A review of ShopMate – Australia Post’s US shipping service

Screenshot of shopmate.auspost.com.au
We Aussies live on an island in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes that makes getting things from other countries a little tough. Just before Christmas, I wanted to buy myself a Kindle Oasis from Amazon! Normally this wouldn’t be too much of an issue, however Amazon suffered a bug where the site refused to ship Kindles to AU addresses temporarily.

Having recently heard of AusPost’s ShopMate service, which is largely similar to MyUS, Stackry and Reship, I thought I would give them a go, as obviously AusPost is an Australian company.

I placed my order, got the item shipped to the ‘Virtual’ US address provided by ShopMate, and thought I was on the way. After the item had been marked as delivered by Amazon, I went 24 hours, then 48 hours and heading on 72 hours when I started to worry. The item had been signed for, however I couldn’t see any details on my ShopMate account. I started hunting around on the internet and found a large number of scathing reviews about issues people have had with the service already, and began to get worried.

Before I go on, let me say that in the end, I got my package and I got it on the time that was promised, however, I was largely exposed to some of the rather fatal flaws in the system. I was one of the lucky ones, and there are some things that I learned which I will certainly be keeping in mind in my ‘risk assessment’ of whether I choose to use ShopMate again. I thought it would be good to do this review of ShopMate to ensure others could keep this in mind should they wish to use the service themselves.

Some of the issues I encountered include:

  • There are no direct contact details for ShopMate in the US, all you get is an email address.
  • The email address creates an enquiry with Australia Post here in AU, they have to manually intervene and liaise as a go-between for the customer to ShopMate US.
  • My enquiry was escalated to ShopMate US and I got a phone call from them, alas I just missed the phone call, they said they would email me, to which the email never arrived. It appears that the email was definitely sent and never arrived. (For those wondering, I run my own webservers and checked all the logs, no connection attempt was ever received from an Australia Post server at or around the time and date which matched the parameters of the email they sent… hence, it definitely didn’t end up in my Spam folder. I provided this detail and offered my expertise to troubleshoot, the offer I extended was never followed up).
  • This whole process resulted in me having to call back, wait on hold, and have the email then read out to me. I was informed I could not have a direct line of contact with ShopMate in the US, the information I received really gave me no new information other than ‘we have to wait, it should be here, but we have a backlog’.
  • The Australia Post team skirted around the question repeatedly as to whether the person that signed for my package actually worked for ShopMate in the US. It was a simple question requesting validation of the name of the person that signed for the package, to this date they never answered in the positive or negative and seemingly avoided the question which I asked numerous times.
  • During the time waiting, I found some rather unusual statements on the ShopMate website FAQ page including: ‘Delivery issues have been identified across the US delivery providers with parcels being delivered to incorrect addresses (not the ShopMate USA warehouse).’ which was rather concerning. Also the page states that goods that can’t be delivered include ‘dangerous or prohibited items as determined by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. These commonly include perfume, items containing lithium-ion batteries, ink cartridges and aerosols.’ Generally I would say that is fair, however, from what I could find, this list does not completely match the official details as described on the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service site. This seems like a dangerous catch-all that could be used as a fallback when in fact, it is not true in all cases. It may simply be inaccurate if instead it should refer to any limitations imposed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (which doesn’t appear to restrict Australia Post directly) or Australia Post’s own, seemingly self-imposed restrictions.
  • Finally the tracking (or lack thereof), when my parcel was finally found, and forwarded on by ShopMate, it spent a week in limbo with no other scans or tracking available. Australia Post were unable to tell me anything about the package because ‘the package is sent via another carrier and we have no visibility of that until it reaches Australia Post here in Australia’. Hold the phone… ShopMate is an AusPost service, and they consider it to essentially be ‘external’ to them for which they have no visibility. This really summed up how the whole experience had been and does not leave me feeling that my package was in good hands.

I give kudos to the team here in Australia, they did everything that they could with very little (read as no) information available. To be honest, given the distinct externalisation of the service from Australia Post, I feel this carries a higher level of risk than using one of the other dedicated international carriers that would use something like UPS or FedEx to get the package to you.

Would I use the service again? In it’s current state I would say no, the website, the service, the support are all far too segmented to provide any real benefit (if you are reading this Australia Post, how about bringing up my Parcel Collect addresses as addresses in the ShopMate site). While my package arrived on-time, it was a snafu of it being missing with no information and waiting in the hope that it would appear. I can certainly see how many people have been stung with things being lost, unable to get support and being sent round and round in circles with ‘Please contact the merchant you purchased it from to make sure it was delivered correctly’.

Perhaps given time, Australia Post will work out some of these teething issues, improve the integration and improve access to customer service so that you can get rapid access to the US team that actually know what is happening with your package. Until then, buyer beware, have a read of some of the reviews, there are a couple of happy campers but many many unhappy people. You must always remember that people will complain when things go wrong and rarely praise, however there are already a LOT of unhappy customers.

Just my 2C, hope these things can be fixed up with time!

Telstra meets Kitty Smalls! – Social media done right!

Picture this, I am sitting at home, in need of some laughs and I begin to see an exchange between one of my great friends and Telstra’s social media team. I first met Laura as the owner of the Woo! social club and have since had many an opportunity to get to know her. What I can say is… this exchange between her and Renee from the Telstra social media team really does just show her personality perfectly and had me in stitches. Most of all, aside from being amazingly hilarious, it really does show how a company can engage with customers by social media and let their staff members personality shine through to truly engage with the customer.

Kudos to Laura and I hope Renee can get it fixed for you in the near future!

[Updated: June 5, 2016 9:41 PM – More fun content added! The saga continues (much to our dismay and entertainment).]

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 1 - Kitty Smalls plays Poker

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 2 - Vino for Kitty

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 3 - Kitty Smalls Gets Lei'd

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 1 - Kitty Smalls goes for a walk

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 5 - Kitty Smalls has had enough

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 6 - Kitty Smalls has had enough

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 7 - Kitty Smalls just wants no error message

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 8 - Kitty Smalls resorts to pictionary

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 9 - Kitty Smalls stalks Laura

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 10 - Kitty Smalls gets a interwebs dongle

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 11 - Kitty Smalls is out of data

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 12 - Kitty Smalls is sad

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 13 - Kitty Smalls Poses with Laura

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 14 - Kitty Smalls does YOGA

Kitty Smalls Vs Telstra Part 15 - Kitty Smalls battens down the hatches

Petrol other than 95 RON for Piaggio BV 350 (Beverly) scooters

So I have recently become the happy owner of a shiny new Piaggio BV 350 (Beverly) scooter. She is an absolute JOY to ride, but will cover more of that in a future post.

For the time being we are here do discuss petrol. As I am planning a trip through country NSW and country Victoria here in Australia in a few months, I have been researching what petrol I am likely to have access to. Unfortunately however, for the Australian BV 350s, the manual only specifies 95 RON/octane (premium) petrol, which is often not available in country towns.

Therefore I had to contact the local importer for a bit more detail. I thought I would share what they have said so that hopefully it may help others figure out their options when they are unable to source 95 RON petrol.

Thanks for your message.  95 RON is the recommended minimum octane rating.  Most fuels identified as “premium” are 95 RON and are widely available.  Higher grades such as any 98 RON Vpower / Ultimate / Vortex etc. are perfectly fine and fuel with some ethanol is even acceptable  provided it has no more than 10%.  You can use 91 RON if that’s all there is provided the bike is not too heavily loaded, however you should top up with premium as soon as it’s available.  Prolonged use of fuel with an octane rating below the recommended level can damage the engine, particular in hot conditions, and/or when the engine load is high.

Also remember to check your coolant and oil level regularly when travelling long distances.  The oil level check must be made with the bike on the centre stand after the engine has been stopped for 5-10 minutes. The correct level is seen when the stick is screwed all the way in.  Do not over-fill.  The level must be between the upper and lower marks on the stick.

So 🙂 I hope this helps someone else out, obviously if you are international I would always recommend you check with your local importer *JUST* to be safe (haha have to cover myself there).

Stu