A Sample Rush Shipment, True Story


This is the story of a used BMW 325i cylinder head that’s on its way from Reno, NV to Pittsburgh, PA … right now. It shows how enthused the little team at 3serieparts.com can be.

True story. And, a happy ending.

Our customer needed the part but wanted it faster than a week from now, which is the USPS deal. So, we shopped around and found that FedEx Ground gets it there a day earlier at close to the same price. We offered to eat the extra shipping.

The customer, a nice man, approved the deal and paid the Paypal invoice. I got the head loaded onto the back seat of my van. I like the back-seat loading premise because I don’t wanna damage the valves or oil bar by putting the head down on a hard surface, see.

I figured with something this big and heavy, better for FedEx to package it up. So, I left Fallon at about 3:30 p.m. because that’s 60 miles east of where the closest FedEx Office is, in Reno. The FedEx cutoff there is 5:30 p.m. A few mishaps later, I’m a few steps away from the FedEx Office front door on California Avenue, balancing the cylinder head on my shoulder as I totter towards the door. A sprightly looking guy in his late 30s or so (who likes to wear shorts and bobby socks even though there’s snow on the ground) gets to the door right before I do and whizzes through it and vanishes.

I was kind of hoping for something more chivalrous, not least since it’s a “pull” door and I need both hands to keep this 47-pound aluminum and steel thing from falling.

Eventually a lady inside the office notices me and opens the door. Yay!

I get in line behind Mr. Burden which (hard to believe, and oh the irony) is the last name that he later announces to the FedEx employee.

You CAN’T make this stuff up. That’s really his name. So, behind this man is a chick with a 47-pound cylinder head balanced on her shoulder, and he just stands around blandly. Granted, I’m an androgynous-looking chick — but still.

Please give me a synonym for this heavy weight. Six letters, starts with “b.” Preceding adjective is “heavy.”

Mr. Burden calmly looks at the cylinder head on my shoulder and asks if that’s a camshaft. No, it’s not, I reply with the sort of calm that makes me finally conclude that I’m the female version of Gandalf the Grey. Mr. Burden looks bland and stands around some more.

The FedEx employees behind the counter all seem to have been dipped in cold molasses. Or, maybe time goes by more slowly when you’re balancing a cylinder head on your shoulder.

Personally, if I could reprogram Mr. Burden to be more charming, he’d notice the tall blonde chick carrying the cylinder head, and opened the door to let her through first. Some sympathetic comments might have been nice too.

I finally get to the front of the line after Mr. Burden picks up his order and pays. I finally ease the part onto the counter. It makes a smudge. The FedEx employee explains that they can’t package grimy stuff. I think back at the half-dozen or so cans of engine cleaner I’ve doused the thing with, and I explain to the FedEx employee that it’s not grimy, it’s clean. As I say this, the BMW emblem shines so brightly from the casting that I almost expect it to make a little “zing” sound and make cartoon style sparkles like you see in dishwasher soap commercials. The employee next identifies some little puddles where oil leaked from some or other weird internal orifice and now lies visible in some indentations in the casting. He explains it’s hazardous even if it’s that small a quantity.

I’ve seen Castaway where the FedEx plane blows up, so I’m sympathetic, but still, wow.

I leave. Back in the van, I call my assistant and ask her to explain the situation to the customer and ask him if he wants a refund or if he still wants the part even though it’s going to be delayed by the extra day. I figured it’d take an extra day to get it all extra-super-clean.

To send the part a day late and pay more for it to arrive as originally planned is the sort of thing I used to do, which is why I’m as broke as I am currently. So, no more.

Meanwhile, I do some time math. It’s 5 p.m. I decide to try to make the deadline even if I have to pack the thing myself.

I rush to Autozone and explain the situation to a sharp-thinking employee who goes into the back room and finds some ultra-super-absorbent stuff that they officially no longer carry but he had one massive roll of it left in the back room. I buy that, and some Simple Green. The van becomes my mobile parts washer as I douse the cylinder head with Simple Green and rotate it many times, and then clean its crevices out with this weird super-absorbent cloth stuff. Wow, is it clean. The last time it was this clean, the person who saw it had Bratwurst and Sauerkraut to eat for dinner. It’s 5:20 p.m.

I rush to U-Haul and grab a huge roll of bubble wrap and a tape gun off the shelf, and start wrapping up the part right in front of the register. A puzzled employee looks on and I convince him to go find me a box. He does. Soon, the now-very-well-packaged part is ready to go. It’s 5:55 p.m.

I rush to the other FedEx office in Reno, hoping I’ll never again see the location on California Street. There’s a FedEx truck parked at the loading area. I explain to the driver that if he’ll wait for my shipment, I’ll be so happy that I’ll blubber. He looks a little puzzled but I rush in and head to the counter, where my arms finally can’t manage the weight any more. I say “help” right as it starts to fall, and the FedEx employee steps forward and saves the day. I get the shipment processed and the employee decides it’ll make the cut-off. Now, all I need to do is pay.

But, the company credit card is maxxed out from buying the unexpected supplies. Dammit. I recall an ancient FedEx account number that I got, way back in the 1990s. I write that on the paperwork. It’s still active. Yay! I call my assistant to email the client “we DID make the cut-off after all.”

And, that’s how hard I worked to try to get this customer his part, on time. The story reminds me of the Avis slogan “we try harder.” I think the story shows that, at 3seriesparts.com we try pretty darn hard, too.


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