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Order Fulfilment Services - Avoid Like The Plague!

It’s not often that I feel compelled to blog. But this issue is one I feel very strongly about – as it goes against everything our company stands for.

Last week we were approached by an American owned company asking if we would like to partner with them, as their order fulfilment service provider for gift deliveries in the UK and Europe. They boasted of extremely impressive annual order figures, and promised us a daily order which amounted to half of our current daily sales figure.

Naturally enough such lofty claims sparked incredulous interest, and I asked for more information.

It transpired that they urgently needed a baby gift delivered to Ireland and a gourmet gift basket to London, and I agreed to take care of them. The representative then emailed through a picture of the gift they wanted us to send, the price including delivery inclusive of all charges and taxes, and a long list of their terms and conditions.

I was a little confused, as to why they had sent a photograph of a nappy cake and an American themed food basket, as we sell neither on our own website. When I questioned the rep. and informed her of this, she was dismissive and told me to send something similar, but added that the cost must not be higher than the budget we had been given.

That was when the first warning bell went off in my head. Basically we were given free reign to send anything we liked, the most important criteria was the price – which I might add was rather miserly.   Certainly less than the cheapest gift basket we currently offer. But then I suppose by the time they have hived off their margin, it doesn’t leave much for the gift itself.

Both orders included very personal messages to relatives from their American based families. One was offering congratulations on the birth of a new nephew, and the other was offering condolences on the passing of a family member.

It didn’t seem to matter that the customer had ordered an advertised nappy cake gift from their website to be delivered to their new born nephew.  Even when we as the fulfilment company pointed out that we couldn’t send a nappy cake, rather than find someone who could, we were simply instructed to send “something similar”.

The same flippant approach was given to the “gourmet gift basket.” It didn’t matter that we didn’t stock 90% of the items in the advertised sympathy gift basket.  Their main priority appeared to be budget, and to have it delivered that day. The actual gift seemed to be a secondary factor.

Now - it may well be that the purchaser is aware that the gift basket they have chosen from this company’s website will not be the actual basket that it sent. Similar to the way in which large internet florist sites rely on agents to fulfil orders that have been placed on their websites. Most people know that when they order a bouquet of flowers from a website it won’t be an exact match.

But surely a gift or gift basket or hamper is a different matter altogether. I firmly believe that if a customer who has chosen a pictured gift basket with a list of contents from a website then they are expecting an accurate, or at the very worst, close representation of what they have chosen to be delivered? I know I would!

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the concept.

International shipping costs can be very costly, and as such we often fulfill orders on behalf of other gift basket companies around the world. They’ll tell us their requirements, and we will let them know how we can match it/what we can offer – they go back to their client for approval, and we fulfil the order if they are happy to proceed.

We, in turn, take care of their client requirements for deliveries in the UK and Europe. 

This mutual arrangement works well for both parties. We work closely together to offer the best possible product we can to meet our client’s requirements. What we don’t do is slice off a nice percentage profit for our trouble, without giving a thought to the actual gift that is being sent.

Which leads me to my reason for writing this blog. In my opinion there is no place for middle men companies such as the one that approached us. They are simply vultures out to make a quick buck from other people’s hard work and labour. They offer no value to society, have no moral code, and in my opinion they shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

In the 1960’s when the internet was 1st created it was done as a way for researchers and academics to share information. Since then it has grown exponentially, and today it allows people, institutions, companies, and brands from across the globe to communicate with one another and share information for the common good.

Of course little old Baskets Galore is just 1 of the 650 million plus active web sites on the Internet in 2013, but obviously to us it is the most important!

Established since 2003 we created it with a purpose in mind. To offer an excellent quality, value for money gift delivery service for ex-pats living abroad to send gifts to their family and friends living in the United Kingdom and Europe. 10 years on we’ve evolved and expanded despite the recession and growing competition, sales are healthy and the future outlook looks positive. It may sound clichéd but we have a genuine pride in what we do, and we know we are making a positive impact because our customers tell us – and without prompting!

The icing on the cake would be to know that the future is limited for these order fulfilment agencies.  Perhaps this little blog will go a small way towards exposing their unethical practices. We need everyone to use the internet for the purpose it was created – the sharing of information to advance the human race, and working towards the greater good.  Please help us to stop keeping these profit sucking hyena’s in business. Buy local. Type into Google or Bing or whatever search engine you use the delivery destination country to find dozens of local suppliers. Eg. “gift baskets UK”

Don’t be put off if the currency isn’t your own, and you are worried about international exchange rates. They are minimal in comparison to the 200-300% mark up the fulfilment companies are making out of you for the so called convenience of buying in your own currency. And don’t forget chances are that the gift that is finally delivered isn’t anything like what you ordered – which to me is always going to be much more important than any price.

Sorry rant over – Happy Monday!

Lynne

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