56.5 F
Los Angeles
Thursday, Jun 8, 2023


It’s a few minutes before 2 p.m. and Maurice Neri, an escrow officer at First American Title Co. of Los Angeles’ downtown office, realizes he needs to get proof of insurance from Farmers Insurance Co. in the Mid-Wilshire District to conclude a deal.

No problem just call the messenger service.

But from the moment a call like that is placed to downtown-based ProCourier, one of L.A.’s biggest courier services, an awful lot happens and quite a few people get involved, from ProCourier’s customer-service representative to dispatchers to the messengers who finally make the delivery.

Fax machines and e-mail have made transmitting information a snap, but when you absolutely, positively have to get original papers, checks or other items across town in a hurry, there’s nothing quite like a messenger service.

Architects and engineering firms use them to move blueprints and renderings. Ad agencies use them to get copy to publishers. And escrow companies use them to speedily move real estate documents.

The 25 companies on the Business Journal’s list of largest messenger service companies average more than 61,000 daily deliveries in L.A. County.

“Our industries don’t want to hear ‘we can’t do that,’ ” said Bob Faulkner, co-owner of ProCourier. “If a company comes to me and asks me to move a refrigerator, I will find a way to move it.”

In the case of First American, a “direct delivery” was requested, which guarantees delivery in two hours or less. As soon as ProCourier’s Mary Beth Montemayer finished the order, the computer automatically assigned a charge (in this case, $11).

All orders are transmitted to one of three dispatch rooms representing types of service legal, special delivery and “routed,” which are regularly scheduled deliveries.

In the case of Neri’s order, the request arrives in the special delivery room, which handles more than half the company’s business. There, a giant map is peppered with magnets showing the location of the company’s 60 or so special delivery messengers. Pinned beneath each magnet are the “tickets” representing each driver’s orders.

The room is commanded by Steve Wada, who handles the Southern California region, and Charlie Wilson, who focuses on the Westside. This particular order goes to Wada, who quickly matches drivers with deliveries.

“Dispatching can’t be taught,” says Faulkner, who owns ProCourier with partner Terry Tomich. “It’s a gift. Steve is the best I’ve ever seen. He talks fast when it’s slow and he talks fast when it’s busy.”

Geoffrey Page, a messenger since 1977, called Wada from a production company in Santa Monica, looking for his next assignment. Wada told him to drive to Farmers, pick up the documents, and deliver them to the title company downtown.

Page recorded the information on a clipboard, stuffed it into his weathered black shoulder bag and hopped into his white Toyota pickup.

ProCourier messengers drive their own vehicles, and Page’s truck cab is spare except for a radio that rests between the driver and passenger seat. It squawks continuously.

Like Page, most messengers are paid on commission so they want to work for a busy company. A percentage of each delivery charge, along with mileage and the number of hours worked, all figure into a paycheck. Bikers and walkers are paid by the hour, and wages range from $7 to $11 an hour.

Though there is intense competition for business, messenger companies will occasionally hire a rival firm to make a pick-up if their own drivers get tied up. The alternative, Faulkner notes, is to turn down a customer something no self-respecting courier service would ever do.

Finally, Page is ready to go to Farmer’s Insurance. He heads east on Olympic Boulevard to avoid the many stoplights on Wilshire Boulevard.

Traffic slows on Olympic, however, and Page quickly chooses an alternate route. He doesn’t break the speed limit, though; messengers are responsible for their own tickets, and Page is not eager to get one. He arrives at Farmer’s Insurance at 3 p.m., and checks the street for signs on parking limits.

Page runs into the building, but he never gets beyond the cramped lobby, where he greets a slow-moving security guard. Page has less than an hour to deliver his package, or it will be late. Unfazed, he waits while the guard searches for the package in her work area. Finally, she comes up with it. Page records the time of his pick-up, and then jumps back in his truck heading toward downtown.

Traffic is getting thick, but Page remains calm. In fact, as he pulls into downtown, he slows and stops by the curb, so he can radio in to the dispatcher that he is approaching downtown.

The dispatcher tells him to meet a bike messenger on the street and pick up another package to take it back to the Westside.

Page sits in a red zone waiting for the bike messenger. The First American Title package has nearly reached its deadline, and as if on cue, the bike messenger rides up and hands the small package through Page’s car window. Page is ready to go to First American Title.

He parks in a red zone and runs in. The package emerges from Page’s black canvas bag and is handed over to a receptionist, who signs for it. It is 3:55 p.m., and First American Title has its package 2 hours and 2 minutes after Neri first placed the call.

Previous article
Next article

Featured Articles

Related Articles