Thursday, February 21, 2013

Return to Sender

A few months ago, my friend Mary asked to buy a signed copy of my latest photo book, "Streets of Britain," for her daughter, who is apparently an Anglophile. Because she wanted it signed, I ordered the book from the publisher, signed it, and mailed it to her in Georgia. She sent me a check in return.

The book was supposed to get there in time for Christmas. But at the end of January, Mary wrote to say it had never arrived.

I was really upset about this, because each of those books costs about $70 (in hardcover). I wondered what to do. Should I give Mary her money back? Or was it her loss that the post office mislaid the package?

I finally decided to refund her money and take the loss myself. She is my friend, after all. But before I did, I asked her to wait just a few more weeks to see if the book turned up.

Lo and behold, yesterday it came back to me in the mail. It was marked "unclaimed" and "return to sender." Perhaps the post office in the states failed to notify Mary that it had arrived, or perhaps she just never picked it up. In any case, at least it wasn't lost.

Today I'm going to mail it to her office (with tracking), in the hopes that this time she will receive it. The downside is that each time I mail this book, I spend £18! It doesn't seem right to ask her for the money, but at the same time, I only make $5 on each copy. So this is turning out to be an extremely unprofitable deal for me.

Oh well. I'm writing it off as the cost of friendship and getting my work out there. I should just be flattered that she wants my book at all.

These are the kinds of complications that arise when you get into business deals with friends!

(Photo: I found this deflated birthday balloon on the sidewalk near our flat. The note attached says, "Good by balloon -- Love, Ethan.")


  1. 18 pounds! Good lord.

    Why are so many things more complicated than they should be? It makes no sense at all.

  2. I was surprised that I had to pay $11 to mail a crocheted cap to England - but I guess it was going across the sea...

    I'm glad you shared what the note on the balloon said - I was afraid it was one of those balloons released in someone's memory.

  3. I've seen several UK artists work that I would like to own a piece of but one of them is a stone sculptor and I imagine the shipping would probably rival the price of the sculpture.

  4. That is one well traveled book! Yikes. I don't think it would be wrong to ask for the cost of re-maiing the book. I doubt they would mind at all given the circumstances.

  5. US Postal has deteriorated much in the last few months in our neck of the woods with regards to delivery promptness. Most of the people I know have a story or two about letters, bills, and Netflix videos taking weeks to be delivered. I think budget cuts at the Post Office have finally reached critical mass and efficiency is in the dumper.

  6. Did the photo inspire the post or did you just happen to have the perfect photo for the post?

  7. Wow...I'll have you sign mine in person the next time I see you...As for the Post Office, I've had bills and cards go missing and never turn up...

  8. Unfortunately more times than not, business dealings with friends do end on a sour note. I had the son of a friend do some construction work in my homes a while back....never again.