Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Emphasising the ‘later’ in Purolator: A Tale of Christmas Heartbreak

Allow me to tell you a story. It goes a little something like this…

Once upon a time there was an Orange Canadian who lived in the far distant land of Africa, in the township of Uganda, which is found on the eastern part of the country (it’s a BIG country!). It was nearing that festive time of Christmas* and her family wanted to send her a few things that would make her feel not so far away.

So, after compiling a list, the family gathered together, placed the items in a box, and shipped it off in hopes that it would arrive in time for Christmas. In fact – it was sent with the ‘Purolator promise’ that it would arrive a week before the big day, meaning a 3-day delivery turn around.

She, along with her brother, eagerly followed the package’s journey each day with endless anticipation. From Canada, throughout the US, to Germany onto Dubai. And then – poof – it disappeared.

A few days later (meaning the week after the package’s departure from Canada), she received a phone call out of the blue from a courier company representing the Canadian service provider (*cough* Purolator/UPS *cough*). They informed her that her package had arrived, and would be available for delivery pending the standard payment of a customs tax, but also a not-so-standard delivery fee (that was to be paid whether it was delivered or she made the journey into Kampala to pick it up herself!).

In the final days leading up to Christmas, she spent a number of hours on the phone. Her brother also spent some time on the phone. And yet, the only thing that seemed to change was the ransom rate designated by the local courier service, ranging from a package processing fee, to a delivery fee, to an incorrectly entered package contents claim.

With no Christmas tree in sight, she fashioned herself a make shift tree out of the excessive amounts of toilet paper that seemed to be at her disposal, in hopes of a Christmas miracle. But it did not happen. She awoke Christmas morning to find no more than a toilet paper tree with nothing under its flimsy and lifeless “branches.” And the little Orange Canadian was left feeling sad and devoid of any Christmas spirit.

The end.

This isn’t the part of the infomercial when the calm lady’s voice chimes in to say that it looked “really real, didn’t it?” No folks, this is a real-life happenstance.

Yesterday (midway through week 3, post-arrival), I made my way into Kampala in order to retrieve the package in question myself. This, after numerous phone calls (a number of which went unanswered or were just never returned), and several failed delivery attempts. And, by “failed delivery attempts” I mean, I was told my package would be out for delivery on a specific day, and then that day came and went and no delivery took place**. To say this was an incredibly frustrating and far more complicated process than it should have been would be an understatement. But it didn’t end there…

One would think going to the office to pick up a package that the delivery company indicated they were in possession of would be a relatively simple task. But, it was in this instance that I fully understood why there was so much miscommunication and disorganization.

When I arrived at the courier’s office (approximately 20-30 minutes after I had spoken with a staff member who was following up, and to whom I informed I’d be arriving to the office shortly), I was told I would have to either come back another day, or wait an hour or so, because the entire staff had just gone to lunch. No one seemed bothered by the fact that I had just travelled over two hours to come get the package, and that I had a further two plus hours ahead of me to get back home, or that I’d been given the OK to come in at that time by one of their staff members not long before I had arrived. The only thing that made me feel good at this point, was knowing the other people waiting were also in a similar boat… 

Finally, I met one of the staff I had been dealing with over the past few weeks. And, with the help of my “girlish charms” and “highly persuasive skills,” (i.e. I Mom-yelled at them and told them to get it together!) I was eventually led to a completely different part of the building in which their office was located, where I waited once again, while they scrambled to find the package. In the end, I had the parcel in my hands after close to 45 minutes had passed.

Check out the beautiful wrapping job! 
And so, a week and three days after Christmas, Santa finally arrived in Jinja, leading to the completion of this visual evidence of how it all went down – a mockumentary, if you will.

The good news is, this company only deals with Purolator/UPS, so if any of you lovely folks ever feel like sending something to Uganda, use FedEx or DHL, because I’ve been told when they say door-to-door service (i.e. from Wolfville to Jinja), it actually goes from Point A to Point B as indicated on the weigh-bill, and not just as far as the capitol city and then held at ransom for several weeks until you eventually go pick it up yourself***!

The other good news is, I received four things of dental floss within the contents of this package, which brought about so much excitement it could only mean one thing: I’m definitely an adult now!

But in all seriousness, I returned home (sporting my first sunburn of the year, and actually the first since returning back to Uganda in September!), threw on Coldplay’s Christmas Lights (because it’s the only Christmas song I have on my laptop, and quite frankly the only one I actually like!), and quietly opened each item.

 My toilet paper Christmas Tree; The care package stash, in which all four packs of dental floss in plain view! 

Two of the wrapped gifts were a colouring book and coloured pencils. The colouring book 
is based off of the book I received last year for Christmas. And of course, it was immediately 
put to good use, being as my favourite spot in Halifax was included - Lawrencetown Beach!

Yes, this was frustrating. And yes, in the grand scheme of things this is small potatoes in comparison to some of the challenges facing the world today. But, I don’t like being taken advantage of or having my time wasted****.

However, with all that being said, I am so lucky to have a family back home who put enough thought and effort into sending me some of my favourite things to make that gap between here and there much smaller*****. I'm also thankful my brother shares my sense of humour, because we both enjoyed a few laughs during the course of this ordeal! But, next year – I’m paying a personal visit to a one Mr. San-T Clause at his all-inclusive North Pole resort. After all, it'll probably be cheaper!

-the Orange Canadian

*Hey… Why aren’t other holidays referred to as festive?!
**I lost two full days of work and a smattering of time here and there every other day in the weeks it took to receive my stuffs, which almost resulted in missing a crucial deadline, just to set those deliveries up. PLUS, another full day just to go pick it up!
***I also didn’t have to pay that excessive “delivery fee” that I had been told I would need to pay even if I came to get it myself! And what was this excessive rate, you ask? 95000 Ugandan Shillings (approximately $35 Canadian dollars). And how much did it cost me for a round trip journey to Kampala and back, plus local transportation? 25000 Ugandan Shillings (approximately $9 Canadian buck-a-roos). Don’t mess with the Orange Canadian - especially when there's Twizzlers, maple syrup and dental floss at stake!!
****And, yeah, I know, the real basis of my frustrations were founded on the massive privilege I have. Despite the disorganization of the office, I hardly think this process would have been so challenging if I weren’t a mzungu. And to be fair, this is really the only time I've been placed in this situation in all the time I've spent outside of Canada, so, I'm pretty lucky, I suppose. 
*****Also, I am now in possession of all the maple syrup products from my favourite maple syrup producer, Acadian Maple. So, don’t bother trying to look for any of their things back home!

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