Pros: Cheaper for whoever is paying for shipping.
Cons: Slow, bad customer service, terrible tracking, packages lost, unofficial delivery drivers.
I have only dealt with DHL maybe 3 or 4 times in my lifetime. Until 2005 I had no idea they existed. I had only seen a DHL truck once after I knew about them, and I've never seen a commercial. Though it seems that more places online are shipping with them, making it cheaper for them, and harder for the customer.
I first used them back in September of 2005. I'm a drummer, so I ordered a drumset from a reputable online retailer that I had used many times before (who shipped through UPS). Much to my surprise, I found out that they were using DHL. Well at that time I had never heard of them. But oh well, as long as it gets to me on time and in one piece. I should mention that I was going to be getting married on October 1st, so I was ordering the set 2 full weeks before I was to get married and leave on my honeymoon. The set was in stock, would ship immediately, and I'd have it in 4 days tops, no biggie right? Wrong. Besides the drums, I had ordered a few other things as well. The retailer shipped everything and they were assigned 2 tracking numbers, one for the drums, and one for the other items. About 2, maybe 3 days later I was checking tracking. I had an estimated delivery date, but I noticed that the tracking for the heavier package (the drums) was never updating even though the other one was. All it said was that it had been picked up from the shipper. Ok, maybe the tracking is just alittle slow, it happens, even with UPS & Fedex from time to time.
Well the day of delivery came and instead of seeing an official delivery truck, I saw an unmarked van pull in my driveway. The driver gets out, pulls out a package, and shuts the door...he's only holding one package and I know because he shut the door, he's not going back for another. I ask him "I'm expecting a second, much larger package, do you have it?" He tells me that it's not with him and that it may arrive later in the day with another driver or it may come tomorrow. NOW I'm getting worried. I call DHL customer service and was greeted by someone who, while they were nice, I wasn't floor by their professionalism. I was told the exact same thing, it would either be with me later in the day or the next.
Fast forward about 2 weeks, a few days before my wedding. I stil don't have my drums. The retailer contacted DHL and had to talk to about a dozen different people before they found out what was wrong: The package had been lost. GREAT! The reason I ordered it with enough time before my wedding is because I didn't want it arriving while I was on my honeymoon. They said they would give DHL a few more days to find it (pushing it down to the wire now), and if they couldn't find it, they'd cancel the shipment, and send me out a new set from the manufacturer (who uses UPS), after I got back.
Well, I get married, go on my honeymoon, and then the day I get back, I'm surprised to see that my drums are sitting in my driveway. I was both delighted and irritated. I was of course happy that I finally got what I asked for, irritated because I live on a main road and didn't even bother to put the box on our covered porch, they just stuck it in the driveway in plain sight!
I used DHL two more times after that incident. One was from the same retailer, and it arrived on time and safely, although still in an unmarked van. The second was at the beginning of February I ordered something who, unknown to me, used DHL as well. That too arrived safely and on time. My only problem was that the tracking was only updated twice: Once when the package was picked up, and not again until it was at the local DHL facility. My other irritation with that delivery was that, I shipped the company something through UPS and it took 2 days through Ground. For my package to get to me from them through DHL Ground it took 3 days. My most recent experience was just in the past week, and it is the absolute last straw for my using DHL.
I ordered another set of drums on Ebay from a wonderful seller. It never ocurred to me that he would use DHL, but unfortunately I found out that he was going to after he scheduled for pickup. I told him about my experience before, and that got him nervous, but we figured we'd just see what happened. After all, everyone makes mistakes, and I had two "semi-ok" experiences for that one bad, with the exception of their delivery vehicle methods in my area. Well I knew this was not going to be easy when he emails me the day they were supposed to be picked up and says "DHL just contacted me, the driver can't pick the drums up tonight, he'll do it tomorrow, but someone is going to come by and drop off shipping labels". They can drop off shipping labels but they can't pick up the package? Uh, ok.. Well the next day (Tuesday) the drums (in two packages this time) were picked up and I had an estimated delivery date of Friday the 16th.
Well Friday rolls around and wouldn't you know? The tracking hasn't updated at all (it still said Picked up from shipper) and the drums don't arrive. I call DHL to speak with another woman who sounded bored and irritated to be speaking with me. She told me that because of the snow weather that we had in quite a few parts of the country that they would be delayed. I was irritated but could understand. That night, one of the tracking numbers updated and said that it was a local facility in a neighboring state, and then the next day it said it was at the local DHL facility. But, the second tracking number hadn't updated at all. I was happy to atleast have SOME progress.
