Jess Nickelsen: Discombobulated
July 24, 2018 - puzzling over international parcel post


Spent a chunk of time this morning over a parcel that was meant to be delivered today, but wasn’t. The tracking update said basically that the delivery couldn’t be completed because no-one was home. At 7:45 this morning. At precisely 7:45 I was standing in my kitchen looking out over the driveway, making Leila’s school lunch and talking to my dad on the phone. If anyone had come up the drive, I would have seen them.

I hate it when couriers do crap like this. Another pet peeve is when something is sent with a signature required” and so you wait around for it, only to find out that the courier has signed” with your address, for you. I hate having to wait around to sign for a parcel but hate it when people (illegally, right?) do it for you. And think it’s normal.

Unfortunately the parcel was sent from the US by USPS, and by the time I’d figured out it wasn’t them, but NZ Post I needed to grump at, my anger had dissipated and I told myself it was a lesson in patience, and to just calm the hell down. Fortunately NZ Post has a nice feature where you can log on and tell them where to leave your parcel if you don’t want to sign for it, and that you accept any liability if it goes missing. On the front doorstep it goes. Whenever it comes. I’m convinced that the tracking of parcels is not a good thing. Yes, you want to know where something is, if it has gone missing, and roughly when it’s on the way— actually a great feature that I just experienced from another company I’m expecting something from, was a text to say the parcel was out for delivery, and if I wanted to change my delivery options, (click here). I was taken to the same NZ Post page that I used to track down the other parcel with USPS, but this was a seriously convenient and helpful text. (Why it was turned on for one parcel but not another, is a mystery to me.)

But in any case, by making tracking updates available to the purchaser, you incite that weird, hit F5, behaviour where you are constantly checking the page for updates. It’s like waiting for a certain email to arrive, or a text from someone you’re desperate to hear from. It’s just totally unnecessary, but as soon as you’re aware that you can track your goodies (and the emails from the places you shop pretty much incite the behaviour from the start with their hey! We’ve boxed up your stuff and it’s now on the way! See this link!”), you’re on that thing like stink on a worm hand. (Sorry; gross. Inside joke with a five year old.)

The worst part of all is you see all the places your stuff is going. In the above example, I’ve ordered a pen from a popular pen website. Here is where my pen has been, over the last eight days:

  • Henrico, VA
  • Sandston, VA
  • Richmond, VA Distribution center
  • Jersey City, NJ Network Distribution center
  • Jamaica, NY International Distribution center
  • Newark, United States
  • Los Angeles, United States
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • And presumably, now, Wellington.

I dunno, it seems sort of ridiculous. I know it’s not been the only parcel in these conveyances going from place to place, but it also makes me feel a little sick inside when I think of all the handling, truck exhaust, airplane fuel, and the rest that it’s taken to get a TWSBI into my hands. The only place to buy one in NZ looks to be online, in Auckland (so there are still air miles involved, and of course the thing has still had to make its way to the shop from overseas, so there’s no difference really), and it’s $47 (NZ dollars, obviously), plus shipping, compared to $25 on the American site. I think I need to seriously rethink my dedication to these popular US companies in many cases (though it’s hard not to feel ripped off when we are paying in NZD, with the inevitable mark-up).

(It’s also worth mentioning that JetPens, who I ordered some stuff from earlier last week, have insanely fast shipping. Seriously, I think my package got to me in half the time of this other one, and I ordered from them on the same day as this one. It was like twice as fast as a parcel sent from somewhere else in New Zealand would get to me.)

(For that matter, now is probably a good time to talk about Amazon. I know we are not meant to order from them any more, that their employee practices are awful and they probably don’t pay enough tax. But even though they are undercutting everyone, they still make an awful lot of things available and accessible for us here in the antipodes—even with the insane postage rates to NZ. EBay is hit and miss—usually these days I steer clear from ordering from the US, and opt instead for buying stuff from Asian sellers, who offer excellent shipping at something like a quarter of the price. But then again there’s the whole caveat emptor aspect of shopping there.)

It’s hard being a stationery fiend in this part of the world.