The Route of a Parcel Containing a Christmas Present.

I took the time to think about the route a parcel with a Christmas present takes. For instance if I send it through Hermes. In order to know what kind of parcel I am trying to send and therefore how much it will cost, I, as the sender, will first have to take the exact measurements of said parcel. The best way to generate the parcel tag is through the internet and then you can print it. You take the parcel to a “parcel shop” – of course one run by Hermes.

Mostly, the parcel shop is a small store selling lottery tickets, newspapers, cigarettes and similar articles. The person in charge of the parcel shop will take a scan of the parcel. This is how he can verify that I chose the correct price category. If my calculation was wrong, the parcel shop assistant will correct it, either adding to the price or reducing it. Provided he actually finds the mistake. If he does not find the mistake, he risks that the next instance – that is the Hermes messenger – will find it and then the store assistant has to pay extra and make a deficit.

In the parcel shop, I pay and get a receipt. From now on, I can follow the route of the path on the internet. The “Hermes” messenger will pick the parcels up at the shop. He, too, has to make a scan of all the parcels. Both the owner of the parcel shop and the Hermes messenger are self-employed entrepreneurs. The parcel shop owner pays the Hermes messenger, who – after keeping the pre-arranged percentage – hands the money to him.

The Hermes messenger will then carry the parcels to the next distributing station. At this station, he has to hand the money he collected from the parcel shop owner to the person in charge – I am sure after having received a percentage of his own. This is also a place where the parcel is checked and subjected to scanning. And if a parcel was wrongly placed, the Hermes messenger will have to pay the balance.

From the “sending distribution station” on, Hermes logistics are at the forefront. They are responsible for the parcel finally reaching the “distribution station” of the recipient. Now the Hermes messenger responsible for this area comes.  He takes the parcel, probably scans it again and then takes it to the recipient, where a protocol of the exchange is made. I do not know if he gets money for this. It is just possible that he has to survive on the difference between what he pays when picking up the parcels and what he gets from the customers.

It takes time to do all this scanning and checking. I can easily imagine that each of these processes takes a few seconds. Let us say five seconds. In other words, if the Hermes messenger gets a hundred parcels at the parcel shop, he is busy checking and scanning them for 500 seconds. This might mean 8 extra minutes for him. But that is irrelevant, because the Hermes messenger is a self-employed entrepreneur. After all, if you are an entrepreneur, the time you work does not count. You are known to enjoy working overtime. Or extra quick. Until you have a heart attack.

Allegedly, there are several advantages to this system. Many small private entrepreneurs will guarantee a cheap, quick and dependable procedure. You can follow and reconstruct the route of the parcel and you will know where it got lost if that happens.

But there is a different way of looking at it, too: a number of small (or fake) entrepreneurs control each other. They are all under pressure from the main enterprise and stressed out. In the worst case, they have to pay extra. The customer will only benefit from being able to track the route at all times if he has to assume that the enterprise he chose will not work diligently.

I am assuming that the competition of Hermes works more or less in the same way. In my personal opinion, this system is not particularly efficient. It might well work, but perhaps another method would be even better?

For me, a totally different system would be imaginable. Such as an enterprise with industrious and dependent employees who all do a perfect job. The sender of a parcel has total trust in the enterprise – and said trust is justified. He hands over a parcel and knows that it will arrive on time and undamaged. This is something he can rely on. Consequently, he will not need any “tracking information“ whatsoever.

You know, there was a time when this was what we had. It was called postal service. It was linked internationally. The employees were civil servants and normally proud to do an excellent and absolutely reliable job. Misbehaviour rarely ever happened, perhaps because it was severely punished (you lost your status and had to suffer all the consequences involved). But that was a long time ago.

The abolishment of the civil servant system might have made privatization necessary. Today, many private enterprises fight each other on the market. To the detriment both of our environment and the customers, many services are performed twice. Those who actually do the job are caught in a rat race and are exploited mercilessly. Neither is it any better for the enterprises. The market is fought for through massive advertising. But this, too, is financed by the silent customers. What other choice do they have?
Until finally the day will come when the civil servant system will have to be re-established, because the enterprises will have caused each others‘ death. Then the vicious circle can begin anew.

(Translated by EG)

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