The customer is not always (b)right: measure for measure
I’ve measured it from side to side:
‘Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.
The Thorn, William Wordsworth
Wordsworth later realised that the above lines about a muddy pond may not have been his finest poetic moment and wisely changed them. However, what he had at least understood was a principle of measuring an object – that generally the length is the longest of the two measurements.
Occasionally, however, the opposite applies. A few weeks ago, I took a call from a woman who needed boxes to post some books of a particular size. I can’t remember the exact dimensions, but let’s say they were 220mm long and 300mm wide. The point is that they were wider than they were long; or, to put it another way, they were in landscape format, rather than portrait.
She’d taken a look at our website and couldn’t find a book box that would work.
Now, I don’t know all the sizes we stock off by heart, but they did not sound like unreasonably large books, so I was a bit surprised she was having problems. I picked one of our products at random – I think it was our Brown Econobook Boxes with an adhesive strip – and my eyes fell immediately on a box that had internal dimensions of 330 x 250mm. When we give the dimensions of a box on our website, like Wordsworth we put the longest side first and call it the length. The quicker among you may already have worked out where we’re going with this.
I informed the customer of my discovery and was met with a polite but slightly impatient dismissal. “It’s not wide enough,” she said, or words to that effect.
Looking at it another way…
There was a bit of a pause while she presumably waited for my next suggestion and I wondered how I could point out her error in a way that would let her think it was the sort of mistake anyone could make. At the point that the silence was starting to become embarrassing, I realised I needed to say something.
“You could try turning the book around,” I said.
“No, but…”, she started to say, then ground to a halt. There followed another brief silence while the truth sank in. Eventually an embarrassed laugh came down the line. “Oh, yes, I see.” She laughed again. “Um, okay, I need to take another look…” At which point she hung up.
As I didn’t take her name I have no idea whether she did come back to us or not. I hope she did, as with one of the largest selections of book boxes and book wraps available, we’d have had something more than capable of comfortably fitting her book, no matter which way round she put it. Also, although it was a little on the stupid side, I’m sure she was just having a moment; after all, even the great Wordsworth could get it badly wrong sometimes.
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