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Orders only deliver more problems

The never-ending troubles that have dogged his spring deliveries leave Martin Jones frustrated

Is my store suffering from the curse of the TNT driver, or has anyone else had problems with deliveries this spring?

There have been late deliveries, no deliveries, letters of cancellation just days before the goods were due to arrive, blue fabrics have become brown, and regular fits have become long. It seems that everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.

And of course this is only part of the problem when you take into account the time involved to sort out the mistakes and shortages. The person you need to speak to is invariably 'out of the office', 'on holiday' or 'on the other line'. Then we have to scurry about desperately seeking the original packaging materials in order to return the goods, which seem to have been hanging around our stock room for ages awaiting collection by the aforementioned carriers.

Brands such as Magee have a simple style name and a five-digit number to identify a garment, whereas in continental Europe they love their data, with form, article, cloth, shade and customer numbers all printed on their garment tickets. I wouldn't mind if all this data made them more efficient, but it is usually the firms that take simple details who seem to get it right.

But on the whole, delivery drivers are an understanding breed. We have trained ours to accept that we don't count 'sets', we count hangers, and the argument that they are parked on double yellow lines or blocking the path of a fire engine racing to a fire does not pressure us into scribbling a quick signature on their delivery sheets. We have been caught out by carelessness in the past, and now they accept that everything has to be checked before signing.

However, I'm sometimes surprised we get deliveries at all. It is a long and arduous process to place orders these days, particularly the odd 'specials' over the phone. So many questions are asked, so much to remember. It goes something like this: "What's your name? Are you trade or mail order? What's your account number? What's your postcode? Can you confirm your address? Can we have an order reference - and no, it can't be your name..." And when they get all your details on screen, it turns out that the garment you need is out of stock.

On a recent request for a repeat order, having gone through the torturous process above, I was indeed informed that the item was out of stock. I was also told that my order could not be accepted by telephone and that I would have to fax it. On replying that I would do so, I was then informed that they could not accept orders for goods that were out of stock and therefore I would have to wait until the new stock arrived. However, they could not tell me when that would be. Arrgh...

A shadow has just darkened the shop doorway. That must be a delivery van. I wonder what problems it will bring us today?

- Martin Jones is the manager of menswear store Vaughan-Davies in Mold, north Wales.

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