Popular culture + evangelicals. Never a dull moment!
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.
So, I was trying to find a cheapass pair of cheapass flip flops to replace my worn-out cheapass flip flops. And of course, I end up at the excellent zappos.com. Not finding what I need, and realizing for other reasons that I am way poorer than I thought this week, I gave up buying anything. And then I sorted the flip flops by price seeing “highest first” just to see how nutty that was. It was about this nutty. ” Rejuvenate your warm-weather-wardrobe with these high fashion thong sandals” indeed, at $240. But that wasn’t the good part! The good part is the random customer testimonial that Zappos chose to put on that page, which I quote in full below.
Dearest Zappos Customer Loyalty Team — Zappos is like nothing I have ever encountered in a store, online or otherwise. The promptness of service, total ease of return (you guys really know how finicky shoe freaks are!), constant inquiry as to how you may serve us better, and your customer evaluations (which have helped me tremendously in evaluating a particular brand/type of shoe) all create the “perfect” shopping experience! I have even told total strangers (who I perceived were frustrated in shoe-shopping) about you; and, have shared your .com address with everyone I meet who evidences any inkling of being crazy about shoes (the latest was the admitting clerk at Palestine Regional Hospital!). It is really refreshing and comforting to encounter the spiritual-material balance in your concept of merchandizing. This is difficult to explain; but, Zappos takes away some of the “guilt” I feel in buying more-and-more shoes instead of sending more money to Hope International or Heifer International or Catholic Medical Missions…or any of the multifarious, marvelous organizations “out there” who are helping create a healthier world. Because you reveal the people behind the product, you bring home the truth that by our high standard of living (which includes having more than two pairs of shoes: Sunday-go-to-meeting and every-day), we are able to provide the income for numerous folks who will, in turn, contribute to all sorts of worthwhile social programs to renew our Mother Earth! Yes, I do realize that there may be a fine line between Imelda Marcos and one who appreciates comfortable footwear; however, as I try to stay on the “good” side of the line, I certainly appreciate Zappos.com! (Have you ever considered contributing a percentage of every shoe purchased to Hope International or Mother Theresa’s Missions or some such worthy cause?) God hold you all close, “in the very hollow of His hand” (an old Gaelic blessing)! Sincerely, Di M
~ Di M, June 05 2006
…and how! I have Space Invaders Shoes now. They are invading your space. Please note the sole, which imprints an invader and “One Point” as I walk.
I found these after my original quest for the limited edition Space Invaders Vans shoes ended in failure; they were apparently a Japan only very limited thing.