Two messy kittens and a missing EDI 214
I don’t blame EDI for failures in logistics any more than I blame kittens for messing up my floor. I only got Sam and Toby a day ago, but they’re the cutest balls of fuzz ever to grow legs and they jumped straight into my heart. Still, as I’m staring at the puddle on my floor, I’m convinced that there's a design flaw in their digestive system. I don’t remember their breakfast being this chunky, or this sticky. Sputter gunk kittens are a new experience for me, so I call a friend and she recommends a steam cleaner.
There’s a store that sells steam cleaners about a thirty-minute drive from here, but that means I’d have to leave the kittens alone and I don’t want to do that. After a short search, I find an online store with same-day delivery, called Howard’s House of Cleanliness—How Clean, for short. They sell steam cleaners they do not own. That’s not a scam; it’s dropshipping and it’s a marvel of online logistics.
Traditionally, How Clean would order a whole bunch of steam cleaners from Vaporware and keep them in their own warehouse. Then, if I order one, How Clean would ship it to me.
In the case of dropshipping, the steam cleaners don’t need to go to How Clean’s warehouse.
This is convenient for How Clean, because they don’t have to order a bunch of steam cleaners up front in the hope of selling them. It’s convenient for Vaporware, because they don’t have to open an online shop and deal with customers. And customers don’t even notice, unless something goes wrong.
Toby is finding out that gravity doesn’t always work in his favor. A monstera is a good house plant for decoration, but not so much for climbing. It’s certainly not strong enough to carry his full weight.
My floor is now decorated with one cat, one plant, and a lot of dirt, so I check my email. Toby gets up, a little confused. He knows where the plant came from, of course, but the dirt is new to him. I hit refresh; nothing. He decides to do some digging and discovers that underneath all the dirt is more dirt. Refresh, refresh, refresh; nothing, nothing, nothing. Sam joins in. To her, the unpotted plant is more of an artwork than a research project and the carpet is her canvas. I need a drink. The steam cleaner should’ve shipped by now, but apparently How Clean can’t be bothered to send me a confirmation. It’s time to give them a call. Of course, now I’m on hold.
That’s how it should work.
Sam has found a spot near the window in the warm sunlight and starts dancing with her own shadow. Toby looks at her from across the room and is content observing the merriment, but that won’t do for Sam. She wants him to join in the fun. She runs over to him and on the way, she knocks over my drink.
“Do you have kittens?”
“No sir, we don’t sell pets.”
“You sell steam cleaners, though, don’t you? I need my steam cleaner.”
Mira pulls up my record.
“That one hasn’t shipped yet.”
“It’s supposed to arrive today. Will it arrive today? I need it today.”
“Let me check. Oh, that’s odd: no delivery date. I don’t know yet. Perhaps if you ask again later.”
“How much later?”
“If you call me tomorrow, I should have an answer for you.”
“Well, tomorrow I don’t really need your help to figure out if it arrived today.”
“Oh no, sir, you’re right.”
Mira laughs. I don’t know why. I decide to make myself another drink, but then I think better off it.
“You know what, just cancel my order. I’ll get it somewhere else.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to cancel it. Maybe because it hasn’t shipped yet.”
“Wouldn’t it be more difficult to cancel it after it has shipped?”
Mira promises to keep an eye on my order and cancel it when she can.
“You’ll get your refund, sir, don’t worry.”
I don’t want a refund; I want my steam cleaner. I grab a roll of paper towels and try to get rid of the puddle. Sam grabs the end of the roll with her mouth, gives it a tug, then offers it to me. Someone messed up here and it isn’t my kittens.
How Clean’s website works, otherwise Mira wouldn’t have been able to pull up my details. Maybe they didn’t place the order with Vaporware. Or maybe the order picker at Vaporware got lost in their own warehouse. I don’t know, but someone didn’t send the document they were supposed to.
They’ll probably blame EDI; that’s what they always do. That’s wrong, though. EDI tells you what a document should look like; it’s not responsible for making sure the document arrives.
The paper towels have turned into papier mache. Enough! I put on my coat and grab my car keys. The kittens can manage for an hour, because whatever the state of my floor and my plant and my drink, Sam and Toby are just fine. Then I notice the clock and I realize: the store is closed. There’s nothing left for me to do.
I still want to know what went wrong. Maybe I can call Vaporware. No phone number, but I do have their address now. I know where that is; that’s not an industrial area. Judging from Street View, Vaporware is a pretty small business. That would explain— Is that the doorbell?
“It’s here,” I say.
“Let me check,” Mira says.
“There’s no need to check; it’s here.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“No sir, I’m looking right at my computer screen and it clearly says it isn’t.”
“And I’m looking right at my steam cleaner and it clearly is. It’s here!”
“Well, it’s not supposed to be.”
“You and I disagree on that one.”
“Are you sure it’s the steam cleaner you ordered from us?”
“It’s not like I ordered steam cleaners from five different— It doesn’t matter. Could you please just cancel the cancellation, so that you get properly paid?”
“I can’t find the button for canceling a cancellation.”
“But I’ll figure it out.”
“Before you go, sir, one more thing. Seeing that this kind of concludes your order and all that, I wanted to ask you a question.”
“Are you satisfied with your new steam cleaner?”
That was yesterday. Today, I’m watching how Toby discovers that a water bowl isn't just for drinking. At the same time, Sam indulges her creativity with some paw painting. It’s fine. There’s no mess they can make that my steam cleaner can’t handle. I sit down on the couch with my drink and then the doorbell rings.
My best guess is that Mira didn’t figure out how to undo the cancellation and, to be on the safe side, she put in another order for me. EDI can’t fix a broken system, nor can it prevent human error. If you’ve enriched your life with kittens, or puppies, or gerbils and you now find yourself in the market for a top-of-the-line steam cleaner, don’t order one from Howard’s House of Cleanliness. Just drop me a line; I have a spare.
EDI Reference provides users with documentation on all transaction sets, segments, and elements of every X12 release, and all message types, segments and elements of every EDIFACT version.
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