As we outlined in this post, we placed a $14,030.17 order of solar gear with Goal Zero (who provided us an amazing discount) and yesterday was a flurry of activity as we split the shipment out.
The reason we are splitting the shipment is that we ordered $2,965.58 worth of HFC-funded Goal Zero equipment in this order which we are using to build disaster relief kits that we can have ready to deploy when needed. In order to get this at discount, we bundled it with the Puerto Rico order.
Because this order was so large, it had to be shipped as freight. I didn’t know what that meant. All I knew was that is was supposed to arrive last Friday. When it didn’t show up, I called Goal Zero and they helped me track it to a shipping terminal near my home. This wasn’t FedEx or UPS, but a trucking company. OK, no big deal. I called the trucking company and they scheduled a drop-off, asking me strange questions like, “Do you have a loading dock?” and “Wait, this is a residence? How big is your driveway?”
They explained that they had a “truck” that would need some room to get in the driveway. When the truck showed up, I understood.
Yes, a full semi showed up with the gear!
Now, granted it only took up a small portion of the semi, but it was a full pallet of gear:
The driver used the pallet jack to get the gar off the truck, and together we pushed it up the driveway. We got it as far as we could, and finally gave up on the slope near the carport:
My son helped me split the shipment, and we got the Puerto Rico gear into our car. It literally filled the entire car. As you can see some of the gear was a bit worse for the wear:
I headed out to the local FedEx office, having heard that shipping was open to Puerto Rico. I arrived at the office and started unloading the gear. When we weighed everything out, I was told it would be about $100 PER POUND to ship to Puerto Rico, and that there were no guarantees as to when it would arrive and the recipient would likely have to pick it up at the airport. Then, the agent took one look at the Hazmat 9 stickers on the Yetis and said, “Well, we’re done here. I can’t touch that. It has to go freight.”
At this point I was confused. I knew Goal Zero shipped their lithium FedEx and UPs all the time. I called GZ to confirm, and they did confirm. FedEx was confused but helpful, connecting me to their freight office who told me to “come on by”. I put a note out to our Puerto Rico Operations group and everybody sprung into action, telling me what I thought I already knew: you can, in fact, send big lithiums through FedEx and UPS ground. But I was stuck. So I packed up the car, again, and headed to the FedEx freight office.
This place was a freight office, alright. Row after row of FedEx semi trucks all lined up at the loading docks. I met with an agent, Jamie, who was incredibly kind and helpful. She told me where to park the car, ordered a pallet truck and pallet and handed me a bill of lading. I had no idea what I was doing and she could tell. She jumped right in and started filling out the form while I loaded the pallet. When she asked me about the destination, it was obvious that going to Puerto Rico was not going to be an option. Instead we opted to send it to Pensacola, where our friend Dave has offered a charter jet to get it to PR. Finally, I finished loading the pallet and Jamie had finished the form. I was pretty proud of my packing job, but more relieved that it looked like this was going to be the last time I had to load and unload what turned out to be 620 pounds of gear!
All things said, the shipping was incredibly inexpensive, and the price came down even more when she applied a 65% discount which included a walk-in and non-profit discount. And the difference between two and three-day shipping was less than $20, so we went with 2-day.
When I got home, I caught up on my “real job” and later that evening I unpacked some of the HFC-purchased demo gear for our deploy cases. My heart sunk when I realized that the Nomad panels and Yeti generators had changed since I used them in Uganda. The new units were stronger and lighter, but were also reconfigured so that external cables were required to chain more than one Nomad 100 panel together. I connected with Goal Zero and had those cables sent Pensacola send-day air, which will hopefully arrive with the pallet.
Later, the first FedEx agent called me back to apologize about her misunderstanding: FedEx does, in fact ship hazmat 9 containers via ground. This was good info but as it turned out, freight was much more economical for a shipment as big as this one anyhow.
I was thrilled with my experience with FedEx and will continue to use them for all of our shipments.
I’m also thankful to Goal Zero for the great support, amazing product and ongoing support of our efforts and to our Operations team of volunteers that are literally working every day to pull this all together. I’m also grateful for each and even one of you that has supported us in this effort. You are making a difference! We are learning so much as we do this and it’s amazing to see that we are really helping when big organizations and the government are working on the big picture. We have been on the ground in this relief effort for nearly a month, much longer than the larger groups, and we are proud to stand in the gap as the “big dogs” leverage their resources to tackle the big-picture, long-term efforts.