Saturday, 11 June 2011

A cautionary tale

Over a month ago, I promised to show you an interesting candlestick which I had just bought on eBay (yawn), and that is it - as seen on screen - above. There is a reason why it has taken me so long to show off, and you might find that reason more interesting than the thing itself.

What I liked about it was that it seemed to be a quirky, Victorian English item which had somehow ended up in Holland. I had paid for it immediately - for some reason in US Dollars the equivalent of about £60 - and after a couple of days, the seller informed me that he had posted it.

After a long time, I asked the Dutch seller where it was, and he replied by saying that it was in an English depot, waiting to be passed onto me, so I waited some more. Then I asked him where it was again, and he gave me a tracking number and told me to look for it myself. Seeing that he had one negative feedback for an item that did not arrive in Britain, I became somewhat shirty with him, and asked him to look into it himself, and he said he could do no more, so I really got shirty with him.

After a few more days, I typed the tracking number into an online search of the company he posted it with, only to be told that I had the wrong company. I found the right company and they told me (after I had called them on premium rate phone numbers) that I had the wrong tracking number, and I eventually got the right one from the Dutchman. It had TWO different tracking numbers.

The search then told me that they had attempted to deliver it 3 times using 3 different drivers to 3 different addresses, and now it had been sent back to Holland. I managed to find the direct number of the Bristol depot, and called it yesterday morning. The apologetic lady on the phone said she would try to get it off the pallet and into her office - IF it had not already left the country. I called her again in the afternoon, and she said that the parcel was now in her office in Yate, a suburb of Bristol, so I spent two hours driving there and back because I didn't trust her idiot drivers to deliver it to me ever again.

When I got it home, the first thing I noticed was that it had been opened by British Customs, then re-sealed. The next thing I noticed was that it had been destroyed in transit...

My first thought was that the fools had dropped a heavy parcel on top of it, but then I noticed that the package was undamaged. I then noticed the the damage was very localised - that tiny dent you can see in the rim would have caused a hole in the box had it been done from the outside. Hmm..

Now I am not saying that the British Customs Border Control are a bunch of vicious, stupid and incompetent morons with unlimited power only equaled by the Mafia, but if you were looking for about 4 ounces of cocaine being smuggled from Amsterdam to the UK, would you not think to take the lid off the top of an item like this before attacking the underside of it with a hammer to see if there was anything inside?


  1. Oh no. I bet you were extra shirty at them!

  2. Hello Tom:
    What an extraordinary and, indeed, cautionary tale.

    It should be said that any purchases we have made on ebay have arrived perfectly and promptly. Most recently a first edition of a book, for which we had been looking for several years, arrived from the USA in excellent order, perfectly packed, and pristine in every way. Possibly HM Customs do not consider books from America a likely source of drug trafficking whereas candlesticks from The Netherlands are an entirely different matter.

  3. The only time I've had a complete and thorough search by our pleasant customs folk (and their dogs), was when returning to England in a TOTALLY EMPTY Ford Transit Van. They seemed quite upset when what I'd told, and shown, them turned out to be true.

  4. I have had friends who have had their cars trashed and dismantled, then told by HMC to put it back together themselves. This item was made of brass, and would have shown up on their x-ray as one black lump. I cannot believe that they are too stupid to pull a lid off. They like to leave their calling cards, just to keep you on your toes.

  5. Actually - thinking about it for 3 seconds - I really think they ARE that stupid. What's the old saying - 'Thick as shit and twice as nasty'.

  6. In the case of U.S. to U.K. transactions, Hattats, HMC like to squeeze as much money out the the recipients as they can, and are helped in this task by Royal Mail, who squeeze even more money out of the recipient before they hand the item over to them.

    I bought an Irish tweed hat from Chicago via eBay last year, and was told to collect it from the Royal Mail depot in person. I had to pay a £17 'handling charge' to R.M. on a £30 hat, and they blamed HMC for forcing them to impound it.

    When I got home and looked at the details, I saw that I had paid about £6 duty to Customs, and the rest was trousered by Royal Mail. Royal Mail are also a bunch of despicable b*******s, pretending to perform a public service for which they hold a Royal charter and have a virtual monopoly on. No wonder they are going to be privatised - they will still retain the old management, it's just that the management will personally make even more money at the expense of the nation.

  7. Oh, and Brismod - if you get shirty with HMC, you are quite likely to receive a visit from a couple of them around 3.00 in the morning, poking pistols in your face, having knocked on the door with a sledgehammer.

    This may sound like an exaggeration, but I assure you it is not!

