Hard Lessons Learned
Submitted by Tony Esteves on August 3, 2007 - 19:28
Iâ€™m posting my San Diego shipping story so that anybody who can learn from my experience will be able to. I apologize for the length of the post but I figure that more can be gleaned from a larger post.
Back in 2002, I read about a fellow Canadian cartoonistâ€™s experience bringing inventory down to the United States for a convention and how a certain bureaucratic process prevented him from taking his books on the flightâ€¦ which resulted in missing the flight and missing out on the convention altogether.
Trying to learn from Stephenâ€™s experience when I printed Cigarro & Cerveja: Round 1 and was heading for the San Diego Comic-Con in 2003, I avoided carrying the books with me for the flight and shipped a box of books with a parcel service instead. I did some research and found that I was able to have the parcel delivered to a Customer Center in San Diego where it would be held for pick-up. All the declaration papers would be filled out before shipping it and there would be very little chance that it would influence my flight. Everything went smoothly.
Four Years Later
I thought that I had everything figured out. Iâ€™d recreate the process that I took four years ago. I went onto the UPS website and found a Customer Center close to my hotel:
I called 1-800-PICK-UPS to ask if I could have the boxes held for pick-up at that location and I was given the toll free number to call UPS United States (as my phone call was directed to UPS Canada). I called the number they gave me and the lady on the phone advised me that if I have â€œWill Hold for Pick-Upâ€ and my contact information that there should not be an issue.
I was shipping the package on the Thursday before the convention and I wanted to have everything in San Diego before Wednesdayâ€™s preview night. I used the online tool and got something similar to this:
(I just hid my postal code and the value of the merch because thatâ€™s a bit personal)
Standard delivery looks pretty good. If it delivers by end of day Wednesday, Iâ€™m thinking thatâ€™s before Wednesdayâ€™s preview night starts. Three Day would guarantee delivery before- but Iâ€™ll only choose that if necessary. The woman attending the UPS counter in Edmonton looked in a binder and told me that it would indeed be necessary (as the binder states that standard delivery takes 6 days). I grudgingly accepted the advice and purchased the Three day service. I filled out the declaration forms to the best of my ability- which is one of the problems because I donâ€™t ship large packages to the U.S. often- and now that there's Path 2 as well as Round 1 and all the t-shirts... oy.
Tuesday was the day of the flight. I left Edmonton in the early morning and arrived in San Diego in the early afternoon. I power on my cell phone and my voicemail notification chimedâ€¦ my merchandise was stuck at customs and to call the UPS customs representative. I called her back but only got her voicemailâ€¦ it later occurred to me that itâ€™s early afternoon in California but it may be the end of business day out east. I decided to trek out to the Customer Center to discuss options with a real life person.
That Customer Center DOESNâ€™T EXIST!
This is the point where I begin to panic. I call 1-800-PICK-UPS and I tell them whatâ€™s happened. They transfer me to UPS Global and I repeat myself. I hear a number of apologies and a promise of a call on Wednesday morning. Iâ€™m very miserable at this point of my trip. Iâ€™m irritated that I paid for three day service, Iâ€™m irritated that the Customer Center isnâ€™t where it was listed to be online, and Iâ€™m worried that I wonâ€™t have anything to show for the convention.
Financially, this is a big investment: plane fare, hotel, convention table, and shipping. It felt like everything was crashing down around me.
I awake Wednesday morning to my phone ringing. Itâ€™s UPS! They get my Social Insurance Number and advise me that Iâ€™ll have to pay duty (which I expected). I request the boxes be redirected to my hotel. â€œThe boxes should clear customs tonight and you may get the shipment tomorrowâ€ â€“ no guarantee.
I then confirmed with the front desk that they could accept the packages (they said yes). There was nothing I could do for the rest of the day but wait. I called UPS once again but they said that I just needed to be patient.
I felt pretty pathetic during the preview night. My table was all set up with the table cloth, postcards, and business cardsâ€¦ and I have a handful of books and t-shirts that I packed in my suitcaseâ€¦ but it was a lot less than I brought to San Diego four years ago.
I stake out the hotel lobby on Thursday morning and the delivery arrives! Two out of three boxes were delivered and I was elated that they were the two boxes that I needed immediately. I wasnâ€™t too worried about the third box- I only needed it for Saturday and as long as I received the box by Friday everything should be golden. I called 1-800-PICK-UPS to confirm. Oops, the third box is at a depot and wasnâ€™t redirected but I called just in time and it should be delivered by Friday. Golden.
Friday morning, I wake up and check the tracking number online. Itâ€™s still at the depot. I called 1-800-PICK-UPS and they tell me to call the UPS United States on that other 1-800 number. â€œOh, yeah. You called UPS Canada yesterday and I see a note for redirecting the parcel but Canada canâ€™t redirect a package in the United States. I can have it redirected and delivered on Monday.â€
Not golden. I needed the box before the weekend â€“ not after. So I hop on a cab and pick up the box from the existing Customer Centerâ€¦
in CHULA VISTA. Thereâ€™s a part of the story where the first cabbie didnâ€™t know how to get to the address but I donâ€™t want to elaborate on that. The round trip from the hotel to Chula Vista to the Convention Center: $99 (Iâ€™d say an even one hundred dollars but I donâ€™t want to exaggerate).
That concludes my San Diego shipping story. There are some things that I would do differently (which Iâ€™ll have to consider for my SPXpo trip coming up) and if anyone has any advice for me, Iâ€™m looking forward to hearing it. I hope that my experience can be helpful to others.