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Playmobil spares

A few years ago, I bought a Playmobil ambulance in a vide grenier. I think it cost a fiver? It was missing most of its inside stuff. So I thought I'd pop over to Playmobil to see if they had any parts that I could get to "make things better".

An old Playmobil ambulance.
An old Playmobil ambulance.

Now, the way you do this is a little convoluted. It would be great if it was possible to enter a kit number (4221 in this case) to be presented with a list of available parts, but no.

You need to download a PDF of the assembly instructions. This is easy enough to find. You'll notice that all of the parts in the building instructions carry numbers. For example, the little antenna that goes on the roof is 30 22 6150 and the body of the stretcher is 30 26 3840. It is these numbers that you need.
Note, they even break down the moveable parts (doors, steering wheel...) that are already fitted in case replacements are wanted.

Here is an example of what I mean.

Example of Playmobil part numbers.
Example of Playmobil part numbers.
Diagram © 2006 geobra Brandstätter GmbH & Co.KG

The assembly notice carries a copyright of 2006, fifteen years ago. And it shows, the ambulance is an older-style boxy design. The one available now is curvier and much fancier.

Anyway, apart from the sticky decals for the inside of the medical case, they had everything. So I ordered all of the bits I needed. It came to about €10, and that was including two antennas (admittedly, only €0,40 apiece).
I also added kit 9808 which was a set of parts for a pharmacy. I thought there could be some useful bits in there. They added a free catalogue.

It all, with taxes (€5,13) and delivery (€6,90) came to €30,69.


Playmobil announced that they would be sending my order in two parts. This is because the replacement bits service takes 2-3 weeks (some Playmo employee might have to go rummage in a big box of bits?). Okay, fair enough.

The Playmobil side of the experience was no problem. However...


UPS disaster

I'm not talking about an Uninterruptible Power Supply, I'm talking about the parcel people in the famous brown vans.

On the 21st of October, I ordered some things from as mentioned above. They prepared the order of the pharmacy things quickly, and I got an email the following day from UPS to say that my parcel would be delivered on Monday.
This was followed eleven hours later by an email saying that it would be delivered on Tuesday.

Early Tuesday morning, I stuck a notice to the front door.

Instructions for the delivery.
Instructions for the delivery.

Tuesday came, as did the parcel. Tuesday went, as did the parcel. The driver left an "InfoNotice" paper, saying that he would try again one final time tomorrow unless I reschedule the delivery.
So I went to their website and... they don't deliver on Saturday. So I asked for it to be delivered on Tuesday, with the comment "I work, so please leave it in the letterbox".
It would probably be useful if UPS actually attempted to pay some degree of interest in what the clients write. If he is not able to deliver without physically putting it into my hands, then passing by a second time and ignoring the client's instructions is a waste of everybody's time.

Wednesday came, and went. Another InfoNotice. This time saying it was the final delivery attempt, and I had to sort out something within five days or the parcel will be returned.
So, I called the first number printed in amongst the tiny text on the back. Unfortunately it was the special tariff one, because UPS appear to have a normal rate number for domestic users, and a premium rate for business users. A was annoyed, so I wasn't translating the French as well as I should have. Thankfully, the premium rate was only €0,12 a minute, so I only got hit for €0,69 wading through five minutes and forty eight seconds of a ridiculous Kafkaesque nightmare.
For subsequent calls, I decided to try the other number (and to hell with whether or not it was the right one).

Now, this is where the cracks in UPS's IT system start to fall apart. The auto-bot, or Bot-Bitch as I took to calling her, would take my InfoNotice number, and tell me not to worry as my parcel is on its way. Let's just say that if that part of the call was being recorded, then they will have heard me telling her that she is flat out lying, what she says does not in any way correspond with the piece of paper in my hand (written hours earlier), and, by the third time, I was getting a little bit sweary in my responses. Like she'd say "blah blah blah, oui ou non?" and I'd reply "oui, f**khead".

As a rule, I don't swear at humans. Even the incompetent ones. I find dark sarcasm more useful in those situations. But I have no compunctions whatsoever at swearing at a f**king machine.

I went to look for an email address to talk to an actual person, as their friendly little Bot-Bitch seemed designed to actively avoid any method of speaking to an actual real person.
Everything that is wrong with UPS's terrible and useless IT system can be summed up in one simple screenshot:

Proving that AI stands for Artificial Incompetence.
Proving that AI stands for Artificial Incompetence.

So back to the phone, and I decided to start messing with Bot-Bitch by pressing random buttons. The first button I pressed, when she started to give a list of options, was '0'. This is because zero has no meaning on most main menus, it's usually the "go back" option on submenus.
Oh, wow, result!
She was silent for a few moments, so I pressed zero again. And she asked if I would like to speak to a customer service agent, oui or non.

So, if you have a problem with a UPS delivery and don't want to go through the nightmare of a useless automated system, then press ZERO!

I spoke to a man, I didn't catch his name and can't be bothered to listen to my recording...

