Casco Bay Furniture – An Interview with a Home Delivery Expert

Most of us don’t realize all that is involved in the delivering furniture over long distances and having it arrive in perfect condition. I decided to call Rick, the general manager of one of the two home delivery companies we use at Casco Bay Furniture.

Rick, how did you learn about the furniture home delivery business?
I first learned the business at Sun Delivery, which today is considered one of the largest of the home delivery companies. In total, I’ve been in the home delivery business for 18 years. During that time, I’ve done just about everything from driving trucks and delivering furniture, to owning my own delivery business to my present position as general manager of a small, family owned delivery company located in High Point,, North Carolina. Coincidently, several home delivery companies are located in this area.

What is special about the company you work for?
The company that I work for delivers all the eastern orders of Casco Bay Furniture…east of Texas that is. Our company is very service oriented and hands-on. We only have five trucks, all straight trucks from 35 feet to 45 feet. We pick up every order ourselves, our drivers load their own trucks (also by hand) and those same drivers deliver and set up the customer’s orders in their homes. As a result, it is an extremely rare occurrence for us to have delivery damage. I am not saying it never happens, but it’s not often.

Deciding which order goes where, on which truck, seems like a daunting task. How do you do it?
It’s not that difficult, especially if you have been doing it for as many years as I have. We have to be very organized. Here is how the process goes:

To begin with, the manufacturers of our retailers will notify us when we have an order to pick up. As a rule we do pickups once a week. As a rule we pick up the orders for Casco Bay Furniture on Thursdays.

After the orders arrive back at our warehouse, we unload the truck and place them in the warehouse and each order is assigned a location code so that we know where everything is. We don’t store our orders by geographic location. Remember I told you we were hands on.

In our office we have a series of files that we set up by geographic location or loads we will build. We also know the cubic feet of the truck to be loaded. For example, a 35’ truck can handle about 2000 cubic feet of furniture and a 40’ truck can take about 2500 cubic feet of furniture. Once the furniture is “cubed out” and when we have the right amount of freight for that truck, we call the customers for an appointment.

If we can’t get a customer on the phone after several attempts and after talking to the store to see if they can help, we have to hold that order until our next trip. We can’t load an order until we have a confirmed appointment. It’s just too costly to run trucks. These trucks only get a few miles to the gallons, plus we have two drivers and all the associate expenses that go along with running a truck.

After the appointments are confirmed and the truck has its finally routing, we then have our warehouse staff pull the orders and stage them in front of the truck.

Do you unwrap your orders prior to loading?
There are two opinions on this. Sun Delivery, for example, unwraps each item, inspects it, and then pad-wraps each item with blanket wrap and tape. This has advantages and disadvantages. The advantageis you can inspect each item and you can fit more items on the truck. The disadvantage, in my opinion, is that you are more likely to have damage. Richard, the sofas at Casco Bay Furniture are extremely well wrapped with cardboard trays, foam wrap, corrugated padding, and heavy duty plastic wrap. We think the furniture is more protected in the factory wrap, so don’t unwrap it.

What happens next?
At our company our drivers load their own trucks. We do this for several reasons. To begin with, the drivers know where everything is and, most importantly, they “own” their loads and treat the customer’s orders with a lot of respect.

How do the drivers know where they are going?
Each truck has two drivers and each truck has a manifest outlining the route and GPS to know where they are going.

How do you decide which drivers go on which routes?
Our drivers are like family and each set of drivers have a route they prefer. Leo, for example, likes to go to the Northeast. The customers in the Northeast are the most demanding, but they also tip the most. Each driver can have a few hundred dollars in tips after a trip. This money is important to the drivers. Monte likes to go to Florida, as he likes warm weather and most of the homes are on one level.

The cities can be difficult. If you drive in NYC, for example, parking is difficult and you have about a 50% chance of getting a ticket. Then you have elevators, narrow hallways and building regulations. Some might like a route as they have family members along the way and they like the opportunity to stop and say hi.

How are most customers to work with?
Most customers are great. They are excited about their new furniture. It’s sort of like Christmas to them. Occasionally you have an unreasonable customer. Usually if there is an issue, it has started in the office. For example, the load to their area might have been slow in filling and their order was delayed.

Rick what’s the worst call to make?
Without a doubt the worst call to make is when an order gets left off a load where the customer had a confirmed appointment.

Rick how can this happen?
We do our best estimate to load the truck based on a variety of factors such as cubic feet, but sometimes,in spite of our best efforts,something might get left off the back of the truck. The truck is full. We don’t want to over pack and that last order just didn’t fit. We have to call that customer. For the most part, that customer is pretty disappointed, as they will have to wait for the next truck which can be 2 or 3 weeks out. We try to find another carrier, if the customer can’t wait.

Is the job tiring?
It can be very tiring especially by the last day. Most of our trips are four days and by day four you are ready to get home and see your family. Trips to the West coast, which we don’t run, can be as long as 14 days on the road.

Any other thoughts?
Every day when I come to work I never know what to expect. A truck can break down. A customer can be upset. But I’ll tell you this, when we have a happy customer and they let us know…well, let’s just say, “It’s nice to be appreciated”. My reputation means a lot to me. I don’t make promises I can’t keep, even if what I tell the customer is not what they want to hear. A damage-free delivery is what’s most important, even if it means your delivery may take a little longer than expected. I know that’s what you expect at Casco Bay Furniture, a damage free delivery. If you have any questions please call Casco Bay Furniture directly at 207-272-0557.

Rick, this has been very interesting. Thank you.

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