It all started with a missing Lenovo laptop power cord. When we left Maui, we accidentally left behind one of the laptop power cords. We tried every which way to find a substitute cord in Costa Rica - looking in San Jose, Escazu, Alajuela and Atenas. It either didn't have the right adapter or it was $70+ US dollars (you can buy it on Amazon or Ebay for about $10-$20). It has been a pain for the last month for Mark & I to switch back & forth, plugging in our computers to charge the battery. I (Tina) will hear from the other room "ding, ding" from Mark's computer, warning him to plug in because the battery is low. So I unplug mine and give him the cord. A few hours later my computer warns me "ding, ding". "Hey Mark, I need the cord." Back and forth every few hours, EVERY day.
We found out from our friend Carolyn (renting our house) that it was going to be way too much to ship the cord in an express envelope through FedEx. So, I looked into shipping a medium, international flat rate box through the United States Post Office. It was much less than FedEx, but I had no idea how long it would take to get here or even if it would get here at all. The US Post Office couldn't guarantee it after it left the US - understandably. We decided to take our chances.
We asked Carolyn if she would fill the flat rate box with the laptop cord and a few other items - might as well use the whole box, since the cost is fixed. We asked for our GPS system and associated cords, specific kitchen knives (from an additional set we bought back in Maui), 4 regular teaspoons (all the spoons around here are huge like soup spoons), special cupcake molds, pastry blender, and sprinkles - gotta have my baking stuff :-).
One would think that shipping a small box would be pretty simple - not if the destination is another country. I went online to the USPS website to fill out a customs form. Easy right? Not so much. I had to fill the form out about 10 times because it kept rejecting the info 3/4 of the way through. First, you have to guess how much total weight the box will be. I have no idea what each item weighs and I'm not about to ask Carlyn to go through that hassle. So I made a guess of 18 lbs. Each item has to be described and entered, along with its total weight and value - again more guessing. The form took all the info and when I hit enter, it would kick back a message that said "doesn't equal total weight". Rrrrrr! I finally figured out how to beat the system and come under the total weight of 18 lbs. Then it didn't like that I had more than 4 items in the description area, so it kicked me out again. Rrrrrrrrrrrrr! I decided to risk it and not list every item. I paid close attention to mark the check box that says this box is a 'gift'. Why? Because if customs has any indication that items are for resale - they may confiscate them! Finally, I was able to print the label and customs forms, scan them, and email them to Carolyn.
I asked Carolyn to write on the outside of the box "No para reventa" translated "Not for resale". I wanted to make doubly sure that they knew these items were not to be sold here. She took the box to the Post Office and used money we had left them for such expenses. Total cost: $61.75. It seems like a lot, but it was still cheaper to send the flat rate box than buy a power cord here. Plus, we could get a few extra items in the box too - bonus! She mailed the box from Maui on September 20th.
I signed up for the USPS email tracking notification so when the box goes through different sort facilities we get a message. We tracked it from Hawaii to Florida. Then it went to the ISC - International Service Center in Miami, FL. I thought once it leaves there, there is no way to know where it is. But, to my surprise, we received a message stating that it was in Costa Rica on October 7th. I wondered how long it would take to get to Atenas. Again, I was very surprised to receive another email on October 8th that it was "out for delivery." We started to get really excited. At least it was in Atenas - somewhere.
We called the apartment office at 9 am to see if the box had been delivered. Phons (landlord) said "Nope, we've been here since 5 am and no one has come by. You should go to the post office in town, they probably have it sitting in a room somewhere. Don't go until 10 am because the guy there is slow. And don't go after 11 am because people go on their lunch hour." Mark & I decided to go after we ate lunch - about 1:30 pm. We took a walk up the hill and into town.
We made it to the little (and I mean little) postal office about 2 pm. We ran into a friend from church who was picking up mail at his PO Box. He said "So, you got a PO Box?" Mark replied "No, we're just here to pick up a package." Our friend replied with a slight smirk, "Good luck with that." That made me nervous. I was totally expecting that our package would have been opened (going thru customs) and then resealed. I was also expecting that the box would be pretty beat up.
Since the shipping label had my name on it, I was the one who had to show my passport to verify I was the recipient. The woman at the counter did not speak English, so I showed her my paperwork printout of the customs form and label. She took it and headed toward a room with a closed door. As soon as she opened the door Mark spotted the box "There it is!" he said with jubilee. I was amazed that the box was in really good shape and not even opened. I was a happy camper!!
When we got back to the apartment we made sure to let Carolyn know we got the box and it ONLY took 19 days to get here. She sent a reply and said "It was the little box that could." Every item in the box was in perfect shape. Yay!!!
Posted by Tina