3.21.2005

Canada Post made me her Bitch

All I wanted to do was to ship a wireless Xbox controller back for repair/replacement.
A polite and efficient Mr. Brian Stone at Hip Interactive, Inc. had responded immediately to my annoyed correspondence after spending several hours constantly waltzing to the right in Red Dead Revolver. “Send it to me,” he said, “and I’ll fix it, no charge other than shipping.”
That soon turned out to be considerably less of a deal than I had thought.
I grew up in an era when the word “postal” no longer brought to mind images of a kindly, if poorly named, Mr. McFeely to mind, but instead a frothing, Uzi-totting madman, a mailman equivalent of William Foster from “Falling Down”.
This is, of course, an entirely unfair stereotype of today’s postal worker, often polite, if tired, and never surlier than your average government employee. Still, the stories of crazed postal workers mowing down helpless bystanders, no matter how exaggerated, has left an indelible mark upon me since childhood. Postal workers join the ranks of many customer service personnel that scare the hell out of me, along with waitresses and those guys in store that get things from the top shelves or carry heavy items to your car.
The controller, it’s stand and wireless receiver were packed into an old PartyLite box, and I hoped al I would have to do is fill out a label, pay $5 and be done with it. When I arrived however, I discovered a host of shipping options, customs labels and a big angry sign warning me of the new Canadian shipping laws. Confused—why is express (fast) faster than priority (of number one concern)?—I begrudgingly entered the line to find out, what, if anything, I could do.
I stood in line nervously trying to figure out it was going to be the small red-haired lady or man with a two-foot beard who would end up wearing my head as a hat. Both counters opened up simultaneously, and in a last minute paroxysm of fear I choose the weaker and slower looking red-haired woman.
She turned out to be quite nice, and explained all kinds of stuff to me I didn’t listen to before handing me a sharpie, a customs label and a printout of the new international Canadian Shipping regulations and I retired to the back counter to fill it out. She said I didn’t have to wait in line again.
I’m an American. I like my postal codes simple, logical numbers, not some irrational alphanumeric string. Still I persevered. I was allowed to write directly on the box, provided I 1) did not write informal titles like Grandpa or Blood-Brother 2)Wrote only Canada (country of destination) in the last line) and 3) Wrote entirely in capitals. While I made slow and careful scribbles, more customers showed up and a much-harried employee popped in from the back to help with the influx. It was to him I took my presumably finished form and box.
Wrong! I hadn’t written in capitals. I was berated, and as I colored and simpered apologies, he relented and told me to cross it out, try again, and fill in the part of the customs form that I had missed because it was green and I thought it was for internal use only.
I tried again, got momentarily confused as to whether it was a product sample, prayed I didn’t have to actually know the individual weights of the items in the box and entered the line. I didn’t have to wait at the end again, technically, but I hoped it would serve as penance and give a chance for the customers that had witnessed my idiocy to leave.
It was then a kindly customer, who was leaving, told me to go to the front of the line.
Once again the red-haired lady helped me, despite nearly drowning in my misplaced apologies. There was a moment of panic when she realized I had written the address to large to put the customs label in its spot, but she wrapped it half over the corner and all was well. I was so flustered I bought a book of classic automobile stamps. I then left, chastened and vowing to hand deliver any other mail I had to send to our great northern brother.

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