Daniel Von Fange

Life, Code, and Cool Stuff

FedEx Get a Clue, Please.

RAWR! I’ve spent the afternoon working over the phone with two techs on our FedEx system. Still no solution. As a parting shot before hanging up, the official FedEx dude recommended that I replace the modem - the same modem that he is connecting successfully through with PCAnyware. So now I have to reinstall FedEx Server since they ran out of ideas, and then call them back.

FedEx Server is the cruftiest thing imaginable. It’s three purposes in life are to ask the main fedex server on behalf of your application how much a package will cost to ship, ship a package, or track a package. Simple right? Not in their opinion. There are 48 executable programs, over 1,500 files, and twelve top-level directories in the FedEx program’s folder. Total Cruft. Oh, and did I mention that it does not even ship FedEx Ground? Or that installing the software to ship FedEx ground destroys FedEx Shipmanager Server?

I’d say about once a month something goes wrong with it and then it’s a day or two battle to get it working while wasting hours of multiple people time. Inevitably, the FedEx guys have no clue about what is wrong. They poke around and change lots of numbers, and inevitably mess something up that we don’t find out about for a month. When things start messing up, the whole cycle begins again.

Either the tech today had no idea of the fundamental, most basic rule of debugging - divide you problem - or the FedEx system is not able to handle it. He just treated it like a black voodo box. Change a number, disconnect from my computer, tell the other tech to tell me to retry dialing, wait three minutes for it to time out, and then repeat twenty minutes after we started. Not once did he try to see what the modem was really doing, or where the problem actually was occurring.

UPS actually has a good system for this, but we don’t ship UPS anymore. Unlike UPS, FedEx, does not delight in smashing your boxes, losing your shipments and refusing to pay for them, insisting on picking up a day’s shipments at 9am, or calling you up weekly for months threatening legal action for non-payment of a paid invoice and ignore all faxes of the check used to pay it. Nope, we cannot ship UPS. We’ve tried again several times, and gotten burned badly each time.

If I were the head of Fed-Ex, I would immediately copy UPS’s XML based World Ship system. While it’s not perfect, it’s simple enough. Hundreds of programs support shipping with UPS, and it would only take the developers of them a few hours to change their software over to ship with both UPS and Fed-Ex. With the increasing importance of tying the world’s software together, Fed-Ex may get beaten up by it’s inferior in shipping if FedEx does not do something soon to fix it’s horrible shipping software / protocols.