What Can’t Be Automated

Here’s why it’s important to have smart humans at some point in the chain.

I just received this email from FlowersDirect, a UK online flower delivery service, which I use quite a bit. Too much, as it turns out:

Many thanks for your recent order. However, there appears to be two very similar orders on our system, the first is order xxxx , a ‘thank you Mum’ chocolates and flowers being delivered to Mrs. R. Wagstaff on 26th March 2006. The second is order ref xxxxx, a lilacs & limes Bouquet also being delivered to Mrs. R. Wagstaff on 25th March 2006.

Please could you contact us as soon as possible either via return e-mail or on xxxxxx to either confirm that both orders are required, or that one is surplus to requirement?

Mothering Sunday, for those of you not aware we Brits celebrate our mothers at a different time of year to everyone else, is the last weekend in March. (Another great thing about FlowersDirect is that they remind you of this, more than a month in advance. My Mothering Sunday Miss Rate has declined dramatically since I started ordering from them.)

FdAnyway, they were right. I couldn’t find confirmation of my earlier order so assumed it hadn’t gone through, or I had placed it only in my fevered imagination. In a normal, busy world where everything possible is automated, this excessive ordering on my part would not have been spotted, or might have been spotted but not triggered any employee concern that it was, in their charming phrase, “surplus to requirement”. Most companies would have just gone ahead and delivered two sets of flowers, which might have delighted my mother, and possibly got my brother off the hook, since he could have claimed one of them was his.

But they didn’t. They checked back with me first. After all it would have looked a tad indulgent on my part to have double-bouqueted my mother and would have set a dangerous precedent. (“You gave me two bunches last year! Why not this year? Don’t you love your own mother anymore?”)

So now all I have to decide is which one to keep and which one to cancel. Chocolates and flowers or lilics and limes. Hmmm.

17. March 2006 by jeremy
Categories: E-commerce, Internet life | Tags: , , , , | 7 comments

Comments (7)

  1. Go for the chocolates, laddie!

  2. No, no, no. Go for the lilacs and limes. And send me the chocolates.

  3. What makes you think it wasn’t a smart computer program that caught the duplicate?

  4. I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t a program that caught the duplication. (With the number of orders they process, I doubt a human would have seen it in time.) However, the program was written by humans based on requirements generated by humans. But I’ll bet it wasn’t in the original requirements. 😉

  5. Hi Jeremy, just to clear things up, as part of our fraud prevention initiative, every card used more than once for payment is ‘flagged’ for a closer look. This is when we spot duplicate orders. We aim to keep all our customers happy and would rather send what was required rather than what we can get out of them. Thanks for your kind blog and i/we hope you will continue to use Flowers Direct in the future.

    kind regards, Dave T.

  6. Interesting views,I tried that before and i choose to keep the Chocolates and flowers than to lilacs and limes.chocolates and flowers much sweeter than the other one, thanks for posting this, keep it up!

    -khatie-

  7. Well, for me it is better to became automated when it comes of ordering and delivering flowers. For a busy person like me it helps a lot. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    -fern-