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“You know, Mama, not everyone sees new places by moving to them.”

My daughter was not impressed when I told her we were moving to England. Or Spain. Or Scotland. Or—most recently—Italy. Most people, she pointed out, just book a week somewhere, buy a plane ticket, try not to drink the water, and hope they come back without too many new tattoos.

I blame Covid.

During four and a half months of lockdown in Scotland, the Hub and I worked on the house and garden. It looked better than ever before. We made plans for all the upgrades we should tackle next. He made to-do lists on his phone—lists so extensive it would take the rest of our remaining lifespans and possibly those of several future generations to accomplish.

(Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe ToDo lists?)

So of course, when the Hub mentioned an opportunity to move to Italy for a year just as Scotland lifted restrictions—remember those innocent days when we thought it was almost over?—I said sure. (Well, after the hysterics of course…)

“I’m pretty sure this is it for the pandemic. Time to get on with our lives…”—The Hub

A month later, we’d corralled two hapless victims friends into housesitting, and were loading the car to drive to Italy. From Scotland.

That’s right, I said drive. One thousand, four hundred three miles plus a train trip under the English Channel. As one does.

I won’t go into the (numerous) trips to the Italian Consulate in Edinburgh for visas. Or the sell-a-kidney level of expenses for travel insurance. Or the packing decisions that involved discussions about whether we should bring a cello/paragliding wing/the dog, or our clothes. [Spoiler: you can always buy clothes in Italy.]

But that was the easy part.

By the time we got to Italy, the virus was already spiking. Before I could even wave at a museum, we were back under lockdown. The good news was that we’d rented a beautiful villa with stunning views of Florence far below.

The bad news was nobody except Amazon and one wonderful grocery store (but definitely NOT Poste Italiane) would come to that villa. For the next ten months. The worse news was that we were in ITALY, surrounded by some of the most magnificent food/art/culture on the planet, but we had to eat my cooking for every meal. The closest we came to pizza was the recipe from my Pioneer Woman cookbook (very tasty, but not the least bit Italian).

But that was still the easy part.

Christmas meant our little Covid-themed tree. Fitting presents under it was no problem because Poste Italiane didn’t deliver any of them until April. Still easy.

No, the real problem came when restrictions were finally lifted, and we could head back to Scotland. This time, we decided to play it smart and ship our clothes and spare items back.

Okay, that wasn’t the real reason. It was actually Daniela’s fault. She runs La Botteghina Del Ceramista in Florence, where I developed an insta-addiction to Deruta pottery.

The Hub figures Covid did us a favor by limiting my Deruta access. And yes, that bowl Daniela is holding up needed to come home with me. (But you don’t need to worry about it being lonely because it brought lots of friends along too.)

Daniela and I corresponded during lockdown, and she sent pictures of new pieces. It turns out to be amazingly easy to fill a Landrover—even one with one of those roof-coffins on top—with boxes of carefully packed pots, and bowls, candleholders, soap dispensers, cannisters…

My Precious!

There was only one company who would agree to collect our boxes and forward them to Scotland. I thought their name sounded a bit familiar, but they were the only ones. I booked the shipment. When I mentioned it to the Hub, he frowned. “Weren’t they the ones who screwed up last time?”

I looked back here and sure enough…

I thought about it. “It’s been six years and they haven’t gone out of business. After all, they only have one job. They must have gotten the hang of it by now.”

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.—popularly attributed to Albert Einstein

Yes, of course you know what happened. It was our last day in Florence. The boxes were ready. The signs at the bottom of our lane were ready, directing them up to our house. The dog, the cello, and the pottery were ready to go into the car (although there was some discussion about which of the three should go into the roof coffin). SendMyBag was…so not ready.

We had to drive the boxes to downtown Florence, wait in a long line, and leave them with a very nice guy in a streefront stall that also seemed to be doing a thriving betting business.

Of course, like many things in Florence, there was a silver lining to this. The delays from waiting ALL DAY for the SendMyBag courier meant it was dinner time. The Covid restrictions had been lifted that day. It meant that we could, for the first time this year, get restaurant pizza in Italy.

Pizza Fratelli Briganti, Florence. (Proof there is a god and She likes me.)

I might have left this whole mess alone, but SendMyBag asked for my opinion. It would help, they said. Right.

My review of SendMyBag:

Your service, especially your courier DHL, has essentially failed.

Your courier never came to collect our boxes. We waited ALL day. To make sure there wouldn’t be problems, we even made signs with our phone number at the gates to our street. (I have pictures.) I called several times that day, and at one point your customer service person told me he “100% guaranteed” that they would be there to collect our boxes. I’m not sure what his guarantee amounted to because the next time I called, your agent told me the courier reported attempting to collect the boxes but we weren’t there. There are cameras operating at our gates, which did not record any attempts by DHL to collect. In addition, my phone records do not show any contact attempts. Although we were getting ready to leave, we had to load the boxes into the car and drive them to downtown Florence to a DHL vendor. 

Then we got a notice that there were fees due, despite the fact that we used your app and carefully indicated that all items were personal and used clothing.

Finally, the first box was delivered…to my 85-year-old neighbor instead of to our house. He brought it up the hill to our house. Today the second box was again left at our neighbor’s house. Obviously, if the third box ever shows up, it will go to that completely random and incorrect address.

So to review:
1. You didn’t pick up the boxes during the ENTIRE day we waited.
2. You didn’t arrange another collection, so we had to bring them to a shipper ourselves.
3. Your system resulted in significant additional fees for us, as well as massive amounts of our time wasted—at a particularly difficult time.
4. Your courier (DHL) lied about trying to collect the boxes, as documented by security cameras and phone records.
5. Your courier (DHL) irresponsibly delivered the boxes to the wrong address. Twice. (So far.)

This is a case of a company that has ONE job. You said you would pick up and deliver our boxes. You did neither. You said it was “100% guaranteed.” You failed.

One of the other reasons we were delayed in leaving Florence was that we were trying to avoid Covid travel issues as we went through France and Switzerland. We were both vaccinated, but couldn’t seem to get onto Italy’s “Green Vaccination Passport” system. We tried a variety of Covid tests, emails, phone calls, and the massed expertise of WIN (Women’s International Network). We spent a king’s ransom in Euros on negative Covid tests, certified letters from doctors, copies of our vaccination receipts, and piles of neatly-assembled documentation in a grey folder. (We even endured one particularly vicious covid test by a smirking French technician who inserted the swab so forcefully I was sure he was digging for brain tissue through my nostril.)

Finally, we were ready. We spent over a week driving from Italy to Scotland. And NOT ONE SINGLE person would look at our grey folder. Hotels, restaurants, trains, national borders: nobody was the least bit interested.  At Eurostar’s Le Shuttle, I begged the alarmed attendant to at least peek at the pile, but she refused.

The grey folder remains untouched, a really expensive reminder of all the things we didn’t know.

We made it back to Glasgow for our mandatory quarantine (which we have to do even though all other restrictions were lifted). Peri is so relieved.

Except…the Hub just mentioned an invitation to Hanoi as I was unpacking the Deruta pots. I wonder what the pottery looks like there?