This blog is about one of the apparently hottest and most controversial topics on SDN: The T-Shirts given out as gratification for active participation in the community and the difficulties one may encounter in actually obtaining them. As the experience I want to relate will show, under specific circumstances forces beyond an ordinary human’s comprehension can complicate matters even further…
When I returned from work last Monday I found one of the orange postcards in my mailbox the German mail service uses to inform its customers that they’ve unsuccessfully tried to deliver a parcel that now can be picked up at the nearest post office. I hadn’t mail-ordered anything recently so I had no idea what had been sent to me and by whom. However, since my working hours and the post office’s opening hours overlap during the week, I had to reign in my curiosity until the following Saturday. By the way, this and the apparently ironclad principle agreed upon by all delivery services to make their deliveries during the same said hours are the reasons I’m always a little reluctant to order stuff by mail, although now with the advent of the Packstation there’s finally an elegant way to avoid these inconveniences. Unfortunately, I hadn’t got around to registering for this service by then, an omission I meanwhile remedied.
Saturday finally arrived and when I got ready to go to the post office to pick up the mysterious parcel, I became aware of an unforeseen problem: Since I’m planning to go on a holiday trip later this year, my passport currently resides at the destination country’s consulate. Fortunately, I still keep an old, invalidated passport lying around which I assumed should suffice to establish my identity beyond any reasonable doubt (it had already worked in similar circumstances before). I grabbed this document and went to the post office.
At the counter I gave the notification postcard to the clerk who after a short sojourn to the storage room returned with the characteristic black, red and white coloured plastic bag used by SDN to mail its T-shirts. The clerk then went to his computer to check out the shipment, a transaction he needed my passport to complete. I gave it to him and after looking inside his face fell.
I was prepared for this not entirely unexpected turn of events and explained the situation, offering to back up my claim of being who I am with my driver’s license or my credit card which happens to show a picture of me also (purportedly a security feature, but I’ve yet to encounter a sales person who actually cares). The clerk dismissed my offer with a wave of his hand, stating that my identity wasn’t really in question; nevertheless, due process required a valid passport which I was unable to produce. The only solution for my dilemma he could offer was to have the parcel delivered a second time the following week. For obvious reasons I was not entirely happy with this suggestion and pointed out that since I really couldn’t stay at home just to accept the delivery and also didn’t expect my passport to be back by then, we most likely would wind up with the exact same problem next Saturday. As a compromise I asked him to have the parcel delivered to my workplace or a Packstation instead, but unfortunately, changing the address at this stage turned out to be a violation of procedure as well. It seemed we had reached a dead end.
A queue began to form behind me and I was mentally saying goodbye to my T-shirt when the clerk had another idea. How about authorizing a friend of mine (preferably one with a valid passport at hand) to collect the parcel for me? This seemed like a workable solution although I was a little reluctant to put a friend up to the hassle of making the post office’s opening hours. Then inspiration struck! I turned to the man waiting next in line behind me and asked him if he would be so kind to help me with my little problem and (even more important!) if he had his passport with him.
Whether he acted out of the kindness of his heart or because he saw a chance to speed up proceedings I’ll never know, however, he agreed to collect the parcel for me. I declared him my authorized representative on the spot, filling out the required form printed on the notification card for this purpose. He then gave the card and his passport to the clerk who after a short scrutiny of both items handed over the bag which my faithful representative then passed on to me. I thanked him profusely for his services and speedily escaped with my booty before new objections could be raised.
When I later told the story to a friend who happens to be a lawyer, she instantly pointed out that my approach violated some legal principle or other and therefore the clerk should have held back my shipment. Apparently it would have been better if I had met with my makeshift agent at another place out of sight so the clerk could in good faith claim not to have witnessed my dealings with him.
By this time I was happily relaxing on my couch and listening to the music of Minsarah(a jazz trio I recently heard at a regional festival, this formerly sponsored by SAP, whereas now a competing software company has stepped into the breach), and so I declined to exert myself in (vainly) trying to understand the legal intricacies of the case but just rejoiced at having won a small victory against bureaucracy.