Communication – clarity and openness are the key to a successful shipping.
The logistics of freight forwarding and international shipping for the every day layman shipper is multifaceted. In a commerce environment, which is constantly evolving with new technologies and innovations, improving the freight processing and the quality of services that we provide remains a challenge.
Our blogs are designed for the shippers with a no-nonsense approach, trying to convey in a concrete manner what shippers need to ship successfully. However, what blogs will not convey is the interactive aspects between shippers and their international freight forwarders. In any interaction, whether shipping or taking a walk in the park for the first time with a new friend, temperament and communication skills are vital.
In other words, behavior matters, and it takes two to tango.
In this next segment, I will exemplify how ugly and ineffective an interaction can become when one party muddies the water.
After the containers of patio furniture arrived at the Long Beach port, which originated from China and routed directly by the Chinese supplier (not the best choice), we were tasked to clear through the US Customs, dispatch the ocean containers to the local customer’s warehouse, then send truck loads for a delivery to Palm Beach, Florida.
At the customer’s warehouse, they received the containers delayed. They unloaded the shipments and repacked them and changed the labels. They then reloaded the trucks that the forwarders had dispatched over to them, matching their uncanny time-frame.
Where Things Went Wrong
Once the trucks were loaded the shipper wanted them to depart quickly in order to reach his client, the retailer, within 2 days, starting on a Friday afternoon.
It is important to note that a quote was given far in advance with a very different framework. So, what was offered by the freight forwarder was realistic and in a context of getting the trucks out sooner.
It Takes Two to Tango
Over hundreds of deliveries were met in the past and deadlines respected for this shipper. This time around, the shipper’s timing and what he had communicated to his buyer did not align with the delivery dates that the forwarder provided. One would think that reason would prevail and that the responsibility would not fall onto the forwarder. But, here we are: “le nerf de la guerre” (the nerve of the war. In everyday French, le nerf de la guerre is a metaphor that means “money”).
The shipper on that faithful, late Friday afternoon required a tandem driver to drive non-stop to Palm Beach, California. The forwarder could not feasibly find a tandem driver with notice of only an hour or two late on a Friday afternoon. We had a deadline to get the truck-loads by Tuesday, we got there Tuesday afternoon, a few hours behind the shipper’s wish.
To Make Matters Worse
A few seldom items were messed up. The shipper, through our initiative, was insured and a claim was filed the next day. As a reminder, as the clearing and the forwarder agent, our involvement did not include any physical handling.
To make matters worse (again), you have a Chinese supplier, choosing a Chinese forwarder with no picture taken of the loads before sealing the ocean containers. Then our customer received and repacked their furniture and then loaded the trucks (again no picture taken). Once the truckloads showed up in Palm Beach, the retailer (the shipper’s customer) had the presence of mind to take pictures and inform the shipper of the damage.
To us, the whole situation felt like a cold shower in the middle of Alaskan winter! A good story being told too many times with a different ending every time it is told. A good thing gone bad. Receiving insults for doing your job correctly is never an easy pill to swallow.
The Bottom Line
What can you do? We filed the claim with the underwriter and their decision to pay the claim as well as subrogating the parties that were part of the physical handling is now out of our hands. So, the forwarder’s first duty is to remain professional in the face of criticism, unpaid freight bills, and persist in our duty to see a reasonable outcome.
People Are Poodles Too
I am not sure what that means! Forwarders or shippers, like dogs, bark and can bite. My next blog, I will give you a good story of how international freight forwarders can get your freight delivered to the wrong country and what to expect then…… to be continued.