Category Archives: Mail Service and Shipping in Mexico

Dirty and ragged?

The other day I was reading a prepper adventure story–you know the kind, where a handful of people survive X disaster. In this particular story, it was an EMP attack, which means no electricity. In the story, it had been just 2 months since the power went out and the survivors were described as dirty and ragged.

Dirty and ragged? I’ve lived without electricity in my home for 10 years now and I hardly consider myself dirty and ragged. What could have happened to these people? Well, water might be in short supply. We’ve had that dilemma ourselves which has meant a gap of several days between showers. (See Ni modo) but we still wash our face and hands and any other grubby parts, even if we have to draw up a bucket of water from the ajibe (dry well). (See Water Woes) So what about that ragged part? If there happened to be no electricity, it stands to reason that the sewing machines wouldn’t work. But really, ragged? After just 2 months? Nobody knows how to use a needle and thread anymore?

Right then and there I decided that wouldn’t happen to us in the event of X disaster. Thus began my quest for a treadle sewing machine. Believe it or not, they aren’t so hard to find here. Everybody and their mother had one, or so it seems.

First, I asked my co-workers. The secretary’s grandmother had one. However, she wasn’t able to get ahold of grandma because her phone had been disconnected. I don’t know about you, but finding out my grandma’s phone was disconnected would inspire a visit at the very least to make sure she wasn’t kitty food for her houseful of now feral cats. But I guess every family is different.

So then the lunch lady said that she had 2. Yep, two. One had been her mother’s and she would not sell it for sentimental reasons. The second was in need of repair but she didn’t know exactly what it needed. Nothing came of that lead either.

At the Sunday tianguis (flea market) in Moroleon, I came across the machine part that the seller assured me was in working order. However, without a base, it wouldn’t be much good to me. I suppose I could have bought the base separately, but then I would have to see if it worked with that machine and get bands and well, it seemed too complicated. It was only $250 pesos though.

Then there was the trip to Patzcuaro to the Singer store where the lady refused to sell me the display model saying it was a piece of crap made in China, not Mexican-made. So much for that. (See Playing Tourist–Patzcuaro)

The other week, driving to the gas station, I spied one at a bazaar (an open-air junk shop). We turned around and asked. The one displayed didn’t work. The guy said that he had another one but his brother had it. He’d be able to have it there by 1:30. So we went back at 1:30. Well, the brother had taken it to a tianguis (flea market) to try and sell. He’d be back by 6:00. Meanwhile, the guy had another model in his house. My husband had a look at it. He said the machine looked fine, but the base needed some work. My husband went back at 6:00 and the brother still hadn’t appeared. The guy was willing to sell the crappy base, but not the machine to the one he had in the house. That wouldn’t work. How much you want to bet that the tianguis guy from the other week had the machine that matched the working base? Either way, it didn’t work out for me.

Coppel had a display model treadle machine, but I wasn’t impressed. Since I was disappointed with the quality of my bike recently purchased at Coppel (there seemed to be missing screws and the frame feels like it will burst apart at every pedal) I wasn’t going to shell out over $2,000 pesos for something I might not be happy with.

What I really wanted was one of the antique sewing machines–built to last and still running. I checked out eBay and found a few–even a Janome 131 Hand Crank Sewing Machine hand crank one. I was all excited about it until I saw that it would be shipped from Latvia. How much would shipping be from there? I didn’t even want to know. Besides, I had a bad experience or two with eBay and wasn’t in a hurry to give it another go. (See Shipping Fiasco)

Barring the antique sewing machine, a functioning new machine would work. So I went to Amazon. Regular old Amazon had nothing, but Amazon Mexico had 2 Singer Negrita 15CD Máquina de Coser con Mueble de Triplay de 5 cajones models seemingly identical but about $200 pesos different in price. As I couldn’t find anything different but the color of the base, I ordered the less expensive one.

Now that I have a viable shipping address (See Trade Route Established) I set about ordering it and waited anxiously for its arrival. Although there was a hiccup with my supplier (my friend) and her bank saying she had a fraudulent purchase for using a Mexican site, it arrived right on time. The school secretary accepted delivery for me.

sewing machine

It wasn’t sent via DHL, but Estafeta which makes sense as the sewing machine came from the Amazon warehouse in Mexico–and as there is an office not so very far from the school, it seems that they too had no problems in delivery.

