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DES GB2013 E

Time saved or lost? Efficiency and convenience are the main promises made by e-commerce. After all, 57% of respondents in DHL’s e-Com- merce 4.0 study considered it to be a real time-saver. That concurs with the famous “scream with delight” ad featuring an unfailingly smiling package delivery person bringing par- cels to euphoric online shoppers who always happen to be home when the doorbell rings. But aren’t digital buyers de- ceiving themselves? In real life the buying process is often quite different. High return rates and home delivery mistakes surely put a damper on any feelings of joy. More and more neighbours and managers have begun refusing to accept parcels for frequent orderers and spending Saturdays stand- ing in endless queues at the post office has become a na- tional sport. How convenient really is a weekend shopping trip with a bulky package under your arm? Not only that, but if the merchandise fails to live up to what its photo promised, the size is wrong or the item has a flaw, all the effort was in vain. Then you have to put everything back in the box, print out the return ticket and head to the parcel shop. Make no mistake – online shopping is extremely efficient in ideal circumstances. How likely these are to arise depends on the product. For mailbox-sized books the chances are good, but the same cannot be said about frequently ex- changed fashions arriving in large boxes. Since it would be better from an economic, environmental and service per- spective if the postman only had to ring once, delivery ser- vices are working hard to come up with solutions. Pack and pick-up station networks are becoming denser, parcel box- es are being installed in front gardens and delivery appoint- ments are arranged in advance. Yet, depending on the ser- vice used, this increases the cost of delivery for customers. N Check before placing an order. Only people who know ex- actly what they are getting and have made arrangements to receive their parcels save time by buying online. Job motor or parcel slaves? Logistics centres are popping up all over Germany, and par- cel services are expanding. While the country’s largest on- line retailer refuses to specify how many people it employs, around 14,000 seasonal workers were helping the compa- ny cope with order peaks at the end of the year. On the bus- iest days, up to 450,000 items are packed at fulfilment cen- tres that can be as large as eleven football pitches. That clearly positions e-commerce closer to industry than to tra- ditional retailing. The price for this amazing logistical achievement is paid not least by its employees. The market leaders repeatedly come under fire for putting enormous pressure on workers to perform and paying meagre wages. For anybody who considers the ARD report en- titled “Ausgeliefert!” (a German word that can mean both “delivered” and “at somebody’s mercy”) too sensationalistic might find that the documentary by BBC reporter Adam Littler paints a more realistic picture. Littler is a jour- nalist who had a temp job working at the British branch of a large U.S. mail order company during the Christmas season. There he rushed around spacious halls, sometimes covering distances of up to 17  km every night. He climbed steep metal ladders in oc- casionally dark hallways to scan ordered merchandise and load it into his cart. And because workers are tasked with packaging up to 110 products every hour, it all has to happen in seconds. If they miss their target, a report is filed. Inter- connected scanners display real-time perfor- mance curves to the line manager. If perfor- mance drops, the manager recommends an energy drink. Calling in sick will earn an em- ployee one penalty point, coming in two min- utes late is worth half a point. At two points, the On the busiest days, up to 450,000 items are packed at fulfil- ment centres that can be as large as eleven football pitches. DEUTSCHEEUROSHOPANNUALREPORT2013/SHOPPING 024

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