Fedex customer Jowel Kitawe faced a long, uphill battle to get a parcel that was sent to him as a Christmas gift from America.
Mr Kitawe said he couldn’t get anywhere with FedEx even though he visited their office near the airport four times and sent them numerous emails. Part of the problem was customs. But the bigger issue, he said, was the staff of FedEx and their call centre.
Mr Kitawe is the caretaker of an Apostolic church in Kalkfontein and the parcel was addressed to the bishop in Belhar.
“I received notification about the parcel on November 30 but when I called FedEx they said the parcel had arrived on November 2 (2016).
“In January, the call centre agent said it had been sent back to America, then they said the parcel was with customs and it was ‘beyond their control’. When I contacted them again, FedEx said the parcel had been destroyed because it had been there too long.
“Then the receptionist said I had to pay R610 for customs duty and VAT, which I wired to a FedEx account through the Bank of America,” Mr Kitawe said.
“Later I received an email to say that it takes 10 working days for the money to show on the FedEx account. Days elapsed then FedEx sent an email to say that customs did a random check at the offices and stopped my parcel because they needed receipts for the contents even though it was a gift of used clothing, and had been cleared previously although FedEx had told me it had been sent back to America.”
Mr Kitawe sent a long chain of correspondence. But he claimed, the FedEx staff weren’t at all helpful. So he went back to customs but they weren’t much use.
“Please help me get my parcel back. Luckily I have the tracking number. If I didn’t it would have been lost forever.”
It took a few days before I found someone at FedEx to help.
Ronel Kriek is the marketing manager in South Africa and she re-routed my message to Abby Bailey, communications manager, FedEx Express Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa, who responded promptly by email and telephonically, from Dubai where she is based.
“In all interactions with our customers, we aim to provide the highest level of service. The delay in releasing the shipment is because the customs requirements for information were not fulfilled by the customer, and is outside FedEx control.
“We will continue to work with Mr Kitawe so he can complete the required information, and resolve the issues with the shipment,” she said, but would give no other details, citing customer confidentiality.
Mr Kitawe said he had asked for a meeting with customs through FedEx “but they ignored my request”.
“It was only after you contacted them that they woke up. I had a meeting in the boardroom at Customs House with two customs officials and two FedEx staff members.
“It was all very professional and the Customs officials explained the procedure and showed me the package and opened it,” Mr Kitawe said.
“It was all very professional but the call centre agents were to blame. Everyone gave me a different story,” he said.
“Thank you, sir, I got my package. It was meant to be a Christmas gift but now it’s a present for Easter.
“I am still waiting to hear if customs will give me back some of the R3 000 I had to pay in for a parcel of old clothes that was no bigger than a shoe box. It will probably take another five months before I know.
“But thank you. You brought the coffee for the sugar.”
Ms Bailey said: “We’re glad to hear that Mr Kitawe is happy about receiving his shipment. I know our service teams have been working hard on his behalf to help him resolve this matter.”
Obviously, not hard enough. It took almost six months for him to get the package.
But perhaps there was some misunderstanding all round.