retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

It's the holidays, and we're all sending and receiving packages and hoping things will arrive on time and trying to decide whether to use FedEx or UPS or the post office, and hoping that when somebody else makes that choice, it'll end up being the right one.

We've had several stories lately about how delivery companies want to avoid the problems of past years. As so often seems to happen, they've geared up for higher volume, but it is higher than expected, and so a week before Christmas, they're trying to keep up. All of which is why Amazon is trying to figure out how to take increasing control of its distribution systems ... they're simply not confident in the companies with which they're doing business.

But I heard a story the other day that would make me worry a lot more about at least one of those delivery companies ... at a lot more granular level.

My youngest brother, Tim, told me a story about how he was having trouble with FedEx. He was having trouble getting a package delivered to the right address, but the details of the story really aren't important. He was in a FedEx store, trying to reason with the person behind the desk, trying to explain why and how to fix a problem that was not of my brother's making.

And that's when the FedEx employee dropped the bomb. He explained his resistance to fixing the problem this way: "It's not my package," he told my brother. "It's your package."

Wow.

In my mind, that's exactly the wrong thing to say. If you work at FedEx - whether you are at headquarters or in a truck or working behind a counter - it seems to me that it is your job to act like every package is your package.

And here's the kicker. The guy talking to my brother was the manager. If that's the message he's sending customers, imagine how he's poisoning the minds of his employees.

It isn't just FedEx.

At some level, if you work for a supermarket, you ought to be acting like every product you sell is going to be used for a meal being served at your table.

If you are in a service business, it is your job to provide service. Not to act as if you're doing someone a favor just by tolerating them.

I'm appalled by the statement by the FedEx guy, but I don't think he's alone. Not by a long shot. I think it may be more typical than any of us would like to admit, and I think most of us can conjure up the last lousy service experience we had ... and it probably was recently.

The question is what do people and companies do about it.

The beginning of the answer is to create a culture in which people understand that they have to treat people's packages like they are their own.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

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