The holiday season might make me loosen a notch on my belt but this week at least my index finger is getting quite the workout.
Click on the “track package” button of the online screen. “In transit” is nearly always the answer. “Processing” was last week’s love letter from the various retail companies to which I gave my holiday shopping business in a bid to save gas and stress levels heading to the brick-and-mortar retailers. This week, just days before Santa’s big arrival, the common notice is “in transit” which falls somewhere between “we finally got around to sticking your stuff in a box” and “we actually got around to putting your box on a delivery truck.”
Click. Click. Less than an hour usually passes before trying the button again as if refreshing repeatedly will light a much-needed fire under the dragging feet of the U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service or whatever delivery service was utilized. Click. Click. Click.
Some of my online shopping this year was not of preference but necessity.
I found the perfect gift for my brother’s girlfriend at a chain retailer’s website and headed to the actual store to pick it up, coupon for 20 percent off firmly in hand.
Sorry, the worker told me when I inquired about its location. That’s only available online and the coupon is only good in store. Oh, and we’re currently out of stock anyway.
Why in the world would store advertise an item it doesn’t physically carry and doesn’t seem to actually have available?
To the Internet! Found the item elsewhere online and cheaper.
I likewise went into a massive retail book chain to buy, oddly, a physical book. The store had a book by the same author but not the one I was seeking. I foolishly asked if I was overlooking it somewhere. Oh no, the employee said. We don’t carry as wide a range in-house anymore because of all the e-books and websites. Try online, she suggested — this a week before Christmas.
Let the clicking become even more frenzied.
The love-hate affair with online package tracking wouldn’t be so terrible if the information given was accurate but, as of late, the post office likes to play with my emotions. An item slated for arrival Tuesday actually showed up a day early. A win! Meanwhile, that aforementioned gift for my brother’s other half was projected for delivery this past Monday. Until mid-day Wednesday, the tracking system claimed it was — what else? — in transit. Another order, split into two shipments, is supposed to be here tomorrow. The tracking update? Supposedly both are sitting somewhere in Arkansas where they’ve apparently been there for the last four days, at least if the postal system is to be believed.
It wasn’t always this way so perhaps it is simply the overloaded holiday delivery system causing the hiccups. Past tracking experiences have been so accurate I pretty much knew any time someone sneezed near the box or moved it to a new pile.
This year is a whole different ball game which leads me to my obsessive need to check my packages’ status — this despite knowing in my head that the information is fairly meaningless — and the occasional domestic dispute.
During that rainy stretch a few weeks back, I discovered a medium-sized box soaking up water behind the driveway gate immediately next to the recycling bin. Not wanting to clean up anybody else’s chore, I collected the firewood I’d come outside that night to fetch and saved the passive-aggressiveness for breakfast.
My package is supposed to arrive sometime today according to the tracking, my significant other informed me.
Oh, that reminds me, I said. Why couldn’t you just break down whatever box that is outside and put in the recycling instead of throwing it on the ground?
I have no idea what you’re talking about, was the reply.
Sure you don’t, I said while silently thinking it wasn’t smart to lie this close to Christmas. There was room on the naughty list and I still have all my gift receipts.
Later that day, I encountered the box again and nudged it with my foot. The resistance implied the box was far from empty.
I brought the soggy box inside and handed it over for inspection.
Seems the post office tracking was not only off but the carrier opted to throw the box over the fence in the rain with nary a note on the front door or consideration for the contents. To make matters worse, I’m told that gift was for me.
Maybe the disjointed tracking is actually fitting for the holidays. After all, it is the season to deliver surprises — maybe just not having that surprise be when that delivery arrives.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com