HOW SNAPCHAT (AND CANADA POST) SAVED THE DAY WITH OUR CROSS-CANADA ROAD TRIP.

An Important Package

Off in the distance along the gravel road we saw a truck turn the corner towards us and for a moment I had a rush of hope. We were driving away from my in-laws home in Prince Edward Island, having given up on my important package finally arriving. We were about to begin our return trip from PEI all the way back to Vancouver in our little Prius. The FedEx logo on the truck in the distance filled me with a mix of angst and exhilaration.

As we pulled up along side them we anxiously flagged them down. They could barely hear us (and vice versa) as our little rescue dog Rosie, who like many rescue dogs is scared of everything, barked at the Fed Ex drivers from her back seat pillow zone.

Did they have my precious cargo on their truck? Let me first explain why I cared so much.

The Beginning

I got a pair of Snapchat Spectacles in April.

They weren’t available for delivery in Canada yet so we drove out to Point Roberts, Washington from Vancouver, BC to pick them up from a PO box company there. A thriving business in that small town by the way. Well actually to be accurate I waited in a Starbucks in Delta, BC while Mari drove across the border because i needed to renew my passport.

I had a feeling these video camera sunglasses would be a very useful tool to have to document our cross Canada tour as we went for walks and runs in amazing places and connected with amazing people. Short little point of view fisheye videos at the push of a button…cool! For a social media junkie like me that was pretty exciting.

It turned out I did love them and used them all the time. In fact I used them so much that sometimes I would instinctively touch the side of my face to try to shoot a video even when i wasn’t wearing them. Kinda like when you try to click on your laptop screen because you’ve gotten so used to using an iPad or something. Have you done that?

Am I Too Old For Specatcles?

My co-workers joked that I was too old to be on Snapchat. One even shared this gif with me.

Ironically on my 40th birthday my Spectacles stopped working. I wondered if this was something hard coded into Snap Inc’s products, to self destruct when you get too old. Seemed plausible for the social media site young people are most likely to use. The Spectacles still basically a product in beta at the moment, not that long ago they were only available in pop up shop vending machines as a special promotion. So I wasn’t surprised that they had issues.

I checked out the website and they had a replacement policy and a form to fill out for your replacement shipping information. Cool. Because they only delivered to the USA I set up the replacement Spec’s for express post shipping to my friend Alex Zerbe’s place. He had just recently injured his knee in the midst of a juggling show, and was home but offered to limp over to a delivery company and send the package to my moms place in Toronto. What a guy. Shout out to the Zaniac, he’s a living legend. Book him to juggle and be funny at your next event. For sure.

Some of the first video work I did after film school (several lifetimes ago) was making promo videos for this guy.

Anyways… I was at my mothers place in Toronto. We had already driven (in 4 days) from Vancouver to Toronto and we were spending time with family and friends for my 40th birthday.

A Four Day Drive to Toronto…with Specs

On the way from shot a bunch of footage using the Spectacles including some point of view perspective stuff during our press conference with the Mayor of Vancouver launching the first solar project we helped fund in Vancouver. The solar panels are on the Dragon Boat Sheds in False Creek at the Olympic Village.

I also used the Spectacles on the first run we did during our road trip at Lake Louise.

In Toronto for a Few Weeks – No Specs

I wished I had a convenient POV camera while running through all kinds of street art with the Night Terrors Run Crew in downtown Toronto or when we visited Bullfrog Power’s office for a Lunch and Learn session but we did our best to get shots and do interviews regardless. I waited patiently for a couple weeks wondering what was going on.

This was where the problems started. First somehow after two weeks nothing showed up at Alex’s place in Washington state. Snapchat to their credit had already touched based with me. They sent a personalized message from a rep named Steffi who I was able to reply to and carry on a conversation. This was the start of a thread of emails, 31 of them to be exact (I just checked). I will not put you through having to listen to me rant about all the details of this situation ended up requiring 31 emails. Mari has had to endure it more than once already. Here’s the Coles Notes version:

I emailed the rep from Snapchat about how the replacement pair of spectacles and she was super apologetic. She brought in a colleague named Emily to help rectify the problem. They replaced the original order right away and had them sent to my friends place express post. At least thats what I thought…

I then learned that the glasses had shown up in Point Roberts Washington, at the PO Box my original pair had been sent to. Not my friends place in Washington State. Honestly I don’t know if this was Snap’s mistake or Fed Ex’s but the folks from Snap were so helpful and the fed ex’s people were such a pain in the butt that at this point I basically blame them for everything that happened related to this package.

