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Subtitled, Why yes, UPS, you ARE welcome for the free and totally unsolicited advertising.

This Christmas, I ended up with four presents that couldn’t be delivered in person for one reason or another, but namely geographic issues. One, for bestie Jill in DC, was small enough that it could be sent first class mail, and, as I figured at the time, how badly could the USPS screw up first class mail to DC? Especially since I was sending it over three weeks before the holiday. Another, to Godson Z, was going to Philly, so even though the package was a bit bigger, I assumed that, again since I was sending it WAY in advance, the post office could manage to get it the two hours to Philly in a timely fashion.

There was no way, however, that I was entrusting the other two packages to the USPS. One, to other bestie Rachel, was going to the great state of Texas and the other, to my favorite girls, absolutely had to get to DC in a timely fashion since they were insanely lucky and got to celebrate the holidays on the beach in Florida (not that I’m jealous or anything!) and I wanted it to arrive before they left.* Rachel’s package also included her birthday present, so I was on a tighter time frame there as well.

I have been nursing a wee grudge against the USPS since Christmas 2007. Rachel was pregnant with Godson Z at the time (his birthday is Jan. 8 – happy birthday, Godson Z!) and, for a variety of reasons, she wasn’t having a baby shower. I had been out in Texas right before Thanksgiving and was going back for Godson Z’s birth (a story for another post, dear readers) and between finals and the holidays, there was no way I could get back out there to throw her a shower. So I did the next best thing: I made her a baby shower box:

and I bought a ton of presents (baby presents, like onesies and pacifiers and such, are relatively cheap, so you can buy lots!) and the Madre bought a ton of presents (because she is awesome like that) and I coerced the boyfriend into contributing a few presents and even Jill and Liz, who had only met Rachel once when Rachel kind of unexpectedly joined our annual Labor Day on the lake in 2006, each contributed a present and a card (because they too are awesome like that and knew it was important to me).

I put a ton of time into the box (SO much more fun than studying!) and wrapped everything individually and generally tried to make it as nice as I possibly could. Rachel’s birthday is right before Christmas, so I wanted the box to get there before her birthday and before Christmas so she could appreciate it and wouldn’t feel like she was being overshadowed in all the baby excitement. So, first of week of December, I took the box to my local post office (which, to be fair, was kind of a crappy post office – if you had to go there, you always wanted to make sure you had a book or something with you because you could be in line forever) and paid something ridiculous like $30 for priority mail to guarantee that the box would get there in two to three days. I repeatedly asked the person at the post office when the box would get there and told him how important it was to me that the present get there in a reasonable amount of time and the man repeatedly told me “two to three days. two to three days.” OR SO I THOUGHT. BECAUSE THEY LIE.

I went home and waited for a call from Rachel. And waited. And waited. I didn’t want to say anything to Rachel because I wanted it to be a surprise, so when there was no word two weeks later after Christmas, I called the post office. This is when I first learned that Track and Confirm is crap and that, therefore, the man on the phone couldn’t tell me where my package was or when it might conceivably make its way to Texas. It was also when I was informed that the whole “two to three” days things is not a guarantee, but is, instead, an estimate. The man on the phone also told me that I couldn’t reasonably expect for my package to get from DC to Texas in two to three days because, hello? it was the Christmas season and of course everything takes longer at Christmas.

I was livid.

I mean, I get the whole Christmas thing, I do. BUT THEN DON’T OFFER A SERVICE THAT PURPORTS TO SEND THINGS IN TWO TO THREE DAYS. And, at the very least, have your employees tell the customers the truth when they ask. The package eventually showed up in Texas a few days after Christmas and Rachel loved it and was very happy, but at that point, I could have totally saved myself roughly $20 dollars and sent the thing media mail with the same result.

Of course, because of the whole “not a guarantee” thing, the post office refused to refund my money. Not that I didn’t try.

