I am an experienced ebay-seller (ok…. AND buyer). I sold clothes and horseback riding equipment, I sold parts of our now-ex-household, I even sold some equipment from our hamsters. So I claim to be experienced in the process of transferring stuff from A to B without having to walk to the other persons door. Yes, it is called ‘mailing’.
In Germany, you put whatever you want to mail in a box, normally a carton (well, I once send something in a plastic bag and taped it to death… another ebay buyer was quite impressed once he received his item in a cornflakes box, so I CAN get creative when the husband freaks out about the pile of empty cartons that sits on a rack somewhere in the apartment because you COULD sell something that fits exactly in that box). Once you have the item in your box-of-choice you tape it. You put a label on it that the local post service provides you. You go to the post office, pay the postage, get a receipt and … that’s it.
In Belize mailing works somewhat different. You still put your item in the box-of-choice. That is basically the only similarity.
Since I’ve been to the post office before and even have mailed a letter to Germany, I know that ALL incoming and outgoing mailing that is not a postcard or standard-small-letter is opened and inspected by the post officer (= do not even bother taping it at home). So you have to bring your stuff open to the post office. The officer inspects what is in there. Then he/she sells you the postage. Then you close it. Of course, you have to bring your own tape and scissors!
So for mailing a package you have two options:
A) You know all the above and are confident that you just walk in with your labeled package (open of course!), scissors and tape to close it. Then you walk up to the counter and the lady will give you the ‘oh another gringo, that does not nothing about Belize’ look and a friendly ‘the wrapping is missing’. You are confused and ask ‘Excuse me?’. The lady will get a little impatient and ‘explains’ to you ‘THE WRAPN IS MISSIN!”… a well. After a little back and forth you will get to know that Belize post does not transport any package that is not wrapped in brown(!) wrapping paper.
So then there is option B) you have some co-workers that tell you in advance (or you read this blog). Before you even go to the post office, you go to Simon Quan (a ‘we sell EVERYTHING but food’ store in Belize City), buy a roll of brown(!) wrapping paper and walk over to the post office with the guy on the stairs that always asks you for a quarter. You give your package to the post officer, he/she checks what is in there, sells you the postage, tells you that the wrapping is missing (they do that anyway I guess) and that you shall come back when you’re done wrapping. So you take your package to the tiny wrapping table. (Luckily Belize City has only 70,000 inhabitants and miraculously it works. Actually only one at the same time seems to want to send a package that needs wrapping). Then you try to remember how the girls in the fragrance department at Macy’s did this art of wrapping stuff. Then you try not to injur somebody while you are fighting with the roll of brown wrapping paper and/or the scissors while the piece you just cut from the roll of tape crumples for the third time. Once you made it, you hand-write the receivers address and glue the 5-10 stamps (that are actually really pretty) the post officer handed you before on the brown(!) wrapping paper. Then you go back to the post officer and he/she manually glues (no sticker) the customs form on your package, gives you the ‘that looks like a 3-year-old wrapped it look’, and sends you to the “inland mail box’ where you drop your package. As easy as that.
Long story short. If you consider mailing stuff from Belize, here is what you need to bring to the post office:
Belize mailing kit
Add ‘your own address label’ and ‘money for postage’.
P.S.: YES, I dared to asked why brown(!) wrapping paper. The answer from the post officer was ‘because of the markings on the box’. And that’s it. In my head it made totally sense. Those evil markings (“Sketchers” / shoe box) will totally screw evilly those state-of-the-art-sensitive-high-tech machines that process my package to the airplane (aka “”"”human hands”"”"). Got it. You just could have said it was the Belizean Brown Wrapping Paper mafia, but ok.
P.P.S.: Yes, logistics colleagues, lesson learned and next time I will be prepared with pre-cut brown wrapping paper and address labels.
P.P.P.S.: Yes, I am thinking about opening a wrapping-business in the post offices of Belize.