I asked other friends if they could pick up those glasses in Point Roberts and send them to me in Toronto before we started driving to PEI. No luck, it was asking a lot for friends on both sides of the border. The shipping place couldn’t redirect it themselves either, it had to be a request from the shipper, so I emailed the folks at Snap again.

This is Where Snapchat Saved The Day

Snapchat then did something amazing. Another rep got involved and he offered to send the glasses to me in Canada even though they usually only shipped to the US. They agreed to send them all the way to PEI and cover the cost of the shipping. Now I have to say this is going the extra mile… literally. Thanks so much to Jay who clearly could tell how important this was to me.

This level of customer service is worthy of the kinda of thing Scott and Allison talk about on the UnMarketing podcast. Pro Tip: Great podcast (and books). They are funny, smart and provide great advice for organizations who want to be awesome.

So problem solved right? I would finally get my goofy looking glasses that I am clearly too old to wear. Right? Not so fast.

We asked the Spectacles to be sent to PEI instead of Toronto because at this point it was the only thing that made sense time wise. We were leaving for PEI and would be there in a few days. We would be in PEI for two weeks. So lots of time for a package to get to us.

I was tracking the package on fed ex’s website. Everything seemed fine at first. The package took an extra day to clear customs. Not a big suprise and no big deal. Still lots of time.

Is Fed Ex The Dragon at the Gate in This Adventure?

Then things got weird. A couple days in a row the package left the the shipping centre in Moncton New Brunswick and was supposed to be en route and then it returned to the shipping centre.

I got back on the phone with the Fed Ex’s customer service folks. At this point I had memorized the shipping code and the sequence of numbers I had to type into my phone to reach a human being. Every time I talked to someone it was different. They told me they were on it and would work through the night to make sure the package arrived.

They said they would have the package delivered over the weekend. Next time I called, on the weekend they had no record of that offer and said it wasn’t even possible. The only option was going to be waiting until the end of the long weekend. To be fair there was a major power outage all over Atlantic Canada the second day in a row the package mysteriously disappeared. I would have almost understood if my customer service experience wasn’t also so frustrating.

I asked for the package to be left in Moncton so we could pick it up from there. Well actually Jay, from Snapchat asked them to leave it in Moncton for me. Fed Ex told me only the shipper could request that, the second time I talked to their customer service team about it. The package would be there waiting for me Fed Ex told me… more than once. Guess what, on the day we were leaving I talked to Fed Ex again and the package was not held in Moncton and was actually en route to PEI right as we were about to leave town.

Leaving PEI… Still No Specs

We had no choice but to leave because we had camp sites booked for several nights in a row in various locations hours down highway one. And interviews set up we wanted to shoot. And people we were gonna go for walks and runs with. All this stuff we hoped to shoot with those Spectacles.

I had already missed out on shooting a bunch of stuff with the glasses including amazing sunset runs on the beaches of PEI.

And the Color Run, which we did in Charlottetown.

I got some footage using my phone. Not the end of the world I know. First world problems… no doubt. But the Spectacles are a useful tool and I was eager to get my replacement pair because I knew there was a ton of magic that lay ahead of us and I wanted to capture it.

Why I Care So Much

All of this was important to us not only for the footage from the trip to post along the way but also because we were beta testing our new fundraising tool and wanted to use the footage for the launch roll out we are now working on for October.

But even more important than that is just how organizations treat people. Now,I don’t want to rant. I really don’t. I totally understand when mistakes happen. Heck, Snapchats product didn’t work after a few months and the replacement pair didn’t show up for weeks but I still love the company. Because they connected to me in a human way and I was able to continue the same conversation with their people until the problem was solved. There is a real big difference beetween that experience and having to start from scratch repeatedly with. Big faceless corporations with reps that give you contrasting and incorrect information frustrate me as do companies that ultimately don’t deliver on their promises. Right?

The icing on the cake for me was when we pulled over the Fed Ex truck in PEI to figure out if we just happened to run into them right as we were pulling out of town. It was the last possible moment at the end of the gravel driveway into this little community built around a lighthouse. They checked the truck and nope, no package for me was there they said. It seemed odd to me given from what I understood this was the one truck in the area that day. Guess what, Mari’s dad called when we were about an hour down the road to tell us the package had arrived.

