I’m posting my San Diego shipping story so that anybody who can learn from my experience will be able to. I apologize for the length of the post but I figure that more can be gleaned from a larger post.

Back in 2002, I read about a fellow Canadian cartoonist’s experience bringing inventory down to the United States for a convention and how a certain bureaucratic process prevented him from taking his books on the flight… which resulted in missing the flight and missing out on the convention altogether.

Trying to learn from Stephen’s experience when I printed Cigarro & Cerveja: Round 1 and was heading for the San Diego Comic-Con in 2003, I avoided carrying the books with me for the flight and shipped a box of books with a parcel service instead. I did some research and found that I was able to have the parcel delivered to a Customer Center in San Diego where it would be held for pick-up. All the declaration papers would be filled out before shipping it and there would be very little chance that it would influence my flight. Everything went smoothly.

Four Years Later

I thought that I had everything figured out. I’d recreate the process that I took four years ago. I went onto the UPS website and found a Customer Center close to my hotel:
location1.gif click to enlarge

I called 1-800-PICK-UPS to ask if I could have the boxes held for pick-up at that location and I was given the toll free number to call UPS United States (as my phone call was directed to UPS Canada). I called the number they gave me and the lady on the phone advised me that if I have “Will Hold for Pick-Up” and my contact information that there should not be an issue.

I was shipping the package on the Thursday before the convention and I wanted to have everything in San Diego before Wednesday’s preview night. I used the online tool and got something similar to this:
(click to enlarge – I just hid my postal code and the value of the merch because that’s a bit personal)

Standard delivery looks pretty good. If it delivers by end of day Wednesday, I’m thinking that’s before Wednesday’s preview night starts. Three Day would guarantee delivery before- but I’ll only choose that if necessary. The woman attending the UPS counter in Edmonton looked in a binder and told me that it would indeed be necessary (as the binder states that standard delivery takes 6 days). I grudgingly accepted the advice and purchased the Three day service. I filled out the declaration forms to the best of my ability- which is one of the problems because I don’t ship large packages to the U.S. often- and now that there’s Path 2 as well as Round 1 and all the t-shirts… oy.

Tuesday was the day of the flight. I left Edmonton in the early morning and arrived in San Diego in the early afternoon. I power on my cell phone and my voicemail notification chimed… my merchandise was stuck at customs and to call the UPS customs representative. I called her back but only got her voicemail… it later occurred to me that it’s early afternoon in California but it may be the end of business day out east. I decided to trek out to the Customer Center to discuss options with a real life person.

That Customer Center DOESN’T EXIST!

This is the point where I begin to panic. I call 1-800-PICK-UPS and I tell them what’s happened. They transfer me to UPS Global and I repeat myself. I hear a number of apologies and a promise of a call on Wednesday morning. I’m very miserable at this point of my trip. I’m irritated that I paid for three day service, I’m irritated that the Customer Center isn’t where it was listed to be online, and I’m worried that I won’t have anything to show for the convention.

Financially, this is a big investment: plane fare, hotel, convention table, and shipping. It felt like everything was crashing down around me.

I awake Wednesday morning to my phone ringing. It’s UPS! They get my Social Insurance Number and advise me that I’ll have to pay duty (which I expected). I request the boxes be redirected to my hotel. “The boxes should clear customs tonight and you may get the shipment tomorrow” – no guarantee.

I then confirmed with the front desk that they could accept the packages (they said yes). There was nothing I could do for the rest of the day but wait. I called UPS once again but they said that I just needed to be patient.

I felt pretty pathetic during the preview night. My table was all set up with the table cloth, postcards, and business cards… and I have a handful of books and t-shirts that I packed in my suitcase… but it was a lot less than I brought to San Diego four years ago.

I stake out the hotel lobby on Thursday morning and the delivery arrives! Two out of three boxes were delivered and I was elated that they were the two boxes that I needed immediately. I wasn’t too worried about the third box- I only needed it for Saturday and as long as I received the box by Friday everything should be golden. I called 1-800-PICK-UPS to confirm. Oops, the third box is at a depot and wasn’t redirected but I called just in time and it should be delivered by Friday. Golden.

Friday morning, I wake up and check the tracking number online. It’s still at the depot. I called 1-800-PICK-UPS and they tell me to call the UPS United States on that other 1-800 number. “Oh, yeah. You called UPS Canada yesterday and I see a note for redirecting the parcel but Canada can’t redirect a package in the United States. I can have it redirected and delivered on Monday.”

Not golden. I needed the box before the weekend – not after. So I hop on a cab and pick up the box from the existing Customer Center…
location2.gifclick to enlarge
in CHULA VISTA. There’s a part of the story where the first cabbie didn’t know how to get to the address but I don’t want to elaborate on that. The round trip from the hotel to Chula Vista to the Convention Center: $99 (I’d say an even one hundred dollars but I don’t want to exaggerate).

That concludes my San Diego shipping story. There are some things that I would do differently (which I’ll have to consider for my SPXpo trip coming up) and if anyone has any advice for me, I’m looking forward to hearing it. I hope that my experience can be helpful to others.