Woeful Story of Shipping Charges

I visited the Post Office yesterday to pick up shipping envelopes for Christmas presents intended for friends and family in the Northern Hemisphere. Imagine my shock to discover a new shipping charge:  $9 extra per package shipped to the United States.  The flyer at the post office and the internet says 48 hour delay, my postmaster says he understands a package can be held up to two weeks.  Basically I have to pay extra to enjoy the benefit of delay and search, with no guarantee when my Christmas packages will arrive.  

I understand, I do.  Terrorists want to send mail bombs, I get it.  Do I blame the terrorists?  Not really.

I traveled in Israel in the summer of ’06 as a student.  Along with everyone else, I was subjected to bag searches every time I entered a shop, restaurant, bar, or museum.  I saw the wall.  Pristine, plain white, with banners about peace on the Israeli side.  I drove down Israeli highways with high walls on either side because the highway cut through a Palestinian village.  Angry villagers threw stones on the highway and took pot shots at cars, so Israel built protective barricades. 

Israeli side of the wall, near the entrance to Bethlehem, my own photo.

 Palestinian side of the wall, near the Church of the Nativity, taken by a classmate.

In the airport, hard-faced young Israelis question you sharply and intensively before you board a plane. Your bags are searched for dangerous objects and traces of explosives.  A classmate had his copy of Orientalism by Edward Said confiscated.  Another classmate was detained at the airport for 6 hours because he was of Egyptian descent.  Christian Egyptian, second generation American.

All I could think was that any country that needed to protect itself so thoroughly must be doing something very, very bad to its neighbors.  Every security measure I experienced was there as a reaction to an attack.  I get that.  Rather than addressing why their neighbors would want to attack them, they explained it as anti-Semitism.   “They want to attack the Jewish State, they hate Jews.”  Then they’d build a few more feet on the top of the wall, maybe bulldoze a couple of Palestinian homes for good measure.  That’ll teach them.

I’m not defending terrorism.  Murder is wrong, a sin against God and humanity.  However, I refuse to accept the simplistic line that terrorists hate freedom and/or hate America.  I think it is time to take a good look in the mirror and ask why? 

If we have to open and inspect every package entering the country, if government officials leak documents because they feel they’ve had to act against their consciences in the course of performing their jobs, if you can’t go through the airport without being x-rayed, maybe these are symptoms of a deeper problem.  Maybe that problem is not just with those who would build bombs, maybe the problem lies in the policies of a government.

The mail bombers?  From a Yemeni cell, rife with former Gitmo detainees who learned to hate America while being tortured and humiliated in a Cuban prison.  The tip-off came from another former Guantanamo detainee.  These issues of terrorism are not as simple as “us” and “them,” “freedom” and “oppression.”

Tell me: who to blame for my postal surcharge and delay?  I’d be tempted to pick up a plane ticket and take my gifts in person, but I don’t fancy a holiday “pet-down” by airport staff.  (I admit the 17 hour plane ride is a bummer, too.)

I don’t post much about politics here- I love my sewing world because it lives apart from other concerns.  However, this small annoyance with the mail brings home the politics of terrorism, and bears consideration.

Don’t forget the Giveaway, it ends tonight.  I’ll extend the time a little to 9pm, since I’ll be at work at 5pm.  If the winner is in the U.S., you’re in for a wait on the shipping.  Good luck!


  1. Wow, that's so frustrating! I would be furious if I all of a sudden encountered a $9 charge per package.. and especially around the holidays when you're just trying to send gifts. Yikes. Hope it's a temporary measure!

  2. How sad that you fail to see the situation of a country whose neighbors have consistently vowed its destruction. How inconvenient are any government's attempts to keep innocent people dying from the political statements of murderers. Be glad that you are free to live as you choose, and with luck and the work of others you may never have to scrape up the remains of your loved ones from a bloody cafe or school bus or park. Oh my.

  3. I can see the situation. I lived inside that situation, a war with Lebanon was happening a few hours away when I was in Israel. I ate in a cafe that had been bombed a few weeks previously, we ate there specifically to show solidarity with the shopkeeper, who appreciated the gesture.I understand. I'm not condoning violence. I heartily condemn anything that adds to the sum total of human suffering. Our governments are murderers, too. We have to face that. It's hard.

  4. Steph, I completely agree with you. Governments get too big and powerful far too fast. Thanks for saying what needs to be said.

  5. Wait, I'm confused. Are you blaming the American government for a postal surcharge you are paying in another country? The USA is not responsible for postage paid in another country. The US doesn't get that surcharge or any part of it. If the country you are currently in is charging more for postage, they are the ones benefitting from the additional cost. Just saying.