We stashed it in the back of Myrtle and took it home.  That’s one less thing I need to worry about when TSHTF!

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Trade Route Established

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We’ve had all sorts of luck having things shipped to us in Mexico, with most of it being bad. This January, we said goodbye to the post office box for good. (See Mexican Postal Service) and have sworn off Fed-Ex completely. (See Shipping Fiasco). It seemed that my dream of establishing a trade route where I can have hard to get items delivered was yet another impossibility.

However, there was hope. Remember way back when we had to renew our passports (See Renewing our Passports in Mexico) and the consulate used DHL for interior shipping? Well, if you don’t, we were able to have the passports delivered to the local office and pick them up there (with proper identification of course) and that saved us all sorts of headaches.

So when Amazon Mexico opened its virtual doors, I was delighted to discover that they too used DHL as a shipping service. YIPPEE! Now, Amazon Mexico does not have the same inventory as regular old Amazon and there are some price differences, but they do have free shipping for purchases over 500 pesos. And that’s just dandy!

DHL

It was time to test it out. I wanted to order a Kindle for my son because although we have one, I don’t share well. Have you ever tried to share a kindle? It’s like two people reading the same book at the same time. It just doesn’t work out. Amazon Mexico had kindles in stock. I went to order one and ran into a glitch. Amazon does not take PayPal. Well, of course, they don’t. It’s owned by Ebay. Unfortunately all my ill-gotten and well-gotten gains from online work (See Failing at your own business–Freelance Writing Essays, Freelance Test Writing, web design) were stashed in my Paypal account. I could transfer that money to my husband’s account and withdraw it, but since Amazon is an online business, there was no store I could go to with my pesos for the purchase.

So your question is why I wouldn’t just use a debit or credit card, is it? Amazon accepts those forms of payments without problems. Well, banking is another one of those things that gets complicated without an address. We had been able to open a savings account using my husband’s mother’s address once upon a time, however as she is no longer living and no one in the family is currently living at that address, we haven’t been able to present a verifiable address to the bank in order to open a checking account. So no bank cards for us.

What I needed was a go-between, someone to whom I could send Paypal money and would place the order for me at Amazon Mexico. No sooner thought than done. I had recently finished a web redesign job (See Failing at your own business–web design) for my friend in Tennessee. She agreed to order the Kindle in lieu of payment. Awesome! I had found my purveyor of fine goods!

As the Amazon Mexico site is all in Spanish (because no one would speak another language in Mexico right?) it took some doing for her to get it ordered and the shipping address set up. I decided to try and have it shipped to the school that I work at, which is just a few blocks from the DHL office. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard for them to find me. My friend placed an order for the Kindle.

The bank rejected her order. I thought it might have been a name change issue as she has recently remarried, but it wasn’t. The bank called her the next day to say that they had detected a fraudulent online purchase (because no one in the US would use a Mexican site to place an order right?) So she got that straightened out and hit send again.

This time, there were no problems. Amazon Mexico sent a confirmation of order received and an expected delivery date of 2 days later. As I was in my classroom all day, I let the secretary know that a package would arrive for me. She signed for it and brought it to my room. The Kindle had arrived!

It looks like I’ve established my trade route without having to resort to camels!

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The Mexican Postal Service

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January means a trip to the post office to renew our post office box. This year, the post office was giving out promotional material, and we were pleased to accept El Correo y El Cartero (a children’s activity book) and La Historia, El Valor y Los Valores del SEPOMEX (a historical book about the postal system in Mexico.)

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I have to admit, I didn’t know much about the postal system in Mexico before reading these little gems. But now, I consider myself rather more informed. If you have a minute, I’d like to share a few of the highlights.

The word correo (mail) comes from the Latin currere, which means go fast or run (like the word correr in Spanish). And that’s exactly how the mail used to be delivered here in Mexico. In pre-conquest times, a select group of men was chosen in each community to act as the first mail delivery boys. They were educated in the Telpuchcalli, which was sort of like a school, with the final objective of being able to take messages or produce to their destinations. There were relay posts along the most common routes called techialoyan where messengers would wait. These early postal workers could run around 4 or 5 leagues per hour.

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There were 4 types of these delivery men. The Paynanis which when translated meant “he that runs slightly” were the government messenger boys.

The Ycihuca titlantli were the forerunners of the express mail and carried urgent messages between places. Some of the Paynanis were also Ycihuca titlantlis.

