DHL failure in usability

A couple of weeks ago I ordered the latest third-generation of the DAS Keyboard – my second generation packed away back in Guernsey and the Alps-switched one from DSI incapable of reliably registering more than 2 keys on USB.

Being that I’m fixed on the European keyboard layout (our enter key is double height with the backslash moved down next to Z) I had to order from Germany, specifically the guys over at

When the keyboard hadn’t arrived a couple of weeks later I headed off to the tracking link at DHL Germany.

As a customer all I’m interested in is:

  • Where is the package now?
  • When will I have it?

A good developer would understand and deliver this. Instead DHL present:

Piece-number 9507xxxxxxx7
Addressee: Item destined for abroad
Status: Arrival at inward Office of Exchange in the Country of Destination
Status from: 19.08.08 17:07
Process: Arrival at inward Office of Exchange in the Country of Destination

Everything here screams bad systems, poor understanding and disregard for the customer. They aren’t giving the customer what they want, they’re giving the customer a little of what they have and are not even reinterpreting the data from the customers perspective.

This isn’t untypical but neither of my questions have been answered and the item is over the delivery times so I need to go further. Hitting the contact button next to the “piece-number” takes us to:

For further information, please call us on
0 18 05-345 22 55 *
(14 cent per minute within German fixed network)

Business hours:
Monday – Saturday between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Sundays and public holidays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
* only within Germany

or per contact form (except for investigation inquiries)

If your shipment has not arrived at the recipient within 6 days, you have the opportunity to fill out an  investigation inquiry directly via your PC.

Wow, so the primary point of contact for an international delivery is a number that can only be called from Germany. Useless.

So we can now choose a per-contact form or an investigation form. Okay, let’s go to the investigation form. Let’s try that.

The web page you would like to access cannot be viewed at this time.

We apologize for any inconvenience. Perhaps it is due to a connection problem, perhaps the link is no longer valid or you have directly selected a page that no longer exists in the specified directory

Wow, DHL Germany really don’t have things under control here. Let’s flip over to DHL’s main site and take it from there.

First of all we need to chose our country, currently Canada… Now let’s enter the reference number we’ve been using on DHL Germany’s web site and “Shipment/Waybill not found”.

Okay, I’m a persistent fellow, let’s give DHL Canada a call and find out what’s going on… I give the reference number to the woman at the other end and “that’s too long”. Hmm, tell her it works on DHL Germany web site, she goes to the web site and tries it out and confirms it does but that it doesn’t work on their system. She tries a few searches on my name, from Germany to Vancouver, nothing, nada, zip and suggests I try contacting DHL Germany or the sender to get a “proper” reference number.

The real icing on the cake of course is the “About DHL” page states:

DHL Express offers seamless service worldwide.

I can see a very big seam here between Germany and Canada.

Expertise around the globe.

Not much use when the people with that expertise are sat behind a number you can’t call from outside their country.

One world. One express and logistics company.

But not one system or tracking mechanism.


21 responses

  1. Avatar for Roger Jennings


    Sounds to me just what I'd expect from a subsidiary of Deutsches Bundesbahn.


    Roger Jennings 26 August 2008
  2. Avatar for BB

    I'm with you on the lack of usability or information. I ordered something out of Germany, it left the 14th of August, got to the United States as of the 19th and I have yet to see it at my doorstep. Long story short, never using DHL ever again! UPS or bust! At least they keep you informed on where your package is.

    BB 26 August 2008
  3. Avatar for Steve

    I've had good experiences with FedEx personally. The local courier companies here are rubbish but FedEx is handled by the Post Office who are very efficient. Internationally FedEx are very quick and the tracking is just what you need.

    Steve 27 August 2008
  4. Avatar for Michael Dudley

    And it won't get better - at least not anytime soon in the US. Looks like there have been layoffs in various parts of the whole Reich. Another bunch let go from IT yesterday, as well as closure of outlying operational centers. Why bother (in the US)? Company is losing almost $1billion per year, moving air operations to UPS and demolishing IT.

    Reducing the number of packages shipped is probably a good thing - after all if you are losing money on each package, you presumably lose less if you ship fewer packages. Of course that is false reasoning - this only works if you can reduce fixed costs at the same time. That appears to be hard to do.

    Michael Dudley 27 August 2008
  5. Avatar for robert

    If you're fleet of finger, you can get a Real Model M in Euro style here:

    robert 27 August 2008
  6. Avatar for Damien Guard

    @robert: I actually also have an original IBM Model M back home but the feel isn't as good as the Cherry, it weighs a ton and the surround is just too much.

    Damien Guard 27 August 2008
  7. Avatar for jb

    I feel your pain, Damien. I too ordered two packages from Germany that were shipped through DHL. They "arrived" in "Canada" on the same day yours did, right around the same time. August 27th now and still nothing. I'm beginning to question what the "Country of destination" is for them. For all I know they could be in Kandahar right now.

    jb 28 August 2008
  8. Avatar for Damien Guard

    My keyboard arrived this morning... so maybe you'll be lucky for tomorrow?

    Damien Guard 28 August 2008
  9. Avatar for jb

    My wheels arrived this morning as well. Did yours come through Canada Post as well? I don't hate DHL as much now that I realize Canada Post was handling it after it crossed the border.

    jb 29 August 2008
  10. Avatar for Damien Guard

    It was delivered to my work so not sure but I guess it could have been. My contact lenses arrived same day by Canada Post... and they were sent from the US on August 1st... 24 day delivery to Canada.

