Thursday, June 26, 2008

I fought the Post and the...oh wait, I won!

In early May, I decided that I was going to place a large order from Scott at Yunnan Sourcing. Two bricks of the 2008 Dehong Purple Varietal, a tong of the 2008 Menghai 7542(801), a yixing teapot, a mesh strainer...all things that should never have been an issue. I paid for my order, it was shipped to me. Everything was going just as planned until the USPS got their hands on my package. Somehow down the line, some brainiac decided to remove the waybill from my package. It made it out of China through customs, over a rather large ocean, into US customs, in the hands of the US Post Office, and eventually to my local hub. A little after five weeks had gone by, I receive a letter explaining that the package arrived without a customs declaration, no postage, and that I owed them $59.25 if I wanted to pick up my package. Because I thought it was a complete outrage, I called the post office immediately.

The next day, I spoke to Dennis, the postmaster at my local post office. He informed me that if I could provide a copy of the waybill then he would let me have my package. I immediately contacted Scott, who faxed it over, although the post office claims to have never gotten it. I asked Scott to scan and email it to me directly, which he was kind enough to do.

Upon receipt of the waybill, I thought I had this one in the bag. I went to Kinko's to print up a nice colour copy, and took it to the post office, only to be called a scam artist. The lady told me I should just refuse the package. I immediately spoke up saying "lady, this is a tong of spring harvest.....nevermind. You have no idea what I'm talking about." I asked to speak to the postmaster, and was refused; told he was in three interviews. She advised me to then just pay the $59.25 and get my package. I left, much less than satisfied, and more than determined to be a pain in their ass until I was able to recover my package.

I called and spoke to six different people on Saturday, and left multiple messages for the post master to call me back. He finally got back to me on Monday morning, and informed me that he wasn't even in the office on Friday when I went to talk to him. I emailed him the waybill, and a description of the contents of the box. I informed him that I would not be paying $59.25 for a package that shipping was already paid for, and showed him exactly how to read the way bill. I also informed him that if he was unable to help me, I wanted the name and phone number of his superior, as well as the postal investigator involved (since I was told the postal investigators had their hands on my box as well).

The very next day, I found an email the moment I arrived at work saying that he would be willing to turn over my package under a few conditions. He said he would be out of town and to speak the other supervisor that would be there. I would need to provide a copy of the bill (so I brought the one they called me a scammer over), a valid Drivers License or State ID (which they ended up never checking), and be willing to open the box at the post office for inspection; all of which I agreed to. the shipping was 216.3 RMB, and the weight was 4452 grams. After showing that to the supervisor, he simply said "How the hell am I supposed to convert this?"

I replied, "You're the post office...don't you have tools for that?" When he looked at me and said no, I busted out my cell phone and pulled up Google in order to do the conversions for him. Once everything matched up, he grabbed a pair of scissors, and I proceeded to cut my box open.

He was careful with the contents, thankfully. Scott was also careful in his wrapping of my pu-erh, so everything came through in tip top shape. Out came the tong. Out came the two bricks of Dehong. Out came my yixing clay pot and my strainer. Then, then unthinkable happened. Scott was kind enough to include some samples with my order. I watched as the man at the post office (who already hoped he was on the precipice of catching a terrorist) pulled out three bags of tea and began to sniff them with a very suspicious look on his face. He then asked me what they were, and I explained that many sellers will include samples of things they think you may enjoy. I then gave him a thorough background on pu-erh, explaining the way it is made and the way it ages, to which his reply was "You're too good for Lipton, huh?" I said "yes sir, I prefer not to drink dust and fannings." After a minute, he grabbed a roll of tape, closed my package back up, and said "Okay, you can take your package home," I breathed a deep sigh of relief, but inside felt like I had just been rode hard and nobody even offered me so much as a towel. I honestly have never felt more violated, or more like a criminal in my life.

Through this ordeal, I'm very grateful to Scott for coming through with the waybill. He even offered to go above and beyond that if necessary, but being as persistent as I am, I wanted to keep pushing and pushing to avoid either of us having to spend unnecessary money. It's just the right blend of manner, pestering, determination, and conviction.

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