21 September 2010

The package

One afternoon recently I arrived home to find a large maroon box from Gevalia, addressed to one Emelda Sanger, on my doorstep. I marked the package for return, expecting to never see it again.

The next afternoon, the mail arrived, but the box remained. At this point I surmised it had not been delivered by the USPS, and called Gevalia to request they pick it up. That was the first of several errors of reasoning I was to make in my attempt to get the package to its rightful owner.

The first customer service rep I spoke with wasn't much help.

"Hello, and thank you for calling Gevalia! How many I help you?"
"Hi; my name is Pamela Goldsteen. A package from Gevalia was mistakenly delivered to my address."
"Can I have your name?"
"Pamela Goldsteen."
"Thank you Ms. Goldsteen! I don't see any record coming up under that name; can I have your account number?"
"I don't have an account number; I don't have an account. I have a package from you that I did not order."
"Can I have your address?"

I gave her my address, explaining I did not think it would be very helpful as it was the wrong address.

"Then may I have your credit card number, so I can look up your account?"

I considered several responses: fuck, no; hell, no; and, do you have a large sum of money you'd like to transfer to my account, before settling on no, and reminding her that I did not have an account. 

We went on like this for a few rounds, until she grasped the root of the problem. At which point, she suggested that I keep the package.

"Thank you, but I don't want it," I said.
"Then give it to someone!" she responded.
"I don't know anyone who will want it."
"You can donate it to charity?"
"I don't want to give it away; I do not want to be in any way responsible for this package."
"Then throw it away."

Thems fighting words. I suffer from irrational guilt regarding trash. I will never forget the scene at the beginning of Sex, Lies and Videotape when Andie MacDowell speaks to her therapist about her obsessive thoughts about garbage, because I too used to worry far too much about garbage. Since then, I've gained considerable perspective and become an ace recycler. But it pains me to place number six plastics in the trash, and I will carry a empty plastic water bottle around in my purse to recycle at home if no bin is available. Today in Whole Foods I had to restrain myself from offering to take a cardboard package from the woman on line in front of me when she asked the cashier to throw it out.

I am almost as insufferable about clutter as I am about trash. If it were up to me, my children would have no toys, and if I want to disrupt my sleep at night, all I need to do is think about the contents of my garage. And so I was in a bind. I could no sooner put a new, non-biodegradable coffee pot in the trash than I could bring it in my house.   

"You want me to put a brand new coffee maker in the trash?" I asked.
"Yes. If you don't want it, you can throw it away!"replied the customer service rep.
"May I speak to a manager please?"
"Yes! I'll connect you, but my manager is going to say the same thing."

I waited on hold for several minutes, and was disconnected. Perhaps it was an accident, or perhaps that's how Gevalia deals with the crazies.

I called back, undeterred, because now I had a point to prove. Thus began round two, where I was eventually connected to a manager, not before being warned by yet another customer service representative that the manager too would tell me to throw the package away.

Which he predictably did. Their coffee may be mediocre, their business plan questionable, but Gevalia is certainly effective at delivering a consistent message.

And so began a futile pas de deux, in which I attempted to approach from different angles, trying to convince the manager that this was his company's error, and therefore their responsibility to rectify, only to be consistently stonewalled. I suggested Gevalia contact Emelda Sanger, and was told that if she really wanted the package, she would contact them. I asked them to send UPS to pick up the package. The manager said I was welcome to ask my UPS deliveryman to take the package, but he wouldn't send it back to Gevalia. I began to suspect there was a sinister plot afoot to cleave me to this package. 

I knew I was wasting my time, but I couldn't help myself; I was, like a dog with a bone, unable to relent. My lunch went cold, and apparently I left Sacha stranded on the kitchen counter after washing his dirty feet in the sink. I was so absorbed in my debating exercise that Sarah had to tell me that Sacha was calling for me, begging to be let down. The circles became tighter as me and the manager approached our denouement.

Eventually I hung up the phone frustrated. The package remained on my doorstep all weekend, mocking me. In this time, I contemplated various ineffective schemes from the useless to the absurd— writing angry letters, and sending the package back to Gevalia at my own expense—before resigning myself to storing it in the basement until school started, when I would offer it to one of my children's schools.

The package was still sitting there on Monday morning when I took the kids to camp, but when we arrived home, it was gone. I'm certain Gevalia did not retrieve it, so either my mail carrier took pity on me, or more likely, someone stole it. If it was stolen, I know I ought to be upset, but really, I'm very grateful for this act of petty thievery.

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