"I ... driver ... Bennington Millwork," the man barked through his terrible cell phone connection. I could hear only every other word. "I ... site ... poor ... through."
"Your eyesight is poor?" I repeated, struggling to make sense of what I heard.
"You have a jobsite delivery?"
"...es! ...es I do! ...gap ... ew ... hare..."
"Gap to hare?"
"... es! ... gap to hare!"
Oh man, was this tough. I knew he had a jobsite delivery. In fact, he was late, and the contractor was desperate for the material.
"... gap ... to ... hare," he repeated.
"I don't know what that means," I said.
"I ... map ... to ... there,"
"Oh! A map!"
"... es! A gap ..."
"I faxed that in with the order," I told him. "It should be with your paperwork."
"... eee ... gap ... to hare ... flea ..."
"OK, bye," I said and hung up. Bennington Millwork had recently changed its ordering procedure. With every order, it now wanted complete order forms specific to each product, along with checklists about everything from the account to the tax status of the customer. If it was a jobsite delivery, we had to provide a map to the location and fill out another checklist. It would not process any order without all the required paperwork.
Frankly, it was annoying. While I appreciated Bennington's efforts to be accurate, most times the checklists were overkill–sometimes including information that just wasn't relevant to the ordered product. But Bennington was adamant about these new procedures.
When I sent in this order, I hadn't filled out a few checklists as they seemed not to apply. Bennington held up the order until I completed them all. Then, I didn't fill out the jobsite checklist. I just gave a map. Again, the order was delayed until all the paperwork was faxed in.
Eventually, I gave Bennington everything it wanted, so I was confident that the garbled words from the driver meant he would get to the job shortly.
I was wrong. Another hour passed. The delivery was now four hours late.
The driver called again, this time with a much better connection. Not only were we able to communicate, I learned his name was George.
"I said I needed a map," he told me.
"And I said I sent a map in," I told him.
"To who?" he asked.
"To Bennington," I answered.
"I'm not Bennington," he said.
"I know. You're George."
"I know I'm George," he agreed.
Maybe it was better with the bad cell phone connection when I thought he needed a gap to hare.
I came to understand that George worked for the shipping company that handled Bennington's deliveries in our part of the country. Bennington didn't pass along my map, or the order checklists, or even a packing slip.
When I called Bennington to discuss this, the company seemed confused. Of course the driver should have been given the map. Yet, these breakdowns continued to happen. Order after order would be delayed until we filed the paperwork just so, but virtually none of that paperwork would make it to the people who needed it. Bennington's people thanked me for the order and assured me they were working out the kinks in the new system.
I recognized in this breakdown a company trying very hard to be detail oriented, thorough, precise, and efficient with a new, consistent system. It didn't have that system bug-free yet. Certainly, every company goes through growing pains associated with raising its game to the next level. So while that order was very, very late, and the new process was very, very frustrating, I thought Bennington was on the right track.
But the map part really bothered me. Shouldn't a trucking company have access to maps? Couldn't it just print one off of the Internet?
After that order, I would never spend time providing a map because I knew it would never get to the driver. I would simply draw a quick map of the closest road, mark the job with a big X labeled "gap to hare." The company would always accept it and thank me for the order.
Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa.