We send a parcel to the US and mistakenly assume it’s a simple matter. This is a true story about international parcel shipping, helpful mailmen and the Mexican way.
Milagros gets a new standing rigging (wire ropes holding the mast). On this occasion we are also replacing 7 chain plates and 2 backing plates to which these wire ropes are attached to the boat. We have found a company in California that can make these 9 plates for us out of titanium. To make sure that we get exact copies, we wanted to ship these 15 kg of stainless steel to California.
Act one: find a shipping company
Shipping a package to the US should be pretty easy – we thought. Well. DHL, UPS and FedEx as worldwide known companies spontaneously came to our mind. Briefly checked online, we were slightly shocked. Costs were up to $ 180. Quite expensive! The cheapest option would have been to give it to someone travelling to the US who could send it domestically. But we didn’t have that option at that moment. So we bit the bullet and opted for a variant with UPS, which has a longer delivery time and where the price doesn’t hurt as much.
Act two: placing the order
However, it quickly turned out that sending something across the border to the US was quite complicated. Various details about the contents, including the invoice for customs, had to be input. But how do you explain “unusable, partially corroded stainless steel chain plates” to customs? And what is their value? To the best of our knowledge, we compiled the information and then – these documents had to be printed out. Of course, we don’t have a printer. Kindly, an employee of the boatyard printed out the documents for us. Using old cardboard boxes, duct tape and a clear envelope, we put the package together and added the necessary documents and signatures.
Act three: Having the package picked up
We chose a time slot between 9am and 12pm at Astillero Cabrales as our pick-up time. We didn’t have high hopes that this would work. Although it had to work, because we had delayed the delivery until the last moment (the day of our departure) – for whatever reason. Anyway, even at 1pm, no one had come to pick up the package. So I searched the internet for a place where we could drop the package. So with 15 kg of stainless steel under my arm, I entered the shipping point. But they didn’t know anything about dropping off UPS packages there. But a helpful employee gave me the private phone number of the UPS man who was responsible for picking up the packages in Puerto Peñasco.
Act Four: Posting the package
In the car park, I called this number and was connected to “my” man: the UPS mailman named Samael. I dug out my best Spanish and learned that he was indeed supposed to pick up a package in Astillero Cabrales that day. Literally, he said he would pick it up “ahorita”. This can mean either “immediately” or “in a minute, in ten minutes, in an hour, whenever I can make it…”. He would call me when he got there. I was already bracing myself for the worst. Our bus to the airport didn’t leave until 9pm, but the package simply had to be sent the same day. A Mexican who had overheard my phone call in the car park offered to help. He knew a little English and offered to help me translate into Spanish.
Act Five: Sending the parcel on its way
But 10 minutes later my phone rang, he was there now. Again with the package under my arm, I stood in front of the gate, but saw no UPS car far and wide. So when I called him again, a mobile phone rang in a rather run-down, wine-red car parked at the side of the road. A man of about the same age as me wearing a worn UPS waistcoat got out, his companion stayed in the car. On his mobile phone he showed me the UPS pick-up order, which matched my shipping order. Well, well. So I gave him the package.
Act Five: Tracking the Parcel
Back in Switzerland, we checked the status of the shipment with the tracking code. We started sweating when we saw that, according to UPS, the package had not yet been picked up. But what could we do? So we decided to just wait a little longer. Maybe the problem would be solved with time. And then we completely forgot about the package. One day after the scheduled delivery date, it suddenly came back to us. According to the tracking, however, the status of the parcel had not changed. Our pulse immediately went up. Where was the parcel? Had I made a mistake by simply dropping the parcel off? Was it now lost?
Act Six: The Search for the Parcel
So I contacted Samael via WhatsApp and asked him if he knew what had happened to the parcel. It had been taken to Hermosillo by UPS truck the next day, but he could check, he said. So I sent him the tracking code. 5 hours later I got the information from him that the package was held back in Hermosillo because the documents for customs were missing. And he sent us pictures of the parcel. For the time being, relief spread.
With the help of Google Translate, I explained to him where I had put the documents (in the transparent folder taped to the outside, as required by UPS) and also sent them to him again via WhatsApp. But according to the UPS tracking, the package was still in our hands, nota bene. When was UPS going to tell us that the documents were missing? We received no email, no phone call, no notification. What if I didn’t have Samael’s private number?
An hour later, Samael told me that UPS had found the documents and the package was now on its way. I thanked him warmly and was glad that Samael had stood up for us and didn’t just not care what happened to the package.
Act Seven: The package is on its way
After a delay of 10 days, the package was sent to the USA. The first time, the status in the tracking now changed and a new expected delivery date was given 2 days later. But after this date passed without the package arriving at its destination, we received a status update again. It was now stuck at customs. And we would have to provide some additional information. Oh great. But we didn’t know what, and we couldn’t find out more or submit anything online. When we emailed customer service to ask what we should do, we got a status update the same day that the package was now through customs.
In the meantime, 16 days have passed since we posted the package in Puerto Peñasco. And it still hasn’t arrived at its destination. We, on the other hand, are more or less back in Mexico. How will the story end?
Our motto these days is: Give me coffee to change the things I can and beer to accept those that I cannot.