The war messengers were called Tequihuatitlantis. These guys had to be sure that they were accurate in delivering the message as they were held hostage until a second messenger arrived, confirming the victory or defeat. If the first messenger had brought false information, he would be sacrificed.

The fourth messengers were called Tamemes and were the package delivery guys. Sometimes they also brought people like an escort or travel guide.

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Once the Spanish arrived and took over, the mail service added the horse or buey (ox) and cart to speed up deliveries, although I’m not sure how much faster oxen would be.

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The only public mailbox I have seen in all of Moroleon.

Mailboxes were first used along the delivery routes in 1762. As far as I know, there is only one public mailbox in Moroleon. I don’t know that anyone uses it. It seems the general consensus is that it is safer to take your items directly to the post office and hand it to the clerk. Things have a way of disappearing here in Mexico.

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The first Mexican postage stamp was issued August 1, 1856. It featured the image of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. In 1879, Mexico was included in the Universal Postal Union. El Dia del Cartero y el Empleado Postal (Postal Workers’ Day) was established on November 12, 1931.

The first zip codes weren’t created until 1981. Sepomex (Servicio Postal Mexicano) was founded in 1986. As with most agencies here in Mexico, the post office is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In 2008, Sepomex became Correos de Mexico.

According to the booklet, there are now 32,466 zip codes, 1,492 offices, and  200,529 post office boxes which the post office officials use to imply that 96% of the total population of Mexico has access to mail service.

So if those figures are correct, and the government wouldn’t lie, then we must fall into the 4% of the total population that lacks postal service.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, January means renewing our post office box. This requires presenting identification and a water or electric bill. As La Yacata does not have water or electric, or street names hence the necessity of renting a P.O. box, we always borrow someone else’s. We’ve done this the past 3 years as we do with our other legal documents, like license plates and driver’s licenses. This year, that wasn’t good enough for the post office. The identification and the water bill did not have the same address, so it wasn’t acceptable. So we will no longer have a P.O. box. That will save us about $300 pesos per year.

What I don’t get is that if a demanda (lawsuit) could arrive at my door via the court delivery woman who uses La Yacata as a romantic rendezvous and taxi drivers know where to bring people who wish to speak with La Gringa de La Yacata, why can’t the post office deliver mail to my house?

bike mailman

Of course, it might be pure laziness. Most deliveries in Moroleon are via bike, although there are a few official motorcycles, undoubtedly reserved for the express service. La Yacata is just TOO far for postal workers to bike out and deliver a letter or package. It is nearly 2 km from the boundary of Moroleon, after all.

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This room serves the communities of Pamaceo, La Ordena, Las Penas and Caricheo.

The little villages further up the road have a little room where all mail is delivered, and residents must stop and pick up their mail from there. Perhaps that’s what we need to establish in La Yacata. But getting residents to agree to anything is nearly impossible, so I doubt that the first post office in La Yacata will open in my lifetime.

Thus, if you have any intention of sending a care package our way, email me first and I’ll see if I can come up with an alternative method for delivery.

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Shipping Fiasco

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Fed-ex Moroleon

So with my ill-gotten (See Failing at your own business–essay writing) and legitimately gotten gains piling up in my Paypal account burning a hole in my virtual pocket, I decided to do some online shopping. First I went to Shop Amazon , however, nobody wanted to ship to Mexico and Amazon.com.mx, well had nothing that I wanted. So I went to Ebay Mexico. And yep, they’d ship it to me. Since the last time I used Ebay, oh some 8 years ago, they had started this global shipping program that would ship anywhere in the world. Sounded great! As it turns out, I apparently live in a parallel universe, but I was unaware of that until the shipping nightmare began.

I bought myself some pants and my husband an MP4 player. The shipping fees were incredible–and not in a good way. The jeans were $205 pesos and shipping was $391 pesos more. The MP4 was $617 pesos and the shipping added another $299 pesos. Well, the global shipping program said that there would be no surprise import tariffs at the border, so what the heck. I had the moolah and I spent it.

A week later, I also ordered an archery set for my son. Shipping doubled the price yet again. The archery set was $630 pesos and the shipping was $638 pesos. I thought it worth it because the only archery set we found here was over $2500, therefore, $1200 was a real bargain. And I sat back and waited.

