Thursday, April 19, 2012


Just before I went to Thailand for my holidays, I received a notice that the Hong Kong Post had tried to deliver a package to my home.

The green-coloured note that they have left behind stated that "unfortunately I was not at home at the time of the delivery", and that I can pick up the package from the post office myself.

"I'll do it after I return from my holidays..." I thought.

But reading the rest of text on the green note, I discovered that if I was unable to pick up the package within 14 days they would charge me a "package storage" fee, depending on the size of the parcel.  "Hmmm," I thought, "better pick up the package then..." and off I went to the post office.

Half an hour later I arrived at the post office, and went up with the escalator to the first floor where the pickup counter is located. I was about to step off the escalator when a Hong Kong guy approached me. It was a man, in his 40's, dressed up in short jeans and a yellow polo shirt. Next to him stood a trolley car, one of a model that you see all over Hong Kong, as it is being used to transport all kind of amazing things through the small and busy streets. From noodles, to rice, from construction material to live chickens, it all ends up being transported on such small one-person trolleys.

"You?? You??" He asked me in a polite but nervous voice. I looked at him and had no clue what he wanted, until I noticed he was pointing to the paper that he had in his hand. "Is you? Is You?"?

I looked at the paper and quickly scanned it through. It appeared to be an email that he had printed out. It as a full page letter and on the right side there was a photo of a young black woman dressed in what I call African clothes.

(I've reconstructed this according to what I can remember)

"Dear mister,

We have not met before but I got your contact information from a friend. My name is Bolanle and I am from Nigeria. As my friend told me you are a caring and helpful person, I am seeking your help. My brother is living in Hong Kong, and as it is almost his birthday I have sent him a birthday package with birthday gifts from my family together with US dollar worth 10,000.

Unfortunately he cannot pick up the package by himself because he is travelling in China for the coming two months for his business. Because I am afraid that the post office will send back the package due to late delivery, I am seeking your help.

If possible, could you collect the package for my brother? I already paid for the insurance fee and the delivery charges, but I did not pay for the security keeping fee due to the fact that I do not know when the package will be picked up. It would be great if you can help me pick up the package and pay the security keeping fee of USD 500.

My brother will pay you back as soon as he will meet you. I have also asked him to compensate you greatly for your kind assistance and he will give you 50% of the amount of USD inside the package.

Can you please call mr. xxxxx on this number xxxx.xxxxx.xxxx to confirm your willingness to pick up the package, so we can arrange further clearance?

Thank you in advance,

Bolanle Wiwa"

For a second I was hesitating how to react. My first feeling was that this poor guy got trapped in a typical e-mail scam, one of which we are all familiar with. But on the other hand, even though it was so obvious, I wasn't entirely sure I should give him the bad news, and tell that he just became a victim of Nigerian scammers. First of all, he would lose "face" in front of someone (which is not a good thing in Asia), and secondly he might lose his temper, as he probably paid a significant sum of dollars to retrieve the (probably worthless) carton box.

"No, that's not me, sorry", and off I went.

When I walked away I heard the guy behind me letting out a big sigh. He probably was waiting for a while already, and getting to the point of understanding what was going on.

I had no clue why this guy was waiting at the post office. Perhaps he was told to meet there after picking up the package, or maybe he was hoping to find the person that supposed-to-pick-up-but-never-did. Anyway, the situation didn't look too good for him.

And besides that, I was wondering why he asked if I was involved with this? I know that the Hong Kong sun is much stronger than the one I'm used to in Holland and that I like to go to the beach, but I certainly did not look like a black man.

I went to the pickup counter for my own package, and while I was waiting there in the queue, I thought about what just happened. Should I talk to this guy once more and see if I can help him? Perhaps it is all a misunderstanding, perhaps there is really someone picking up the package later. Anyway, when I retrieved my package, I walked back to the elevator and discovered that the guy was gone, and so was his trolley with the carton box.

Too late, now I will never find out what really happened...

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