About a year ago, my good friend Rob was traveling from his home in Miami to Northern California to play in a golf tournament. About a week before leaving, he used a service called Shipsticks to ship his golf clubs to Cali, thus avoiding the hassles of traveling with a golf bag. Shipstick’s website claims they are a “a white glove, door-to-door shipping service that makes getting your golf clubs to and from your destination easier than it’s ever been – allowing you to enjoy a hassle-free travel experience to anywhere in the world.” I’m not sure why one needs to wear white gloves to ship golf clubs, but there’s a much bigger problem according to Rob. Not only did Shipsticks provide him with a hassle-free travel experience, they also provided him with a golf club-free travel experience. They never arrived in California. That sucked for poor Rob because the sole purpose of his trip to California was to play golf.
So, Rob had to play in the tournament with rental clubs and, I believe it took about 2-3 weeks for his clubs to finally wend their way to California and then back to Florida. Rob went ballistic at the good people at Shipsticks (quickly renamed Shitsticks) for failing to do the one thing they’re paid to do – get your golf clubs to their destination on time. Shitsticks’ primary defense was, “Hey it’s not our fault – we’re just a front for UPS and I guess their trucks encountered bad weather.” Through a series of very humorous emails, Rob nearly bust a vessel at this. If your only raison d’etre is shipping golf clubs, then you really ought not blame snafus on the guy who drives the truck. If that were the case, Rob would just drop his clubs off at UPS and cut out the middle man. Needless to say, Rob and all of his friends (and now you) have been warned never to use Shitsticks for a golf trip, unless your goal is to try out the rental clubs at your destination course. It still amazes me that a company that was founded to provide customer service (white glove customer service no less), immediately blamed someone else when the service sucked.
Apparently, Shitsticks is not the only middle man that sucks. I had the exact same experience with Expedia. I booked flights on Monday for my son to spend a few days with the family in Maine this summer. Poor kid has now graduated from college and found that summers no longer consist of beer and sleep. He actually has to work and could only get two days off for vacation. I booked his flights and two days later I received an e-mail from Expedia saying they had issues with the itinerary; please call. As an on-line travel agency, Expedia is not exactly structured to handle phone calls. The agent on the phone informed me that the return flight wasn’t available. Excuse me? Isn’t your sole reason for existing to tell me what flights are available and then let me book them? He blamed it on the airlines, but kindly offered to re-book my son on a flight that didn’t mesh with his work schedule.
I ultimately went through 3 layers of supervisors to learn that not only was the return flight not available, but the delay in re-booking had cause me to lose the outbound flight and there were no outbounds available either. In other words, we got nothing. As I began to burst blood vessels each layer of supervisor said calmly from Bangalore, “Sir, this is not Expedia’s fault. It’s the airlines’ fault.” Well, no it isn’t. Your existence is based on providing accurate information to travelers so they can book flights. With a few extra steps, I could have booked directly with the airlines and this all would have ended happily. I used Expedia because they purport to make this experience easier.
When the call with Expedia ended and I had promised to spend the rest of my life destroying their company (hence the blog), I walked out of my office into the bullpen of cubicles and got applause. Apparently, I was louder than I thought when I screamed at the various supervisors who were messing up my son’s travel plans.
But, here’s the bottom line and perhaps some free advice for anyone who works in the service industry as a middle man or distributor. The reason you’re in the middle is to smooth a transaction for both parties. When you increase the friction, you destroy value and will go away. I hope Shitsticks and Expedia are gone soon.