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Keeping Up With Maury
Delivery Problems at Christmas Time
by Maury Feren

Yes, this is Maury the Fruit Basket Guy talking. What is this about?

I picked up the Times today to read about the difficult time UPS customers were giving to management for their failure to deliver Xmas gifts on time. TV followed suit, radio as well. Federal Express had the same difficulty and to this day we don't know how many packages were not delivered.

It is probably the most painful public relation problem they have had over the years. They have moved so many packages this time of the year, it is unfathomable. Too many to even think about. When you analyze the great job they do, you look back in wonderment. UPS and Federal Express perform at the highest levels. There is no way I can explain their failure during this Xmas period. It is too hard to even contemplate.

The reason for my interest is that I once had a Fruit Basket Company. Making a beautiful basket in volume was not an easy task. It took blood and guts at Xmas to produce at the high level we hoped to attain.

Unfortunately, the delivery problem was the most difficult part of our entire operation. Delivery created anguish, failure, and every conceivable failing possibility. We produced 9,000 units from Thanksgiving to Xmas. The work was hard and also tedious. The first week after Thanksgiving, we worked 75 hours; every week after that we worked 100 hours except for the last week when we worked 120 hours.

That's only part of it. We had 5 or 6 delivery systems including UPS. UPS was the most stable delivery system that we used. I could tell you tales of horror about deliveries.

There were years when the snow was so high in this area that we could not deliver. Then the phones would start ringing the day after Xmas until my ears would ring. There were situations where the delivery system would break down completely.

I want you to think about this. I had a personal business. I probably talked to 50% of my clients at Xmas. I would tell them that their order would be personalized by me. Now that was not possible because once the product was produced, it would go to one of the delivery systems. That was so difficult to control, it would create problem after problem.

Now here is the rub. 20 - 25 years ago, there was no GPS and no computers to advise the client where their order might be. If you called me personally to answer that question, I could not answer you. I could tell you who the delivery agent was. But that would be all. I did have private delivery agents and they were good with a minimum of trouble. But, the delivery companies were undependable, lax, and failed to do a fair job. This happened year after year.

We never solved the problem. There was one year when a new private delivery agent accepted 200 - 300 Baskets for delivery and just kept them in his warehouse because he said,"It was too difficult to deliver due to bad weather and high snow." He didn't think he did anything wrong.

That drove me crazy. I had to personally respond to all of those failures. Since I was a party to the failure, the pain was even greater. During my Fruit Basket days I dedicated myself to the highest level of accomplishment.

UPS then came in to save the day. They would pick up 1,000 packages the last two days of delivery. This was the time that all of our delivery systems were unable to take on any more deliveries. Now here was the problem.

We always stopped taking orders on December 17th. That would assure us of being able to fulfill our obligation. It would be wrong to take orders that we couldn't produce. We did this to feel safe and to do an honest job.

However, if we did stop taking orders, the delivery systems should have sufficed to take care of these precious orders. They were all my friends, people I had served for many years. I owed them; when they broke down, it was over. Everything went awry. Somehow we would always stumble through a holiday season thankful that UPS was there to save our skin.

I never forgot that. But all I can say today when I read all the negative headlines, "Thank G-d I am not a part of the Xmas scene now." I won't have to go through the agony of answering every phone call on Xmas day asking, "Where is my gift basket?"

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