I ordered something from an online retailer last week and in checkout I selected the 3-7 day delivery option. As a public service, I thought I’d take a few moments of the time I’m spending sitting by the mailbox to deconstruct some shipping terminology for you.
Here’s the term: Guaranteed delivery in 3-7 business days. Seems straightforward enough. But what does it mean specifically?
- Start with the “3.” That part is from Marketing. Three days sounds pretty good and is the part you’re supposed to focus on. It’s the bright, shiny, “hey, look over there!” misdirection, designed to hook you into the excitement of your new purchase. I know a lot of Marketing guys from my Pimps Anonymous group, and trust me, they’d say “3 minutes to 7 days” if Legal would let them get away with it. They’d argue that technically, a package that arrives in six days, 23 hours and 59 minutes is, in fact, within the 3 minute-to-7 day window.
- “7” – that’s reality talking. This is what Operations sees as doable in nearly all cases.
- Catch #1: “business days.” This is logistics speak for “add two.”
- Catch #2: that’s 3-7 business days and the clock starts TOMORROW.
- Catch #3: that’s 3-7 business days from when they finally ship the package. And that can take who the hell knows how long.
- Finally, somewhere Legal is wetting themselves over the word “guaranteed.” Any time you see a guarantee, read the fine print, which is where it’s explained, plain as day, in black and white 4-point print, that there’s nothing guaranteed about it at all.
In conclusion, “3-7 business days” is online retailer speak for “fuck you – you’ll get it when you get it and you’ll damned well like it.”
Back to my example. I’m leaving on a little trip Friday, and the item in question (a mid-weight hoody) would come in handy, as I’m heading to the mountains and then down to Taos. I’m going to be out and about and expect the weather to be crisp, but not cold. In other words, ideal autumn mid-weight hoody weather. I won’t die without it, of course, but it would be nice.
Placed order last Tuesday, the 18th. Got an e-mail this morning notifying me that it was shipped today. The 26th. That’s eight goddamned days it took them to find the motherfucker on the shelf (this is not a rare, customized item – there’s bound to be a box of them in my size no more than 50 feet from the computer terminal in the fulfillment facility). You’d think they had to go out and source some unthinkably rare unicorn nutsack fur to make it, then have it homespun under a blue moon deep in an Anatolian witches lair, then knee-walked to the warehouse in Bozeman.
So, to sum up. 3-7 business days from when it is shipped, abiding by the definitions noted above, means that my hoody will probably arrive on or about the sixth of October. Which is closer to three weeks than it is to one.
Glad to be of help. And now, if you don’t mind, I have some waiting to get back to.
UPDATED: The original post has been updated to account for Lara Amber’s comment below and the communication from the shipping company confirming her point. Many thanks, as always, to our helpful readers.