Cluster funk

It wasn't a quad bike for a son of anarchy with revoked driver's license. It was a quad of review wobbles.

The first wheel that came off hinged on being strapped to a pallet even though I'd specifically advised the sender that in our rural woods, deliveries involve vans not lorries with lift gates. Once the straps cut to get two tall packages out of a white van, wooden bases came off, internal styro bases crushed, thin cardboard outers proved non reusable. 'twas a truly miserable joke for costly heavy-duty goods. When I informed the sender, I was coolly advised to discard all original shipping materials. Thanks a lot. They'd send me redesigned cartons. But their supplier made a mistake on the first batch. Weeks ticked by with two big obstructions blocking our hallway. When I cried foul—our home isn't a warehouse—I was told that a friend of theirs would arrive with temporary packaging, help put the goods inside then cart them off during the same visit. He's not come yet.

My second loose wheel meant plain broken. The sender claimed mishandling of customized hard-plastic flightcases with very thick foam padding. Delivery was on Friday, overland freight return the following Tuesday. The €75K design was obviously plagued by a structural flaw which despite deep foam cradling broke clear off in transit. The designer promised to revisit it with a far stronger material. I strongly impressed upon him the need for more thoughtful packaging too which wouldn't involve having to lift out 75kg of bottom-heavy goods with a single handle but instead come apart to walk straight out. Proper engineering can't ever stop at the components themselves. It must include safe reusable packaging which a recipient can undo and redo many times over.

The third wheel came off in Dublin customs. I'd specifically alerted the sender that Ireland levies 23% VAT on declared value for all non-EU origins. All such fees should bill to his account. Yet the docs stipulated that the recipient pay. The fees came to €560. Smelling trouble paying first collecting later, I forwarded invoice and payment instructions to my sender. He was most unhappy and asked me to refuse delivery to get it returned to him. Upon receipt he'd issue a new waybill for the same €15K+ worth of kit. Of course customs aren't morons. Should they inspect his second carton, they might challenge a still lower declared value. All that takes is a visit to his website to see what the goods really trade at. If that happens, it won't be my problem. This guy has been in biz for 40 years. He knows better but means to game the system harder yet. The jury on his second attempt is still out.

The fourth wheel also came off in Dublin customs. Being a good year late, deliverance seemed nigh. Yay! Then one more apologetic email arrived in a string of prior excuses. This time their tech guy had spotted a wrong-value part which under certain conditions causes noise. Did I want to proceed or get a flawless loaner instead? Having already waited more than a year, a few more weeks were nothing. I asked for the latter. Once again I refused a delivery to get freight returned to sender. It's how the reviewing biz can roll. Now certain reviews postpone; or disappear from the preview gallery altogether.

What's the moral of my clustered funk? I can think up a few handy takeaways. Don't ever underestimate lack of reading comprehension. Expect clear instructions to fall on deaf ears or be met by oversight. Don't underestimate amateurism. Count on negligence. Expect cheapness. Only deal with big established companies that have all the basics licked already. Is that really the inevitable upshot?

Far from. Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. We'll bugger on as usual. Most days all wheels stay on and the ride is just peachy. Today covered the occasional exceptions to keep it honest. Some days it's all mud and derailments. It's simply nothing a good shower won't fix. Then a new day dawns and some moons align again. When you have six to start with, that's not much to ask.