About a week later, I checked on the shipping status—and low and behold, the first two packages were at the border. Yippee Skippy! Not long now! So I waited another week and checked the shipping status. I saw that a delivery had been attempted, but had been incomplete because the “business was closed or client unavailable.” Now, that seemed strange. I figured they’d try again the next day, and they did but found the address “undeliverable.” Now I started to worry. After three days of out for delivery but not delivered, I tried to contact the sellers to see if they had any information that might be useful. Ebay wouldn’t let me. My email was sent to Ebay customer service and my claims put on hold until January 6th. I wrote again and specifically asked if they could tell me who the carrier was from Morelia to Moroleon so that I could contact the company, meet the driver or pick up the packages at the facility in Morelia. Graciously, Ebay allowed that I could do that and that the carrier was Fed-ex.

OH! That explains it! I had listed our apartado (post office box) as our address since La Yacata has no street names. I had never had any issues before as the packages had been sent regular mail, which of course arrives at the post office box with no problems. When we had to use DHL for our passports (See Renewing out passports–DHL) we had the package sent directly to the office and picked it up from there. So my hope was to contact Fed-ex and pick up the packages that were “in transit” at the distribution facility in Morelia. According to MapQuest, it was 50 minutes from Moroleon, completely drive-able.

So then began my quest to contact Fed-ex. I spent hours attempting to contact someone in customer service. Of course, I expected a wait since it was right before Christmas and all, but really, hours? Then I finally was able to contact someone who regretfully told me that the Global Tracking number I had was not a Fed-ex tracking number, therefore, Fed-ex couldn’t track it. So I contacted Ebay customer service again and asked for the Fed-ex tracking number. I didn’t receive any response. So I tried contacting the sellers again to ask if they by chance had the Fed-ex tracking number, and they didn’t.

Meanwhile, the third package was winding its way down. I saw on the tracking form that delivery had been attempted. I had exhausted all my options for package recovery by this time. However, miracles of miracles, Fed-ex called me after Christmas to request a different address for delivery. The impatient young lady accepted the address and clumsy directions I gave to the school where I work. I said I would be there awaiting the package.  She said would it head back to Moroleon that afternoon. I asked about the other packages.  She knew which packages I was talking about but said that there was nothing she could do.  I waited 5 hours at the school that day. Nothing. So the next day, I came back to the school.  While teaching my classes, being the only teacher there as this was Christmas break,  I had to lock the door but left a big ol’ sign on it that read “Fed-ex–toca la puerta fuerte” (knock loudly). And wouldn’t you know it, Fed-ex came and went while I was in class, leaving a tracking and contact number. Talk about annoyed! I called the contact number, which was local and the nicest man answered the phone. He was sympathetic to my dilemma. He said that he could ask the driver to leave the package with him at the office 4 blocks from the school and I could pick it up tomorrow at 9 am. That would be perfect!

So the next morning, I went over to Queretaro street and lo and behold, there was a Fed-ex office! Imagine that! The same pleasant man was there and was able to hand the package right over to me. He couldn’t do anything about the first two packages as I didn’t have the Fed-ex tracking numbers and he was sorry about that. He said the office has been there 4 years, but I found no listing for it when I did my desperate Google searches. Had anyone from Fed-ex called me about the failed delivery of the first two packages instead of allowing them to endlessly circulate in the delivery truck, I could have made the same arrangements and everything would have been hunky-dory.

January 6 came and Ebay declared the packages lost and issued me a refund as a “courtesy”. Well, thank you very much, kind sir. I was dissatisfied overall and won’t be using Ebay again. I think I was mostly disappointed because I had this vision of being able to receive items that just aren’t available in our area via mail delivery. Sort of like my own private trade route. Sigh. It just wasn’t to be.

I was also frustrated by the globalization of the global shipping program. I ordered products from Iowa and Florida. The customer service agent was in India. The Fed-ex driver and brisk customer service representative were in Morelia. But not until I was able to contact a local person (the Fed-ex employee four blocks away) was I able to complete the process. My problem wasn’t their problem. The sellers didn’t lose out as I had already paid for the items. The Indian customer service representative still got paid whether or not I received my items. The Fed-ex driver and snooty customer service rep also were paid whether or not I got the shipment. Ebay’s loss in refunding me my money was a drop in their earning conglomeration bucket.  The location of my items was only important to the local guy, someone I might theoretically meet again on the street in our town. That’ll teach me.

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