Thursday, August 5, 2010

4 - The Sigmoid of Darkness

Day 7. I come back from breakfast at 7.45 a.m.

‘Oh, UPS was just here with an envelope for you,’ says the doorman. ‘But they wanted $60.76 delivery charge, so they took it back.’

$60.76 on prepaid delivery? What a curve ball! Another telephonic runaround.

‘It's customs duty,’ says a UPS official from The Bronx.

‘What, customs duty on a passport?’

‘Oh,’ says another official, ‘our computer doesn't show it was prepaid.’

‘The person who sent it back from London marked it to-be-paid on delivery,’ says a third. ‘We're bringing it back at 10.30 a.m. but you can only get it if you pay $60.76.’

‘But why should I pay another $60.76 when I’ve already paid over $80,’ quoths I.

‘You’ll just have to, we can’t release it if you don’t.’

‘And while we’re at it,’ I detonate, ‘how come you took $80 for the return journey, yet it seems it should only be $60.76?’

‘You’ll have to take that up with the person who took your $80.’ Click.

At 10.30 it's here, in its UPS envelope with lots of sticky tape attesting to its rape: Opened and Inspected by Customs & Border Protection - in deep blue. I pay the $60.76. I need my passport, I'll work out the money thing later. I've at last navigated the treacherous bend and rush off to the Congo (Kinshasa) consulate for my visa. It's noon; the door is still locked.

‘They haven’t come in yet,’ says the building doorman.

Shortly after the sun passes the midpoint, a stocky lady opens up. My passport and visa forms are in her hands.

As for the $60.76, I go back to the UPS store where I started the whole saga. After a phone call to HQ the guy tells me it's customs duty again, but UPS agrees to pay it for me. Now why would they do that if it was really customs duty? He takes my credit card to do the refund – and deducts a further $60. With profuse apologies he now refunds $120.76. What's more, a call to my friendly customs liaison officer confirms the obvious: there's no such thing as a duty on a passport.

Later, much later, I will receive a letter from UPS claiming I owe them $60.76. A phone call, once past the electronic firewall, elicits the response that it was sent in error.

UPS Mission Statement: "As the world's largest package delivery company and a leading global provider of specialized transportation and logistics services, UPS continues to develop the frontiers of logistics, supply chain management..."


  1. Good reading!!. I thought you should send the passport saga entries to UPS' CEO. Looking forward to the next posting. Rachel G