note: This is not a commercial or paid endorsement.
If you are a Malaysian, chances are you have used Poslaju or the national courier at certain point(s) of your life. For most Malaysians, Poslaju remains the most economical choice, or the only choice for some unlucky fella like me.
In Semporna (where I am currently at), we have only a very small post office, plus a few independent agents who act as receivers/forwarders for a few Malaysian-based courier companies like GD Express and Nationwide. Sending anything from Semporna is usually a week's long affair, and the same applies for receiving anything from anywhere else in Malaysia. It is fine when you are in no hurry at all to get your documents/parcels anywhere, but it can be a terrifyingly lip-biting experience when you in absolute hurry to do so. It has become such a torturous wait for anything to come through the post that we usually rename "Poslaju" to "Poslambat". The same applies for those so called "faster" courier companies - they are no better and sometimes they can be worse than Poslaju.
Which brings me to today's story. If you have read my previous post, you would have known that I am currently applying for a New Zealand Asean Scholars Award from the New Zealand Government. Not wanting to be left out again, I planned weeks ahead to ensure that all the documents that I need are well prepared in advance. I managed to secure all the necessary letters of recommendation to be posted together with the application forms to the Ministry again after the Raya holiday.
When things can go wrong, they will go wrong, and I can attest to that adage called Murphy's Law. Through no one's fault, I received a letter of recommendation with a little typo that rendered the entire letter useless. I had no choice but to ask the referee to re-issue the letter again, and she was kind enough to oblige me. I was lucky that I detected the mistake six days before the application closing date - the problem is getting the letter in my hand might prove harder than it seems since it already took almost a week for the letter (with typo) to reach me from another state.
I have worked way too hard to secure all the credentials and a study offer, so I was not about to give up at this point. I have several options - take several flights to get the letter myself and then send it personally to the Ministry, or get someone who can do it for me for lower cost by sending my already completed documents from Sabah to Putrajaya while picking up that much needed letter from my referee who is in another state. I reckoned that taking that several flights just to secure and send the letter to Putrajaya would have cost me at least RM1,500, so I had no choice but to get somebody else who can do it fast enough at a lower cost. I quickly fire up my PC and searched for the fastest courier company that can do that for me.
After searching for almost three hours, I have narrowed down the list to about four companies - Poslaju, GD Express, Nationwide and DHL. The first three are utterly useless as they usually take more than three business days to get anything delivered to/from my place. Could DHL do next day delivery then? I was initially skeptical that DHL will even be able to ship from my place since they service only larger towns like Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau. But then again, I have heard lots of good things about them and so I decided to give it a try.
Next, I called up my colleague who was spending her maternity leave in Nilai, which coincidentally is only less than 1/2 hour away from the Ministry. She quickly agreed to helping me by acting as the sole receiver for both documents. I signed up for a shipping account on DHL Express' website and booked two shipments via credit card payment, one for Sabah - Putrajaya and another one for my referee - Putrajaya. Both shipments cost me RM53.61 each, the most I have paid for sending documents weighing less than 1/2 kg each. I set the Sabah - Putrajaya shipment for pickup at the office on next day before 10am.
Come next day, I decided to postpone my lecture session (since only two students turned up) and waited at the office for the pickup man to come and collect the documents. At 10.30am, I was already panicking and I decided to call their customer service to enquire. Imagine my shock when they told me that they could not pick up my item as they do not "service" my town. The only solution is if I am willling to drive to Tawau (110km away) and send the package to their office, or I could opt to cancel the shipment and they will refund my credit card. Seeing that there is still a slim chance I could get the documents airborne today, I quickly hung up the phone and asked around if there is anyone planning to go to the town today.
A colleague said "probably" - her husband happens to be planning to return to Tawau for his police duty today. She made a few calls and said "Yes, my husband is taking a bath now and will be heading to Tawau soon." That was such a sweet music to my ear, and after obtaining her permission to leave the office, I tore down the road like a madman to hand him the documents. By 11.00am, he made his way to Tawau with my documents and some extra cash to make up for any extra expenses.
Not wanting to leave anything to chances, I tracked the movement of the shipment through DHL's website and on an app called "Aftership" on the phone. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the shipment was already on its way to Kota Kinabalu at 7pm on the very same day. By 2pm the following day, the documents have arrived safely at my receiver's home - three days before the closing date. My colleague was also able to receive the other document through DHL as well from my referee; she then sent everything to the Ministry after checking that everything is in order. All in all, my application reached the Ministry earlier than anticipated.
What does this tell us? Well, for starter, local courier companies have lots of catching up to do if they want to improve their delivery speed and service quality. I reckon that customers would not hesitate spending more if next day delivery is an achievable solution. DHL truly lives up to its Germanic fame for speed and efficiency, and since then I have always recommended DHL to my colleagues. DHL too needs to expand beyond larger towns and offer similar services to small town customers - there are many potential small town customers like me who wouldn't mind paying more for faster delivery and better service.
The only thing left to do now is to wait for the good news, and even if I fail to be shortlisted, I can find a little solace in knowing that I have done everything that I can to secure a scholarship.