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There’s No Such Thing as a Sure Thing

May 4th, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for a business like yours to stock commonly replaced items such as pivot pin kits, wear pads, winch cable, straps, ratchets, etc. — especially anything that you’ve replaced before, and that will keep a truck down when it breaks again. We recently tried to help a customer whose self-loader was down, and the drama that ensued was so heart-wrenching it almost became comical.

For this customer, I presented a choice: we could get the parts from a supplier local to him, but it wasn’t the OEM source and the parts prices were relatively high, or we could get the parts from the OEM manufacturer who needed “two to three” days to get the items together, and the prices would be much lower. The customer chose option B.

At this point, all of our lives were changed in a profound and meaningful way.

The communication with the OEM parts department became strained almost right away. The “parts guy” was going to fax some paperwork over, which I would sign, and in “two to three” days, he would ship the parts. Well, I never spoke to him again, and haven’t yet spoken to him again since that day. He stopped returning my calls, which I made daily, sometimes multiple times each day. I had no email address for him, and resorted to faxing him messages at one point. Three days and a weekend went by, and when I tried him the next Monday I was informed that he would be gone for the entire week and back the next Monday, which was Labor Day, so it would really be Tuesday. I was stunned. Now the parts would not ship for at least another week because no one else at the facility could help me in any way.

I really don’t know how a business could expect to survive or be profitable doing something like that to a customer, which I related to one of the unfortunate souls who answered the phone when I called. Turned out this company had recently changed hands and they were moving from one location to another. I think the “parts guy” headed over to the old facility to get some of the stuff. That was disconcerting to me and to my customer, but we were patient (somewhat).

The next week, I still couldn’t get hold of the “parts guy,” but after I called enough times, they assigned an assistant to be the liaison. Another week went by. The parts still hadn’t shipped. My customer was getting understandably frustrated. We both knew that we could have avoided all of this by getting the parts at a higher price shipped from the local, non-OEM source. Now we were stuck.

The following week, I was assured by the liaison that the parts had shipped, three weeks after ordering them. Now I could sit back and relax. The parts would arrive at the customer’s chosen repair facility in a few days.

A few days went by, and the parts showed up at our corporate office.

I called the OEM supplier, and they claimed it wasn’t their fault. Their shipping paperwork was wrong, but they had realized their mistake and called the shipper and implemented a redirect order, but for some reason, it didn’t take. I’ve shipped enough stuff and made the mistake of giving the shipping company the wrong destination information enough times to know that when you do this, even if you issue a redirect order, you’re not out of the woods until the parts get to the right place. Personally I didn’t care whose fault it was, the stuff just needed to get where it was supposed to go. So if we didn’t want to pay for a second freight shipment — and we shouldn’t have had to, especially if it was the freight company’s fault — I would have to leave it to the OEM supplier to arrange the corrected shipment.

Within 24 hours, the freight company was back at our corporate office to pick up the shipment and presumably deliver it to its proper destination. This made me happy. However, the driver wanted to get paid. By us. I spoke to him myself over the phone and in no uncertain terms I recommended that the pallet be put on his truck and driven to its destination, and that if he were going to leave without the pallet, he had better talk to one of his supervisors. I left it at that. An hour or so later, the OEM supplier rep called me with a new tracking number.

All this time, I periodically touched base with the customer, who was remaining remarkably calm, but I could tell he was not happy. Who could blame him? He knew that I was doing everything possible, short of getting on a plane, flying to the center, building a crossbar and a boom weldment, putting the pallet on a truck, getting in the truck and driving it to the repair facility, and then off-loading it and delivering it to the repair tech. I mention the last part because when I spoke to him the day it left our corporate office, I gave him an expectation that it would be delivered in two business days. He called me four business days later. The repair facility had not received the shipment. I was understandably concerned because I had tried to track the shipment with the tracking number given to me by the OEM supplier, and it wasn’t pulling up. I called them, and they contacted the freight company, and they called me back to tell me that it had been delivered two days earlier, and they gave me a name of whoever signed for it. I called the repair facility, and I asked them if the person with that name worked there. They said yes. And it wasn’t a common name. So they agreed to go look for the pallet.

I called the customer back and told him what I had found out. I can’t write here what he said in response, but I’m sure you can come up with something close.

The moral of the story? I don’t know. All I can think of is:

There’s no such thing as a sure thing.

Life is unpredictable.

The real test of skill, character, sense of humor, whatever, is when things don’t go as you thought they would.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper