( Originally Published 1912 )
Behind the scenes in a big store it looks and sounds like "Bedlam let loose." The hustle, the noise and whirr are bewildering to the novice. Imagine, if you can, 20,000 packages, 50,000 different articles of merchandise of every conceivable size, shape and nature, all pouring down through chutes, like a Niagara, into one place. Ten packages to one customer, six to another, and three to another. A paper of pins, a can of lard, a new bonnet, and a piece of lace. Each customer must get all of her packages promptly, none missing or late, else the store will receive a complaint. Yet order comes out of chaos, every minute and every hour of every day. Of course, it requires capital and brains and organization to perfect a system which will handle with-out friction and with a minimum of complaints, such a deluge of deliveries.
Cost of Delivery
Let us digress just for a moment, and see what is the cost of such a delivery department.
In a recent hearing, held at the offices of the Merchants' Association of New York City, by the Inter-state Commerce Commission, there were brought out certain very interesting figures, said to be the cost of delivering packages by a big city store. The figures were supplied by one store, and it is reason-able to suppose that this is a fair sample of the cost to other big stores. All of the towns mentioned are within the delivery district of Greater New York. The figures are as follows :
New York Deliveries
In Manhattan, from the Battery to 135th Street—7 4/7 cents per package. In Brooklyn, including Coney Island, Flatbush, Ridgewood and Greenpoint -9½ cents. In Jersey City, including Hoboken and Weehawken—10 1/2 cents. In the Bronx zone, including Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Tuckahoe and Mamaroneck—6 1/4 cents. In Portchester, including the various towns from Larchmont to Stamford and White Plains—16 1/3 cents.
In the Hudson River district, from Hastings to Tarrytown, inclusive—11 cents. On Long Island, from Long Island City to Bayside and Queens—12 3/4 cents. On Staten Island, including Bayonne—11 cents. To Hackensack, N. J., including Homestead, Closter, Plainfield and Elizabeth—8 3/5 cents.
Nine Cents a Package
The average cost, then, of delivering a package from a New York store anywhere in the delivery district, is 10.55 cents per package. As there will probably be a great many more packages delivered from the Battery to 135th Street, than in any other section, it would, therefore, probably be fair to say that it costs the New York store 9 to 9 1/2 cents for every package which it delivers.
Extra Charge for Delivery
Some stores in other towns have already started the practice of making an extra charge for delivering. The question immediately comes up as to whether they really save their customers the cost on the packages which they take with them. That, of course, cannot be determined in a general discussion. Every store would settle that itself. It is certainly sure that a great many people would carry their packages home with them, if they were asked to pay nine cents each for every package they wished to have sent.
Over $200,000.00 a Year
If a store makes eight thousand deliveries per day, and each delivery costs nine cents, you can see what an enormous expense the delivery department is, and how much the big store is willing to pay for the accommodation of its customers. It amounts to $720 per day, or for 310 days, $223,200 per year. Probably there are several different delivery departments in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, which cost more than that per year to operate.
If you were the General in charge of a big delivery department, you would first of all organize your army. You would, from experience, know that there are three kinds of deliveries :
1. Goods sold for cash.
2. Goods sold on credit.
3. Goods sent C. O. D.
You would therefore divide your forces into three armies under the heads "Cash," "Charge" and "C. 0. D." Now the three lieutenants who have charge of these three divisions would organize their armies in three divisions.
The "Cash" army would have to make arrangements to handle the goods which were bought on a transfer card, or just one purchase a day, or the special deliveries. That department would have to have a certain number of bins, or package holders ; possibly in a big store three thousand bins. As soon as a package came down with a gummed label from a transfer card, or any other mark indicating that it was bought on a transfer card, it would go into an assigned or corresponding bin. Then as new articles came down on that card they would immediately be put in that bin. At last, when the card itself came down, the goods would be quickly packed and routed. For, you see, in a great city where the drivers have to call at from five thousand to nine thousand different addresses every day, the delivery routes must be made out very carefully, so as to save every possible step and minute. "The Routers" have to go through a training just the same as a United States Railway Mail clerk does, in distributing letters in different sections on a mail train, and so "route" them that they will reach their destination by the quickest possible line.
The Lieutenant commanding the "Charge" army organizes it in a similar way. The difference between his army and the "Cash" army is that all of the charge checks must first go to the credit office to be stamped O. K., then sent back to the counter where the sale was made and then sent to the delivery department in the usual manner. They are then handled just the same as a cash delivery. Some stores, however, want to be so sure that they have a different book for charge deliveries.
Telephone "Credit O. K."
A new method has been devised to expedite the passing upon the credit of each customer. A telephone system connects each counter with the credit office. A unique device is attached to the telephone which registers whether the credit is 0. K.'d or turned down. This gets an almost instant 0. K. on the charge slip so that it can be sent immediately to the delivery department and not keep the clerk's attention or hold up the goods.
"C. O. D." Deliveries
The C. O. D. division of the delivery army has to be a little more responsible and a little more accurate than either of the other divisions, because it has to see that the money is collected. In other words, it actually makes the sale and brings the money home. The goods come down to it fastened together with a ticket attached on the outside, so that the items can be checked before being finally wrapped, routed and delivered. Some C. 0. D. de-livery heads take extra precautions by entering each C. O. D. in a register, so that there will be a permanent, non-detachable record in its hands of every C. 0. D. package for which it is responsible.
