The Parcel Tracking System that Disappeared Without Trace

You may have seen the recent Which? campaign ‘Stamp Out Dodgy Deliveries’? Its arrival is timely as the industry gears up for Christmas deliveries. As the campaign highlights, one of the things that drives customers mad is not being kept informed. Frankly there is little excuse for lack of information these days. The information we can receive about our parcels’ whereabouts today is astonishing, compared to those not so far away times when a parcel always arrived the day after you expected.

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As the Which? campaign highlights, sadly not all companies do keep their customers informed. ParcelHero actively monitors each and every shipment and offers a free money back guarantee for timed deliveries. I would say ‘you get what you pay for’ but since we’re up to 72% cheaper than the Post Office, customers aren’t actually paying any more for our technology than they would for a low-cost/low-service courier.

Did you know, however, that when a technology was introduced that gave entirely accurate real time information on an items location was introduced, consumers didn’t like it?

The ability to exactly trace items has been available for a good twenty years or so, thanks to that Great Hope of technology/white elephant of technology – depending on your point of view – RFID: radio frequency identification. This uses a tiny chip to report the location of a package or product wherever it is, through satellite tracking, rather like the SatNav in your car.

The good news is you know exactly the location of your item, and can share that with customers. The bad news is its expensive using this degree of technology, the chips aren’t quite as cheap as, err, chips, and the other kit required for tracking is pretty expensive. And there’s more bad news… the information never stops flowing. Ever.

Razor blades are a small but quite high value product, so in 2003 Gillette tried out the technology to trace its packs of a new razor blade, presumably one with fifty cutting blades; how did we ever cope with just one? Sure enough they soon knew where each pack was, from factory, to Distribution Centre, to store.

The problem came when they were tracked from store to car to home to… bathroom. Gillette’s customers where unamused to find their shopping tagged in this way. Gillette stopped the experiment quickly, and no doubt felt they had had a close shave (sorry), after The Guardian called them ‘spy chips’. Consumer groups were as quick to condemn the technology as they are to, well, lament the lack of up to date tracking information…

I suppose the ability to know where a parcel is, without it even having been scanned, anywhere in the world, is rather overkill: a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It might be embarrassing to trace that package with Aunt Susan’s carefully knitted jumper all the way through the distribution system from depot to van to your home, and then onwards to the tip.

But certainly a much improved level of customer information seems necessary for a number of retailers and couriers, judging from the raw nerve the Which? report seems to have touched. That’s why ParcelHero proactively monitors the location of parcels and helps resolve problems, so customers don’t have to, and ParcelHero customers can login to find the whereabouts of their parcel at any time. Once you’re logged in, you don’t even need the tracking number. And ParcelHero is always working to develop new ways to keep customers informed. Find out more about our tracking and related services.

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