Yes - I have an app that records my phone calls, because I really don't like it when somebody tells me something, a different person tells me something else, and the first person attempts to cover their arse by trotting out the "he's English, he didn't understand". So, companies record conversations for "training purposes" (ha ha, as if), and I record them should evidence be needed that somebody did, in fact, say what they claim not to have said. And if that's legally dubious, tough titty, don't be lying scum and there'll be no reason to ever bring up the recording.
Anyway, back to the story. I spoke to a guy. Who told me that they aren't allowed to leave parcels in letterboxes. Like, the only carrier that still takes this attitude, I guess. Though, to be honest, I think he meant to say they couldn't do that if it needed to be signed for.
So I explained the situation to him, which be understood, and he arranged to have the parcel delivered at a bar in Noyal-sur-Brutz. It's a UPS access point in a nowhere town halfway to Châteaubriant, but I know the area and the route so it wouldn't be too hard to get to. It'll be there on Thursday afternoon, so I can pop down after work.

Checked emails on Thurday at break time. It was not possible to leave my parcel at an access point because the parcel is not eligible for this.

I called UPS, bashed zero, and spoke to a woman. She told me that it had to be given for signature, and could not be left at an access point because the sender did not permit this option. I pointed out that they don't work on Saturday, and I work during office hours so I would not be home at the time the driver passes by. She suggested that I come to the parcel centre in Rennes to pick it up myself. Which, given my car and the opening hours (7,45am to 7,30pm), plus the fact it's literally in the middle of the city, means it's damn near impossible to fit around work.
So she's like "well what do you expect me to do?".
Remember I said I never swear at people? I said "well thank you for nothing" and hung up on her.

I briefly felt a little bad about that, but upon getting home I discovered that the driver had been by a third time (why the hell?!?) and left an InfoNotice telling me he was dumping the parcel at an MOT testing centre in Janzé for Friday evening. I should add, this was the parcel that was not eligible for being left at an access point.
I should also add, this InfoNotice was written and left in my letterbox about an hour and a half before I called the woman. And she had exactly no knowledge whatsoever of any of this. Their IT system is clearly a catastrophe, and they must actually be putting effort into this level of incompetence. If that driver is annoyed at going down this silly little country lane for a third time, I feel his pain. Which part of "I WORK SO I'M NOT BLOODY THERE" do they seem utterly unwilling to pay any attention to?
The first visit was necessary, arrive and leave the parcel...or not. The other visits? A complete waste of fuel, driver time, and patience. All because his employers are clueless twats. Oh, and think of the environment, all that diesel being burned for... for what? Oh yes, his employers are clueless twats.

Certainly, it makes no sense whatsoever that if the recipient specifies to leave the parcel at an access point, to try visiting the home address again. I mean, doesn't the access point request sort of imply that there's no point attempting a delivery...?

I had a brainwave and called Playmobil's client support. I explained to the woman that UPS were not being at all helpful, but apparently the option to leave the parcel at a pickup point was something that they could control, so could they please do this? The woman put me on hold to talk to a collegue. After a few minutes (and some panic, I was on break and it was nearly over!) she came back and said the change had been made. I thanked her and went back to work.

Upon returning home that evening, and at that point unaware of the third delivery attempt - I didn't check the mailbox as I didn't expect them to even try, I called UPS. The man took the InfoNotice number and put me on hold for like five minutes. I wondered if the lunchtime woman had left a message, or arranged to have it returned to sender?
Eventually he came back and confirmed that it could be left at an access point, so I said to have it sent to the bar in Noyal. It would be there Friday afternoon.

Friday morning, on it's way to Noyal.

Friday break time - this. Ignoring my request, the parcel was damn well going to be dumped in Janzé regardless.

It's at the collection point, just not the one I asked for.
It's at the collection point, just not the one I asked for.

I decided I wasn't going to argue. Instead, I would have to drive halfway to Rennes through places I only barely remember (my car isn't permitted to use the fast road, mom if she had to go up that way...used the fast road).

Google Navigation took me there. Not entirely flawlessly, there was a road closure that they were unaware of. But given that Google seems to reject road closure notices unless one can specify the dates of the closure (how the hell do I tell that, driving by?), I decided not to bother reporting it.
Also, I sailed into one thirty zone at about 42, because the '30' sign was hidden behind some other larger sign and on the entry to a town I'm paying a lot more attention to the traffic. There was a road bump ahead, and I was like "surely this is a thirty zone", and saw navigation had my speed in red.
There ought to be a law that speed signs must be a certain distance from any other signage. Multiple signs on the same pole is okay, if there are other warnings like priority on the right, but for god's sake don't stick some larger unrelated sign in front of it.

Anyway, I got there. It was indeed an MOT test centre. And a parcel point. There appeared to be only one member of staff, who was usually occupied with testing vehicles. Great safety. And, honestly, the least likely place to have a parcel point imaginable.
So I handed over all of my InfoNotice papers (that he kept), and he asked me if it was multiple parcels or just the one. I said "it's a history, this is all for one parcel". He was "uh-hu", like he'd heard that a lot before.

