It turned out to be a scam.
But let me start from the beginning. My finger was hurting from all the swiping it had been doing since I downloaded the Pinterest app on a spur of a moment decision.
Working from home, I’d had plenty of time to stare at my living room, its blank walls, and the grey winter right outside the windows. It was time to do something about this, I thought.
With traveling off the calendar, decorating entered my life. I started browsing for green interiors. The green interiors got even greener, larger, more extravagant, the more I scrolled. They became jungles lit with starlike strings of light, and I was caught in the magic of these images. What if… what if I transformed my home into a magical green jungle, too?
My swiping finger worked hard and then I saw them. Cushions with a tropical print. I clicked and found they were from an online shop. They probably don’t ship over here, I figured, so it’s safe to have a look.
Before long, I’d found the cushion cases on the web store. There were a dozen of them to choose from, all beautiful. Green leaves on a white background. I carefully selected four of my favourites, because they were very cheap for Finnish standards.
The shop was in the USA but, miraculously, they promised to ship anywhere. Anywhere meant they even delivered to my far corner of the world.
Back when I’d had pen pals in the 90’s from all over the world, I’d never given much thought to whether or not it was eco-friendly to have our mundane exchanges transported around. But ordering these cushions, I did. I abandoned my shopping cart. Don’t be silly, you don’t need these cushions. Anyway, they are too similar to the banana leaf picture you already have on the wall.
But a few days later I was back. The cushions had been playing on my mind relentlessly. It was like they already owned me. Before I knew it, I had purchased them.
Be warned, the website said. Delivery might be delayed due to Covid.
Fine, I thought. I’m in no hurry. Let the tropical cushions come to me when the time is right.
I went on with my life… and then it dawned on me: customs!! The last time I’d made an order from an online shop in the US, it had not been a success. The customs fee had turned out to be larger than the items were worth (not literally). How had I forgotten that?
Shocked, heart beating fast, I googled it. Luckily, the local customs office had provided a helpful calculator to calculate the taxes. Do this before purchase, it said. I swallowed hard.
The taxes were… 8.50€, it said. Phew! That’s not too bad. Dodged a bullet there!
One could argue there were a few warning signs, but I was feeling positive about it all. Soon enough, I would have a magical tropical home and everything would be alright. It would solve all my problems.
Days passed, uneventful.
And some more days. I was barely surviving.
Bling! An email arrived with a link to follow the adventures of my parcel.
This was the start of a new pastime, an unplanned and unwanted hobby, if you will: following my parcel through its tracking link.
I followed the parcel while it was packed, transported, and shipped. I imagined someone packing the parcel with care, lovingly even, and a cute red van with flowers painted on the side transporting it through country roads, up and down rolling hills, the parcel bouncing gently amongst its peers. Then it would arrive at the docks and be carried into a large ship for a moderate amount of incredible marine adventures. Through storm and calm, sunset and sunrise, the missing ingredients of my jungle would make their way towards my northern country.
But… then the app seemed to freeze. Was it not working? What was this, no action? For days which turned into weeks, nothing happened. The parcel had arrived at an unpronounceable destination in China and apparently that’s where it got stuck.
It was there for weeks. Weeks!! What were they doing? Was this the Covid delay the website had mentioned?
Life went on, and I did quite fine without my tropical cushions, even if my eyes sought them out – in vain – during my work day. Imagining locating and relocating them in different corners of the living room – or maybe my bed? – or perhaps on the balcony. I kept checking the tracking link, but nothing changed.
Then one day, the parcel was on the move and, eventually, the tracking page announced that it had arrived at the local post office. How exciting!
I picked it up and brought it home. Lovingly and with great care, I opened the parcel… and… ahem. What was this? These were not the cushions I had ordered!! Disappointed, I left them unpacked in a corner.
The next day, I went back to have a second look. Yep, still not the same as on the website. I even looked up the original ones online and confirmed they were not similar. Jute, not white, and the prints looked like pixelated photocopies of the originals.
Hang on… when I picked them up at the post office, there had been no customs fee and I had inquired about it. The girl working there had said there was no fee since the package was from China, not the US. And it was true, the sender’s labels had displayed a Chinese address. Hmm… how odd that I didn’t have to pay customs after all.
I let it dwell for another few days (all in all, this was a slow process, as you can see. But in the tropics, people don’t hurry, so I tried to be chill about it).
Eventually, I sent the original web store some feedback, and they responded immediately. We chatted, and they asked for photos, which I provided after a week’s delay, keeping in theme. (I was starting to enjoy the relaxed progress of things, as it let things sink in and mull). I got my money back.
Something had happened while the parcel was in China. Whatever it was, we’ll never know for sure, but I have my doubts.