Monday rolls around. I wake up and see that the second, previously un-updated tracking number now said that it was at the local facility and with a courier at 9am. The first package still said it was at the local facility, from the tracking provided that previous Saturday. Around 12:00 I see that the tracking on that package had been updated again to say that it was with a courier at 11:56am...ok...why would there be a 3 hour difference for 2 packages coming from the same place, going to the same person? I called DHL again a few times, and this time was not given tracking information right away. I was bounced around 3 or 4 times to their tracking department (Why? The customer service rep had given me tracking information before.) I was told that everything would arrive in the afternoon...that's it, no further details.
At 12:30 my first package, the one with the tracking that left with the courier at 9am, showed up, but no second package. Once again, it arrived in an unmarked van that just had DHL bumper stickers thrown around on the dashboard. The driver said that if the second package was larger and heavier (which it was) it would arrive by another driver....I'm having flashbacks at this point. I call DHL *again* and they say the same thing. Finally at 3:00 the second package arrives, in a van that was marked, but said a completely different courier name on it, and didn't say DHL anywhere.
So finally, 3 days later than I expected (although 2 of those were week days) I had what I ordered. Actually I think of it now that I'm lucky they showed up at all as it was Presidents Day... But I am NEVER using DHL again. Anytime I order anything online I am finding out who they use for shipping, and if it's DHL I'm either trying to get them to use someone else or I'm taking my business elsewhere.
DHL is very unprofessional, having packages delivered by what I assume are "contracted couriers" depending on where you live. Some areas do have the official DHL trucks but the majority I talked to said that they have just seen the unmarked vans as well. Heck, at work they even had a van with DHL *taped* on a *cardboard* sign to the side of the van! Also, their tracking is terrible. It never updates until it's in your local area, and DHL itself has really no more information than you do when it comes to finding out where your package is. How could they if it's coming in an unmarked van? There is no way to find who has it! UPS or Fedex can track it to the exact truck it's on, DHL can't say that. Also it's not good delivery security to have two different packages in the same shipment arrive with two different people.
Lastly, their customer service reps vary from downright rude, to completely clueless. Yes, I did get one or two nice people during my contacts with them, but ultimately they couldn't help me any more than the last person.
Whether you are a shipper or a buyer, do NOT use DHL if you care about getting your package on time, or at all. Granted, I did have two experiences where the packages showed up on time, but I believe those times to be flukes. The packages were smaller, which I'm sure made a difference.
I will never use them again, and I will do everything I can to spread the word about how truely lousy this "cheaper" alternative is.
*Update - 04-23-07*
DHL has let me down yet again. I had an order shipped to me from a company that I've used in the past. I know from experience that deliveries from this company get to me in 3 days using DHL (but I can ship to them using UPS and they get it in *2* days...). The order tracking # indicated that I was supposed to receive the package today, Monday the 23rd, which is correct because it's a 3 day trip from that location. It is now 6:00 and guess what, no package. The tracking information SAYS it's out with a courier, but after I called customer service they told me that, no it was only at the local facility in my state. THEIR information says nothing about being with a courier, even though MINE does. So I'm told that I'll get the package tomorrow. A day later that I expected.
I demanded to know what their excuse was, and the answer I got was that because I'm SO far from their facility, that shipments to my area will usually be delayed. Well I'm glad they're honest about it..but excuse me, I'm not THAT far from the facility, only an hour. I told the girl that UPS has a facility in the SAME city and THEY get me my packages on time! I can understand if transit times will differ depending on how far you are from the facility, but when you input your zip code on the site or are given a delivery date on the website in your tracking information, it should be accurate. If it's going to take an extra day because I'm sooo far away, I want to know. Tell me that delivery is 4 days, not 3 then!
I have another package coming through DHL unfortunately. It's an item I need and it's the only place I could get it. I'm going to automatically expect a delay. Atleast then if I get it on the day they say I'll be pleasantly surprised.
I'm currently waiting on the next package from DHL that I mentioned in the above paragraph. It was supposed to be delivered yesterday, 04-30. The tracking said it had arrived at the local facility and was with a courier. It turns out this a half truth. It was with a courier, but on it's way to a 3rd party facility for the courier that DHL contracts out to ship in my area. I was told I'd receive the package today. It never showed up. I called DHL a few times and was told someone would call me within the hour. 2 hours later, I never received a phone call. Finally I was told that I will get the package TOMORROW...2 days after my original date of arrival.
I'll update once the package comes in.