Six Weeks Ago. I get an order online to ship two chocolate bars and one coffee mug to Rabat, Morocco. Product $24. Shipping $156. I’m so excited I have an obvious wealthy friend in an exotic part of the world, I tweet about it, Facebook it, and call my wife.
“See,” I exclaim, “I have an international reputation. Chocolate from Europe pales in comparison. This customer has exquisite taste.”
She chides me for being naive. “It’s obviously a stolen credit card.”
I dutifully pack the order, and take it to FedEx as the order stipulated. The agent at the counter tells me that shipping chocolate to France is prohibited, and FedEx can’t convey the goods. I’m confused, because I know it’s going to North Africa. I look again at the shipping label that I copied and pasted from the order, and it is indeed addressed Rabat, Morocco, France.
No worries. I recall from high school geography that Morocco was once a territory or protectorate or some such political entity of France, and figured anyone spending this much to ship so little half way around the world, knows more than me or the FedEx guy, so I hike over to Canada Post, and send it off.
I send my customer a transactional email confirming the order went out, and with it the tracking number, and an explanation that it went via our national postal system and the reasons why.
I immediately get another order from the customer, for mostly different product totaling the same amount of money, and explicit instructions to ship FedEx. This time the order is consigned identically save for the reference to France. I get a separate email reminding me to ship FedEx.
I call FedEx customer service and am told there are no issues shipping chocolate to Morocco. I package up the order, and send it away. The customer gets a tracking number and I have an amusing story to tell to anyone who’ll listen.
Four Weeks Ago. I get another online order from the same customer. I call my wife. “This guy must be an oil sheik, or the bored child of an oil sheik. I’m good, but am I really that good?” I ask.
She tells me to Google him.
Two hours later I’ve found out his hotmail account is hosted in Germany, his cell number is from Thailand, his email signature is a veiled reference to an occult war game character, the address in Rabat is a possible hotel, there’s no Facebook, MySpace or Twitter identity, the Canada Post shipment is undeliverable, the second shipment was signed for by a third party, and Morocco gained independence from France in 1956.
My clever wife tells me to call my payment processor and make more inquiries into the validity of the credit card. I do so, and they call back to confirm that it is valid, although it too originates in Germany, and they cannot verify the cardholder’s name. We talk about the risks inherent in ecommerce, and I’m left with not much more to go on.
I decide to sit on the order for a couple of days, hoping something plays out that gives me more comfort to ship. I get a fourth order. Again, thirty dollars worth of product, almost two hundred to ship, and extremely explicit demands that it goes by FedEx immediately.
I send the customer a very polite, professional and respectful email asking for photo identification to validate the order. Not one to judge, I don’t imply a stolen card because the Customer Verification Number form the back of the card is valid, nor do I question the propensity to shop online for obviously good chocolate!
I put it all on the shoulders of my payment processor needing to know, and ask for a scan of a passport to prove the relationship to the purchaser and the recipient. I hear nothing back.
Two Weeks Ago. I send out a quick newsletter to announce Christmas chocolate available in store and online. My subscriber base consists of people who voluntarily sign up, and people who don’t realize when they order online that they need to uncheck a box at the time of order if they don’t want to receive my periodic mailings.
My buddy in Morocco unsubscribes.
The Present. No requests for a refund, no inquiries as to why the remaining two orders didn’t ship. No shortage of speculation on my part.
A friend postulates that there’s a network of covert operatives ordering a tremendous amount of stuff from all over the world, and that the address in Rabat is a drop. The FedEx link is puzzling, but my friend goes on to suggest that if hundreds of packages get delivered daily, one or two illicit ones will sneak in, and this is all a cover to get the contraband into the country.
For my friend, the giveaway is the initial reference to French Morocco. He figures the perp is old enough to have lived through the occupation, and that this whole thing smells. He alludes that this is the kind of information that French Special Ops would act on, travelling to Rabat, snatching the guy, and water boarding him until the mystery is fully resolved.
I think he watches too much TV, but he is French and has a shadowy past that may include a stint in the French Foreign Legion.
I download the CNN app to my BlackBerry. I want all the late breaking international news that I can’t get this time of year on TV because we’ve tuned in the Holiday Fireplace. I scan the headlines for FedEx planes going down, terrorist plots uncovered, wealthy Moroccans busted in chocolate themed sex scandals. Nothing.
My wife tells me I should call CSIS, Canada’s security and intelligence service. My French friend tells me he’ll put me in contact with “a guy”. I shrug them both off. After all, the irony is not lost on me that the consistent thread in the whole saga is the fact that each of the four orders had a Greetings From Canada chocolate bar.
It may be something. It may be nothing. But for sure it’s a blog post.
Greetings From Mink, and Merry Minky to all.
Mink Chocolates Inc.,
Mink A Chocolate Cafe Ltd.
Call the store: 604.633.2451
Call my mobile: 604.376.3464
Call toll free: 1.866.283.5181
Watch: youtube.com search mink chocolates
In Person: 863 Hastings Street West, Vancouver, BC V6C 3N9
Nine out of every ten persons say they love chocolate. The tenth lies.
– Anthelme Brillat-Savarin