Literally the day before my departure to New Zealand I lost my wallet. Fortunately, I keep an extremely minimal wallet. I had my passport card, my debit card, and my daily driver credit card. I don’t even need my passport card, really, I like to have it because I don’t yet have a RealID Oregon driver license (for silly reasons I might rant about some time) so it’s good for domestic travel. I like to carry it and leave my real passport at my accommodation when I’m abroad, as it’s much more compact and less fragile than my full passport. It has yet to fail to work as ID when I needed it, and for everything else, there’s
Mastercard playing the dumb foreigner. But this isn’t about my passport card. I don’t care about my passport card. It’s gone. I’ll replace it when I renew my passport. Ignore it.
This isn’t even about my daily driver credit card. I primarily use a Chase Sapphire Reserve card because of the
baller feel of the metal card perks and whatnot and all those sweet sweet points I’ve used to book international travel in the past. The Apple Pay version of that on my phone and my watch (which is dead, actually, another story) are working just fine and still my primary form of payment at places that accept contactless payments here which is about 75% of places. It’s actually odd, there’s a weird mix of places that don’t even want cash and some that won’t accept “paywave”. The fee structure for contactless payments here is completely broken apparently which is where the problem lies. No. It’s not about that card. I have a backup physical card for my United card so even places that don’t take paywave but still take physical credit card I can use just fine. I do want to replace it, but it’s not a huge priority.
The card I really care about is my debit card. It’s the only way I can get cash. And for some things, you just need cash. Fortunately, I brought some US currency with me and
got robbed at a currency converted it, but I’m running low. So today, I decided I needed cash and went to get some.
The moment I realized I’d lost my wallet I immediately called my banks and reported the cards lost. I also reported my passport card as lost, which is itself a bit of a terrifying process because it’s not super clear you aren’t also reporting your full passport lost, but that’s another post. No big deal. Except I was leaving in less than 24 hours to fly halfway around the world for 6 months. Where were they going to send my replacement cards?
Poste restante is a service offered by some countries’ postal services, including New Zealand. You basically send some mail to a post office and they’ll hold it for you until you pick it up, for a small fee. Kind of an ad-hoc P.O. Box. A lot of hostels and accommodations and such in New Zealand will happily receive a package for you, but I wasn’t quite sure where I’d be, when, and with poste restante they are able to forward the mail along which is handy. Also since it was my credit and debit card, I thought it might not be a bad security decision to have the post office hold it rather than some rando working holiday bloke at a hostel somewhere.
At time of incident and up to and including time of writing, googling for “NZ post restante” took you to a page on the NZ post website that listed a bunch of locations that provided the service, contact info, and instructions and costs for using it. Knowing that I wouldn’t be in Auckland for very long, and that I’d be heading north, I decided my best bet was, well, the only location north of Auckland, in Whangarei. So when I called my banks I told them that address and off I went. No big deal.
Roughly 2 weeks later I was was sitting in Whangarei. Silly me, not paying attention to things like “what do you mean the post office isn’t open on weekends?” I didn’t realize I was getting in to Whangarei later afternoon on Friday and leaving early Sunday morning. Oops. No big deal, though, they could just forward it along. I’d call them and arrange that, later. I figured, once it’s in country and on the same island it should only be 1-2 days from when I call to when it gets to where I’ve had it forwarded to, intra island mail is usually only one day if you make the cutoff, with rural delivery being longer but I could plan a few days ahead no big deal.
My first clue something was a bit off was when I walked past the location in Whangarei where the poste restante service was supposed to be and it was, in fact, a bank. Or maybe a men’s clothing store. Or both? Not really sure. Certainly didn’t look like a post office. But the bank was closed and I was sure the men’s clothing store thing was wrong so I left it for later.
The second clue was when I called the number listed on the website, only to find it was disconnected! They had a fax number listed, too, so I tried that just in case and while that one wasn’t disconnected it definitely sounded like it wanted me to talk in fax language and I wasn’t feeling up for it.
But whatever! I’d just get cash back from using my debit at a grocery’s store, no big deal. So I tried. And being silly misinterpreted the display saying my total was going to be $49 when I wanted $40 cash. I thought it was trying to charge me $9 to get cash. No. That $9 was for my groceries. I panicked and just used my credit card and left. But in my brain, it had worked, no problem.
