There’s something fishy going on, Florence

Florence Broadhurst was a visionary Australian designer of textiles and wallpaper in the 1960s and 1970s. Her designs have become popular again over the last ten years, maybe because of the publication in 2007 of a simply gorgeous book about her work and life.

Broadhurst’s famous Bamboo print. We had a knock off of this papering my family bathroom when I was growing up.

I’ve always been a fan of Broadhurst, and I found her very inspiring in my own textile work. This is my chaise longue upholstered in one of my fabrics.

See how it looks kinda similar to the bag down the page? Inspiration, baby.

Last year Broadhurst’s estate licensed her work, and I fell in love with the luggage range, but it was just way too expensive to even consider buying, because I hardly ever go anywhere. Until, this year, the pieces started appearing on clearance websites. I guess I wasn’t alone in finding them out of my price range.

So, seeing as how I am going to visit my daughter this week, and I released a book in March that earned a tiny bit of money, I decided to treat myself. And I bought a cabin bag.

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Also in the back of my mind was that I plan to do a US road trip – tentatively summer 2017 – and it would be perfect for that, too (I pack light and only take carry-on).

I bought it from the Australian store Peter’s of Kensington, because their shipping is fast and everything is packed securely. And I followed the tracking number all the way to Auckland airport customs, where the bag stopped dead. A week later, it hadn’t moved. This was not right.

So I emailed Peter’s of Kensington, and a real person emailed me back, and gave me a contact in New Zealand, and I emailed them and told them it was cabin luggage in a big pink box. And they actually looked! And they actually found it!!

Here – finally – is the point of my story. This is what the package looked like:

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Someone had ripped open both shipping manifest envelopes and removed the documentation. They’d removed the Australia post tracking sticker. They’d also opened the box and removed the packing slip. So there was no way for NZ Post to identify who they should deliver the box to. And the box had been inspected by customs, so it wouldn’t immediately be apparent someone had opened the box a second time.

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I would chalk this down to a one-off accident, except at the beginning of the year I bought a wooden desk caddy from France. And I tracked the parcel all the way to Auckland airport customs, where the parcel stopped dead. The store contacted NZ Post who said it hadn’t been released by customs yet. And it never was. A week later it vanished. The seller refunded me, so no loss to me, but it still went…somewhere. And you can’t ask a CSR to look for a “medium sized plain white box” in a sea of plain white boxes.

If I didn’t hit a good CSR when I emailed, and if Peter’s of Kensington didn’t use bright pink boxes, I would never have got my pretty, pretty bag. I paid by Visa, so I could have done a chargeback. Again, no financial loss to me. And a high-volume overseas seller is unlikely to bother getting to the bottom of what happened.

So my question is, what happens to parcels that are incorrectly addressed and with no tracking details? Are they auctioned off for a fund raiser, as I know happens in some places? Or are staff allowed their pick of unclaimed parcels once a suitable time period has passed? And is someone at NZ customs, or NZ Post, deliberately removing all identifying details from parcels in order to make sure they have their pick of the good stuff? Or did someone just slip and their fingers ripped the document envelope by accident and the paperwork fell out? Twice.

These questions are interesting because Yixin Gan went on trial here last month. She ran a business shipping food from China to Tonga, via New Zealand. A man called Mosese Uele, who worked for a freight forwarding company and had access to secure areas, opened the parcels when they were in the bonded warehouse during the stopover, removed the pseudoephedrine – used to make meth – hidden inside, replaced it with actual potato starch, and perfectly legal goods were on-shipped. Uele already pled guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison, along with several co-conspirators. But Uele says Gan was the mastermind behind the whole thing, while she says she had nothing to do with any of it. Her trial ended up aborted due to juror shenanigans, and she’ll face a retrial later in the year.

If Uele could make drug substitutions, and someone could rip the documentation off my parcel, how secure from tampering is the whole system?

New Zealand has always been a trustworthy country. We’re fourth in the world for least corrupt place to do business. But just a few years ago we were #1. My bag is only a bag, but how many other parcels are going astray? I’ve always had a sense of security that if I ordered something online, the system would work, and I’d get it. I didn’t even have to think about it. But now I don’t necessarily think that’s the case any more. I used to trust that New Zealand was a basically honest place, but that blind faith has faded.

But I have my pretty bag – thank you team at New Zealand Courier Post! And I’m flying to see my girl! Woot!

One thought on “There’s something fishy going on, Florence

  1. Pingback: Thank you – With a Squid Ink Pen

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