Monday, May 28, 2012

Zippo- an outlaw company (good for them!)

About a week ago, I had an experience that showed me, again, that even the most innocuous of government monopolies is still a bad thing.

Out wandering the wastelands on the edge of town with my daughter I found an old Zippo lighter. Being obsessed with fire starting methods/tools, I kept it. The cap was missing and the "wheel" was rusted in place, but I know Zippo repairs or replaces their lighters for free, "forever".

When I got home I went online and found the address for the Zippo Repair Clinic, packed up the old lighter, and headed off to the local post office.

The clerk took the package and asked the standard "anything hazardous, fragile, or flammable?" question, to which I replied "no".

She held it carefully, looked at it suspiciously, and said "It says 'Zippo', what's in here?"

I said it is a broken lighter.

She looked shocked and said "You can't mail lighters!"

I said that I followed the packaging instructions on the Zippo site (and why would they even have a mailing address at all if you couldn't mail anything to them?), and I had mailed lighter to them before.

"They might still have residue!"

"No, this one was very, very dry. I've mailed them before."

"You just didn't get caught that time" (paraphrased- my attention was slipping)

She pulled out a full-color, government brochure detailing all the things the government has arbitrarily declared to be "dangerous" to mail (which UPS and FedEx can still mail, I suppose).

By this time I wasn't really listening anymore, but was trying to figure out how I was getting this to UPS or FedEx. But she kept lecturing for a bit anyway.

So, I left the post office with my package, and as the "proud" owner of a full color, government brochure (slightly used)... had an idea, and went a few blocks, across the state line, and mailed my package without incident from New Mexico.

Zippo emailed me to confirm receipt of the lighter, so I emailed them back to inform them that according to this officious postal clerk, mailing their lighters, under any circumstances, is a serious crime.

I guess it's a good thing I'm already an outlaw.



  1. I've been mailing Zippo's in for years and never had a problem. I never tell them what's in the package. If they can read the address they should be able to figure out what it is. Some of these postal employees are just too dedicated.

  2. I got a reply from Zippo. They said they know some post offices refuse to ship the lighters, and in that case they recommend going to a different post office.

    What got me, though, was the insistence that mailing it was a "crime". A crime in one post office, but apparently not in another. Saying that it is a "crime" is lying. (I couldn't even find a clear indication in the brochure that mailing a lighter was prohibited.)

  3. I got the repaired lighter today. Very fast service! Even faster than this would indicate.

    It had languished at the post office since Friday. (I got the notice I had a package that had to be signed for after the p.o. closed for the day, and our p.o. has no Saturday hours- then there was the "holiday"...)

  4. MamaLiberty is unable to post this comment for herself today, due to technical difficulties on one end or the other, so she emailed this to me:

    Last fall I put a fair number of ordinary seed packets into a plastic
    envelop to send to some friends in Ghana. They have a terrible time
    getting any sort of garden seeds there, and they are very expensive.

    I had taped the packets so the seeds would not rattle, mostly to reduce
    any breakage from rough handling, but they still made a little noise.

    I had already put on the address, of course, but when I got to the post
    office, the clerk said I needed to fill out a form to mail anything to a
    foreign country. I used to have pen pals all over the world and never
    had to do this before... but oh well. One place on the form wanted a
    detailed account of the contents. At first she wanted me to open the
    envelop (not possible without destroying it) to list each item. When I
    told her it was simply packets of garden seeds, she allowed me to write
    that down and took the package.

    I was pleased to learn from my friends that they got the package
    unopened and in good time. They now have a wonderfully productive garden
    and are busily saving seeds to share with others in the area.

    There are no restrictions on sending seeds, at least yet, but it would
    be impossible to send living plants of any kind.