The shoes.

I had a mission. It seemed simple. My task was to acquire and ship a pair of shoes to mendel.

Acquisition was easy; about five clicks of ecommerce.

Then I discovered that shipping a pair of shoes to a friend in Canada is… fraught. It’s not expensive. Nor is it physically difficult. However, the bureaucracy involved is nearly Slavic.

First I tried to do this via FedEx. They had a reasonably priced shipping option, and their website promised a step-by-step process for getting the customs declarations and shipping labels right.

The actual process resembled a “choose your own adventure” script in which failure might result in international arrest warrants for fraud, smuggling, failure to comply, cavalier attitude towards generally accepted procedures of international commerce, and yeggery. Deep in the middle of Adventure #3 I found myself faced with a screen in which I had to choose whether the shoes were “ornamental” in some way or “shoes, leather sole, fabric upper, pointed, ballet, en pointe, intended for legitimate artistic purposes.” I imagined a bad click resulting in poor mendel forced to pirouette on a pair of city walking boots under pain of permanent fugitive status on an Interpol warrant.

I gave up on FedEx. Their process “concluded” without any ability to schedule a pickup. Apparently I hadn’t finished, but there was no clue why.

The United States Postal Service was more promising. In fact, their procedure was honestly step-by-step, and the rates again very reasonable! I happily clicked through a few screens, entered my information, and was presented with a PDF which I printed. No joy. The PDF printed without addresses and strangely truncated. I had mistakenly clicked “okay!” and charged my credit card before I saw that the printout was very much not okay. Oh God! What to do now? Once you’ve printed out the damned thing you can’t do so again without doubling the charge, which then becomes less than reasonable.

Fortunately the EZ-Print-O-Matic system had dropped a turd on my desktop which turned out to be the PDF itself. I opened it with Adobe Reader instead of the Mac’s “Preview” program and it printed out just fine. Whew! I now had the five required copies of the label/customs declaration, prepaid postage, the package itself, and a false sense of confidence.

eyeteeth and I arrived at the post office today and found it nearly empty! no line, friendly staff. Hopes were high. Unfortunately, I had failed to throw out the first, bad printout of the label and had brought it with me instead of the second, good printout. The postal lady couldn’t do a thing with the first printout because it was so badly truncated that there wasn’t enough information for her to fill out a real one. She sadly told me I’d have to bring the real one or she couldn’t ship.

Ordinarily I would have cursed God and died, rushed home, found the proper paperwork, and gone back to the Post Office. But I had to feed the eyeteeth and myself, and had to get her to the airport. This was no time to admit defeat. Off we went to Cafe Zinc to eat well, and from there to the airport.

Problem: the mailing date on the forms was fixed at today. What will happen? Tomorrow I will try to contact “customer” “service” at the USPS and find out if I have completely failed and missed my “window” in which case I’ll start over. With luck this will be no problem. Then I will be able to mail the package.

As Art Spiegelman titled his story of Maus after the war, and now my troubles began. Or rather mendel‘s troubles. If or when I ship the package, will he receive it? Will the broker (Canadian for “bandito”) give him the shoes? Will the shoes arrive? Will they be approved by Canadian Customs, or rejected as somehow dangerous or economically rapacious or otherwise un-Canadian? Will mendel be forced to dance a sequence from Swan Lake for Mounties to avoid transportation to the Baffin Bay Correctional Work Institute?

You my readers will be the first to know. Pray for us.

9 thoughts on “The shoes.

  1. Some years ago I was convinced to mail my British friend a few pairs of Genuine American Blue Jeans, except that they were not Genuine in any kind of sense that involved Americans themselves wearing them. Nor were they blue. They were some strangely cut european-style “black” jeans that I don’t really like to think about much, it makes me uncomfortable. The main point here is they cost around $150 over there and more like $25 here.
    So I mailed them. I just blustered through the customs stuff with my customary indifference to paperwork and legibility. I’m not entirely sure whether it was my fault, but they wound up rotting in UK customs for a good month.

  2. We send all sorts of odd stuff to my HQ in Canada via FedEx. I only have problems when I don’t list everything as “business correspondence.”

  3. LOLZ. I really love this post because I have gone through the same monopolizing time suckage at UPS, Fedex(KINKOZ!) and our own trusty USPS to ship ebay sales. No more for this kid. I avoid anything going in and out of this country, too many stickers, papers to sign, foggedaboutit!

  4. Two things.
    In order to ship USPS, take the shoes to the post office and say you want to ship them. Fill out a tiny green tag and write “shoes” and “gift” on the tag. Pay postage and go home. My experience from the other side of international shipping has been that it’s best to avoid the internet altogether in the process. Still, in an effort to “modernize”, it’s entirely possible that the USPS has managed to make it much harder than the old tiny green tag system, in which case I am very sad.
    If you ship FedEx or UPS you may streamline this process but at the same time saddle the recipient with a “brokerage fee” of between $30 and $60 CAD.

    1. This is what we had to do with a bike we were shipping to Canada. We wrestled the interwebernet for a couple hours…and even discussed the shipment with our regular UPS delivery guy. In the end (several weeks later)we actually ended up hauling the bike down to the post office to get the correct paperwork filled out.

  5. I find trying to arrange any kind of mailing/shipping via the internet to be a pain in the neck. At the Irvine post office there’s a nice concierge type person who checks with each person in line to help them get the proper forms. I go there, and things go very smoothly.

  6. Wow… just… how “Brazillian”
    ” I’ve tried that! Population Census have got him down as dormanted, the Central Collective Storehouse computer has got him down as deleted, and the Information Retrieval have got him down as inoperative … Security has him down as excised., Admin have him down as completed…”
    mojo sends

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