Column #275 Federal Express Stole my Darts!

November 1, 2006
Column 275
Federal Express Stole my Darts!

Some things make no sense. Take the price of gasoline in America.

Over the past year the price of a gallon of gasoline has spiked nearly a dollar to over three dollars a gallon. The reasons given: Chinese demand, Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, the prospect of another war in Iran, some problem with a leaky pipeline in Alaska and because George Bush is a monkey butt. A month ago it cost me roughly the same amount to fill up the tank of my lawnmower as it did to fill up my car in high school.

Then suddenly, despite that fact that all of these so-called reasons for the increase still exist and some have worsened, the price of gasoline gradually dropped thirty percent to about two dollars a gallon. It’s a mystery I tell you.

Another mystery these days has to do with darts and the airline industry. Despite the fact that no human being has EVER hijacked a plane while brandishing a dart, since September 11, the airlines have clamped down on their long-standing but usually disregarded policy that darts are “dangerous missiles.” Hence it is impossible to board a flight with a missile anywhere but in your pants.

Worse, since the plot by terrorists in England to blow up American-bound airplanes with a tubes of Crest and Coke-a-Cola, there’s pretty much no choice (unless you want to shove all your toiletries into little baggies and then display them to the world when you check in) but to entrust all of your luggage to the airlines, darts included, and risk the likelihood that it will get rifled or disappear into the Third Dimension.

So to play it safe on a recent trip to Bangkok, like many darters do these days and as I have done for the past few years when traveling, I sent my darts ahead by Federal Express. It’s always worked. There have never been any worries. This time I figured, what the hell, I’d send my toiletries and a few bottles of pills along in the same box.

I arrived in Thailand the day after the box was guaranteed to arrive. Federal Express has a wonderful tracking system and on the Internet I’d followed the movement of my box from Tampa to Memphis to Anchorage to Subic Bay to Thailand. So I knew the box had made it to Bangkok before I had even left home. That’s how good Federal Express’ tracking system is. I was ready to throw some darts!

But the box wasn’t at my hotel. I thought it odd but not that odd. But it was nearly midnight when I arrived so it didn’t much matter. The town was hoppin’. At night there are more exciting things to do in Bangkok anyway…

So I went to sleep.

By late morning the next day my box and darts had still not arrived. I went to an Internet Café and checked the Federal Express tracking system. I learned that my box had encountered something called a “clearance delay.”

So I sent an e-mail to Federal Express. Shortly after noon I checked back at the Internet Café to find that my message had bounced back as undeliverable. I checked the e-mail address that was listed for customer service in Thailand and found it to be correct. I sent another message and waited about ten minutes. It also bounced back. So I walked back to my hotel and called the local number for Federal Express.

I got a girl on the phone who didn’t sound Thai. Friendly guy that I am, I commented on this and she told me I was correct. She was Malaysian and worked for Federal Express from a phone bank in Malaysia. While I didn’t find this comforting I didn’t find it unusual either. When I had to change my flight arrangements a couple of weeks prior and called Atlanta-based Expedia, the girl on the telephone was employed at a phone bank in Manila. My Cingular cell phone problems are handled by their customer service office in India. It all makes perfect frickin’ sense. I started to worry.

I explained the problem. The Malaysian girl told me she would send an e-mail to customer service in the Federal Express Thailand office. I told her I’d done this twice already with no success. She said to wait for thirty minutes and I’d receive a call.

Two hours later I called her back. She said she’d send another e-mail.

Eventually some man named Sarawuds called from Federal Express Thailand. I explained the problem again. He put me on hold for ten minutes.

Eventually he explained that my box and darts were being held in Customs because the contents were not properly identified. He asked me to e-mail him a detailed listing of the items and said he would call me back after receiving it. He gave me his personal e-mail.

I went back to the Internet Café and did as told.

Two more hours passed. So I called the girl again in Malaysia who sent another e-mail to Thailand. A while later a woman named Sarawueh called from Federal Express. She had no knowledge of my previous conversation with Sarawuds or my e-mail. Frustrated, I asked to speak to her supervisor. She told me she was the supervisor. So I explained the problem again.

Sarawueh told me that I would need to follow a strict procedure to secure the release of my box. Because there were bottles of pills in the box I would need a letter from my doctor to assure Customs that the pills were for personal and not commercial use. She also explained that I would need to turn over my passport to Customs for “three to five days” in order to complete the process. Kindly, she offered to have Federal Express come to my hotel to pick up my passport.

