A long arduous journey through the postal service’s underbelly

Last week, I arranged for a parcel to be shipped to me in an express flat-rate box from the US, as I needed it to arrive before last Saturday, December 17. Thus started an unbelievable journey riddled with the worst things that Murphy could throw at anyone.

December 12

The parcel was accepted by the post office in the US on December 7, 9:56am (local time), and arrived in Singapore shores on December 11, 11:05pm (local time). Because of this, I messaged my boss on the morning of December 12 that I would be working from home. The reasoning for this–my opting to work from home in order to receive the parcel–is because if I was not able to receive it personally, I would either have to:

  1. Get it redirected to the nearby post office, which takes two working days before I can claim it. That means that, if they attempt to deliver on Monday December 12, and I attempted to get it redirected to the nearby PO, I would only be able to claim it in person on Thursday December 15. I might be able to claim it Wednesday December 14 if I go within office hours in the afternoon, before 5pm. I knew this because I had tried collecting something before on the second day since redirection, and I was told it wasn’t there yet. I work from 9-6, the PO is closed by the time I can get off work.
  2. Pick it up at the SingPost Headquarters. I’ve done this before. But because my evenings are packed with errands that I have to do within this week, and going to the SingPost HQ is going to essentially take up my whole night, I understandably did not want to do this.

Hence, I decided to work from home. Let me tell you something about working from home: it is agonizing. The network connection that particular morning was shaky and slow as a turtle unsure of which foot to lift first. I dislike working from home, because unless I am working on something that is largely standalone and does not need a network connection to the office, progress is slow. And let’s not forget the oppressive Singapore heat.

In any case, on December 12 9:22 AM, it was marked on the tracking as “with delivery courier”. From experience, that meant to me that I was going to get my parcel before 2pm, which was fabulous–that meant I could head back to the office afterward. I left my door open, with the grills closed, just to be sure that the courier would know that someone is home.

By 2:28pm, with the parcel nowhere in sight, I called the SpeedPost hotline and inquired about the status of my parcel. They told me that it would be delivered by 6pm. I asked how certain they were of that, because it wouldn’t be the first time where I was supposed to receive something (according to tracking) but I didn’t get the item NOR the delivery advice sheet. The girl on the phone assured me it would arrive.

By 6:07pm, with the parcel nowhere in sight, I called again. The girl told me this time that the courier must have been in heavy traffic, but it should arrive soon. I reiterated that this wouldn’t be the first time where their courier said that a delivery attempt was made but without any sign of a delivery advice sheet. I asked them to follow up on the courier. They took my number and confirmed my name and address, and I continued to wait.

By 7:17pm, with no parcel, and no return call, I called again. It was the same story, and they told me that they have not received a response from the courier either, otherwise they would have called me back. They will contact me as soon as they have an update, they said. What, is this the age of beepers or something, where you can’t call someone up on the phone easily?

By this time, I was very antsy. I meant to go out to do some of those errands I mentioned, but obviously, with all the waiting, it was not going to happen tonight.

By 8:07, no parcel and no call back–I called again. Their “inquiry line is now closed”. I fumed. Shortly after that, I received a call from SingPost, apologizing that they have not been able to deliver. She asked if they could redeliver the next day. That meant, to me, wasting another full day waiting at home and wrestling with the network connection. She offered to have it redirected, and when I said that meant I couldn’t get it for two more days, she said she would write an instruction that would have it at the post office of my choosing within the morning, so that I could pick it up at 1pm onwards from the PO. I asked if that time slot was a definite thing. She said they would call me tomorrow just to be sure. I asked them to deliver it to the Tiong Bahru post office, where it was easiest for me to reach from work.

That night, at 10:04pm, the package was marked with an “Unsuccessful delivery”, with the reasoning being “Heavy Deliveries; Insufficient Time”.

December 13

On the morning of Tuesday December 13, my colleague asked me why I didn’t ask to redirect to the office address. Huh, well, I didn’t know one could do that. So after checking the parcel status online–there was no movement–I called SingPost, on 9:14am. I asked if it’s been dispatched, and if it wasn’t, for it to be delivered to my office address. The lady on the other end told me I had an instruction to have it redirected to the Tiong Bahru post office, which I confirmed, but asked that since it wasn’t dispatched yet, could it be redirected then? She took my new address, and confirmed with me on the specifics.

On 12:22pm, with no movement on the tracking page, I called again. By this time I am a little hazy on what exactly we talked about, but that my package was going to be delivered before 6pm. I wanted to check on where it was, and she said she would. We talked about which instruction was being carried out.

On 2:49pm, still no update on the tracking, I called again. I tell them my concern that there has been no movement whatsoever on the tracking. She tells me that sometimes scanning is delayed, but it is with the courier. Are you sure it will be delivered to this office address before 6pm? Yes, she said. She confirmed the address with me.