I first discovered the joys of and headache-free-ness of using UPS (I don’t ever consider FedEx when sending things because I know from working pre-law school how ridiculously expensive FedEx is) when I needed to temporarily move roughly 100 pounds of clothes and books and purses and shoes (whether or not I NEEDED all of that
is, if you ask the boyfriend, open to debate, but I firmly contend it all was, in fact, necessary) to New York for my three month stint as a summer associate and I was flying an airline (ahem USAirways) that was charging BIG fees for checked bags. I investigated the post office, but they were pricey and I was a little skeptical anyway after the Christmas incident of 2007. I was pretty resigned to the fact I was going to have to pay the crazy airline fees, but then my mom suggested I at least check out UPS. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only could I send 50 pounds for only $30, (vs $25 for parcel post or $40 for priority mail), but my boxes would get there in only two days because UPS ground rocks.

I did comparison shop with USPS this Christmas just to check, but the UPS prices were roughly the same ($9.95 to send 3 pounds to Texas via USPS, $12.53 to send the same package via UPS) and I knew that UPS would actually get my package there when they said (and actually, it got there a day early-it took three days instead of four).

Also, with UPS tracking is free and by tracking, they actually mean TRACKING and not “we’ll update if we feel like it because we’re actually under no obligation to do so” even though you paid $.75 for this crap service ahem, Track and Confirm, ahem. And I don’t know about you, but I LOVE tracking the things I send out to see where they are. I am weird like that.

Now, in the post office’s defense (and, fair warning, this will be the ONLY thing I say in the post office’s defense in this post), both USPS packages DID get there in an amount of time that the average person would find both expected and reasonable so that is where they TRICKED me and I got cocky. I even twittered about how impressed I was by the efficiency of the Grand Central post office.

After Christmas, I had to send some important documents back to New York that, for reasons I will probably discuss in a later post, had to get to New York before the first of the year. On Monday the 28th, I took said important documents to the Post Office, explained the situation to the clerk, and asked if I should spend the $18 to send the documents overnight. And he said that there was absolutely no reason to do that because I could spend only $4.95 for priority mail and it would absolutely get to New York in 2 days on Wednesday (are you seeing the BIG RED WARNING signs here? because I didn’t). Worst case, and he stressed that he didn’t think this would happen because New York is, you know, SO CLOSE, it would get there Thursday morning.

Would anyone like to take a guess when my super super super important documents got to New York? If you guessed Monday the 4th, you would, in fact, be correct (luckily, I had faxed copies of the documents and the person they were going to accepted those, so we still met the deadline). When I called the post office, the woman on the phone gave the stupid “not a guarantee” line again and then told me that even though all the signs at the post office say “two to three days,” the post office, in fact, considers five days to be “delivered on time.” She also gave me the stupid line about how I shouldn’t expect things to be on time during the holidays.

I’m so glad that your standards are so low, USPS. Really.

So you are all thinking “fool me once…” but it, in fact, gets worse. Last week, my mom had to send some documents to New York and, thinking she would learn from what happened with my documents, paid the $18 to send the documents overnight.

Would you like to guess when the documents were delivered? If you guessed “not overnight,” you would in fact be correct. If you guessed “two days late,” you would be even more correct.

USPS did give her back her money, but I don’t think she really gave them much choice.

I hate the post office.

*Of course, as it turns out, sending a present that early to a five year old and not letting her open it for two and a half weeks is the equivalent of Chinese water torture, so I may need to rethink this plan in the future.

As it turns out, people are still finding me by searching for things like “how to get along with the boyfriend’s sister” and “gifts from the boyfriend’s sister” and that made me realize that I never updated you as to the gift situation. The boyfriend and I exchanged our gifts before I left to spend the holidays at home and he seemed very happy with his umbrella and cufflinks and I was very happy with my lovely new coffeemaker.