Now, there are a handful of things you simply do not do in a country like Thailand. Second on the list, perhaps only to insulting the King, is let go of your passport. So holding my temper and in the most polite terms possible I explained that the box held nothing but common toiletries, some medicines that I needed, and a set of darts, which were the reason I’d purchased a ticket and flown across the world in the first place – to throw darts and write about it. I told her that the reason I used Federal Express was for the peace of mind that comes with their service compared to the uncertainty of checking such items these days and risking there vanishing forever into the cargo hold of some airplane.

I pleaded with her. “You receive hundreds of boxes every day. They can’t possibly all be held up for reasons such as this. You must be able to work this out with Customs. You’re Federal Express! Please, can’t you at least get my pills and darts?” She said she’d try and call back.

An hour later, just before five o’clock and as Federal Express was about to close for the day, my telephone rang. It was Sarawuds, the guy I first spoke to. He told me Sarawuea asked him to call because his English was better – a sure sign that the news was not good.

He told me the same things all over again. He said there was just no way to change the process. “It is law,” he admonished. I had to provide some sort of medical certificate and my passport.

At this point – now two days past the date Federal Express in the United States guaranteed the box would be delivered – I did lost my temper.

“Tens of thousands of bags of luggage full of toothpaste, mouthwash, and shaving cream pass through the airport every day and Customs doesn’t do a thing. Thailand has one of the worst records in the world for turning a blind eye to the import from Africa and export to Korea and Vietnam of endangered plants and animals – and Federal Express is telling me that unless I provide a letter from my doctor for heartburn pills and give you my passport that you can’t deliver me my toiletries and darts!”

“Let me tell you how absurd what you’re telling me is. Suppose I was Tiger Woods and I had a heart problem. Suppose I checked my pills and my golf clubs because I trusted Federal Express – because I needed my pills to survive and my clubs to compete in the Thailand Open. Are you honestly telling me there is nothing you could do? Can’t you just ask Customs to scan the box or open it and see for themselves that it’s not full of guns or explosives?”

“Can’t you understand that had I just shoved the box in my luggage and checked it that we wouldn’t even be having this ridiculous conversation!?”

All he could say was “It’s is law. Must follow procedure.”

So I gave up. “Just send the frickin’ box back,” I said.

“Need authorization from person who sent box,” he replied.

“BUT THAT’S ME! I SENT IT TO MYSELF!”

“Need contact your office in America. Get signature. Get authorization return box.”

“BUT I’M HERE! I’M IN BANGKOK. I AM THE PERSON YOU HAVE BEEN TALKING TO ALL DAMN DAY! I’M SAYING SEND IT BACK TO ME!”

He then asked me the most astonishing thing. He asked if I would authorize payment for the cost of returning the box.

“WAIT,” I said. “Are you telling me that now, after all of this, after YOUR – Federal Express’ inability to meet it’s guarantee or to even try to reach some sort of compromise with Customs – you expect me to pay to have you send me the box back? You GOT to be kidding.”

Suffice it to say he wasn’t. So I said fine. “Just do whatever you have to do.”

But I also left him with a threat, not that I’ll be successful progressing it. “I’ve got to tell you, I find this whole thing just astonishing. I paid Federal Express to deliver a box and I purchased a plane ticket expecting, based on Federal Express’ guarantee, that I would have what I needed to conduct business when I arrived in Asia. Federal Express failed to meet its guarantee and now I must pay again to have the item returned. As far as I’m concerned I owe Federal Express nothing. It’s Federal Express that owes me for the entire cost of sending the box across the world and back – and the cost of a wasted plane ticket and my hotel bill.”

So that was that and I have a letter to write to the morons at Federal Express.

That night I met up with friends from the Sukhumvit Darts League and purchased a used set of darts from one of them. We hit several bars in the Washington Square area of town and despite an incredible case of heartburn I managed to hold my own.

Upon closing down the last bar and as we weaved our way onto the street to hail a tuk-tuk we spied a Federal Express van on a side street. It was parked in front of a massage parlor. Bastards.

I have now arrived home and of course, I still don’t have my darts.

From the Field,

Dartoid

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.

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