There is a big update and boy is it unexpected!
We ended the first chapter after successfully dropping off our unique box at the post office and sending it on a journey to a far off place. Quick recap: We've attached 4 original artworks to the OUTside of the box and want to see in what condition they arrive. Do we really need to carefully wrap everything in bubble wrap, or will our outwards facing art survive without? In this case, we'll welcome any condition it arrives in. In fact every scratch, dent and tear would simply add to the story and improve the art.
So exactly happened next?
Of course I was keeping a close eye on the tracking and anxiously awaiting every new status update. That being said, I did not expect this one at 2:57AM:
"Item could not be delivered - return". Wtf... I should note that at this point the package had spent several days sitting around and not yet left the country.
I saw the message at 8AM and soon after I was greeted by a friendly postal worker and my old friend, the Amazon Crime box. Not only did the 105€ shipping not get delivered to Japan, the friendly delivery man let me know that 20€ was due to him for "return shipping". That sounds fair...
20€ later I had our old friend back in my possession. I was told there is a letter from customs attached that should give a reason for the return. We will revisit this later, but first it was time to assess the damage.
It was clear the package had been opened at the Austrian customs. There was new tape all over the art from when they reattached the lid, so obviously we needed to open her up and investigate. This is where it begins to get really interesting, because we're about to see they were very interested in our little project.
First off, the lid is made out of 1 single piece of cardboard, not 2 like an ordinary box. However, since I wanted our box to "blend in" a little bit, I made it look like it did have those 2 flaps. I made a crease in the middle and put a piece of tape over it. Below you can see what one of these lids looked like (before shipping). In reality you have to cut around the whole lid to take it off.
It was obvious from the damage that customs did not know this. The lid had taken a major beating. You could tell they tried to open it normally, like they have for thousands of other packages. They cut along the middle and then tried to pull open the 2 flaps. That didnt seem to work, so they pulled harder. "God damn it" he must have thought, "I wont let this box win!", so he gave it the biggest pull of his life! *Rip!* Eventually they must have realized force alone wasnt working and they continued to cut around it.
(The images below show where they grabbed the lid and attempted to gain entry).
Peeking inside, the next noteworthy discovery is that they didnt carefully return its contents in the state they had found them. No longer was our precious cargo neatly gift wrapped in paper and protective bubble wrap, instead it was all just randomly stuffed back inside.
Maybe this is where the mayhem ends and it was just an effective form of repackaging? Nah, they were just getting started! We'll start with our box's little flaps, which usually stand up and make it look like it has an open lid. Both of these were heavily ripped and now hanging on by a thread. Cool.
The back side had gone through quite a bit of torture as well. Every original TABBY artwork has a dollar bill attached, the unique serial number gets noted in my archives and is used for authentication. This dollar bill had been ripped off. My guess is they wanted to see if it was real by checking if it had two sides.
Next they cut open two sides of the box to see what was inside. "Maybe its full of more money!?" Nah, it was completely empty of course. The contents were as described on the customs form: "One cardboard box".
With all that, I was almost surprised they didnt look inside the 4 outward facing boxes. Until I noticed this:
Nothing gets past customs, they know all the tricks in the book! In a final effort they slashed open one of the boxes from the inside and took a peek. "Darn it, nothing but air!" Finally they decided to just toss everything back inside, tape it up and call it a day.
I do have to be thankful, because they only used clear packing tape when re-sealing the lid. They sure used a lot and all 4 images on the outside have tape all over it. But in this case its more than welcome, now we have a collab with customs. Theyve added their own touch and the tape will forever tell part of the story of what these pieces went through.
I can only imagine they were about to use regular old brown tape until one of them said "Hey wait, lets not cover up these images. Ill go see if we have any clear tape in the back". And for that I am very grateful. Thanks unknown customs person!
That being said, all 4 outer sides were still in great condition otherwise.
I spent that morning writing back and forth with my contact in Tokyo. Should we resend the package? Its bound to end up in customs with the same people who had just dealt with it hours earlier. This package kind of stands out. Theyre bound to see it return into their possession, back from the grave, as they think to themselves "youve got to be kidding me"..
It seemed very likely that our giant package would experience a similar fate as last time. But I couldnt let them win and god damn we need to get a piece to Japan somehow! This is where version 2.0 came into play: We'll express ship a single painted box.
This time we'll avoid any chance of customs finding a reason to deny delivery by putting nothing in the box! Check mate! So about 3 hours after the original package had been returned, we were back at the post office with round 2. By god we're gonna get a piece to Japan and we're gonna find out in what condition art arrives in if you dont provide any protective packaging!
Funnily enough, even though this piece was dropped off at a different post office, one of the workers behind the counter was the same that accepted the first package. He instantly recognized the image (told you itd be hard to forget). "Hey, you dropped off that large package in x location recently! How did that go?" I gave him the short version of the story. As far as he knew, these were all some sort of box print samples.
Is this where we leave the story for now? Hell no! We still have the big box sitting around. Technically we already achieved our original goal: the box was sent to Japan and it was returned. It was never said that it actually had to arrive there... But still, we can do better.
This box needs to experience at least 1000km of travel and back. We will avoid customs this time, that should prevent it from getting opened and prematurely sent back. After a few messages with Rudi from Urbanshit Gallery we had a new target. We're heading to Hamburg, Germany!
We will retire the contents of the first shipment and add a fresh Amazon Crime piece inside.
Next we give it a new lid, seal it up and once again drop it off at the post office.
(Pictured below: newly sealed box ready to go. This time with tape from customs still visible on all sides)
With no customs forms and no questions about its contents, this drop off was a breeze.
And there we have it, two new additions to our experiment!
For the first run, I 100% didnt expect this project to become about the contents of the box. I figured everything inside would definitely be in perfect condition and we were only worried about the outside arriving in tact. In reality, the outwards facing art arrived just fine but everything inside was destroyed. Actually, I think we proved that placing your art on the outside is MUCH safer than putting it inside!
But what was the reason that the first shipment was returned? Well, if you remember there was a letter included by customs and it gives an answer. What do you think it was? Was it because of the art on the outside? Was it the lack of any "real" contents? Did they claim the box wasnt sturdy enough, was it something about Amazon copyright or was it some other reason? Let me know in the comments below, or via email what your guess would be (Correct answers will receive stickers). Prizes available for guesses submitted before the answer is revealed revealed in the next update!
The great shipping experiment lives on
Missed the first chapter to the story? Catch up here and dont forget to share it with the world!