In my post of the 2nd February I reported on how I needed to get a replacement for my primary computing device – a Microsoft Surface. I won’t bore you with the details, but Microsoft agreed to take some responsibility for the problem and agreed to give me either a refurbished device or discount on a new one. I decided on a new one and they said it would be delivered in 3 days. It was very shortly thereafter I discovered the replacement would be shipped from the UK and lo and behold the shipping status revealed “The package is delayed due to a Brexit related disruption. We are adjusting delivery plans as quickly as possible.” After two weeks I spoke to Microsoft and told them I wasn’t going to wait for the UK to hire the 50,000 (sic) customs inspectors needed to get the UK’s import export businesses back up and running. I knew there were hundreds of thousands of shipments sitting in the UK waiting to be cleared. I asked Microsoft to return the device to their warehouse and give me a refund. Then I would reorder a device from another location.
This is condensing numerous calls to the shipper UPS and Microsoft over the last few days to try to get them to talk to each other and for Microsoft to agree to refund me. In the end I went into the online order system and requested a “return”. Even though the order hadn’t been delivered to me, the order was sitting in the UPS warehouse at Stanford-le-hope, and this galvanized the system into action. UPS were notified and the status was reset to “waiting for return instructions”. So, Microsoft then told me what they were unable to previously, that my refund would happen automatically as soon as the device was received back into the Microsoft facility. It was rather obvious from these conversations that Microsoft wasn’t accustomed to shipping problems.
I then mentioned to Microsoft that I would reorder, but would make it a condition that the new device must be shipped from anywhere else but the UK. By this stage, this must have been the umpteenth Microsoft person I had spoken with, and she said. “Oh, I’m afraid we can’t do that! When we take an order there is no option to allow us to specify where the order will be fulfilled from.” In fact, the originating Microsoft location is decided by their shipper UPS, presumably to optimize shipment cost and time.
I was pretty shocked at this. I said, “So do you mean that UPS accepted my order knowing full well that it would not be delivered on time? That the initial 3 day estimate was fiction? Also if that’s the case, is UPS continuing to accept orders to be shipped from the UK to Ireland and possibly other EU countries from the UK?” The answer was equivocal. “Well all I can say is that we Microsoft do not have any control over shipment logistics at an individual order level”.
I should explain. Microsoft has a worldwide sales and support system. You call Microsoft and you can get an agent that may be located in any part of the globe. The system works; from personal experience I can say that the technical and sales expertise is excellent, and it works well. What they have done is created a global logistics system that assumes everything works smoothly. From my own experience I can tell you, no one from Microsoft came to advise me there was a problem with delivery time. Nor it must be said UPS. Microsoft clearly operated on the basis that delivery was outside their area of interest, probably because up until January 2021 the customer supply side did indeed work like clockwork.
The lesson to draw here is that if someone throws a spoke in the wheel of a huge well-oiled system, it’s highly likely that chaos will be the outcome. And indeed, a casual read of media reports (see below) on post Brexit trade confirms this.
My own experience has been purely accidental. I would never knowingly have placed an order for a relatively high value item knowing it was sourced from the UK post Brexit. And from the “Microsoft system” perspective it wasn’t relevant. But now it is.
And my experience is clearly one of at least hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of disrupted transactions. Every one of them is someone’s nightmare. However, I doubt very much that it will cost Messrs Gove and Johnson any lost sleep. And down the line it probably won’t lose them any votes either.
For what it’s worth, I shall remain a Microsoft customer, but when I get the refund I shall use a local tech retailer. They are selling the same model for just €20 more than my discounted price from Microsoft. And I will click and collect! No shipper needed.