You Can’t Ship That to Canada!

I have a love-hate relationship with Fedex.

On the love side, when I was searching for the best way to send books and clothes up to Canada, they quoted me an incredibly cheap price — less than $300USD — sold me boxes, and helped me re-pack some items. My first five boxes spent a week going through Customs, but they made it here safe and sound.

On the hate side is…well, everything else.

After moving into the apartment in Victoria, I went back to San Diego for a couple weeks, to pack up my remaining books and personal items (ok, I’ll admit it: toys). I ended up with seven boxes this time, which barely fit into our little EV. But I managed to get them downstairs, into the car, and then into the Fedex store — the same one I’d used before — to ship out.

The total was quite a bit higher this time — $800USD — but I paid it, confident that these boxes, too, would be treated well and arrive soon. Got on my flight the next day, feeling proud of getting that big thing done before I left.

So I was shocked and dismayed when my wife sent me a photo— as I was crossing from Vancouver on the ferry — showing those same seven boxes, stacked neatly outside of our house in SD, with no explanation from Fedex as to why.

I checked the tracking info for the shipment, and sure enough, it said they had been delivered (!) to San Diego, having been rejected by Fedex as soon as they picked them up from the store. The reason? “Improper Shipment.”

I confess I may at this point have uttered several curses which are not appropriate to type. With one stroke, Fedex had turned my accomplishment — getting my office cleaning out to make room for my wife’s family — into one more burden placed on my wife, who now had to deal with seven very heavy boxes.

This is the part of the story that, were this a movie, would be told in montage. Scenes of me on the phone with Fedex, alternating between tapping my foot as I wait on hold and raising my voice in frustration to the poor customer service agent on the other side. Scenes of me tapping away at my computer, hunting for information online that Fedex itself did not seem to possess (the one explanation they came up with — “your shipment was missing its commercial invoice” — was easily disproven when my wife found the commercial invoice taped to one of the boxes).

Finally, finally, we would get to the good part. I found an employee at the local (SD) Fedex who dug around enough to find out what really happened: It turns out you can’t ship your stuff from the US to Canada via normal Ground shipping. You have to use Express.

This is mind-boggling, to put it mildly. How does it help Canada to make me pay more to ship there? They’re going to hold onto it anyway, to inspect it at Customs, and I’m fine with that. Please, open my boxes and gaze upon my reading selection! Just…don’t make me pay $300 a box to ship it, huh?

But! This Fedex employee said as a way to apologize for the hassle, he could re-ship the boxes for me, Express, without charging me anything extra. The one condition was that he couldn’t have someone pick them up, my wife would have to bring them in. On a weekday. Before 6pm, so he could be there to process it.

And my wife came through! She had a Friday off, so she scheduled a contractor to come to give us a project quote, and had him load the boxes for her. Then she spoke with the Fedex employee about what to do, drove them to the Fedex store, and dropped them off! She sent me a photo of the receipt with one word: Done!

…Only it wasn’t done.

Because the very next day, I’m Facetiming with her, and what do we see? A Fedex truck pulls up to the driveway. Starts unloading seven very familiar looking boxes.

Confused, I had another look at the receipt she’d sent me. And sure enough: They’d shipped them Ground again.

At this point, our little movie would be no dialog, just a series of bleeps.

Somehow, my wife convinced the Fedex driver not to leave the boxes with us. Somehow, he said he’ll take them back to the warehouse and they’ll ship them Express this time.

So my books and speakers and keepsakes are…somewhere, right now, in a kind of shipping purgatory.

The moral of the story? If you’re moving to Canada, and you want to take more stuff than you can pack on a plane, just get a moving pod. It’ll be cheaper, and a lot less hassle.