Pic of the day: Sage advice from Ah! My Goddess!: "Devils are strict about contracts." Small wonder the Norwegian word "Staten" (the State) sometimes looks eerily like "Satan" to me. This can be most disconcerting since it is also my employer, but let's not go there today. Not ever, actually. Instead we look at a jungle where only the strong can make it through unscathed:
Adventures in the Amazon.co.uk
The first of these adventures took place on Monday, when I decided to buy two CDs that I have enjoyed listening to on Last.FM for many weeks now. After all, if I buy the songs, I can listen to them whenever I want, rather than wait until they come up randomly among my favorites. I suppose there may be places where I can buy only that one melody online, but for us Norwegians many such services are not available, and anyway I would have to download a pirate copy to play it on my MP3 player. With the CD, I can rip it myself. Also, there is always the hope that there may be more than one good song on each CD, especially since one of them was Irish. (Clannad.) Two of the three artists / composers / songwriters I know who put more than one good song on each CD are Irish, after all. (Chris de Burgh and Enya. The third was Leonard Cohen.)
As I was about to check out I noticed the price, including postage and handling, was £16.72. This set my economist-senses tingling. I went to my bookmarks and brought up the Universal Currency Converter, and yes: At that time, the amount corresponded to Norwegian Kroner 205. And here in Norway, we have a rule that imported goods worth more than kr 200 must go through customs (not habits, but the bureaucrazy caused by the delusions that randomly drawn lines on a map actually separate us into nations).
Apart from the time and the hassle, it also engenders a fee of kr 85 each time, while receiving packets less than this even exempts them from VAT (value added tax, a kind of compound sales tax). Thus, the 5 kr (less than a dollar) that my order exceeds that limit costs about as much as a CD extra, not to mention the delay and the hassle not just for me but for the various people involved along the way. (I know from experience that the people at the post office, who are no longer postal workers but shop workers because the post office has been closed down and outsourced to a shop, get very confused and fumble around for a while when such a packet arrives, to the point where I once even got some value mail meant for a completely different person.)
Luckily the solution is as easy as the problem, this time. I put one of the CDs on hold, and had them send me only one. It costs some pence more in postage for each, but saves all the rest of the hassle and the customs fee. But if I had not still been an economist deep inside, I would probably not have noticed until it was too late.
Is this really the kind of world we want our children to grow up in? Well, your children – I don't have any, alas for the world. But at least you still have me, so enjoy me while I last!
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.