We considered turning around to get the package but adding 2 hours or more to our trip would have made our destination out of reach that night. We were already behind schedule trying to get to this camp site on the St. Lawrence close to Quebec City before sunset. So we asked Mari’s dad to accept the package and send it to us further down the road via Canada Post.

Good Old Canada Post

I got on the phone with a rep from Canada Post who was able to help us set up a FlexDelivery account over the phone while I sat in the passengers seat and Mari drove us through New Brunswick.

I barely had one bar of service on my phone but luckily the call never cut out. This special account made it possible to receive a package at any Canada post location. I used google maps to pick a location in Ottawa close to where we would be meeting some cool folks at Carleton University. They are building a visionairy tiny home with solar panels and water catchment that could function either off grid or on grid. Very cool project, you can see the interview about 15 min into the Great Climate Race LIVE broadcast from that week.

Everything went as planned with Canada Post. I tracked the package with their app and it arrived a day before we did. We found the Canada post location inside a local drug store and to my delight I finally had a new goofy pair of sunglasses. They even sent a friendly ghost to hang out with our Unicorn gear shift.

Finally… I have the Specs

Before you know it I was using them next to a waterfall on an old Ojibway portage trail

and then while joggling into a shockingly beautiful sunset at Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Im so glad I had those glasses for so many amazing places after that.

Like meeting this beautiful horse close to Vulcan Alberta, (live long and prosper).

Exploring Head Smashed Buffalo Jump International Heritage site.

Checking out a bunch of renewable energy projects in Invermere with Bill Swan from Solar Now.

Bill was the first person we interviewed as we were about to leave Vancouver and the last person we interviewed a couple months later on the way back.

Finally we got some cool point of view shots on our last run while on the road at Skunk Cabbage Provincial Park (yeah that is a real place… its a unique ecosystem in the rockies check it out).

Long story short I was glad to have my glasses back and started putting them to good use. I was so thankful of Snapchat that I sent my new friends some of these video clips. That was the 31st email in our thread. I also tweeted and shared posts on instagram thanking them. Now I’m writing this blog to thank them again (and also as an excuse to show you all these highlights from our trip and to tell you about the new tool we are launching soon).

Back on the West Coast… Two Months Before our Next Great Climate Race

Since I have been back in Vancouver I have been wearing the glasses on all kinds of walks and runs recently even while dipping my bare feet in the Pacific Ocean.

I’ve now ran almost 200km since we started testing our prototype that lets you raise money per km for a cause and captured a lot of it on video.

This is the tool we will use to facilitate the Great Climate Race this year. Its still a work in progress. We will be using the footage we shot over the summer in the month ahead to thell the story of this new tool. I can’t wait to share more about this nifty tool we are developing and what we hope to do with it. We will also keep using the footage from the spectacles as part of segments during our weekly LIVE show at 12 noon pacific time on Fridays.

What’s The Moral of the Story?

As we launch our new piece of tech I will be thinking about what a big difference there is between the experience I had with Fed Ex and with Snapchat. It made a big difference to me having friendly human beings to deal with that were committed to fixing the problem. It made enough difference that it turned a broken product and a shipping mix up into an opportunity to do something great that made me like the company even more. Thanks again to the folks at Snap, especially Jay, Emily and Steffi. Also thank to Canada Post who were helpful and got the job done. And of course thank you to Mari’s dad for getting the package back in the mail for us… and Mari and Rosie for putting up with me generally speaking. 🙂

We have always tried our best to be very personal and real with people who were involved in the Great Climate Race. This will continue to be our  as we expand to a growing international audience. Our new web app will enable more people to raise money from wherever they are. That opportunity will also come with our share of challenges I’m sure.  

Nobody is perfect, mistakes will happen. We will soon publicly launch a new tool, just like Snapchat did. Just like the Spectacles our tool will be exciting but in truth still a work in progress. The question is how do you treat the people who use your services. The tool itself is awesome but at the end of the day it all comes down to human relationships. You have to be very intentional about how you treat those that take the time to reach out to you, especially when something goes wrong. If a massive company like Snapchat can do it right there is no reason our little organization can’t.

I’m very excited about the road ahead and what we can accomplish becuase we know that what makes it possible is people supporting each other, doing the best we possibly can and working together until the problem is solved.  

About the Author mari

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