How long is a day? Generally speaking, we say a day is twenty-four hours. Scientifically speaking, a day is 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds. When is a day not a day? Apparently when shipping companies are involved.
I recently placed an order with a large Internet company. Let’s call them Yangtze. And I have their annual subscription shipping service. Let’s call that Fibonacci. With Fibonacci you get free two-day shipping on in-stock items. I adore Fibonacci, and I often shop with Yangtze because of the convenience of having my purchases show up at my door in a brown box with the distinctive tape on it that says 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 . . .
Last week, I placed an order for two mundane items: breakfast cookies (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk, yum) and a new case for my cell phone. The old one had finally fallen apart, and duct tape was no longer working to hold it together (even duct tape has its limits). The Yangtze interface said that my items were in stock. I put them in my basket and checked out. The shipping information said I would receive my package on Wednesday. The items had said they were eligible for two-day shipping, so I thought that was weird. By my count, they would arrive on Tuesday. But I figured I’d ask Yangtze Customer Care (YCC) about it after I placed the order. It wasn’t a big deal; I didn’t need the breakfast cookies, and the cell phone case and I could limp along for another day. It was just a curiosity thing—after all that’s what this blog is about. I finished checking out and immediately opened a chat window with YCC.
Full disclosure: I’m a night owl. I placed my Yangtze order at 1:45 a.m. on Friday (the hours between Thursday night and the Friday business day). So at 1:50, I asked my YCC person to explain why my package was going to take until Wednesday to arrive. Our (very polite) conversation went something like this (edited for length/punctuation):
YCC: You need to place an order before the cutoff time to receive the order with two day shipping. As the carriers won’t be working on Saturdays and Sundays, it takes time for the package to be delivered.
Me: But even taking that into account, there is Friday and Monday, so it should arrive Tuesday at the latest, not Wednesday.
YCC: The cutoff time is over so if you place the order now, the two day shipping will be considered from Monday, i.e., Monday and Tuesday, so you will be receiving the order by Wednesday.
Me: So basically, even though we are only 2 hours into Friday, with an entire business day left, you don’t count it?
YCC: You need to place the order before Thursday to get the two day shipping by Saturday.
I explain again that I wasn’t expecting Saturday delivery, nor was I counting the weekend in my reckoning of two business days. But if they count Saturday for regular delivery, then shouldn’t my package arrive on Monday? I didn’t even want to ask that!
Me: But there is still plenty of Friday left.
In fact, for those keeping track, there were still more than seven hours before the start of the business day on Friday.
YCC: If the carriers would have been available we would have happily shipped the packages for you. Carriers won’t be working on Saturdays and Sundays.
We went around like an Abbott and Costello routine a few more times, and she offered to pass my feedback along to the higher ups, which I agreed to, but ultimately we ended the chat because we weren’t getting anywhere. And I was still getting my stuff on Wednesday.
When the chat transcript was emailed to me, I noticed that the chat was time-stamped in Pacific Standard Time. It was still Thursday where she was while we were chatting. I briefly wondered when my package would have arrived if she had placed the order, but it made my head hurt.
Then, the next morning (but time-stamped 2:55 a.m.!), I received an email from Yangtze. It informed me if I wanted to order that late and still wanted my package to arrive on Saturday, I’d have to pay for shipping. Otherwise to get Saturday delivery, I’d have to order before the cutoff time on Thursday to get it delivered for two-day on Saturday.
So at least two people at Yangtze agree Saturdays count for two-day Fibonacci delivery if you order before Friday, but Saturdays don’t count if you order on Friday. And Fridays don’t count either if you order on one. It’s a good thing Fibonacci two-day shipping only is valid in the United States. I think Fibonacci shipping across the International Dateline would open a rift in the space-time continuum. Perhaps it is my fault. My whole life I’ve probably been wrong for counting the 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds of Friday in my week. Although, frankly if we have to not count a day, I’d prefer to give up Monday. I think most people would agree with me on this.
And just when I’d resigned myself to Yangtze’s fuzzy math on day counting, my package arrived.
Text: ©Rebecca Bigelow; Photo: Public Domain
An Update (2/14/16): A couple of weeks later, I placed another mundane order on a Thursday night, but this time it was a couple hours before midnight instead of after. That package arrived on Monday. I believe I will build a Time Machine in the garage (assuming I can ever get work space in there), because that will be easier to figure out than Yangtze’s shipping policies.