emember the Christmas cards that were too big to mail at the standard letter price? Let's start this mailfest with the final result of that one. My husband stopped by the post office to see if we could be refunded for the stamps on the envelopes, since we had gotten nothing in return for the price. The line was out the door, so he asked an employee who was standing outside. She said that he would be able to get the money back, but he had to take them to the desk because she couldn't do it. Later we went back together to take them to the desk. Turns out, you CAN'T get the money back. The money paid for the people in Mannheim to process the envelopes and send them back to us. At the time, it didn't occur to me to use the argument that sending mail to Mannheim costs less than the price of the international-rate stamps we used, but whatever. It's not worth it anyway. Bottom line: don't fuck up on envelope sizes, there's no recourse.
What else is there no recourse for? Being the victim of idiotic package handling by the Packstation people. To update on that story: The package my Dad mailed us for Christmas - at our Packstation address - was held by customs for unknown reasons. We never received notice that the package had been held. Therefore, the package was returned to him. He had to pay to send it all over again - and as it was a large box, shipping was about $85 each time. (The second time, customs ignored it and it came right to us. Shrug.) I was utterly livid about it and we made many phone calls and sent many emails. The end results were a useless apology lettter and an email saying that my father could not be compensated by Packstation for the mistake since he didn't pay DHL/the Post/whoever dropped the ball the money in the first place. They said he should try to seek compensation from the USPS. He did, but couldn't get it, and that's no surprise - they weren't the ones who made the mistake. So, the Post got off scot-free for a massive fuckup, and my dad was out $85 he shouldn't have been out. I was previously a big fan of Packstation, since it makes it easy for us to receive packages if we're not home when the mailman comes. Without Packstation, missing the mailman results in a trip to Czernyring, which is a bit inconvenient. However, what a price to pay - apparently it's rather common to not get customs notices if a Packstation address was used, rendering Packstation completely useless for anyone whose packages come from out of the country. I suppose at this point it would be best to revert to using our street address for packages and just having to make those annoying Czernyring trips. I find it rather crazy that they haven't figured out a system to tell us about packages stopped in Customs - it really can't be anything new. Packstation has all our contact information.
On the topic of customs this Christmas, have they really kicked it up a notch? In our first five years here, we only had to visit Customs for a stopped package one time. Then this Christmas we had two packages held and one completely rejected. Looking at the ones that were and those that weren't, I couldn't find any pattern - things with marked values over the taxable limit slipped through, and things with marked values under the taxable limit were held. It seems a bit random. You can't really be mad about it when you get to the Customs office, though. The people are nice and you just feel bad for them that they're forced to waste their time watching you open a package that was stopped for no reason at all. After having just watched someone else open a package that was stopped for no reason at all. And another before that...
And that concludes the mail stories that I started earlier.