The story of our Wild Goose Chase
Wild = Swedish mail system
Goose = My package from the U.S
Chase(rs) = Us.
*To clarify, I have nothing against the Swedish mail system, it seems to have high functionality, I’ve just been meaning to write about it and this is my first “blog worthy” experience with the postal service. I am only looking to highlight how the post office works in Sweden as compared to New York.*
Is there a slogan for the posten here? “In rain or sleet or snow or hail the safety postman shall prevail” It’s unofficial, but it’s what everyone thinks of.
When I moved to Sweden I ordered a few things online and had them shipped to my best friend in New York, since the website doesn’t ship to Sweden. The plan was simple enough, repackage the two shipments into one compact box and mail it. She said it cost 27 dollars to ship which is fine, I already knew that mailing to Sweden is a bit expensive, but what happened next is not something I expected. Maybe 10 days go by since she sent it, which didn’t seem too abnormal, I confirmed with her that it sometimes takes awhile. A couple of days later I receive a letter telling me that the package has arrived and to go pick it up. YAY!
But…that’s not all. The paper has a yellow outline and looks different than any other mail slips I’ve received. Oh. Great. That’s because it was flagged for customs and I got hit with the 25% tax PLUS an additional postal service charge. So, we had to pay 308kr (45 bucks) just to pick the package up.
What I was surprised about was how they determined the tax, I half expected them to have opened up the package and seen the receipt but the box was not tampered with when I received it. The form to send international mail asks how much the value of the contents, “$100″ was entered and they simply went with it. According to this website Tullverket, which “simplifies what is legal and prevents what is illegal,” the rule of thumb is that items mailed from non EU countries will be taxed if the amount is over 500kr. So, lesson learned: Always write 60 bucks on value tag if you aren’t concerned about the content too much.
Now, I am not sure how random the process is, having sent my wedding decorations from the U.S where the shipping alone was 70 dollars, and the value I wrote in was probably around $150, this large box was not charged for taxation. I understand a Country wanting to collect tax on incoming merchandise as it messes with the economy, I just wish I understood the procedure better.
Wait, we haven’t gotten to the Wild Goose Chase part yet.
To understand this story let me describe how the mail system works in Sweden as compared to the U.S. In Queens there are local post offices in each neighborhood, anywhere from two to four miles (1.6km) away from the next one over. There are often long lines to mail or pick up packages, buy stamps, or get a passport photo/paperwork.
In Sweden when we have to pick up a package we don’t go to our near by post office, we go to our near by supermarket or convenience store to one of 17 “Postal Service Points” in Halmstad. To give you an idea, Halmstad is 35 Square KM, where as Queens has 45 post offices covering a much larger area of 462 square KM. So, finding a postal area is very convenient here. Where ever you see this symbol of a horn and a crown with a blue background
you are able to send packages and buy stamps, envelops, boxes, etc from that location. However, your incoming mail is assigned to a specific store. These stores have all the capabilities and a certain area designated to being a mini-post office, the regular store staff manages the postal service point which entails scanning in each parcel into their system every morning upon delivery. There is a central post office which is luckily located down the block from where we pick up our packages. This central office seems to be a distribution headquarters, having access to all the databases and able to track down each package.
Our Store is about a 15 minute walk from us, I’m not sure why since there is one closer, but it’s no big deal. When we went to pick up my package that I was so anxiously waiting for the workers said it had not arrived yet. It was only one day after the letter and we were not used to paying custom tax, we thought perhaps it was normal for there to be a slight delay. A few days later, no package. The week after that, no package. They insisted that it was still at the distribution center and that it never arrived even though the date on the notice says February 24th.
And so to the central office we went. The lady there was kind enough to look into it straight away, figure out the problem, call the store and told them to take inventory or we would register an official complaint. She gave us the paperwork and the number to call if they still claim to not have the package because she can see that they failed to scan in one package a couple of weeks ago. The problem was dealt with very quickly and efficiently. We were able to track the package from home and the next day we saw that it was in their system.
This morning we went there for the fourth time to finally retrieve my shipment and hand over our payment. I had to show I.D and sign for the parcel, thankfully they didn’t notice or care that the last names didn’t match up since I am still using my maiden name in Sweden for the time being. And so finally, after weeks of waiting, my package has arrived!