Mark A. Carter

NIGHTMARE before Christmas: the parcel to Nowhereville

World famous Canadian Science Fiction novelist Mark A. Carter rants about on-line shopping, lost shipments, misplaced packages, and poor customer service during the Christmas crunch.

Let me give you my two cents worth about a major electronics distributor of feline nomenclature and a delivery service noted for their knobby-kneed drivers, and a simple order made at the outset of the Christmas rush or as I like to called it: the nightmare before Christmas, with apologies to Tim.

I ordered a fifty foot length of Cat 5 cable from this on-line electronics megastore and expected it to be sent from a warehouse in the GTA, which for those of you who aren't acquainted with Ontario means the Greater Toronto Area. But instead, it was drop shipped from a supplier in Indiana. I tracked it on-line via the delivery service. And it was supposed to be delivered in two days. But instead of arriving at my door, it was delivered to the DOCK in Nowhereville, Illinois where it sat for ... well ... forever.

When I e-mailed the electronics megastore about my package's delivery to Nowhereville, I received a response a day later insisting that my order would be on its way ASAP.

But four days later, when I tracked it, my Cat 5 cable was still sitting on the DOCK in Nowhereville.

When I phoned the electronics megastore to complain about the delay and to suggest that my order was lost, the women I spoke with insisted that she knew precisely where my order was. It was in Nowhereville. And it would ship out ...

Delivery to Nowhereville by Christmas GUARANTEED.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth V, v. ll. 17-28.

I know exactly where your package is, sir. It's been tracked to Nowhereville, Illinois.
But I don't live there. Hello?

Lame excuses just make me groan. Birnam Wood will come marching to my front door, with apologies to the Bard and his vile Scottish play, before I see my Cat 5 cable. Of that I am certain.

And so, a simple Ethernet cable purchased by my wife as a Christmas present is not here. It is not sitting beneath my tree, wrapped and bowed. It is being used by someone called Everyman who pocketed it in Nowhereville and is having a thoroughly marvelous Christmas with my gift and untold others. A lump of coal would have been better compensation than the lip service that I received from the electronic megastore's so-called customer service. Have you noticed that when companies screw up, they fall back defensively on Policy and ridiculous excuses in utter denial that anything is wrong. If anything, they psychologically project the problem upon their customers. So, of course, the problem is mine. How dare I complain? How dare I not get my order. Right. Sure. You bet.

Having once worked for the delivery service in question as a scanner, I know full well that my parcel may have been scanned into their Nowhereville Illinois facility and then been promptly lost. It will be found months or years from now where it tumbled off a congested conveyer belt and fell beneath the mechanism where no one ever cleans. It will be out of sight and out of mind forever. Or the address label got ripped off and it takes the mental midgets at the delivery service days if not weeks to simply cut open the package, find the packing slip, create a new address label, and get my order to me pronto. But no ... that's too much to ask. They know where it is. It's in Nowhereville. But it has simply ... poof ... vanished. It's all a mystery to them now. Give me a break.

When I phoned the megastore and spoke with their flat-toned female representative, I was hoping that customer service would agree that my parcel was lost and deem to send me an IN STOCK replacement from one of their warehouses in the GTA. It would have been here in a couple of days. Maybe, because they had already inconvenienced me and upset me thoroughly, they might consider putting a rush on delivery. But no ...

The Postal Service is the only way to ship. My wife ordered several on-line items this season, on the same day, from five different companies, and only one package has arrived. People often dismiss the mail service in Canada and in the US as inferior to the courier services. But I beg to differ. The only package that has arrived, thus far, was shipping by mail. That is why I always send packages by mail and prefer to receive shipments that are mailed. I shipped a Christmas parcel to Nova Scotia from Windsor, Ontario a few days ago by Regular Post on a Friday afternoon and it was there by Monday morning. But alas, we customers are often held hostage by the company we purchase from and the delivery service they use exclusively. And that is why my order was sucked into the black hole that is Nowhereville, or so I would like to believe.

Also, is it better to know or not to know where your parcel is as it makes it journey from the distributor to your door? Part of the problem with the delivery of my Cat 5 cable is that I witnessed it get lost in Nowhereville. And it is upsetting to see. Perhaps it would have been better to forget about the order shortly after making it and stumble about in blissful ignorance. And when it arrived, I would have been delightfully surprised. I am sure I have that to look forward to as senility approaches. But for now ... forget about it.

Years ago, I placed an on-line order that took over a month to get here. It eventually arrived after traveling around the world. Instead of being placed on a plane bound for Toronto, then traveling down the MacDonald-Cartier Freeway by truck from the GTA to Windsor, and getting to me within the week, my order was placed on a slow boat to China. Of course I'm kidding. It went farther than that. It journeyed all the way to Sydney Australia. And much like six year old Bettina Miller who rolled out of bed and passed through her bedroom wall into another dimension, I'm beginning to suspect that my current order has also taken a circuitous route via the fictional Indiana town of Nowhereville and is lost somewhere in the ether of the Ethernet courtesy of The Twilight Zone.



See: "Little Girl Lost," The Twilight Zone, episode 91, March 16, 1962 based on a story by Richard Matheson published in The Shores of Space, 1953.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from South Detroit.

Postscript: The truth be told, the brainiacs at the on-line electronics megastore eventually realized that my package was indeed lost in Nowhereville along with a considerable chunk of my sanity. And they sent me a replacement order. It arrived in two days and just in time for Christmas. "Joy to the world." And, once again, peace and tranquility prevailed throughout the Little Kingdom.

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - novelist

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