Shipping redirection and order editing

All the shipping companies today support very nice package tracking with web interfaces that let you see your package move through all the depots. Some day they might even send you an alert when it’s half an hour before delivery.

However, more than a few times I’ve wished for something else — package redirection, either at the behest of the recipient or the shipper. I talked earlier about my Addresscrow system, which would let you change your alias to mean different addresses as you move around, but this is more than that.

For example, when there is a problem (buy.com screwed up on a 2-day shipping order and sent it ground, so I won’t get it for Christmas) they often tell you to refuse the shipment. That’s your easiest way of returning a product that arrives too late. Why not let me, or failing that the shipper, do that via the net? Or let the shipper convert the in-transit item from ground to 1-day or 2-day when it’s clear that it won’t arrive in the right place or at the right time? Yes, I realize that Fedex Ground was an entirely different company from Fedex air, but they do meet from time to time, and at worst case one could redirect a package to the nearest shipping office for the alternate service to be scanned and re-coded.

Ideally though one would just change the meaning of the barcode, and the next routing station would spit it down a different channel.

To make this even better, internet retailers should really do a better job of not finalizing orders until they are truly shipped. Often I’ve made a purchase at an internet retailer, and after paying been shown a special offer, or at least a link to “continue shopping.” Indeed, when I do change my mind, or realize I want to add something to the order, it’s tough. In many cases you must cancel the entire order and re-enter it all. Some let you cancel individual non-shipped items. A few will let you add an item but that’s very rare.

It should all be done just-in-time now. In the old days, you could just phone the place and they would amend the order sitting in the warehouse because they were in contact. Today that personal contact is gone but the computers should be able to do it. Yes, it might cost extra but as long as it costs less than doing a whole new order, it makes sense.

Fraud

My understanding is that one of the reasons they make it hard to redirect packages mid-transit is because it would make it harder to defeat credit card fraud. Many fraud-prone retailers require that they ship to the billing address on the credit card, in order to make it harder to pay with a stolen card, and the credit card processors very strongly encourage retailers to verify the customer's address with the card company.

But package redirection would allow a crook to order a new plasma TV, have it shipped to the address on the (stolen) credit card, but redirect it in transit to the crook.

Indeed, but this does not

Indeed, but this does not argue against aborting a shipment, upgrading the speed of a shipment, or redirect to trusted addresses.

Good idea, but as a matter

Good idea, but as a matter of fact, the big transportation companies (UPS, FedEx) are approaching the point where they might be able to offer it in the near future.

However, since not all the intermediate sorting locations physically scan every package at every point along the way now (there are such things like "logical scans"), it's not that easy to intercept a specific package out of the tens of millions that are being processed every day. You would in effect have to send out "exception" information for people/machines in the most likely intermediate transit area to be on the lookout for each desired package to intercept and upgrade it. And until the electronic scanning is consistent and pervasive enough all across UPS/FedEx's transportation networks, it can't be offered as a reliable service offering.

And then there's the question of what to charge for that service -- with all the exception-handling overhead involved to find this "needle in a haystack" (literally one package in many millions), would you be willing to pay $15-$25-$50? And that's not even including the additional upgrade to 1-Day or 2-Day Air? Perhaps for a really critical or really expensive shipment (like a machine part necessary to get a factory back online, or maybe even a high-end PC) but there's a business question of whether there's a legitimate and big enough market for what this service would cost. Just my 2 cents.

(BTW, just stumbled upon your website tonight and enjoyed your invention ideas...)

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