Now, it was really no surprise that I love said coffeemaker because I a) picked it out, b) searched around for the best deal on it, c) found a 20% off bed, bath and beyond coupon, d) went with the boyfriend to buy it, and e) filled out all the rebate information so the boyfriend would save even more money on it. If I’m being bratty honest, I am a little disappointed by how the boyfriend handled the whole thing, but I guess it’s just a difference in approaches. I tried my best to keep the boyfriend’s presents a surprise, whereas he just let the coffeemaker sit in the middle of our living room unwrapped for 2 weeks until the day before we exchanged presents. I know I knew what it was, but I would have appreciated a little more effort on his part. Had it been me, I would have wrapped it immediately and probably also would have gotten him some nice coffee beans to use in the machine to have a little surprise. But whatever. It is exactly what I wanted and I am happy.

So anyway, I returned to New York bearing gifts for the boyfriend from my family (golf pants from my parents and golf balls from my brother. He ended up returning both of them and using the credit to buy a new golf bag, which he is very happy with. God forbid I ever return a present from his family, but he is in absolute love with this new bag, so that’s fine) and to find a stack of presents from his family. A nice tote from his parents which will be good for beach trips in the summer, a book (that I really wanted) from the boyfriend’s brother’s family, and really lovely pjs from his aunt and uncle.* But that’s not what you all wanted to know. The boyfriend’s sister got “me” (and I say “me” because she said the second ticket is for the boyfriend – not that I wouldn’t take him anyway, but still) two spaces in a wine-tasting class and a book about wine because she thought I would like to learn about wine (I know it sounds harmless and nice, but it is the WAY she says things – like I don’t know anything about wine and she thinks it is time for me to get an education) and because she knew that the boyfriend has been wanting to take a wine class. So we are taking a wine class. Woot.

I KNOW I sound like such a bitch, really I do. But you have not met this woman. And she did not single handedly ruin the 30th birthday party you threw for the boyfriend out of pure spite (that is the story I have been meaning to tell you-I’ll get there one of these days). Even though I was not entirely accurate about what the boyfriend’s sister would get me (i.e. something from work), I do know that she got a substantial discount on the class, so I’m not sure why she decided she needed to make such a fuss about how much she spent to the boyfriend. I am all for getting deals and saving money so I absolutely don’t begrudge her that, but I’m not sure why she would tell the boyfriend how much she spent, unless she wanted to make sure I spent enough on her. I know, I am horrible. Really, if I a) didn’t feel forced to buy the extra present by the boyfriend and/or b) thought she cared about picking something I would like, I really wouldn’t care. I really need to work on not letting her get to me and work on the whole being a bigger person/forgiveness thing.

The boyfriend has been pushing me to make resolutions. Maybe that should be one.

Or not.

*Also, TOTALLY RANDOM AND UNEXPECTED. We have never exchanged presents in the past, so I didn’t get them anything. Apparently the boyfriend’s aunt stumbled on them at Lord&Taylor and thought they would be great presents for all the females in the family and was very sweet and thought of me as well. And they might just be my favorite present from the boyfriend’s family because they are SUPER soft and comfy and I seriously considered wearing them all day today.

Also weird about the whole thing: the boyfriend’s aunt signed the tag “Aunt boyfriend’s aunt and Uncle boyfriend’s uncle,” which is cute except for the fact that, despite the fact that the boyfriend and I have been dating for five and a half years, the boyfriend’s parents still expect me to call them “Dr. and Mrs. boyfriend.” Apparently, should we get married, they would then expect me to call them “Mom and Dad,” which is all kinds of not happening because even though I like the boyfriend’s parents very much, I have my own Mom and Dad who I love and adore. But I digress, as always.

I don’t give gifts because I expect thanks. I do it because I genuinely enjoy picking things out for the people that I care about as an expression of how much I do in fact care about them.

I have a complicated relationship with Godson baby (I can’t call him that any more – he’s almost two!) Z’s parents. This is through no fault of any of us; it’s just a really weird situation that I don’t have time to get into tonight because I really should be working and instead am blogging anyway. But as we are actually bearing down on the one year anniversary of when things changed, you will be getting that story at some point in the near future.

