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Sending stuff

So many things I've taken for granted - "you don't know what you'll miss until you don't have it anymore."

But I did anticipate that I would miss the convenience of "office services" - the most important service being that of sending things by courier. They took care of filling out the forms and putting the correct account number. I simply had to put the things into a box and not even bother about wrapping it properly.

So when I received an order for 25 CD's the other day, I panicked. I cycled to the local post office and enquired about the cost,delivery time, and insurance. Under 2 kilos it could be shipped as what the Royal Parcel Force calls "small package." For 18 quid, they would spend a week travelling around the world to get to my destination. For an additional STG 3.50, I could get it insured. But I would have to pack everything and bring it to the counter.

There were several international courier companies in the phone book. One local service quoted me STG 33 for a 2 kg package and a 3 day delivery. I called FEDEX, who quoted me a flat rate of STG 50 for a 10 kg box. The lady I spoke to kindly offered to e-mail me the necessary forms which had to be filled out in quintiplicate (5 copies each!)

I decided not to call DHL for two reasons. First, there was no toll-free number listed in the book, though I'm sure they have one. They had mistakenly charged me VAT for my personal effects from the US in January and chased me for payment every week until I called and wrote and complained. But after the recent air collision over Germany, I should be sympathetic and use their service. It wasn't their fault, but the way my friend in the US had labelled the package.

It's important to declare - either "personal effects, used items not for sale and of no value whatsoever to anybody else" or "free samples not for sale, value representative for transport only, gifts" - to avoid Customs officers levying tax at the other end. The secret, said the FEDEX delivery agent, is in filling the forms.

2 July 2002 Tuesday

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