  8. That's is quite significant damage! I hope the seller can reimburse you for that.

    When I returned from the US on Thursday, I watched as security searched a young woman with cerebral palsy or something similar, go through the check with her parents. With gloved hands they patted down this poor girl all over while her parents stood and watched. She was upset and anxious. I will say that the customs/security guard was very sweet with her, but they made her parents remove all of her arm and leg braces which then had to go through the xray. With all the commotion, a leg brace got lost (later found) and the poor mum was crying because I am sure they were a)necessary and b) very costly. Off topic I know, but a good example of the extremes they go to.

  9. That seems pretty on-topic to me, Raz. Considering that the removal of leg-braces would not be necessary if searching for drugs or explosives which can be found with sniffers, then one must assume that they were searching for metal weapons, unless they were even more stupid than usual.

    Their excuse would probably be that if they only searched young, bearded, Asian-looking men for weapons, then they would be accused of prejudice, but I cannot think of any reasonable person that would (given the history) be inclined to believe that the chances of a severely physically disabled woman pulling a handgun out of her knickers is more likely than a young, devout looking Moslem.

    I know it is unfair and silly to put all traditionally dressed Moslems in that category until proven otherwise, but these Border Officials are not too bright, and need all the help from visual signals that they can get, so we ought to sigh with resignation and let them get on with it.

    Let's face it, we are forced to sigh with resignation and let them get on with it anyway, so why do they go to the trouble of pretending to be intelligent? I suppose it increases in-house sales of suntan lotion for the airport, so they don't mind.

  10. I'm still thinking about this (Grrr) and IF they had finally worked out how to take the lid off (it has two positions - 'on' and 'off'), then they would have found that little compartment for the vestas within, and have to go through the whole process of figuring out how to take that lid off again.

    But this is where their ingenious, highly-trained minds really come into their own - WHAT IF there were a secret compartment in the bottom?! Bet you didn't think of that! How do you find a secret compartment? Put a pencil into one of those holes in the top, measure the depth, then compare it to the external length of the cylinder?

    No - you smash the fucking thing off with a hammer.

  11. It's the times Tom, we live in a very cautionary world. It's their job to be thouough, and they just don't give a damn about anything else. Heck, they frisk 2 year old at airports

  12. tom


  13. Poor Tom, how rotten, after all the trouble you were put to.

  14. Just looked at your You Tube recommendation John, and although I found it entertaining, I couldn't find any relevance to the above topic. And Raz was worried about going off topic! Secure the coops in your own backyard before coming over here and giving me a lecture on how to look after chickens.

    Yes, Mise - dat's wite! (snuffle... edges closer in an inappropriate way...)

  15. I thought you may have found it amusing that all... sigh
    the later the hour the bitchier you become!

  16. Don't worry John - I still love you. I may drop a link to a You Tube video of Ardman's 'Chicken Run' in the near future, though. I don't think it will wait until Christmas.


    Sorry to shout, but the more you receive "Ooh, poor John" and "Ooh, poor little chickies" responses to the latest bad news that you post up, the more fucking intolerant I become about your obvious lack of basic DIY skills! Just get the effing coops together, then you won't have to announce the demise of yet another feathered friend on your otherwise entertaining blog. Lecture over.

  17. I am 49 years old...I neither want a lecture or a comment...I understand exactly how you feel.... It was a statement of fact that does not reqire sympathy or a "rant " from you. tom

    as for being intolerant
    why increase your blood pressure....

  18. Could have been the couriers.

    Many years ago I wasted some months being a courier for a company in the midlands.

    We would be forced to fill the transit vans so crammed full of parcels that they pushed our heads forward at an odd angle over the steering wheel.

    We wouldn't be allowed back to the depot unless we unloaded the lot. Consequently many parcels suffered at the hands of drivers frustrations.

    Believe me, Royal Mail are no better...

  19. Oh, I thought you were just going to say "Oooooooooooooh!", John. That was the whole point - to set you up for a good 'oooooooooh'.

    The worst of the lot is 'Parcel Force' (or Parcel Farce, as they are known on the net), Chris. A few years ago, I was forced (by Royal Mail) to use them to send an item to Tasmania. They charged me £75 and it took 3 months to get there, having been sent to Canada by mistake. It arrived smashed, and when I tried to get compensation from Royal Mail, they said that Parcel Force was nothing to do with them. Parcel Force said that they would not pay me a penny back of the 'economy' delivery charge, because I had not taken out insurance at an extra cost of about £20, to cover against their utter incompetence. I wasn't even offered insurance. They referred me to an 'independent' complaints board which turned out to be Parcel Force. Guess what? I lost the case.