But anyway, I mailed baby Godson Z’s Christmas present and birthday card (with a check for his college fund) last week and tracked the package because I trust the USPS about as far as I can throw which is to say, VERY LITTLE (I have my reasons and you will get them in another post. Interestingly enough, it all comes full circle to baby Godson Z. Now, because of the tracking, I know the package got there on Friday. But have I heard anything? Nope.

And I know Z’s parents are probably very busy what with having an almost 2 year old and the holidays and all and that it’s nothing personal, but would it have killed them to take 5 minutes and shoot me an email to let me know it got there? I think no. Especially because the Divine Miss E and Baby’s mom (who is awesome and has become a good friend of mine) emailed me the second my package for them arrived. And she has a 5 year old and a 1 1/2 year old and works. So I think it’s doable. And the lack of response kind of hurts my feelings.

Now I am not saying what you should get your family, I’m just telling you what I got mine.

Dad: Season 2 of Deadwood because he finally finished Season 1 2 years after I got it for him and has been hinting strongly that Season 2 would not go unappreciated.

The Madre: She has these in other patterns and says they are the most comfortable shoes she’s ever worn. I love the pattern and the fact that they have brown and black so they can be worn with lots of different outfits. And they are HOT. (Also an excellent deal with the $10 off and free shipping deals on DSW).

The Bro: The Bro has decided he wants to start wearing a watch. He really likes the military style with canvas bands. This was a little bit of a splurge, (but still on sale!) but I thought about it a lot and realized I’d rather spend a little bit more and get him a watch that he could have for a long time, than just get him a cheap timex and be done with it. I also got him a 2 of these in different colors so he can play around with styling the watch.

The boyfriend: The boyfriend has been wanting cufflinks for awhile now. Since this was so personal, we looked at a bunch together, but he ended up liking these from Red Envelope best (this is likely in part because the boyfriend’s sister has him convinced that Red Envelope is SO COOL right now). I do think they are attractive and a bit more modern than a traditional monogram.

Since these were so reasonable, I wanted to get the boyfriend a little something else to go with them. Lately when we’ve had bad weather he’s been trying to steal my ginourmous G.town golf umbrella because, really, when you walk to work every day, there’s bound to be some nasty weather and the little fold up umbrellas do NOT keep you dry (I speak from experience). I may have mentioned this on here before, but the boyfriend LOVES his undergrad school because he had such a great experience there (like loves to the point where, if he had $10, he would give Princeton at least $1). So I thought this would be perfect.

I don’t have a huge family, so those were the big presents. For my cousin and his wife and my aunt and uncle, I got steaks from Omaha Steakmmmm…bacon

and the Bro and I are splitting something from the OSU bookstore for baby T. I suggested something like this:

but it’s ultimately his call. My two best girlfriends in the entire world both got this:

which I love for my skin. Baby and Godson Z got this and this respectively:

while the Divine Miss E got this:I think she will make an awesome doctor. The boyfriend’s niece got this:

(She’s not sure how she feels about me. She recognizes I am responsible for sending awesome gifts, but she also ADORES the boyfriend right now and thinks I’m treading on her territory). Her new baby brother got two outfits:

because who could resist those feet? Not me. Even the boyfriend was a little charmed.

The boyfriend’s sister got this to go with her books because apparently she’s OD-ing on ruffley, frilly stuff right now (nothing wrong with ruffley, frilly stuff – in moderation. But that is ALL the boyfriend’s sister wears. It’s like frilly shirt with ruffley cardigan with headband with a big bow on it. Maybe someday I will show you what she wore to her rehearsal dinner and you will see). BONUS though – I got 25% off because the boyfriend did his shopping for his sister at the same time and so we qualified for the discount (I think this sale only ran through Sunday though).

The boyfriend’s mom is getting a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card because she loves their coffee

and the boyfriend’s dad is getting some fancy dark chocolate and some marzipan from here because he loves his chocolate. And his marzipan (he’s Sicilian).

