We’re All Connected, Commercially

Here’s the latest confirmation of the interconnectedness of the modern commercial world.

We’re waiting to get shutters to put on the windows of our new house.  The shutters were ordered weeks ago, were assembled somewhere in Asia — since you’re ordering from a company through a contractor, it’s hard to know exactly where — and are sitting on a ship outside the Port of Los Angeles.

Good news, eh?  They should be here any day, delivered by rail or long-haul truck, right?

Not so fast!  There’s a labor problem at ports up and down the west coast, related to the expiration of a contract between port operators and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that has clogged the ports.  In response to what it considers to be unfair demands by the union, the Pacific Maritime Association closed the ports this weekend, and President Obama has dispatched the Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, to try to personally broker a deal between union and management.

Ports are one of those crucial — but often overlooked — commerce choke points where problems can have huge repercussions.  In this case, a dispute at the Port of Los Angeles has kept eager people from Columbus, Ohio from getting shutters initially shipped from some foreign location.  I hope the Labor Secretary knows his stuff.  We want our shutters!

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Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Gloom Of Night . . . .

Kish and I like to think of ourselves as patriotic Americans.  So, when Russell asked us to ship something to him, we decided to use the U.S. Postal Service.  Hey, we subsidize it, so we might as well use it!

We boxed up some sturdy stoneware plates and glasses and other dishes, using bubble wrap and newspaper to cushion and protect them on their journey to Brooklyn.  We took them to the post office and sent them by first-class mail.  It cost about $13.  That was weeks ago.

The box never arrived.  We don’t know if it was mis-delivered, or stolen, or destroyed by some maddened postal worker who decided to take out his frustrations on our parcel rather than his co-workers.  Whatever our package’s unhappy fate, it didn’t make it to its intended Brooklyn destination.  In fairness, Kish points out that this is the first time one of our postal deliveries to Richard and Russell just . . . disappeared.  To that I can only respond that it has now happened, where that has never happened to a package I’ve sent by FedEx or one of the other private delivery companies.

I like those new Postal Service commercials where the agreeable postal worker convinces nutty people that shipping really isn’t that complicated.  That’s right — it isn’t, or shouldn’t be.  How would that affable postal worker react when a package just vanishes, and your plates, and your $13, just go poof?