Mail Delivery South African Style

You know me. I always moan about the absence of from my life here in South Africaand all the convenience I’m missing out on by not being able to order anything the heart desires with a simple click of the mouse. I’ve even told you about the nebulous cloak-and-dagger merchandise exchanges I engage in to score those coveted goods from the U.S.every once in a while.

If only I had Amazon here, all my troubles would be over, is what I’ve been telling you.But I’m not being entirely truthful. Because even if Amazon existed, there is the small matter of the delivery part of online shopping. 

In fact, something similar to Amazon does exist here in South Africa, and it’s called Get it? Amazon is a rainforest in South America, and Kalahari is a desert in Africa. I can’t say I quite see the connection, but I’m sure someone thought that one through.

The problem with is that the selection is nowhere near that of, and that the prices are nowhere near as competitive. It’s basically just for buying books and a few movies, and I prefer to buy the former via Kindle and get the latter for free via my newest cool discovery, UnoTelly.

However, some weeks ago I needed a school book for Zax that wasn’t available on the Kindle. Macbeth, if you must know, in some ancient edition. So I decided to give Kalahari a try, where miraculously that very edition was available. Used, from some obscure seller.

Ordering couldn’t have been any easier. A few clicks, and for R80 or something similar it was mine. After that, I promptly forgot about it. As I should be entitled to, right?

But not in South Africa. By now I should know better about these things and schedule multiple reminders in my calendar. Just because you ordered it doesn’t mean you get it. Back in the U.S., the book would have arrived on my doorstep a few days later, and that would have been the end of it.

And here? About three weeks later, Zax asked again about his book. Which made me remember that I had ordered it, and even gotten a confirmation via email, complete with a link to track the shipment, to my surprise. My package, I was informed when I clicked on it, had been delivered to my post office at Dainfern North over two weeks previously. Except no one had bothered to inform me, a fact that I didn’t hesitate to point out to the postal clerk when I inquired about my package.

Or had they? I’ve told you that our houses don’t have mailboxes. Which you can’t really blame on the South African Post Office (SAPO), but rather on the nature of our security estates. No one gets in easily, and certainly not the mailman. Although come to think of it, the people from Eskom who came to turn off my power always got in just fine. Anyway, over the course of living here I have gotten a bit lazy about checking our mailbox in our neighborhood shopping center, as there is never really anything exciting in it beyond a couple of flyers and, oddly, the pest control bill.

Since no package was forthcoming when I asked about it at the post office, I left again and went over to our mailbox to look for a slip there. But, as expected, there was nothing in it. So I drove back home, making a mental note to check the tracking tool again, print out the number, and take it by the post office the next time I was there. Which, as mental notes go, I promptly forgot. Let’s just say this turned into another one of those African errands of mine spanning the space of weeks instead of minutes.

It’s just so tiring to have to work so hard at everyday occurrences such as getting your mail or calling customer service. It’s hard to imagine a thriving mail-order economy without better mail service. One that sends out notifications for package delivery. Where entire shipments don’t disappear like this was the Bermuda Triangle. And where overseas credit card statements don’t get intercepted by some Nigerian money-making scheme almost succeeding at emptying your entire bank account. 

Maybe I’m really better off sticking with the street vendors, where delivery is never a problem.

Where the goods just come flying through my open car window.

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