January 30, 2009

a trans-atlantic trinket

Filed under: just whinging — anne thrope (miss) @ 3:49 pm

ok so where was i? ah yes the wife’s birthday.

a couple of weeks ago i happened upon the misguided notion of buying the wife a present for her fast-approaching birthday, not that she really deserves one, her resting-state being somewhere in that twilight-zone between morose disinterest and abject ingratitude.

(i’m not actually sure how old she is … she keeps her birth certificate under lock-and-key as she says it’s the only proof that she was in fact born, and not quarried).

however, i digress. back to the plot. i’d had an idea about something from america which might just avoid outright disdain and since i’m in the UK i turned to our old friend ebay to track down my objective.

good news. my search, and some late-night sniping were quickly rewarded with successful purchase of three splendid dooney and bourke, all-weather-leather handbags. not surprisingly, payment was the easiest part of the process and i settled back to await the arrival of my humble offering.

now admittedly, having, as usual begun the whole irksome process unadvisably late, (19 jan) there was never any realistic prospect of it arriving by the target date. in fact it was not until the 23rd jan, having spent four days undocumented in some usps netherworld that their ‘tracking system’ … i use the expression loosely, not to say ill-advisedly … showed it had arrived at their san francisco parcels dispatch.

alas! d-day and our anxiously-awaited trinket is still on the wrong side of the pond! unbelievably it then takes three days to arrive in the uk. a further three days stewing at customs finally culminates in an entry on the tracking system that ‘we attempted to deliver your parcel at 5.56am’!

what a pack of lies! who the hell delivers parcels before six in the morning. (in the vanishingly-unlikely event that you do, just keep it to yourself or you’ll spoil my rant.)

so what do you do in such a case? well obviously you search the usps website in the vain hope that you’ll find some information, or a means of contacting a human-being to enquire about it. dream-on! you enter a relevant keyword search into their faq system. examination of the first few pages assures you that you will go unrewarded even if you carefully read all 310 possible answers returned.

it’s in such times of trauma that we turn to google. not that i’m it’s biggest fan but within seconds a similarly appropriate search term returns pages of admittedly anecdotal information of varying quality, but with a little persistence a theme quickly emerges.

the answer, it seems, is that having awaited the glacial attentions of customs officers in the uk parcels hub, if import charges are applied you’re going to have to wait for a letter demanding payment of the charges before your parcel will be delivered.

so for ‘we attempted to deliver your parcel at 5.56am’ read ‘you owe customs charges – wait till we ask for them’!

in case you were psychic and had guessed all this, just to keep you on your toes, somewhere in this process your parcel has been silently transferred to the uk’s parcelforce system with a completely different tracking number! do they tell you any of this? do they hell!

extraordinarily, however, having sniffed out this wheeze with the help of google, you go to the parcelforce site, enter the usps tracking number and the system returns your tracking details under a completely different number. obvious, surely!?

anyway, surprisingly, next day an invoice for the charges, in my case totalling £20.95 (£12.95 vat and £8.00 for writng the letter!!!) arrived. within minutes i paid by phone entirely without humanoid assistance and now await delivery on monday having judiciously avoided the offer of delivery tomorrow (saturday) at a further cost of £12.00. give me strength.

in the uk and thinking of buying something from elsewhere? .. you have been warned!

oh yeh, and a happy (chinese) new year. (not that i’m chinese or nothin’ … so don’t get any ideas 😉 )

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