Shipping Gun(s)

I shipped my Smith & Wesson Model 41 (22LR) target pistol back to the manufacturer earlier this week. The extractor hook had gone missing for the second time in less than a year and I had decided to exercise S&W’s warranty and let them have a look.

About a week earlier, I spoke with S&W’s service folks and they mailed a shipping label. When it arrived on the 8th, I noted the postmark: September 30th. It had taken a full eight days to reach me. Although I hoped otherwise, I suspected that would be a harbinger of how this experience would go.

The shipping label’s arrival on the Saturday of a 3-day weekend meant I couldn’t ship until Tuesday. Yet another bad omen.

On Tuesday, my letter explaining the problem had been written, rewritten, printed, signed and neatly folded in an envelope that went in the box. Plenty of padding had been wrapped around the pistol holding it in the center of the box which was thoroughly sealed with clear tape.

The instructions from Smith & Wesson said I would have to take the shipment to a UPS Customer Support Center and added that a mere “UPS Store” would not do. Browsing the UPS website, I found the closest Support Center was at the Phoenix airport, twenty miles away.

“Great,” I thought. “There goes two hours.”

I broke for lunch early that day to avoid the Noon rush. I arrived at the UPS airport facility a couple of minutes before 12:00PM.

It was closed.

The sign by the door read, “M-F, 4PM-7PM”.

“Four to seven only?” I wanted to yell. “What kind of a business is this?”

But, of course, it is an overnight (and then some) shipping business. The hours did make sense from their perspective, not mine but, hey, I’m just the customer, right?

I drove back to work with the package still in tow.

Somewhat luckily, however, the Nighthawks league was shooting that night and I was planning to go. The drive to the range at South Mountain would take me right past the airport (again) so a second attempt at UPS wouldn’t be that much out of the way. I liked to arrive at the league early and help Coach Pat set up but, well, that wouldn’t happen tonight.

“So be it,” I thought.

That evening, I picked up my son at 5:50PM a few minutes early and explained the necessary stop on the way to the range. Although he was anxious to try out the Ruger Mark II I had bought him as an early Christmas present, he didn’t complain about the delay. He knows my Model 41, what a joy it is to shoot, and even with his own target pistol I’m sure he will still want to occasionally shoot the 41. He understood my desire to get it fixed.

So, we arrived at the now open UPS Customer Support Center. As I entered the door with my labelled and sealed box, the UPS worker put the novel she was reading on her lap and said, “Can I help you?”

“Yes, thank you. This package is ready to go.”

Following the instructions provided by Smith & Wesson, I set it on the counter and added, “The instructions say I’m supposed to tell you there is a handgun inside.”

If I had been counting seconds, I would’ve reached fifteen.

“Uhhhhhhhhh,” she said, her voice wavering.

“It’s going back to the manufacturer for repair.” I said.

She stared at the box.

After another several seconds she repeated, “Uhhhhhhhhh.”

I smiled and tried to look non-threatening.

She leaned forward to peer at the shipping label.

“It’s going back to the manufacturer for repair.” I repeated.

“Let me call someone,” she said picking up the phone and dialing.

We stood and smiled at each other. She listened for a moment, and then crossed one arm under the one holding the phone. I assumed she was now on hold.

Minutes passed.

“I’m on hold,” she clarified.

I nodded and shifted my weight to the other foot.

She smiled.

I smiled back.

I walked over to read the poster about the shipping of hazardous materials and, yes, “firearms” was on the list of restricted (but not prohibited) items. The small print at the bottom said there were rules to be followed. I assumed Smith & Wesson knew those rules. They provided the shipping label, after all.

Finally, she was connected and I presume that after whoever she was talking with must have called their supervisor who probably stopped to look it up in some book, the shipping clerk in front of me nodded.

“Uh hunh,” she said several times listening and nodding.

Finally, she put a small sticker on the front of my package.

“Adult Signature Required.”

Hanging up the phone, she added my box to the others for that evening’s shipment.

“Thank you for waiting,” she said.

I nodded and answered, “Thank you!” on our way out.

I wonder how her novel turned out?