office. This happened several times, at which point I got Vivaldi and the “user is busy” tape again; instead of having the call dropped, however, I got some silence, then the Vivaldi mantra again, and then another tape recorded with what sounded like a 1970 cassette recorder that welcomed me (again?) and told me that really, they were all busy, but they’d get to me at some point before the Sun will finally explode, so I should have kept waiting because otherwise I’d “lose the reached priority”. Now, I would have waited, but I was paying 14 cents per minute and at this point even the dear Vivaldi had been replaced by this very low quality recording with yet another female voice telling me to keep my priority while her esses transparently blended into an unintelligible mixture of effs, vees and some other consonant only pertaining to ancient Sanskrit.
I therefore tried calling Pescara again, and after a few more attempts I managed to get ahold of a woman with a quite annoying voice who told me that I was a customer, so I had to call the call center because they couldn’t give me any information, not even telling me whether I could go and pick it up myself. I was honestly too surprised by her answer so I didn’t think about asking her what exactly they have a phone number for, since customers can’t inquire about their own shipments.
I tried calling the call center again and again and again, giving up and retrying, always getting routed to a different tape with pretty much the same reason. Between one attempt and the other I tried the Poste Italiane number, at least to get a quick Vivaldi fix.
In the end – and mind you, all of this took place in over an hour so I was very frustrated at that point – I called Pescara again and told the same annoyingly-voiced woman that the call center wasn’t even answering. She sounded irritated by my cheek, and bitterly replied that I had to insist with them because they couldn’t tell me anything. When I asked why I had to call somebody elsewhere (who wasn’t even picking up) while I was talking with a person who works at the very same place where my package was kept in, she just said that that’s how it works. At that point, frustrated by the whole situation (I coudln’t even go and pick it up myself because it would have had to be “unlocked” first, and guess who would have to do that? right, the call center!) and by her tone, I told her that they’re a bunch of incompetents and she said… “okay, thank you”. I kid you not, she said “okay, thank you”! I managed to control myself and limit myself to a “go to…” which I self-censored as I preferred to hang up before completing the phrase.
Now you might think that I’m just exaggerating, but this happens every time. Problems with Poste Italiane happen every single day, and I will write a post with a recap of what has happened to me even just lately, and I could bring hundreds of examples of other people going through the very same. It is just not normal that, for instance, an envelope from Hong Kong takes three (3) days to arrive to Milan and then eighteen (18) days to be delivered to the end user. It is not normal that a small package from the US is handled by the customs on December 6th and I still haven’t received it. And it is just not normal that this package going from Civitanova Marche to Chieti passes through Rome, effectively doubling the distance to be covered.
What bothers me the most though is that I haven’t been able to talk with anybody about this problem: the Poste Italiane number just dropped the connection; the Pescara office refused to tell me anything; the SDA call center, for which I had to pay a hefty 14 cents per minute (I think I spent well over €3 for nothing today) led nowhere.
But it’s really just the way it works here, it’s the same with any company, really. They thrive on the fact that customers just get disheartened and give up, accepting to bow their heads and pay for services that are not even provided properly.
Oh and obviously why the truck guy didn’t stop here even though he passed my house twice is still to be unknown. Maybe he didn’t feel like stopping but had to consume some more fuel, but who cares? They’ll claim nobody was home, and I will have no way to prove that my mother was home. After all, if they didn’t stop, how could they see her?