Dealing with a Debacle

As promised, here’s another “scary” post, in the interest of transparency!

So, I really enjoy sharing the times when I’ve done well on a project, but I feel that it’s only fair that I also share the complete debacles that I’ve had a hand in. Lucky for you, I happen to have a recent debacle that can actually provide some tips for fixing a screw up. Let’s take a look at the timeline and action steps, shall we?

10:33 pm: Ready to head to bed

10:38 pm: Receive text message from my boss that their shipment has not arrived at the hotel

10:39 pm: Kick into panic mode and call to find out the problem

10:45 pm: On hold with shipping company’s customer service

11:15 pm: Find out the physical address where package was delivered, Bing it, find out that it’s a hotel literally across the street from the correct hotel for delivery

11:20 pm: Call Wrong Hotel and ask if they’ve got our package, find out they had shipping company pick it up at 3:30 pm that day because when they called Correct Hotel, they were told there was no record of a guest by the name shown on the package (epic fail here as well, as this guest checked in the morning that the shipment was sent back, so at the time of the inquiry from Wrong Hotel, he was less than 24 hours from checking in at Correct Hotel)

11:30 pm: hold forever for shipping company customer service, find out that shipping company’s system doesn’t show that they’ve picked the package up to return to sender, they’re still showing it as “delivered”… AKA, sorry, we can’t help you

11:31 pm-2:00 am: Calling, texting, emailing, tracking online, generally running in circles to see where our package is currently located, and what we can do to get that package delivered to Correct Hotel by noon

7:15 am: arrive at the office to find out that the package is at a hub that is about 15 minutes away from Correct Hotel… SCORE

7:25 am:  shipping company won’t do an address correction because the package had special restrictions for delivery, so it must be picked up at their facility in person; also find out that it’s all my fault for putting the name of the Correct Hotel and guest, but the address of the Wrong Hotel

8:00 am: find out that the hub isn’t actually 15 minutes away, but an hour away; find out shipping company could try to re-deliver to Wrong Hotel, but can’t guarantee the shipment by noon

8:03 am: our in-house shipping expert arrives and sees the insanity in his inbox

8:10 am: in-house shipping expert pulls some strings to get a courier to pick up the shipment from the shipping company’s facility and deliver it to Correct Hotel


Whew, are you as stressed out and frustrated as I was? I bet not, and I hope you don’t ever find yourself in this type of situation. But the reality is, humans and software make mistakes, so let’s take a look at mitigating those mistakes.

Fast action. I panicked when I received the text that the shipment wasn’t at the hotel, and for about 5 minutes, I let the panic keep me from making an action plan to deal with the situation. Don’t let the panic take over… take a deep breath, put on your business brain, and make a plan for fast action. From the timeline, you’ll see that I was able to quickly find out what went wrong and where, which helped me begin to formulate a plan of action.

Bring in an expert. Dealing with a shipping issue is not my area of expertise, so as soon as I was able, I brought in an expert. This person was able to find a solution to the problem much faster than I was, and he used his connections to get things moving as soon as he walked in the office. While it’s good to try to handle things yourself if you are the person most available, bringing in an expert leads to a solution much faster. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as you’re really seeking a solution, not saving face, at this point.

Be open to alternatives. Again, when I was in panic-mode, I took a very narrow approach to solving the problem. I kept pushing one solution to the forefront, when there were many solutions available. When my first attempt at a solution failed, I snapped out of my tunnel-vision and decided that I should be open to ANY possible solution. When I brought in an expert, he came up with an alternative that I wouldn’t have thought about, which ended up being the correct solution to the problem. Don’t focus on being right, focus on making the situation right!

There’s no doubt that this shipment was a complete debacle. But, with quick action and cooperation, the shipment arrived in time.


3 thoughts on “Dealing with a Debacle

  1. Ashley, great post! I also let time slip away when panic sets in, so this is a good reminder to take a deep breath and start to think through things logically. Also, I’m loving your scary/transparent posts… the up front honesty really legitimizes you as a blogger. And, it’s given me the courage to write a full disclosure post myself, something I should have done weeks (months?) ago. I’ll send you the link when I’m done 🙂


  2. Great post! I definitely agree with your points, especially bring in the expert (or in some cases, defer to an expert). In my first PR internship, I accidentally sent a press release out to our media list without BCC–meaning 100+ local reporters got each others email addresses. I freaked out and started researching mail recall right away, but my boss figured that they were all reporters, many of their emails were public, and only one email recipient seemed to notice (and wasn’t mad), so I forgave myself for it, too (but never made that mistake again). Eek.


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