FedEx: Not on Chappy

By JULIA WELLS

The company motto is The World On Time, and the phrase was good fodder for the recent Tom Hanks blockbuster, Cast Away. But there is now one place in the world where Federal Express is not on time.

In fact, it is more accurate to say that Federal Express is not On Time, which is coincidentally the name of the Chappaquiddick ferry.

Chappaquiddick? No Federal Express delivery here.

Not On Time or anytime.

A contract between Federal Express and the owner of the Chappaquiddick Ferry expired last month, ending the long-standing practice of Federal Express pickup and dropoff at the small ferry house on Memorial Wharf.

Ferry owner Roy Hayes said this week that the contract was not renewed because there is no longer space in the ferry house to accommodate all the packages and letters that come in in the summer months. Mr. Hayes said Federal Express officials knew that the contract would not be renewed months ago, but no substitute arrangements were made.

The result has been chaos when it comes to Federal Express delivery for Chappaquiddick residents.

Residents who are expecting FedEx deliveries and are unaware of the situation have gone to the ferry house, only to find nothing there. Others who call Federal Express report being told a variety of stories. One person was told to go to Oak Bluffs to pick up a package this week. Another was told to go to the Martha's Vineyard Airport. Another found that the FedEx truck would meet him at the ferry for hand-to-hand delivery.

"They claim that they will deliver anywhere, and now people are paying for a service they are not getting," declared Maureen Baron, a resident who heads a special committee on utilities for the Chappaquiddick Island Association.

"I have been talking about this for a long time. It's not unreasonable to ask these people to deliver. I just don't have the room anymore in the ferry house," said Mr. Hayes.

This week Federal Express managers scrambled to come up with a plan to deliver to Chappaquiddick.

"Right now my bosses are meeting in Framingham. My personal quest was to do something about this," said Frank de Stefano, the Federal Express manager for the Cape and Islands region. Mr. de Stefano spoke briefly with the Gazette by telephone from his office in Hyannis on Wednesday morning. After that, all further calls were routed through the media relations office.

Late in the day on Wednesday an announcement was made.

"While we understand a number of residents would like to have door-to-door delivery, it has been determined that it is not feasible at this time. The lay of the land and the physical terrain, including the roads, are limitations, in addition to the fact that many of the houses are occupied by renters in the summer," said Pam Roberson, a media relations spokesman for Federal Express in Memphis, Tenn.

Ms. Roberson said Federal Express now plans to station a truck "somewhere near the ferry shack," in Edgartown, although she admitted that she was unfamiliar with the Vineyard and could not be specific about the location of the truck. She said residents who are expecting Federal Express delivery will now receive a telephone call, and will be able to meet the truck in Edgartown for pickup.

Ms. Baron, who has been in contact with Mr. de Stefano, said on Wednesday she had not been informed about the arrangement. She said the arrangement could prove to be problematic.

"Will people have to drive over on the ferry to get their packages? What if you are not home when you get the telephone call? This doesn't make a lot of sense," she said.

Mr. Hayes said he had offered to let Federal Express go ahead in the ferry line, the same way he allows the U.S. Mail truck to go ahead. He said he would charge a small fee for the go-ahead, but he said the fee was not unreasonable.

"This is a service people pay for - this is not the same as the U.S. mail," Mr. Hayes said.

Ms. Roberson said money was not a factor in the decision to refuse delivery on Chappaquiddick.

"Financial considerations were discussed, but money was not an issue. It was strictly based on physical feasibility. That's all," she said.

"And it's not a refusal, it's an inability to offer our service," she said.

Ms. Baron said she had met with Mr. de Stefano some months ago to discuss a new arrangement for Federal Express delivery. She said her group had proposed a new dropoff site on Chappaquiddick at the site of the small general store that is open in the summer months.

"We were not looking for door-to-door delivery. We were looking for a dropoff spot. We had done a lot of work ahead of time and Frank came and looked at the dropoff spot at Gerry Jeffers' garage [and store]. We don't want more trucks on Chappy; the road is narrow and we really want to keep the trucks down," Ms. Baron said.

She said opinion is divided on Chappaquiddick about door-to-door delivery.

"I know that some people do want it, while other people are concerned about more trucks on the roads," she said.

But Ms. Baron said she never heard back from Mr. de Stefano.

Mr. Hayes reported a similar experience.

"A representative came down and went over to Chappy to look at the situation. I thought they were going to do dropoffs at Gerry Jeffers' store. Then the end of the month came, and I hadn't heard anything," he said.

Ms. Baron said amid all the confusion, one thing is clear: Chappaquiddick residents are now encouraged to use some other delivery service for packages and letters.

"What Federal Express needs to know is that we will encourage people to use other carriers. I will call L.L. Bean and tell them that they cannot deliver here. I have an account myself that I will cancel. People pay for this service, and they are told they will get delivery," she said.

Mr. Hayes said he also intends to end his contract with United Parcel Service for the use of the ferry house when it runs out in July. He said he will offer UPS a similar deal to go ahead in the ferry line for a fee.

Ms. Roberson said she did not know of anyplace else where Federal Express could not deliver.

"I am not aware of any other situations like this," she said.

She concluded:

"We always like to think that we offer something that our competition doesn't offer. But in this situation, it's just not feasible."