Friday, 15 July 2016


Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ by Stephen Pearce
Er, I know I am not noted for my punchy titles - two lines are pretty standard, with at least a modicum of alliteration / assonance, if not both. Nor am I prone to cryptic cliffhanger pronouncements, which in my view are one of the most annoying types of posts on Facebook. You know, where someone puts: 'How am I going to get through the night?!' or: 'Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse!', when you had no idea it was bad already, never mind the specifics of the badness - and here you are being casually served up a terse portion of worseness without so much as a by your leave. Yes, there are the non-specific misery posts, and also those 'whipping the reader up into a frenzy of anticipation' posts, where someone has great news but is not yet able to share it. Which I also find quite annoying, but hey, I am easily annoyed these days.

No, the reason for the laconic one-word title is to preempt the specifics of my sorry predicament being readily found in Google searches. If my embryonic SEO knowledge serves me, the title is far and away the most searchable aspect of a post, and therefore not the place to be too explicit about my fumie felonies. To the same end, I shall also eschew my usual labels, which help people find posts on a particular topic.

But now we are well into the body of this post, I don't have a problem in telling readers that I was busted this week: yes, indeedy, for being a slipshod, shifty shipper. My mailing misdeeds involved sending perfume abroad during my recent bottle sale, despite it being designated by the Royal Mail and IATA as a prohibited good.

Now just as the police don't usually disclose the precise MO of serial killers, for fear of inspiring copycat crimes, I shall draw a veil over the exact nature of my packages, their contents, and any description/declaration thereof. For I am a reformed character, grateful not to have copped for a hefty fine - or worse still, a stint in Stafford's slammer, where I could allegedly have watched convicted paedophile Rolf Harris fashion a makeshift didgeridoo out of some random bits of plumbing implements.

No, all that happened in the end was that I had my parcel returned to me - by Special Delivery, no expense spared! - even though it was by now on the...ahem...derisorily light side. The accompanying letter explained that the offending contents - some 100ml on aggregate of decants and a nearly full bottle - had been 'disposed of'. I am actually hoping that that is not a synonym for 'destroyed'. I would rather the sorting staff at the Belfast-based National Returns Centre smelt fabulously fragrant than that the whole lot got flushed down the sink. But I will never know.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Customer Services representative who wrote to me apologised for any inconvenience caused. Less surprising was their urging me 'to ensure you do not send items classified as dangerous goods in the post'.

Meanwhile, another overseas parcel has failed to arrive, nearly three weeks after it was sent. I can only conclude that it has suffered  a similar fate, but because I had purchased extra tracking on the one to Europe, I could read on the Royal Mail website that the package had been 'identified as suspicious' and was being 'subjected to examination'. And the rest is history / put down to experience / a crying shame - and waste.

The non-dangerous contents returned to me...;

So there you have it. I don't want to say any more about what I have done in the past, or what I have thought or said on the subject of perfume as a dangerous good. I am taking this as an expensive shot over my bows, which it assuredly is, even without any additional fine, and I am going to be good from now on. Or not good necessarily, but compliant on this particular point. ;)

PS Waves to Martha of Rambling Chicken!, whose postal phobia - even within the US - is the stuff of legend. I am now officially, and somewhat belatedly, much closer to you along the regulatory line-toeing spectrum...


Pats said...

Oh no Vanessa...such a shame. I never knew that the National Returns Centre was based at Belfast. You can bet your behind that your 100mls is probably either on ebay or adorning the wrist of 'Big Geordie's woman! ;-) So sorry this has happened to you... i shall take extra care out there!

Undina said...

Yeah, sure... 100 ml of perfume is what threatens the Empire... On the other hand, it's not a bigger nonsense than reformulating perfumes because some people might have skin reaction. I shouldn't probably get started... :) I'm sorry this happened to you, Vanessa.

Unknown said...

Ach, that's a shame. I assume it did the Haz Chem sticker?

Anonymous said...

It happened to me! A few years ago a bottle of Chanel No 5 Sensual Elixir I was sending to my sister in Oz for her birthday was seized and "destroyed". I hadn't thought this counted as perfume and assumed it was safe to be sent .... it wasn't. I was gutted. And I can't understand how bottles of perfume can be deemed so dangerous; I haven't heard of any conflagrations on planes. I suppose we're lucky that Royal Mail backtracked on its original total ban on sending this dangerous stuff within the UK, or Belfast would be impounding many more parcels now. One wonders what form the destruction takes .... fire? Their firemen would have to be on hand to douse the fierce bonfires. Poured down the sink? The sewage system would smell sweeter in Belfast than anywhere else. Or indeed, do Royal Mail workers waft fragrantly around the city?

