Saturday, November 24, 2007

a little box of care

FedEx-- speaking on behalf of that Mafia-like entity, Korean Customs-- tried harassing me yet again when my care package from the parents landed in Korea. I received a call a couple days ago from a woman at the FedEx office asking me whether the goods in the package meant for me were used or not. Immediately cautious, I replied that I didn't know the exact contents of the package (which was technically true, though I was aware of the used/new status of some of the items inside it). The lady then asked me how long I had been in Korea.

"About seven years," I said.

She gave one of those dramatic little gasps, the kind that Korean women often give before relaying bad news, and said, "Oh, no! If you've been in the country more than six months, then there is tax and duty, because the value of the goods you are receiving is over W150,000! It's Korean law!" (Dad had listed the value of the package as over $360.00)

I was furious, as always happens when FedEx once again pulls some obscure rule out of its ass. "The law doesn't make sense," I grated. "Why do I always have trouble with FedEx?"

Not missing a beat, the lady said, "But there may be a solution! When were you last out of the country?" I told her I had been to the States in June. "Oh, then maybe you are OK! Fax us a copy of your passport's front page along with the arrival stamp showing when you came back to Korea." She gave me the fax number; I asked for her name, and then I hung up.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'll say that I truly resent having to go through this mess every damn time a package is sent to me. I don't resent my parents, who can't possibly be expected to know Korean law, but I do resent FedEx and Korean Customs for constantly playing what Mark Salzman calls the "Let's Make a Regulation" game, a phenomenon he encountered while living and teaching in China. Not to say that US bureaucracy is smooth and problem-free-- it isn't-- but the fact that I encounter problems every single time here strikes me as beyond absurd. I'll have to look around and see whether Korean Customs or FedEx Korea has an English-language list of shipping rules, but I'm not optimistic.

So, grumbling, I photocopied and faxed over the requisite information; the photocopier in our main office doubles as a fax, and my supervisor was kind enough to show me how it worked. It took two tries to send the fax, but it eventually went through.

Then I heard nothing from FedEx.

The package arrived without fanfare yesterday, and no extra fee was paid. The fact that I had to waste my time on bureaucratic nonsense, though, still sticks in my craw. No worries; I'll be happy again soon. It's a bright day outside, and I'm looking forward to the end of the semester, which had been good but extremely tiring, what with the amount of work I've been doing. (I've had a constant nosebleed for the past several weeks-- not gushing by any means, but my Kleenex is bloody every time I blow my nose. I'm assuming this is the result of lack of sleep and a slightly higher-than-normal level of stress caused by the workload.)

As for the contents of the package: I had been told to expect my Seiko watch, which has been repaired by what I hope is a reputable establishment (we'll find out the moment I do a Namsan hike and sweat all over the watch), and sure enough, there it was. I also got the usual complement of Lindt blue label chocolate truffles (my favorite), a mess of mail, another huge container of Metamucil (Allah be praised), and a lovely new Calvin Klein winter coat.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

And Happy post-Thanksgiving to the rest of you.



kwandongbrian said...

Your nosebleed may be a result of the low humidity. You should take steps to raise the humidity. Here are some suggestions:

Sprinkle a cup of water on your floor (do I need a sarcasm emoticon?)
Buy a humidifier.
I'm out (all right, I do have other ideas but my comment would lose it's humour and information value).

Anonymous said...

Better yet, sprinkle the cup of water on yourself! That way no one is in danger of slipping.

Sorry to hear about your FedUp woes. I haven't really had any problems with Korean customs, although that might be because I usually don't get large packages. The only time I had problems was when I first came to Korea and had my computer shipped to me. That was a pain in the neck.