Finally, I leave you with my go-to gift. I know it’s kind of cliche and if someone told me a few years ago that I’d be sending out Harry and David for the holidays, I’d probably ask: “what am I, some corporate drone sending out impersonal presents to clients?” HOWEVER, these are quite possibly the most delicious pears known to man and everyone I know who has gotten them adores them. If you need a good present for, say, a boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents, you really cannot go wrong with these:

Unless, of course, they were allergic to pears, in which case you might have a giant FAIL on your hands. Just check with your significant other before clicking send, is all I’m saying.

So I started this as a reply to Heather‘s comment, but thought I should just make it a general disclaimer so anyone reading the blog who doesn’t read the comments doesn’t think I’m too horrible:

See here’s the thing: I know I sound like an unmitigated brat bitching that she allegedly spent that much money on me. But a) I feel like it’s highly inappropriate given our relationship (not even considering the our personal non-relationship, just the boyfriend’s sister thing), b) over the last 4 years or so of gift exchanging, we have pretty much stayed in the same price range, so it is TOTALLY NOT COOL to suddenly drastically jump outside the established boundaries of our relationship and blindside me with a (have I mentioned inappropriately) expensive gift (I am not paranoid, but I swear she does things like this just to create a situation in which the boyfriend and I have to have a conversation where he tells me that my gift is suddenly just.not.good.enough), and c) (and this is kind of bratty), I kind of doubt she actually spent $80 on me – she’s just telling the boyfriend that. Let me explain. The boyfriend’s sister works for company X. Company X gets lots of freebies and samples and uses, but doesn’t keep, a lot of products. Company X, like other companies, also has unsold inventory. Following me? So Company X then has sales where all the employees can buy these things at a sharp discount. This is where the boyfriend’s sister does her holiday shopping. And that’s lovely because I am a full proponent of saving money and getting good deals, but she never ever ever takes into account what I might actually like or need. Let’s call the products “shower gel” (it’s not a bath products company, in case you think I’m slipping up here!). I have tons of “shower gel.” I have every possible type of “shower gel” I might ever want for every occasion. I even have all the specialty “shower gels.” I am well stocked. And I guarantee the boyfriend’s sister not only got me “shower gel” but got me like, what would be $80 worth on the open market of plumaria “shower gel” (remember that from bath & body works – boy did I love that in middle school) that I will never use because it makes me break out in hives now.

I do know this is a stupid example, but it’s the best I could think of.

So much for my great presents for the boyfriend’s sister. He just informed me that I should get her something else so I won’t feel uncomfortable because she spent around 80 dollars on me.

Which, is she insane? WTF. I wouldn’t spend that much on me if I were the boyfriend’s sister (see previous post on that very subject). And I guarantee you it’s going to be something I don’t want and don’t like. Guarantee. Whereas I now have to get her something off the list she sent the boyfriend to supplement my gift.

She is crafty, that one.

Apparently, people are finding me because they are searching for things like: “christmas card for the boyfriend’s sister” and “gifts for the boyfriend’s sister 2009.”

So, to help, I got the boyfriend’s sister this:

and this:

and this:

The Steingarten is one of my favorite books and a large part of why I had this in the first place. And the third? I love this series and would love my own copy of this one as well should Santa leave it under the tree. Given the boyfriend’s sister’s interest in food and cooking, I think she will enjoy these. As an added bonus, the second and third are collections of short pieces so she could read one or two before bed or when she has a break.

No card for the boyfriend’s sister, but I don’t really do cards these days anyway. Perhaps next year when I am feeling a little bit more financially stable.

Now, if I were the boyfriend’s sister, (and I am in fact a boyfriend’s sister, so if the Bro’s girlfriend would like some ideas…) I would like any of the following very fun and very-reasonable-price-wise-for-the-relationship presents:

Essie Winter Collection 2009

Body Shop Peppermint Foot Lotion

Godiva Chocolate Truffles

Old Navy Scoop-Neck Top

Laura Mercier Eye Shadow in Pewter or Coffee Ground

SM Capps Quilted Ballet Flats at DSW

(this last one is more of a splurge, but I couldn’t resist – SO cute!)

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