Always remember that a C. 0. D. sale is practically a charge sale where there is no credit, and a cash sale where there is no money taken over the counter. Hence extra precaution has to be taken with it. Either a special C. 0. D. sales check is used, or if the one sales book system is in use, the sale is clearly indicated on the sales check by a C. 0. D. stamp, and irrespective of the regular serial or check number an additional consecutive number is stamped on each C. 0. D. sales check. This is called a register number, and the details required are entered in the C. 0. D. register book together with this register number, and is further always identified by this number.
In some few instances a combination of the sales-check number, combined with the serial or book number, are used to form the register number.
Some stores have separate columns on their regular delivery sheets carried by the driver for each kind of sale, Cash, C. 0. D. or Charge, while other stores keep all C. O. D. deliveries in a separate book.
After the regular or transfer sales of various kinds have gone through their proper channels, they are routed and placed in large bins to which the drivers have access from outside of the delivery department proper. The driver's sheet or route sheets are made out and given to him. When he has checked them off and found that the packages in the bin are correctly listed on his sheets, he then signs a receipt for the packages.
C. O. D. Return Books
Let us suppose that the driver did not find the purchaser at home, or that the husband had vetoed the purchase, or for any other reason the goods would not be accepted or paid for. What would the driver do? All he could do would be to bring goods back to the delivery department. He must have something to show that he did bring them back, or the charge might be brought against him that he had stolen them; consequently when he gets back to the delivery department a shipping clerk who is designated to do that particular thing, gives him a receipt from a "C. O. D. Return Book." A duplicate of that receipt remains in the book. This clears the driver and gives him a clean record of work completed.
Here comes in an important question. If a pack-age is lost, and you wanted to trace it, there must be an unbroken record so that you will be able to trace it quickly step by step. The question is, "How do you know that the delivery department did turn the package over to the driver?" The answer is that there is a "Driver's Book" in which the name and address of every delivery along his route is entered. He receipts each sheet from the book when he gets it, which means that he assumes responsibility for the packages listed therein. The delivery department keeps a carbon copy of each sheet given the driver.
As the driver's helper delivers each package to each customer, the driver checks off that package on his sheet. This is one point where a receipt is not demanded, unless the goods are very valuable. For expensive jewelry, or fine furs, or any other kind of goods which are costly, the driver would demand a customer's receipt in order to protect himself and the firm. Ordinarily, however, the driver would merely leave the package, make the check on his sheet, and go on with the rest of his deliveries.
If a complaint were made in the store the following day that the package was not received, the driver on that route would be called on to explain. His route sheet would be brought out, and he would show where in his customary way he had checked that package after delivering it. He would call upon his helper to describe the person to whom it was delivered, or he would describe the person if he had made the delivery himself. Then the description would be given to the customer together with the exact time of delivery and other circumstantial evidence. If the customer still insisted that she had not received the goods, the store would probably replace them and put the store detective on a still hunt to find out where the goods had gone.
Driver's Credit Book
What if the charge customer, as is continually the case, does not want to keep the goods ordered? Or, possibly she had ordered several different styles of garments in order to select from them at home, in-tending to return all except the one desired. She telephones or writes to the store to call for the goods.
The driver comes. The woman is suspicious, also wise in the ways of a big city. She says, "Please give me a receipt for these packages." What will the driver do? Why, he has a book for that very purpose called the "Driver's Credit Book." He writes out a receipt for the one, two, or three pack-ages, and itemizes the goods received because the woman demands it, or because those are his instructions. He tears out the original and gives it to her, and keeps the duplicate in the book.
A return "Cash Sale" would be handled in a similar way.
Driver's Call Book
How would the driver know where to go, and what to ask for? The delivery department would write the instructions in his call book. Some stores combine the driver's credit book and the driver's call book, and argue in favor of the combination. There are also substantial arguments for the separate book. If there is a combination book, the driver tears out a voucher and gives it to the customer when he receives the goods.
Correct Address Book
When a driver goes to an address to deliver goods to a customer and finds that the customer has moved, if he is a good man he tries to find out the new address and if it is in the near locality, he verifies it. Possibly he knows the customer and knows that he is right in leaving the package at the new address. He reports back to the store a change of address, using for this purpose a book called the "Correct Address Book." Some stores call it a "Change of Address Book."
Driver's Toll or Incidental Book
If the driver's wagon was run into by a street car, or an automobile, or a truck, or his horse lost a shoe, or his delivery automobile punctured a tire, and had to be repaired before he could finish his delivering, or he had to spend money for any other legitimate purpose, such as tolls on a bridge, etc., would he pay it himself and trust to luck that he could get the money back from the delivery department? Yes, he would, but he would have the person receiving the money (excepting the matter of tolls, which the delivery department would know he would have to pay out, and would give him the money for it before starting) sign a receipt in his "Toll Book" or "Incidental Book" which would serve as a voucher or verification that he paid out the money legitimately and it would be honored by the delivery department on his return.
Before we proceed with the balance of this story, and just to indicate how your problems multiply the moment you touch a modern big store, you must stop to consider that the above description deals only with the delivery of goods by individual auto-mobiles, wagons, packet motorcycles, bicycles and special messengers direct from the store to each individual customer. Think of the problems that come up the moment you consider a place like New York, where a big store may have branch delivery stations at Brooklyn, Jersey City, Bronx, Portchester, Tarrytown, Staten Island, Long Island City, Jamaica and Hackensack.
The deliveries would be made to these sub-stations by means of a three to five ton motor truck, then distributed by wagons or light delivery trucks from the sub-stations. At the sub-stations there must be a stable, or garage, or a combination of both, and general facilities for sorting the packages and routing them according to their local destination.
From this hasty reference you can see that even the branch deliveries must be controlled by a perfect system, or there will be countless and costly complaints.