    Damien Guard 29 August 2008
  11. Avatar for Jamie

    Hi, Just wondering how that Das III is working out for you? I just bought myself the same one, (Euro layout) after much research, and was wondering what you thought of it? Is it better than the Das II?

    More importantly, I was wondering if you receive a confirmation email from the guys at with a tracking number from DHL shortly after you placed your order? As I still have yet to receive any confirmation from them, and my computer conveniently decided to reboot itself as I turned on the printer to print the order confirmation at the end of the transaction....

    Jamie 1 September 2008
  12. Avatar for Helen

    Exactly the same situation with me. Two parcels ordered from Germany. Asked them to ship it to my post office box. No, they have to ship via DHL to a street address. Guess what. I was out briefly and found delivery notices from - you guessed it - Canada Post. I now have to go and retrieve the heavy packages from a local p.o. attached to a pharmacy where parking is impossible.


    Helen 2 October 2008
  13. Avatar for GConn

    I had pretty much the same experience and followed the same irritating steps you did. The seller send the package on 2nd October and it arrived in Cyprus on 27th Oct. They caused big problems to me.

    The web page gives no attention to their international customers, neither does the telephone service. The 'menu' in the telephone lines are only available in their language. Their complaint form was onlyul available in their language. I tend to call this racism. They want my money but they don't want to help me out...

    HOWEVER, this is what might be useful for someone else that will need help in the future:

    1. DHL is the government post office in Germany. The service they provide comes nowhere near DHL express as we know it outside Germany. They are completely separate services.

    2. DHL issues tracking numbers as a 12digit number. All other post offices in the world issue 2 letters followed by 9 number and another 2 letters. The last letters will be DE if it's coming from Germany. (for example CL123456789DE). What you CAN do is call to +4918053452255 press 3 and again 3. Then ask the operator to give you the corresponding "bar code" for the 12 digit number you have.

    3. Then call your local post office (NOT local DHL offices, they have nothing to do with it...) and give them the new tracking number you got. Now they'll be able to help you.

    GConn 29 October 2008
  14. Avatar for Billigflüge

    Well Dami, as a German I feel a little ashamed^^ That´s really creepy work presented by DHL, but I wouldn't go so far and claim the disability of DHL as a lack of usability-view. It´s just idiotic! Numbers you can´t call^^ LOL, that's funny! The whole story is funny, sorry:D Damn, has it to be a German company? I'd rather expect something like this from a russian company^^

    Billigflüge 29 October 2008
  15. Avatar for Stoked

    I order a lot of stuff from over seas and use both Fedex and DHL. Of the two I find DHL to be faster, more reliable and with a much better tracking system.

    Sounds like you were just unlucky or caught DHL on a bad day.

    Stoked DHL

    Stoked 14 November 2008
  16. Avatar for Damien Guard

    @Stoked The usability of their website, the fact the different offices use different tracking systems and show telephone numbers you can't call are nothing to do with a bad day - they are infrastructure issues anyone in this position is going to encounter.

    Damien Guard 14 November 2008
  17. Avatar for kathy

    I am experiencing the exact same issue with DHL. I ordered 2 items from Germany on 27 Nov. and here it is 11 Dec. Can track it but their website tracking system hasn't been updated since 27 Nov. I also tried to call but that was impossible since the phone number is only accessible in Germany (I am in U.S.). I went to DHL customer service, got no where with them, she didn't know how to help me, just said 10 to 15 BUSINESS days for shipment. I then found a website for DHL where they had online chat help. He was suppose to find out and get back to me, that was 2 DAYS AGO. Gee....and we wonder why DHL is having financial problems????

    kathy 10 December 2008
  18. Avatar for Garten

    We have had problems with DHL for quite a while. Hence, we switched to the Swiss Post Office for delivering all packages and letters to clients (usually hospitals or doctors) in Switzerland.

    Main reason for this switch of logistics providers is that DHL’s customer service is just poor. I cannot imagine how Hard Rock Café can be satisfied … I wonder.

    Besides the problems you describe on top of all that comes that they are unfriendly, uncooperative etc.

    And yes, we do quite a bit of shipping from our warehouse here so when we switched they tried hard to prevent us from doing so. However, we had had enough and are much happier now with what we get from the Swiss Post Office while the value/money ratio works for us.

    Unfortunately, due to corporate policy we still have to use DHL when shipping to and from Germany. The problems here are the same, a money for value ratio that is unsatisfactory from our end.

    Garten 20 February 2009
  19. Avatar for Alex

    We regulary ship our products (wigs) using Deutsche Post/DHL as well. They ain't as bad as it might seem after all those comments. Just insert the tracking number you received into the tracking tool of Canada Post (or your local post operator, wherever you are), it'll show you where your item is currently. It may not be as sophisticated as tracking with Fedex or UPS, but international postal transport is anything but slow and transports goods for a fraction of the cost of said competitors.

    Alex 28 April 2010
  20. Avatar for Raoul Fazool

    It is now over a year since the last post on this site, and I can say that absolutely nothing has changed. I am at 36 days and counting, and my parcel is still "in transit to the destination country" (Germany to the US). I get parcels from Australia to Florida routinely in less than 10 days via Australia Post and the USPS. DHL is a joke. No wonder they tanked in the USA. Is Germany going "Third World" on us?

    Raoul Fazool 20 June 2011
  21. Avatar for Raoul Fazool

    After no info, no advisories, no updates, no nothin', I have now been informed (only after inquiring) that my package is hopelessly lost somewhere between Munich, Germany and Tampa, Florida. No problem. That's only 4,987 miles. I'm totally disgusted. Next time I'll try Fedex; never again DHL.

    (Obscenities withheld)

    Raoul Fazool 25 June 2011