On 3:07pm, finally, there is some update on the tracking page. 3:07pm, marked as out with the delivery courier. Wow, okay.

On 5:18pm, still no sign of the package and no call back, I called them again. I asked them to call me back in 30 minutes as to the status of my package. She kept insisting it will be delivered before 6pm. I insisted that I get an update on the whereabouts of my package. She finally relented, and said she would try her “level best”.

On 5:53pm, just as I was getting up to place yet another call, my phone rang and it was SingPost (hallelujah!). She confirmed who I was, and the proceeded to tell me that my package is now at the post office and ready for pickup.

…WAIT A SECOND. I’m sorry? I said to redeliver to my office address. The girl on the line said that because the parcel was out with the courier when I called to change the instruction, they were not able to give the updated instruction. In my red, befuddled haze, the fact that the parcel was released only at 3:07pm though I had called at 9:14am was not remembered; but I was plenty irate enough because the whole day, they have been assuring me that it was going to be delivered to my office address, even if I make a note to mention the conflicting instructions.

Furthermore–let’s say they decided to ignore my second instruction, and went with what the lady told me the previous night–that it would be delivered from 9am-12noon to Tiong Bahru post office so that I could pick it up within the day, and that they would call me as well to confirm. But I’m sorry, you said it would be there by 1pm–and it was not. You did not call me, there was no update in the tracking that it was out for delivery until 3:07pm, no update that it had been received at the post office. You told me it would be out for redirection in the morning. It did not get redirected in the morning, which meant to me that they had held off releasing it because of my second instruction. I made three calls, all referencing the second instruction, before it was finally out for delivery/redirection.

But it was not delivered to me, it was to the post office.

The girl on the phone only kept saying that they were sorry. That they apologized. That she understands. No, I’m sorry, but she doesn’t understand. I expected the parcel the day before, and it was SingPost’s fault why it was not delivered to me, when I stayed at home all day and kept my door open all day (I didn’t even go out for lunch). And now what? Nothing?

Well, yes, there was nothing for it (real life is not like the movies, folks). I was so frustrated I almost cried right there and then. I went back to work, packed up my things, and left. I tried to make sense of my jumbled schedule. Later that night, at about 7:50pm, I bring up the tracking page just to see what they have put in there. And WHAT DO YOU KNOW. THE TRACKING SAID THEY REDIRECTED THE PARCEL NOT TO TIONG BAHRU POST OFFICE, BUT THE ALEXANDRA POST OFFICE.

I was on the phone as fast as I could get to it. From 7:51 onwards, I was waiting on the hotline. At 8:01, it died with a busy tone. I was beyond livid. They mess up my second instruction, and they messed up the first? How absolutely crazy is that? How unbelievable is that?

December 14

The next day, after looking up on the map where the Alexandra post office was, I resolved to head out after lunch and pick it up. My colleagues told me it was a long walk–contrary to how it looked on the map–and J offered to drive me to the PO to help. So we left after lunch and he waited in the car while I queued up to get my parcel.

I explain to the girl at the counter that I had no delivery advice, but that I was told that my parcel was here. I gave her the tracking number. She opened one cupboard. Then she moved to a stack of boxes on the floor. Then she verified with me again on when it was redirected, and checked on her computer. I think she opened another cupboard, and then I heard her talking to, presumably, the manager.

This. Was. Not. Boding. Well.

She told me it was not there. I asked if she could call the Tiong Bahru and ask, as that was where I told them to redirect to, and I had no idea why they sent it there. After a few minutes on the phone–finally, a confirmation! Yes, Tiong Bahru had the parcel. I asked the girl why it was marked as accepted at the Alexandra office. She gave an embarrassed laugh and said she had no idea.

When I arrived back at the car, J joked, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t walk instead?”

We drove to the Tiong Bahru office, where I tell the same story, and finally, finally, I finally receive my package.

SingPost fail

Crazy.

What the hell just happened there?

Okay, the holidays are tough on postal service. There are lots of parcels moving around, people doing Christmas shopping online, things constantly in motion. I get that. But seriously, SingPost, when someone pays for express shipping, they mean express shipping. When someone calls you to check on their parcel, you don’t just tell them you’ll try your “level best” and then forget about it for the next hour. Your people told me they would have my parcel out in the morning to be redirected to the post office, but it did not get out that morning. Your people told me they would redeliver to my office address since it has not been released yet, but instead you redirected, and goodness knows why my item was scanned in the Alexandra post office when that has never been in any of the communications you’ve had with me. And then, ooops, no, it’s in Tiong Bahru office instead, booyah!

Uh, NO. This just does not cut it. Singapore is tiny. Population density is high, but my gosh, it is TINY. One mess-up is fine, things happen, Murphy strikes suddenly. But seriously? This many mess-ups for a single package in the span of two/three days?!

And all you can tell me is, you’re sorry?!

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