in Daily Life

A Frustrating Phone Call

This is dedicated to Tiffany, who loves these sorts of stories.

* ring *

J.D.: Custom Box Service
Bertha: What size are your medium boxes?
…long pause…

J.D.: Uh, well, we manufacture custom boxes, so we don’t have anything we’d call a medium box.
Bertha: But what size is a medium box? Is it seventeen inches?
…long pause…

J.D.: Well, I don’t know what a medium box is. It might have a side that is seventeen inches, but a box has three dimensions.
Bertha: I know, but couldn’t a medium box be seventeen by seventeen.
J.D.: And how high?
Bertha: I don’t care. I’m putting four coats in it. UPS wants me to quote them a size, but I don’t know it. All I want to know is how big your medium boxes are.
J.D.: Well, we don’t have medium boxes. That phrase doesn’t mean anything to us. We make boxes to order.
…long pause…

Bertha: But they might be seventeen inches right? That would fit four coats?
…long pause…

J.D.: I guess it might fit four coats, it’s hard to say.
Bertha: Well, it does firt four coats. I have a medium box here, and I have four coats in it and it’s ready to ship, but UPS wants to know what size the box is. That’s why I called you. All I need to know is what size a medium box is.
…long pause — J.D. is dumbfounded…

J.D.: Uh…
…long pause…

Bertha: Don’t you have a medium box?
J.D.: No, that’s what I’m trying to say. So you’re telling me that you have a box already. You don’t need a box. You just want to know how big the box you have is?
Bertha: I know what size it is. It’s a medium box. I just need to know the inches. I think it looks about seventeen by seventeen.
…long pause — we’re both getting frustrated at this point…

J.D.: Look. I have an idea. I think I can help you.
Bertha: Good.
J.D. Do you have a piece of paper near you? A piece of typing paper? A piece of notebook paper? Just a standard piece of paper that’s 8-1/2 x 11?
Bertha: Yes.
J.D.: Let’s use that to measure your box.
Bertha: How can we possibly do that. I don’t have a measuring stick.
J.D.: Well, we can use the paper to make a rough guess. The paper is 8-1/2 inches wide, right? If you measure two widths of the paper, that’s seventeen inches.
…long pause…

J.D.: Did you measure it?
Bertha: I don’t understand. All I want to know is how big a medium box is.
J.D.: Well, I’m trying…
* click *

Bertha hung up on me.

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  1. Shaking my head. It makes me dizzy. It’s amazing that she could look up your number and dial the phone. Probably called information and had them connect her.

  2. Probably should add this exchange to your FAQ page.

    BTW, the UPS maximum package size is 165 inches (length + circumference) and 150 pounds. Thats 15 times the long side of a standard north american letter size piece of paper, 19.4 times the short side.

    The following rule of thumb also works: if you can hug it, see over it, and lift it — it’s small enough to mail UPS.