Bay of Islands
5 days later I was sitting in lovely Bay of Islands, staying at a little backpackers on top of an extraordinarily steep hill. Super cool host, I have the place to myself, we talked about travel, food, even some politics, as much as I hate it, we seemed to be mostly on the same page so it was ok. Up came the topic of people running out on the tab with him. He was one of those trusting types who lets you pay on the way out. Awesome. But also only took cash or NZ bank transfer (so, cash). No worries, there was a grocery store on the other side of the bay and I was going to be over there at least once during the trip, I’d stop and get some cash there.
So I did. And it failed. But not because I couldn’t get cash, I never got the option. The terminal ran it as credit, which should work fine, it’s a Visa. Except it didn’t. Very odd. Feeling stupid I paid using my credit card and moved on.
When I got back to my accommodation I contacted my bank and asked them what was up? It turns out that the Apple Pay card is tied to the existence and activation of the physical card. Well, that’s certainly A Decision. So now I wondered what to do? The lady from the bank and I talked it over and I decided I was going to try to Western Union myself some cash the next day. It would probably cost an arm and a leg, but it looked like I could do it from their website. Another thing she did was say she’d find for me the tracking number for the package so I could try to track it that way.
I needed to pay for my accommodation with cash, but didn’t have enough cash and couldn’t get any more. On a whim, I tried my credit card in the ATM and that allowed me to get some cash. Ok. $10 cash advance fee and interest and all of that but at least I had some cash and a (hopefully) reliable method for getting more. And it was probably cheaper than western union.
Just gonna preface this here: always always always always always always always get a tracking number.
Anywho, now I had the tracking number so I threw that into the fedex website, where I saw it had been attempted to be delivered a number of times and failed due to wrong address and then was … finally delivered?
So I treads the number on the NZ post website again, and got disconnected, again. I called the main number and spoke with someone there. They said the address was wrong. I said the address is right there on the website. The number is disconnected. What do? The very kind and patient lady there told me she’d call the local branch in the morning and see what was up. I heard back from her the next day and apparently that was in fact a partnership with the bank in question but they aren’t doing that anymore and the location doesn’t do Poste Restante. Sigh.
So I called fedex. One thing I noticed is that after the delivered part it actually showed it was back in East Tamaki, I’m assuming their local distribution center. Which led me to believe that maybe it was on its way back, but, importantly, still in New Zealand!
So I called fedex to see if I could get them to redirect the package to somewhere I was going to be in a few days. This awesome amazing wonderful human being, after some back and forth trying to explain the situation and what I needed, said it was absolutely possible and arranged for it to happen. He said it would probably take a few days for tracking to update because they would be handing it off to a local courier and I’d use the tracking number there, but it was possible, and even likely that it would happen!
So I waited.
And every day, many times, put the tracking number into every shipping website I could think of in New Zealand.
I arrived at the place the package was to be delivered to, the Whatuwhiwhi Holiday Park. Nothing.
I had booked for 2 nights hoping it would show up while I was there. Refreshed tracking info every 5 seconds.
Suddenly! An update! It was delivered! … to Whangarei?
My heart sank. They’d only just now handed it off to the local courier? They’d tried delivering it to Whangarei again? What happened? Being a Friday I was really hoping I’d have it by then because it probably wouldn’t get delivered on the weekend and, lovely as the holiday park and the Karikari Peninsula is, I was getting awfully bored just waiting for this. but I’d already booked for 2 nights so I’d just wait and see in the morning.
Later in the afternoon I hitched a ride into town (the holiday park is at the bottom of a HUGE hill) so I could get some food. One of the front desk staff from the holiday park was who took me into town. About 15 minutes later after I’d ordered my food and sat down waiting for it to arrive, she comes up and hands me the package.
It had been delivered to their P.O. Box or something and not the main office (I had just given fedex the google maps address) so they hadn’t seen it, but it had arrived! It had finally arrived! I opened it up, called and activated the card, and life was good. Finally complete.
Another patron of the takeaways came out and sat with me and I told him a very brief version of this and he was happy for me. Then we talked a lot about my trip, what I was doing, etc. I ate my burger and chips and had one of the best evenings I’ve had so far on the trip.
Now if I can just repeat this success with the contact lenses I ordered the other day…
Bonus content: the view from a much larger hill above the town.