If you haven’t seen the Terry Gilliam film, Brazil, you should. If you have, you need to see it again. Even though it was made in 1985, it comes frighteningly close to the terrorism-fearing run amuck bureaucracy neo-dictatorship that this country is quietly slipping into. In the Brazilian-future world, everyone is a terrorist, Christmas is celebrated four months of the year and nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can be done without the proper paperwork being completed, approved and stamped.
But I am going to take government off the hook for a moment and relate how even private business is not immune from bureaucratic paralysis. Case in point, my recent brief interaction with the shipping company, FedEx (Federal Express).
Our tenants moved out from one of our rental house recently. Arriving at the empty house to ready it for a new tenant one day, we noticed a package from the Dish Network “hidden” on the front porch. The FedEx delivery people do this often, leave a package on the front porch placing door mat over it, which I guess, they figure will camouflage it from any passer-by who might steal it. Now hiding a key or an envelope under the door mat might be a successful strategy… but a large cardboard package? Ok, whatever; we put the box in the garage and continued working on our rental house.
A few days later, FedEx delivered another identical package and, again, hid this one under the door mat also. We put that one in the garage too. Both boxes were labeled for delivery to our now moved former tenant.
Well, assuming that FedEx or Dish Network would want to know that their customer’s package did not reach the recipient, and being the nice guy that I am, I thought FedEx would appreciate my returning the packages to the local FedEx shipping facility just a short drive from our house.
I arrived at the FedEx building and carried the two boxes up to the small shipping counter. The woman clerk was helping another customer but turned and asked if she could help me. “No”, I said, “but I can probably help you”. I then explained that these boxes had been delivered to a property I own but where the intended recipient no longer lives. I fully expected a smile and a gracious “Thank you” from the customer service clerk for returning the packages to their care. Good deed done, I would be on my way.
But this is how it actually went down:
Woman FedEx clerk: Pointing at the label, “These are Home Delivery, we don’t handle these here.”
Me: “Well, I don’t really know how they are delivered but they were delivered to an empty house.”
Woman FedEx clerk: Using an unpleasant tone, “You are going to have to call Home Delivery”, we don’t handle these here, we handle air shipments only.”
By now, my mind is picturing the classic scene from Brazil: “This is Information Retrieval, we don’t give out information. You need to contact Information Disbursal”.
Me: thinking I don’t need to call anyone I’m neither the shipper nor the recipient! “Uh, this IS FedEx, right?”
Woman FedEx drone: “You have to call Home Delivery; we don’t handle Home Delivery here.”
Me: thinking now I should have just tossed these packages into a dumpster! “Look, lady, these aren’t from me, for me, I don’t have anything to do with these. They say FedEx... this is a FedEx office... do whatever you want with them.”
Leaving the packages on the counter, as I walk out the door, she yells at me: “YOU’RE LEAVING THEM IN THE WRONG PLACE”.
Driving away I wonder if I should have completed a form 27B/6! FedEx - Central Services: No difference!
There is clearly is no place for a Good Samaritan in a bureaucracy.
-- Just for laughs, The Fedex Mission Statement. Enjoy.