I’ve been heavily involved in buying printing overseas for three years now. Previously, I bought most of my printing domestically, which has its own problems, but shipping usually isn’t one of them. Domestically, you just get a truck and the truck goes to your warehouse and that’s that. There’s some scheduling involved, and during the Great Truck Driver Shortage of 2005-2006, sometimes it was hard getting things from one place to another.
Overseas shipping is a whole ‘nother ballgame. There are export cartons, export pallets, containers, bug spray... it’s endless. And that’s just to hold the books. You need a freight forwarder and someone to handle your customs stuff, and then someone has to get the container at the port and open up and separate everything and then ship to the little warehouses. God forbid something is labeled ambiguously. I had a carton held up recently, a little thing from Hong Kong shipped Fed Ex that got held up in Alaska, where Fed Ex likes to keep strange packages due to its proximity to Russia. The Fed Ex person calls me on the phone and says, “I have a package here addressed to you, but it says, “Ferrets” on it.” I start laughing. It’s not a package full of weasels, as fun as that would be. It’s just that the name of our company has Ferret in the name, with Ferret being a stand in for another animal, or flora maybe. The person who shipped it, rather than putting, "Big Book of Nothing" in the reference field just put part of our name, much like I saw a friend of mine label a DVD of some youtube stuff "DVD."
A few weeks ago a container of my books got help up for special inspection at customs. I suspect it was because it was a cookbook named 20,009 Cupcakes. I’m sure they were very disappointed to find books.
But yesterday we got an email from the US warehouse saying that they got a bunch of our books and the cartons were very moldy. See photo above. I’m getting wheezy just looking at it. But I think this means that the cartons got moldy in the container. So someone took those things out of the container and put them on a truck like that?? Or maybe the entire container went to the warehouse. I prefer to think that.
No one is sure what the implications are. I was told this happened like six years ago, and there was a whole six months of assigning blame to figure out who would pay to reprint the books. Those books were damaged. We’re not even sure if these are damaged--I think everyone is afraid to open them. What if a giant mold monster pops out?