What does “shipped” actually mean?

03Jun08

Every retailer seems to have a different idea of what “shipped” means. When they say they’ve shipped an order, the real status might be:

– The box has been packed, but there’s no tracking number and it hasn’t left the warehouse.
– The box has been packed and it has a tracking number, but it hasn’t left the warehouse.
– The box has been packed, it has a tracking number, and the shipping company has picked it up, but the tracking info doesn’t show it’s in transit.

The list goes on and on, but the point is the same no matter how many different variations we come up with. For customers, there is only one relevant definition of “shipped”: the package has left the retailer’s warehouse and is physically en route to the customer’s home or office, as confirmed by the tracking information. A tracking status that says “Billing information received” doesn’t cut it.

When something has been shipped, people expect to be able to view when it was picked up and when it’s going to arrive. This, of course, is the purpose of tracking numbers and the like. Retailers seem overly anxious to call packages “shipped” before the point that customers can verify the items are en route. It’s too bad there’s such a disconnect here, since closing the gap would reduce the number of questions that retailers get about shipping status, e.g. why a tracking number has been assigned but UPS or FedEx says the package was never picked up.



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