Field Reports

Field Report: Happy One-Year Anniversary!

Sergeant K

Wow. I mean, how does one celebrate this? Is there an appropriate gift for the first anniversary of a blog? The traditional gift is paper so I’m assuming that means I should print out these and make it into a book. I think we’ll wait for a second year before we get into that. Either way, thanks so much for your time and attention to all things related to the insane world of packing and shipping and whatever-you-would-categorize-all-the-other-weird-stuff. I appreciate it.

We’ll start with cheese from The Netherlands. This happened a couple of weeks ago and it seems to have been the lynchpin for a rash of people wanting to argue with us about shipping costs in one of the least effective ways imaginable: Telling us what you saw on the internet. This is second only to “Company X only charged me five dollars to ship that treadmill from Malaysia” in things that will absolutely never persuade us to listen as though someone is speaking truth to power.

On The Field’s website, there is a form to request a quote on a shipment. One civilian requested a quote to send a 10-pound package to The Netherlands. A good rule of thumb for international shipping is to remember that it is a pain in the ass most of the time (and is getting worse). And the more of a pain in the ass something is, the more money it’s going to cost.

Each country has its own rules and regulations. Each country has its own customs and those customs are not regulated by anyone other than themselves. We know the countries that we basically tell people not to ship to unless they really have to. (The worst culprits are in Central America, but we’ll get to that someday.) The Netherlands is fine to ship to, but they are across an ocean. Assume the price of shipping anything across an ocean at a bare minimum will start at $40. Ten pounds ain’t light.

I typed all the info in and sent back the quote that for their dimensions and weight, the package would cost $93 to ship. When I responded, I think I even said something akin to “I know it’s a lot but we’ll get you the best deal we can.” My skillset of phrasing emails is pretty much at “expert” level. I can either mince words or write so concisely that you’d think a robot did it. I can be flowery in my language and I can be completely subject/predicate/punctuation until the cows come home. (Do cows coming home take a super long time?) So the fact that I added a note of awareness that it was a lot of money says I was attempting good customer service.

The civilian wrote back. “Really? That’s insane. I just ordered 15 pounds of cheese from The Netherlands and the shipping was $20.”

It was all I had to not send an email back that said, “Ok.” What is the point of that response, really? Just a fun fact to share with your local Field officers? Do you want me to ask why on earth you’re ordering cheese from The Netherlands? Do you want me to explain how companies bake the cost of shipping into the cost of the products because Amazon’s free shipping has led humans to the conclusion that the transporting of goods should be cheap? Or are you genuinely expecting me to say, “Oh, well, in that case, we’ll lower the price from $93 to $19.99. Thanks for the information!”

You’d be astounded how frequently this happens. This is also where Private First Class and I truly shine. Instead of entertaining their notions that we’re open to bartering with them, PFC usually says, “So that’s your cheapest. Do you want to ship it?” And I just stare at them because silence forces people to panic and make decisions versus talking which just increases the time between price and decision.

It is official that I’d rather talk about the weather. In the last year, I have declared numbing weather conversations more interesting than: masks, pandemic conspiracy theories, and prices. The only other candidate for weather to top is people’s diets or workout routines. There’s still time.

A civilian and his son came in to ship very large blades. (I don’t think I’ve ever discussed knives but we ship just a shitload of them. They almost always have insurance added to them. Like thousands of dollars. We’ve had the same knives for 17 years and I think the whole set was $50.) Anyway, we ship a lot of blades and knives and other things put on earth solely to test my ability to handle sharp objects. Most of the time, we’re sending them to blade sharpener locations which, while I cognitively understand the need for, immediately makes me imagine amputations.

The man came in and told me he wanted me to ship it to “this address.” Then he handed me a sheet of paper with only his address on it. I pointed this out and he informed me to “figure it out.” I replied that only his address was on the paper. He then, very huffy, pointed to the name of the company to ship them back to. “Find the address for this company.”

The company has eighteen locations in the United States.

And thus began this individual’s hunt for an address. Did he calmly remove the massive boxes of blades from my station and wander into the side room to pursue this goal? Of course not. He left the blades on the scale until I told him to move them. Then he stepped about 3 feet to his left (still at my station) and proceeded to talk on the phone there. I proceeded to try to help the others in line, but BladeRunner over there didn’t just want to talk on the phone, he also wanted to narrate the phone calls to me.

I debated in my head whether it’s worse that men constantly want to hear themselves talk or that they think others want to hear them talk.

Private Ryan wandered over at one point and spoke softly near me, “I can’t even imagine what you’re thinking.” And yet, I think he already knew. I think he already knew and was simply coming between me and the blades for reasons I just can’t even imagine.

Eventually, BladeRunner procured the address which he wrote down illegibly and once again got all huffy with me when I had the audacity to ask what a letter or number was. And I assumed the name of the company that had begun this enjoyable interaction was the one to whom we were shipping.

He scoffed and sighed at that and told me that instead of it being, let’s say SharpShit, Inc., the name of the company was actually Rowdy Roddy Piper’s Blade Sharpening Emporium.

Then he balked at the price. “Maybe I’ll take it home and see if I can ship it cheaper from there.” Then he reconsidered. Then he considered. Then he reconsidered. All in all, he stood at my station no fewer than 20 minutes in sum and I felt my existential dread spread throughout my extremities. He eventually decided to ship it. I charged him a $3 handling fee. Sometimes “handling” means only the customer and not the package itself.

Phone Call of the Day!

“The Field. This is wonkypenguin.”

“Hi, yes, I shipped a package through you guys on March 6. It went USPS. When I look up the tracking number, though, it says, “Label created. Waiting for shipper to deliver package to USPS location.” So I’m just wondering if you guys forgot to send it or something?”

“Well that would be genuinely weird,” I replied, “but let’s take a look.” I searched the database to find the tracking number and then entered into the system. “Huh. When I type it in, it says that it’s arriving late but that it is on its way to the destination. It left the day you shipped it and there’s an entire tracking history here. What tracking number do you have?”

“946234………384574301……..3499582….<eighty more numbers>”

“Yep, that’s what I’ve got. That’s so weird. You should check it again.”

“Oh okay. I’m just looking at a screenshot of it so maybe I’ll log on and look. Where do I go to get that?”

“Wait. You have a screenshot of it? Like, a screenshot from the day you shipped it?”


“So you shipped it, went out to your car, took a screenshot of it, and that’s the thing you’ve been going off of for 10 days?”

“Yeah. I’ll try online. Thank you so much!”

I imagine The Void is this amazing space where the phone does not ring and I do not have to wonder what the point of it all is because the point is to embrace The Void and let it all just fade away.

Somehow, we had two super old-school cash registers (each over 100 pounds) in our store at the same time. I refuse to believe anyone EVER stole one of those things. It would have been like stealing a grand piano. All of those 1950s heist movies have now been ruined.

I wanted to come up with some thoughtful reflection on the past year, but I really don’t have one to offer. Normalcy is creeping back in and soon, I will have to relearn how to not make faces since I will no longer have the cover of masky darkness. This will be troublesome if another sketchy civilian walks in and asks for “help to ship a puppy.” Because no. The idea they even asked is a red flag of glow-in-the-dark proportions.

Other than that, though, having found The Field is a true treasure and you’re welcome for my service. 🙂

Colonel C

Sergeant told me it has been a year of her forcing me to read these things out loud. Which is amazing. Seems like only 31 years. Time sure does fly.

Yesterday, I made her carry my poop to work, though. So we are all even stevens as far as I’m concerned.

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