Sunday, November 11, 2018

Dear Amazon Prime, do your job


We have new neighbors. A nice young couple with a kid and a puppy, who decided to move into the city from the suburbs to be closer to work.

Since they moved in right around Halloween, they were immediately initiated into the neighborhood ritual of welcoming more than 700 children trick or treating each year. It's good to welcome a new family to what's now perceived to be a good, welcoming place for kids and families.

While I'm hopeful the new neighbors feel welcomed as well, delivery companies seem to be having a hard time welcoming them.

Our new neighbors have done quite a bit of ordering products through Amazon Prime, a service of Amazon, which includes free, relatively swift shipping. We know this because for the past months dozens of packages intended for them have landed on our doorstep.

There's a good reason for the confusion. While we live on different streets, our house numbers are identical. Our US Postal Service deliverer has no problem in getting deliveries correct. He doesn't even need to read the street signs or the ceramic plaque on our house, which includes the house number and street address to get things right. Other deliverers delivering for Amazon Prime don't seem to share his capacity to get things right.

When the mis-deliveries began, we walked the packages over. But when we're out of town, there's no one to do this. Since the neighbors have paid to have their packages delivered to their house in a speedy manner, they deserve to receive them on their doorstep, regardless of whether we are home.

Efforts to contact Amazon Prime have been met with assurances that the issue has been addressed and corrected. (It has not.) Efforts to contact UPS and FedEx meet similar responses. If we happen to be home when a package is delivered, we re-direct the deliver. But still the mis-deliveries persist.

The most recent email from Amazon Prime reassured me that my concern has been "escalated" and that the issue "will not happen again." It would be pretty to think so, but we'll see.

This sentence referring to our neighbor's packages, however, threw me: "I would like to inform you that you can donate or dispose it -- whichever option is most appropriate and convenient for you."

Clearly, that's not the right thing for me to do. I am not disposing of my neighbor's packages and will continue to walk them next door until Amazon Prime and its deliverers find a way to get things right. My trash can sits halfway between my house and my neighbor's. It's no less inconvenient for me to re-deliver the goods than it is to dispose of them. But it's not the inconvenience of doing something nice for my neighbors that concerns me. It's the inability of a service provider to meet its commitment to get products purchased to the person who purchased them.

The right thing is for Amazon Prime and the delivery services it uses to make note of the recurring errors and set things right. As the much loathed outside New England football coach, Bill Belichick is fond of saying: "Do your job." 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

(c) 2018 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.


Sunday, November 04, 2018

Does an error erase a positive action?


When a long-serving executive at his company decided to retire, a reader, "Toby," was surprised he was invited to a retirement dinner being held in the executive's honor.

Toby knew the guy, but then everyone at the company knew the guy. But he had very little direct contact with the executive except when Toby served as the employee representative on a handful of negotiation meetings between management and employees over contracts or working conditions. And on those occasions Toby was always on the opposite side of the negotiation as the now retiring executive.

They were respectful of one another, but hardly friends. Still, Toby was touched that he'd been invited to the dinner and he decided to attend.

The dinner was held at a swank hotel in the city, so Toby dressed up for the occasion, drove in, paid to park his car, and made his way to the event. When he got to the correct floor at the hotel, there was a table with name cards, each of which had a table number written on the back.

Because traffic had been a bit heavier than he'd anticipated, Toby didn't arrive as early as he'd like. Most of the hundred or so attendees were already there and seated. When Toby walked over to table 6 to grab his seat, he noticed that each of the seats were full.

He walked back out to the registration table and asked someone with a clipboard if someone might be seated at his table by mistake. "No," he was told, and then they suggested he try to find an empty seat at another table.

"Everyone else had a seat set aside for them and I kind of was left to fend for myself. Should I have made more of a stink?" he asks, also wondering if he should have taken it as a sign that his presence wasn't all that wanted and that perhaps he should just go home.

What happened was more likely a planning or table seating error than a slight, but it's reasonable that Toby would feel awkward -- like a man who lost a game of musical chairs. But raising a fuss is hardly likely to create more space at the originally assigned table. Besides, there was nothing particularly special about table 6.

Instead, the right thing is for Toby to remember that the dinner is not about him, but instead meant to serve as a send-off to the retiring executive. He could either ask the clipboard person for help finding an empty seat, or he can find one himself and hope that he has a decent meal, meets some interesting people, and enjoys the evening as much as possible.

If Toby could remember that he was among the few at the company the retiring executive asked to be invited to his dinner, he might remember how pleased he was that the person thought enough of his experiences working with Toby to want him to be part of a special evening. Perceived slights too often cloud memories of positive actions. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

(c) 2018 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.


Dear Amazon Prime, do your job

We have new neighbors. A nice young couple with a kid and a puppy, who decided to move into the city from the suburbs to be closer to wo...