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Shipping And Customer Service by Jack Reed

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The shipping industry is the most underrated industry in the world. My experience as a 21 year old college student is limited, but what I have experienced has built a sense of deep respect for those who go out every day to make everyone’s day smoother because of how they perform. Let me explain. My dad worked at RPS (now FedEX Ground) years ago in Chicago as he studied in college. He has told thousands of stories about his experience there, what mental toughness he developed, and how precise technology has become since then. He felt that despite the hard, thankless work, he was contributing to the world and making business owners’ lives easier by doing his job right. There was never a night when a disaster didn’t strike. From boxes exploding due to faulty packing, to chemical waste spilling from a punctured container, he and his crew had to fix it or repackage it and move it along. When equipment froze, trucks slid into the bays on a sheet of ice, or airports closed due to weather, those men and women were in the thick of it, fixing that equipment, melting the ice under the bays, or simply stacking safely the boxes that never stopped arriving despite the weather and grounded airplanes. This was 20 years ago and even though there have been huge leaps in technology, there are still men and women unfreezing equipment, repairing vehicles, stacking boxes that never stop arriving, cleaning up spills, and essentially doing the same type jobs shippers have done for centuries. Getting stuff from point A to point F.

As a college sophomore, my current job is in the janitorial field that fits into my school schedule and completely takes up my weekends. Some of my hours are taken up cleaning offices, but many hours are outside cleaning city parks’ restrooms. As you can imagine, the situation is not for the faint of heart and calls for plain ol’ hard work. What you may not know is that janitors rely heavily upon their equipment, chemicals, and restocking supplies being shipped to them the next day. One-man cleaning companies simply run to a chemical supply store, Home Depot, or grocery store to grab what they need, but a company our size with hundreds of employees spread out over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex lose money that way. We typically need large quantities of specific chemicals, mixed to our precise needs within a 24-hour time frame. Our job can turn on a dime depending on what we find the moment we step into a bathroom next to a state park where a homeless person has pooped on the floor right beside the perfectly clean, working toilet. There have been unanticipated, long, sleepless nights of clean-up after a festival where we need more product than we planned for. Or we are tasked with cleaning/polishing a stainless steel surface that was damaged by a previous cleaning company who used the wrong chemical on it, and the nozzle of the pressure washer needs to be replaced ASAP. We lean heavily on shipping companies to deliver quickly what we didn’t know we needed yesterday or today. It makes a difference for us personally when the chemicals and supplies are shipped securely as well as in a timely fashion. Shipping is vital to our success!

Another arm of the shipping industry would be movers. Personally, we have used two kinds of movers. Movers moved our family and the company equipment several ' times. We have seen really awful movers who stole from us, but we have also experienced the very best customer service from movers who not only moved our equipment and household things but stepped in personally to break down and set back up in the new facility. These men came in with a smile, a kind word, and positive attitude to solve problems as they arose. They made a rare, frustrating occurrence for us, in hindsight, into not such an awful thing after all. How they handled each challenge was pivotal to how it all turned out. Their daily job of moving, packing, and shipping is never easy and is a constant battle against new problems and higher stakes. Everyone appreciates a package that arrives on time and undamaged, and we complain on social media with great flare and dramatic emojis and GIFs when a shipping company drops the ball. My experience has shown me that it isn’t the smiling person in the truck running to put the package into your hand that is the main hero. The real, boots-on-the-tarmac hero is the person you will never see. Shipping has a starting point, but the trajectory of the package, pallet, or crate is affected by the many forms of customer service in the shipping industry in between point A and point F. You see, shipping is almost 100% customer service. An angry, frustrated person facing a challenge is going to make a poor decision, kick that box, mishandle that order, or deliberately delay the process. That sets in motion a chain of events that affects the customer. If large shipping empires or small shipping enterprises were to promote and spotlight the people who actually make the right decisions day in and day out, there would be more appreciation for a job we could not function without.

The holiday season tends to put massive strain on this industry. Yet, every day, packages arrive on time and undamaged to your home or business. Your favorite products appear on shelves at your favorite store. Restaurants open with fresh food, clean facilities, and fancy libations that were shipped to them. American consumers tend to forget that everything we enjoy in America could be equally enjoyed by other countries if their shipping were not tied down by unethical governments, illegal dealing, mobsters, and thousands of underhanded tactics that discourage shipping firms from working there, much less the businesses they could serve. It costs too much and is simply too dangerous to ship to large swaths of the world. People will debate what job is the most influential; politician, doctor, mother, teacher, etc. Each of those jobs and millions more would be much less successful or prominent if they could not ship or receive what they needed. Doctors in third world countries can not get the medicine they need, and teachers’ supplies are never delivered. Is it because suppliers simply ignore the need or charitable organizations turn a blind eye? From what I have seen, shipping is so unsafe, erratic, unreliable, and nonexistent in those countries, the only reliable way to ship what is needed is to use American contractors or do what charities like Samaritan's Purse regularly do. They fly it in on their own planes and deliver it with their own hands. Agencies like the American Red Cross have their struggles splashed across the the news often when their choice of local shipping/distributing breaks down. Shipping will always be the most important industry whether its full measure of greatness is ever understood. Its life blood is the men and women with the work ethic to show up to work at dusty, hot, cold, or wet jobs where they are hardly noticed. These vital people in our interdependent lives, are the reason our country is as truly great as it is.


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