I’ve traveled enough to have low expectations for physical mail overseas. Why is it easier to get a person across the Atlantic than it is to get a Fedex envelope? So I knew that trying to receive something here would be a plan of last resort. I hoped to go the entire trip without needing anything. I made it about a week.
- I needed a replacement credit card
- I can’t get packages at my Airbnb apartment
- I tried sending it to my host’s mother’s house
- No one understands international addresses
- A nearby coffee shop came to the rescue
Two weeks before my trip I applied for a couple of new credit cards. I’ve been travel hacking for the past year: racking up card bonuses. It was time for the next round. Ten business days should be plenty of time for them to arrive before I flew out.
Wrong. The first one arrived the day after I left. (So close.) Thus began the saga.
I called the first bank – which involved using my Google Voice number through my laptop’s microphone and speaker, over my apartment’s spotty WiFi. The bank very helpfully offered to send a replacement card, international express mail, free of charge. What address should they send it to?
What address indeed? This is where the problems start. My apartment is on a street that is closed to traffic. There’s a locked door to get into the building. I don’t really want my credit card left on the street. I’m not even sure Fedex would do that.
I contact my host. I can’t be the first one who has tried this. Well, maybe I am the first one. We message each other – in Italian of course. She says they won’t leave it at the apartment. I could have it shipped to her address though. Very nice of her.
I give the card company her address and they say it should arrive in two days. A week goes by. When I call to check they say it just arrived in Prato, right outside Florence, and will be delivered the next day. Fortunately I get the tracking number.
Because it doesn’t arrive the next day. My host has started asking what is going on. What I didn’t realize was that she gave me her mother’s address. And Mom is tired of waiting around for this guy’s package. Which I totally understand.
So I check the tracking number and it’s been sitting outside of Florence for a week. Fedex tried delivering a couple of times but said the address isn’t correct. (My host’s response – “they’re stupid.” I like my host.)
So I call Fedex. They say the card company has now told them to send the card back to the States. I have to call them to stop the return. I call the card company. They say they did no such thing. I’m stuck in he-said, she-said. Can you straighten in out with Fedex? (I’m talking with someone in South Dakota, and it’s 3am there. I’m going to be a little nicer – that’s a rough gig.)
The credit card agent ropes in the international deliveries agent and get it sorted. I call Fedex back to make sure they have my Italy cell phone number. A few hours later the local Fedex office calls me to say they’ll try one more time. Is this a business address or residential?
Now my host is asking if I can just make an appointment for Fedex to meet me outside the apartment. I know that will be a three hour window, and I’m not going to sit in the cold for that long. Wait, what about my coffee shop? They’re a very well-run operation. I be they can get packages. I’ve going there for three weeks, so they all know me.
They say no problem. Fedex has no problem changing the address – which is bit disturbing, but OK. It will be there tomorrow between 10 and 1. I’m going to sit at the coffee shop with my laptop until it arrives.
I show up at 9:30. I remind Emanuela that I have a package coming. I tell Francesco, the barista. He says I should tell the manager. Now everyone knows. I have a cappuccino and a croissant. I work on a blog post. I check email. I stand and stretch. Two hours go by. I’m in the middle of the delivery window. It’s 11:30.
I gotta walk around. I tell everyone I’ll be right outside, and go sit at a bench where within sight of all the doors to the cafe. If a delivery truck shows up I’ll see it. Soon it’s noon. I better call the local Fedex and make sure everything is on track. I talk in Italian. He talks to me in English. He gets my tracking number and tells me it was delivered and signed for 30 minutes ago. Yes, he’s sure.
Ok – I go back inside. The cashier hasn’t seen my envelope. The baristas haven’t seen it. The manager hasn’t seen it. They go talk to the owner. He signed for it. It’s at the cash register. The cashier and the manager search the cash register. I see a Fedex-sized envelope and ask about it. No, they say, that’s something else. They keep looking. Then they go get the owner. He picks up…the envelope I pointed to. It’s even got my name on it and my credit card is inside. Success.
It all came down to repeated problem-solving. That’s one thing I like about traveling.
(Learn more about the street sign art.)