Before deregulation of the transportation industry, it was primarily household goods carriers such as movers and van lines that handled the commercial movement of third proviso goods — items that required the specialized skills and tools of a mover for transport like new furniture.
I made one of my first heavy-goods, white-glove, last-mile deliveries in the summer of 1976. I recall fearing I’d lose my grip on my share of the weight of the 6-foot-tall, antique, handcarved, solid oak, French provincial armoire the customer had purchased from an antiques dealer on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles — and which was dangling by the tips of my fingers, one story above the ground on the wrong side of the stair railing outside the building leading to her Beverly Hills apartment.
Movers “walk through” and “clear the path” before loading and unloading. It’s a process of surveying steps to be taken before moves are completed. In our planning that day, we determined the piece was too wide to fit with us on the narrow, fire-escape-like flight of stairs. It was also too tall to make the 90-degree turn on the small landing at the top and into the doorway. Yep, the armoire had to go up outside the railing and be spun over the railing (and above our heads) at the top to make the turn and entry through the doorway. Our crew was young, fit and supremely confident we could handle the carry up the stairs and make the press and swivel in unison at the top.
My grip started to slip about halfway up. It was hot and I wasn’t wearing a wristband (nor gloves of any color). The piece was on the opposite side of the railing we’d covered with moving blankets. The three of us were hump-strapped to it and leaning over the railing to execute the carry. We took one step at a time, synchronized by the cadence provided by Robert — the guy at the top — saying “Up” before each step. The big guy, John, was carrying the bulk of the load at the bottom, and I, the FNG, was gliding up the staircase in the rocking chair (easy position). Even from that position, I thought for a moment the fingers might pull out of my right hand.
Amazingly, we completed the job without physical damage or bodily injury. I still have all of my fingers, or else I might not be writing this passage for you today. The customer was very happy with our macho performance and satisfied with the placement of her new purchase. She praised our team highly. The antique store continued to issue new orders and celebrate our white-glove prowess.
Those 12-14 stairs seemed like they might be my final mile for several steps. Many years later, while writing the market segmentation and strategic plans for 3PD’s entry into the first-to-last-mile space, I smiled ear to ear in affirmation when the consultant working with me on the project suggested “heavy goods” as an alternative moniker to “white-glove” for marketing the segment. I must admit it tickles me that XPO retained the phrase following their acquisition.
It was an early moment of challenge, youthful exuberance and fortunate success in my career. I think the story typifies the can-do efforts and determination of everyone I’ve ever met performing last-mile, final-mile, white-glove or heavy-goods services. I can think of many other remarkable results. But, to be honest, it was a different time and a bit too risky a maneuver. To be clear, I’m not advocating anyone, ever, try something like that again. There are other ways to satisfy a customer, safely. In the worst case, there are still professional rigging companies out there.
The meaning of last mile differs between people based on their own perspectives and interests. In spite of those differences, all would probably agree that the mission in last mile is to satisfy customers and deliver an experience that helps affirm the wisdom of and satisfaction with their purchase. People in “our” industry hold in common the proclivity to go above and beyond: to go the extra mile. Cheers to all of you and to your continued success!