Why can't they return the offending article to the sender if one promises never to do it again???


Asali said...

That sucks! I could say I'm almost grateful that my first experience with British post after they inforced this stupid rule, was very negative: a vintage l'heure bleue destroyed or snapped up by the mail workers, which ever you prefer ;-) I've been very cautious since.
As if the postal prices going up massively wasn't enough reason to be unhappy with the state of the postal service. Saturday morning rant over.
Hope the extra kitty is safe now, he looked so cute and must have been incredibly frightened. Poor little one.

Tara said...

I wonder if my good luck will have run out now having sent bottles to Val and Asali successfully in the not too distant past. They seem to have a new perfume detection method.

I like that those kind of social media posts you mention at the top of their post have their own labels now. Those annoyingly incomplete statements on FB are called "vaguebooking", while when bloggers do it on Twitter with a link attached, it's usually a form of "click bait". A mutual acquaintance of ours does it all the time. Let's not even get on to the humblebrag :)

Ingeborg said...

So sorry this happened to you just during your perfume sale. I could make a rant along the lines of Undina's response, but will spare you and your readers. I have been trying perfume oils from Australian company Evocative Perfumes, perfume oils just because the other perfumes cannot be shipped here. And I am now wondering if not one or two of the creations would have been nicer abundantly sprayed, i.e. in an alcohol based variety.

Don't get me started on postal prices increasing and the service at the same time getting worse and worse. One digit wrong in the post code and a letter can go missing or get returned to sender.

Vanessa said...

Hi Pats,

Thanks for your sympathy, and no, it was new information for me too. LOL at 'Big Geordie's woman'. I hope at least that someone is stepping out in the Cathedral Quarter in style wearing this haul...

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

That's a very good analogy you draw with perfume reformulation - another example of the so-called 'nanny state'.

Thanks for your support - my transatlantic shipments will be strictly mule-based now, hehe.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

Oh no, because perfume may not travel abroad, period. Or not when sent by 'civilians', certainly - I cannot speak for commercial shippers. The hazchem sticker merely facilitates its passage in this country, or that was my understanding?

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Sorry to hear you have had a similar bad experience, and how disappointing for you and your sister. I haven't heard of any perfume related conflagrations on planes either, but maybe there have been some, or a bomb fashioned from a perfume bottle, and we just haven't been told.

I am glad that it is still possible within the UK, albeit with a number of strictures around original packaging.

And you make a good point about the logistics of destruction, and which would be least hazardous in themselves. I agree with the wearing of it, even if it is my loss. I don't think they return the offending article because they are trying to make an example of the offender / punish them by confiscating their property.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

Sorry you have also had perfume suffer the same fate, but it has at least put you on a legitimate path ever since. Our postal prices also go up and up, but in very small increments, so that it seems manageable. Except at Christmas, when sending 50 cards suddenly seems punitive!

The extra kitty has gone home now, thankfully. It must have been frightened, I agree, but according to a neighbour it is noted for its aggressive and bold behaviour. It didn't feel at all cute close up, but actually quite scary to me and doubtless Truffle as well, who knew there was something up all along but couldn't communicate that till today. So the blame for all the soiling and trashing of the downstairs area as it tried to escape I wrongly laid at my cat's door! Anyway, all is well that ends well, and hopefully it won't come back. Whatever I did needed to act as a deterrent.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I hope your good luck has not run out - but there is a chance their scanning methods are more thorough, or their sampling more extensive, I don't know.

I knew about 'vaguebooking', but decided to be similarly vague about the name of such posts to protect the identity of those concerned. I had not heard of 'click bait' but that's another corker of a term. Ooh, I didn't mention humble brags, did I? I just found a site with a choice selection of 50. Quite breathtaking, some of them. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Ingeborg,

That is a shame that you cannot enjoy those perfumes in an atomised form, which might have made them even more 'evocative', you never know!

So you have a similar problem of postal price hikes, compounded by falling service? That's annoying. I hate it when letters go astray due to errors when they are easily correctable by the human eye with a bit of local knowledge. It is when the sorting is all done by robots that things go wrong.

Carol said...

Oh dear V - I'm so sorry you got busted especially since they didn't return your perfumes! :(

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

That aspect was particularly galling, I must say! xx

Mals86 said...

Sigh. The officials are getting more paranoid all the time (though given the reach of terrorism lately, maybe they're not crazy).


Vanessa said...

Hi Mals86,

Hmm, could be, but it is galling all the same when you know your own package is quite innocuous. :( x