Parcel found, handed over, and a pleasant enough drive back home. And, I think, about 60km (plus over an hour) of damn roads, annoying downs, and one-way systems.
Actually, I'm partly glad I had to do this. Navigation worked well, and the main problem was the sun in my eyes. But the whole thing wasn't that different to driving to TerraBotanica (on the outskirts of Angers), which I might do sometime next year.

Well, here's the parcel. I get why it couldn't be put in the postbox, but there are plenty of other places to leave large parcels (there's even a sign affixed to the post box suggesting a place!).

The parcel sitting on a plastic deck chair.
The parcel sitting on a plastic deck chair.

The parcel was slightly open. I'm not sure if this happened in transit or if the driver opened it to see what the fuss was about (it was originally glued shut).

Yup, all this for €13 of TOYS OUT OF PLASTIC!
Yup, all of this for €13 of TOYS OUT OF PLASTIC!

And, here you go. The parcel's contents. Clearly this one was packed by Amazon. It had to have been, putting such a small thing into such an enormous parcel.

This was surely 'packed by Amazon'.
This was surely 'packed by Amazon'.

Here's another picture to ram home the point that a parcel about a quarter of the size would have sufficed.

A much smaller box would have sufficed.
A much smaller box would have sufficed.


Some thoughts:

  • Playmobil - this escapade is partially your fault. You have chosen to use a carrier that does not deliver on Saturdays, and people do, you know, go to work. It's how we make money to purchase your product. Therefore, it would be a lot simpler to permit parcels to be left at a collection point should the recipient be unable to be present at home for the delivery.
    After all, whilst I am fully aware that the use of a collection point is one of the options that can be selected upon placing the order, I did not as, well, most of my other parcels get left in the shed if they don't fit in the mailbox. I live in the middle of nowhere, there's nothing around. And my neighbours, like a half-kilometre away, I don't know them well enough to expect to drop my parcels on them. Oh, and guess what, they have jobs to go to as well...
    It's actually rather customer unfriendly to specifically disallow this option.

  • UPS - there is literally nothing polite that I can think of to say to you. It isn't so much a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, as the left hand not even knowing the right hand exists.
    And, yes, I get that you have certain rules that must be followed so it couldn't be left without my presence, however... let's summarise the incompetence:
    • Recipient not present, please leave - you send the driver around to not leave it. It could have been sorted by getting in touch.
    • Recipient requests collection point, not permitted - you send the driver around yet again. Why!?
    • First customer support agent set up collection point apparently completely unaware that this wasn't a permitted option.
    • Collection point not permitted - driver leaves a notice saying it'll be left at a collection point.
    • Your automated system and your customer support seem to have no idea of the status of a parcel, even hours after the driver has passed and left a note. You know, when I order stuff from Amazon and it is delivered, I get a notification a few minutes later. What do you people do, cheap out and sync info when the driver returns to the depot?
    • I'll mention it again - a parcel that can't be left at a collection marked as to be left at a collection point. Nice to see you are capable of following the rules that you claim to so rigidly follow.
    • Recipient chooses a collection point, you instead leave it at the one the driver suggested earlier, and, well, screw the recipient.

  • Playmobil - 8/10.
    The whole ordering from you thing was not a problem, and your customer support people were friendly and helpful, but I'm knocking off two because 1, you don't allow parcels to go to a collection point if the delivery fails; and 2, I'm going to have to remember this for any orders that I make from you in the future.
    Note: they pointed out by email that spare parts orders can go into the letterbox with no problems, so this only applies to ordering new stuff.

  • UPS - 2/10.
    And you only get that because I have the parcel and nothing was broken. Your IT is hopeless, you follow your rules inconsitently, your support is rather unhelpful (probably due to the crap IT meaning their view of the situation is less clear than one would hope), your driver came by unnecessarily, twice, your auto-bot flat out lies (again, probably due to the crap IT), and you didn't even manage to leave the parcel at the place I chose. It's frightening to think that you are a major parcel carrier. Maybe the others are as bad as you, I just don't see it because they're happy to shove the parcel somewhere (as per recipient instructions), and maybe take a photo as proof of delivery? I don't know. I just know that I've had three cups of tea, the sun is shining, I'm not working today, so I'm in a happy and generous mood. That's why you get two out of ten. Ask me yesterday, it would have been a rather large negative number.


PS: For those who don't understand why I say a Playmobil order was "packed by Amazon", it's a reference to a long-running theme where Amazon tends to put little things into huge boxes, and use no form of stuffing so the object just rattles around inside it's oversized shell.



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Gavin Wraith, 30th October 2021, 19:55
Five years ago, when a certain referendum was held in the UK, I suggested that the solar system was passing through a black cloud of stupor. We evidently have not yet emerged.
Rick, 30th October 2021, 20:31
Wasn't it Einstein that said "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." 
I guess he had experience with UPS...

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