Somewhere in one of this world's four hemispheres there lies a land mass void of a human populace but littered with cardboard UPS boxes, puffy FedEx mailer envelopes and baskets stuffed with now inedible holiday delicacies.
You won't find this secretive location on any atlas or globe; Google Maps will offer no assistance. Even shuttle astronauts orbiting the Earth can't see it. The climate may be tropical year round or be subject to extreme bouts of heat or cold depending on the season. Whatever the temperature, this locality exists solely to disappoint the wishes of children and adults worldwide.
It's called the Island of Undelivered Cyber Christmas Presents. And it's where online gifts, that were promised to be delivered NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 24, ended up.
Remember the Island of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph special? This island is similar, except the merchandise works just fine. Its inhabitants' only crime is somehow not hooking up with their rightful owners. Were I to visit, I'm certain I would find the leaf blower I purchased for my brother-in-law. Yes, it was a strange gift request, considering there won't be any leaves to blow in the Midwest for another nine months, but it's what he desired. I ordered it from Walmart.com, received an email stating it had shipped on December 16 and am still waiting. A Walmart customer service rep told me the item was on "backorder," customer service lingo for "we have no idea where it is." Now my brother-in-law yearns for snow, as it will cover the unblown leaves on his front porch.
Then there was the photo puzzle my wife ordered for her five-year-old nephew from some company called Printerpix. Such a simple gift -- a jigsaw picture of himself, his brothers and cousins that he could take apart and reassemble to his little heart's content. She ordered it December 8: what could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, as she discovered upon receiving an email on December 22 informing that her puzzle had not shipped and "we wanted to notify you in advance, to give you time to find an alternate Christmas gift."
An alternate gift? On December 22? By that time, even supplies of fruitcakes and Hickory Farms beef sticks have been depleted.
At least Printerpix had a more creative explanation than "backorder." "The delay in your order is a result of strikes and union action at the sea ports in Los Angeles," the email stated. "This has delayed our shipments of raw materials, and in turn delayed the manufacturing of your order."
When a company uses the word "delay" or forms thereof three times in an email, that's never a good sign.
Did I miss something? These past few weeks I've watched plenty of news reporters covering civil rights injustices and U.S-Cuban relations. But I have yet to see CNN showing video of LA-based longshoremen demanding better working conditions and increased benefits in the photo puzzle industry.
Fess up, retailers! Admit excuses such as "backorder," and "unforeseen circumstances" are myths. Every gift we clicked on but didn't receive was inexplicably rerouted to the Island of Undelivered Cyber Christmas Presents. Somebody must know this island's location. Furthermore, there must be at least a skeleton staff on hand to accept deliveries and sort the merchandise.
Hey Stan, this looks like an engagement ring. Should I just pile it on top of the other jewelry?
Sounds good. Hey, lemme see that shipping label. Wow, poor Steven Carter from Tucson, Arizona. Wonder what he told his fiancé on Christmas morning?
For those of you certain your gift is on this island, your choices are limited. Demand a refund or wait patiently in hopes you and your purchase will eventually connect. That could be next week or the Fourth of July. Such is the risk you take when entering the mysterious world of online commerce.
Just don't bother trying to contact anybody on the island. They are busy clearing space and preparing for a glut of undelivered cyber Valentine's Day gifts.
(c) 2014 GREG SCHWEM. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC