DHL and the disappearing smartphone

Apparently the top line is wrong

My OnePlus 2 has served me well, but the battery is starting to show its age, and it lacks certain features like Android Pay which I’d really like. So after a bit of reading around, I decided to show some brand loyalty and order their latest and greatest, the 5T.

There are some websites which offer it for a few tens of pounds cheaper than ordering direct from OnePlus, but a bit of digging into WHOIS revealed these to be run out of the Cayman Islands (despite a .co.uk suffix). So I decided not to touch those with a ten foot pole and stick to the “most official” source. Consequently, I wasn’t in the mood to spring a few pounds extra for expedited delivery – this not being one of those “I just broke my last phone” occasions, I reckoned I could wait a few days for my new toy. A few days, as it turned out, meant 16.

Day 0 – Sunday 18/3 – ordered from OnePlus, got all the confirmation e-mails, estimated dispatch on the 20th

Day 1 – Monday 19/3 – a text from DHL saying they’ll deliver on Thursday 22/3 (day 4) and giving me a tracking link.

Day 4 – Thursday 22/3 – DHL tracking claims the parcel arrived at their Oxford depot that morning. I’m at work (the delivery address) all day, and it doesn’t turn up. As late as 11pm, the tracking continues to estimate “by the end of the day”.

Day 5 – Friday 23/3 – Call from an 01235 number from someone claiming to work for DHL saying my shipment is “lost” and that this is being investigated.

Day 6 – Saturday 24/3 – raise a complaint with my credit card provider asking for a chargeback as I never got the goods. Told Mastercard requires you to wait 30 days. That doesn’t square with my reading of the relevant law, which talks about being able to do it sooner if a delivery date sooner than 30 days was agreed, but I didn’t push the point. I raised a complaint with OnePlus instead.

Day 8 – Monday 26/3 – my working day is interrupted several times by phone calls from DHL. Call #1 denies all knowledge of the Friday call and claims they only spotted a problem when OnePlus raised it with them. They promise to pass to another team. Call #2 is the other team telling me they’re on it. I sort of appreciate the personal touch, but reporting you have nothing to report might as well be done by text (like the original shipping notification).

Towards the end of this week, I get fed up of waiting and phone OnePlus (their UK customer support number is an Aldershot area code, but the people answering it sound distinctly American to me). I insist politely but firmly that their subcontractor’s mistake is not my problem, and it’s time for them to dispatch a replacement. The person on the phone forwards my request, narrowly avoiding me yelling at them for adding “…if possible” to the end of it.

Thankfully it seems they were about to reach that point without prompting – on day 11 (Thursday 29/3), DHL called to say the shipment was definitely lost, and OnePlus e-mailed asking for the address to dispatch the replacement to. I gave it to them, and they sent it priority. If I’d known they were going to do that, I would have given them my home address. As it was, I gave them work and consequently my new phone is (allegedly) sitting in the Oxford DHL depo, as it has been for the entire Easter holiday weekend.

I asked DHL how many parcels get “lost”. I was assured it’s “only about 1%”. I suppose I should have asked how many smartphone-sized parcels have something bad happen to them. The reason the tracking lies is that they use bar codes, and it would be too time-consuming to scan every parcel at each point in the journey. So they rely on scanning the pallet/container with lots of parcels at each point, and “arrived at Oxford” was based on that.

All in all, a bit of a mess. OnePlus handled it fairly well, DHL not so much. I’ll update tomorrow to confirm if the second one does actually reach me at work…

As for preventing this sort of thing, I’d gladly pay a few tens of pence more for delivery to fund the use of RFID tags for tracking, which could be checked individually at every point along the line (and presumably also be used to stop parcels “going missing” by walking out of a depot).

Update, day 16 (Tuesday 3/4) – no sign of the replacement at 17:56; a call to DHL confirms it never made it “out for delivery” and they’re opening an investigation. Really not amused now.