  6. Well, after a circular phone call with Australia Post to figure out whence came the extra charge and how to complain, I can tell you it is added by Australia Post. That's fine, I'll lodge a polite complaint. The woman on the phone informed me that the Department of Customs and Border Protection requested additional screening of all packages entering the United States. The Australia Post is charging extra to compensate. That's fine. I understand. I'll pay, too, but I have a right to have an opinion about it and be heard by someone who charges the fees. I'm saying that we're increasingly creating a rod for our backs, it has to stop somewhere. I refuse to place all the blame for the increasing atmosphere of fear in our world on the shoulders of terrorists.

  7. $9 extra per package? Ugh. I was planning on hosting a giveaway open to international followers but at this rate the postage might end up costing more than the goods themselves…I don't think we should have to foot the bill for another country's security measures.

  8. As my mother would say – "I don't care who started it! You are all at fault for not making it right! Now go pull some weeds". There are so many countries who contributed to the mess with Israel (not least of all the UK, which rarely cops its fare share of criticism for what happens), but that doesn't mean that at least one of them couldn't take steps to stop the madness.

  9. Yeah, hi, me again. Um, the US postal service doesn't require other countries to inspect packages coming to the US. Why would they? The US Postal service has its own inspectors and reserves the right to inspect suspicious packages. That's why you fill out customs slips, etc. Your additional $9 is all on your country of origin. Can't blame the US on this one. Sorry.

  10. The US Department of Customs and Border Security has asked countries of origin to inspect all packages over 16 ounces sent to the US. I doubt they let the USPS in on that one, I can't find anything about it on the website. It is a temporary measure intended to be in place over the holiday season and is not permanent, apparently. Heh, exactly Leimomi… Go pull some weeds.

  11. If governments behaved with the moral fibre of my (or your average) 10-year-old, the world would be in a much better state. And it is costing all of us—in money, fear, and blood.$9/package increase freaking sucks :(. I could tell the story of the grilling my brother went through returning to Australia from a trip to Japan a few weeks ago, but I don't think it would help the situation :(.Even if the US Gov't is not directly responsible for the increase, it is a reflection of the increased need for security we're experiencing these days—which is a reflection, in turn, of the volatile world situation, which is what Steph's original point was about.

  12. I think the main issue has been diverted, you are frustrated by having to pay extra money to send a Christmas gift by mail, this is turning into a policy discussion …

  13. On a different topic, I have a question for you. When I read about how to sew clothing, all the books talk about making a muslin, usually starting with a dressmaking pattern. The problem is (well, the first, there are probably many) that my books tend to be rather vintage and the commercial patterns they suggest seem to be out of print. Is there a commercial dressmaking pattern you could recommend for a novice sewer for this purpose? I’ve dreamed of making my own clothes for most of my life and it’s time to either get on with it or give up the dream. I’ll be very grateful for any advice you might give. I’m most likely to see a comment on my blog. Just throw it in there anywhere. Thanks.

  14. Oh, how annoying. Thanks for the tip-off, I need to send a package to the US too. Although my feeling is, like you, that if the US customs has demanded this extra searching, then the blame is with them!I've only just read your response to my previous comment. A few days late, sorry. ( I guess if you wish me to read something straight away, then it's best to put it on my blog, hehe!)I'm glad you used the word "marvellous" in there as well to describe our shores. This is a much better word to use than "strange" which seems at first to be quite critical. And of course I've been north of Cairns. I love it up there. You are lucky to live there. Marvellous describes it very well.I hope your day starts looking up after the post office fiasco!! :)

  15. Hi Steph,As an American ex-Pat living in Canada, I can truly appreciate your post on this subject. I have lived away long enough that with the exception of my close friends, no one realizes that I am NOT from here. As a result, I am privy to the thoughts and comments of people that assume I share the same social background and viewpoint as they have.I doubt few people residing in the U.S. realize just how things look from the outside. Like you, I DO recognize the need to protect, but how far does this have to go before the very thing protected is lost under layers of fear, mistrust and anger? Your realization that the common demonator in being a "target" is typically the actions, policies and politics of said target is insightful, well thought out and sadly, spot-on.To those who would protest that the bullied one is not at fault, I'd remind them that we are not dealing with school yard antics, but with world powers that use people as pawns in a never ending game of political chess.On a lighter note, I love your blog and your projects. I find it interesting to see other ex-Pat Americans celebrating the differences and adapting to life in another country. Keep it up!t'lynn

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