The Courier Cost of a Cute Kitty Cat: The Logistics of Shipping Nermal to Abu Dhabi

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If you’re like me and you remember one thing about the old “Garfield and Friends” Saturday morning cartoon, it’s that Garfield was always mailing Nermal to Abu Dhabi. But at what cost?

Shipping the Purrfect Package

Since Garfield customarily places Nermal in a box on the front step of Jon’s house and makes no observable arrangements for parcel pickup, it can be assumed that he has chosen the US Postal Service as his courier of choice.

The US Postal Service quotes a price of $60.55 for an Priority Mail International package to Abu Dhabi City, United Arab Emirates, with a weight of 5 pounds and dimensions of 12″ x 12″ x 8″. The estimated transit time to Abu Dhabi is 6-10 business days. As seen in this video, Garfield has Odie lick a sheet of nine stamps, which he then applies to the package:

It’s unclear whether this would be sufficient postage, but let’s think about that for a minute. Let’s assume that shipping rates to Abu Dhabi have increased at the same rate as a first-class stamp. When Nermal made his first appearance in a Garfield comic strip in 1979, a first-class stamp was 15 cents compared to its current cost of 47 cents. This clip was from “Garfield and Friends,” which aired from 1988 to 1995. During that period, the cost of a stamp increased from 25 to 32 cents. Let’s make the further assumption — since Garfield appears to have worked out several of the logistical kinks involved in this shipment, indicating that he’s had some reps with the process — that this episode aired in 1992, when first-class postage was 29 cents. That translates to a package shipment cost of $37.36 to Abu Dhabi.

In order for the nine stamps to be sufficient, we have to assume that they are at least $5 stamps. We also have to assume that Garfield’s failure to fill out the necessary customs forms would not prevent his package being delivered. On the other hand, it’s possible that he performs these clerical tasks off-camera and what’s shown to us, the viewers at home, is a condensed, edited version of the pre-shipment preparations that does not share all of the relevant details.

It’s not clear from the published online regulations whether mailing a live animal to Abu Dhabi would be permitted by customs regulations. I suppose that a kitten would be categorized as a “perishable noninfectious biological substance,” but so would a cookie, so I’m not sure where that leaves us. I’m also not sure if a kitten would survive a 6-10 day trip without food or water. There are many questions which this corner of the “Garfield and Friends” universe leaves unanswered, perhaps to their, and our, benefit.

For the record, Nermal last appeared in a Garfield comic strip on April 3, 2016, so whatever hardships he has endured, he has survived them. I feel like, if Garfield creator Jim Davis ever decides to overcome his fear of cashing in on the financial potential of his creations, then a coffee mug with an image of Nermal in a box marked “To: Abu Dhabi” on it, with text reading “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” would be a strong seller among the more fatalistic of his fans.

Another relevant detail is that the “Abu Dhabi Song” contains the following lyrics:

Now some take a train
And some take a plane
But I am sending you
Not on a boat
Or even by goat
But in a box marked “Postage Due”

So, either that’s in direct contradiction to the video above where Garfield and Odie team up to apply postage, or else they knowingly attached inadequate postage in order to make Nermal’s transit less pleasant, or as a cost-saving measure. I, for one, do not want to live in a world where we cannot accept the lyrics of a Garfield song segment at face value, so I am going to assume that the postage was insufficient. Supporting evidence:

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If he was indeed paying full freight, it appears that Garfield’s decision to choose the USPS is a fiscally responsible one. A similar package shipped by FedEx would cost 601.60 United Arab Emirates dirhams, or approximately $164. UPS is even less competitive, clocking in a about $230 for the same package. For purposes of these estimates, I placed the Arbuckle home in Columbus, Ohio. That seems right to me.

What’s the Final Tabby?

According to the Garfield Wikia, Nermal has appeared 145 times in the Garfield comic strips and motion pictures. Since Nermal’s presence normally signals that he will soon be either thrown through a door or mailed out, we can make an educated guess about the number of times Garfield mailed him to Abu Dhabi. On “Garfield and Friends,” there were only three instances of Garfield attempting to mail Nermal to Abu Dhabi (in show 2, 35, and 108), out of 18 total appearances.

So, we can estimate that for every six times that Nermal shows up in the strip or show, he will end up in a box addressed to Abu Dhabi once. Over the course of 145 appearances, that means Garfield tried to mail him 24 times. The total cost of these attempts, were Garfield paying full postage, would be $1,453.20 in 2016 dollars. And that’s without delivery confirmation or insurance. Since that would buy more than 100 pans of Stouffer’s Party Size Lasagna ($13.97 at the Brooklyn Park Wal-Mart), it’s easy to see why Garfield would skip out on Nermal’s postage bill.

Postscript: Nermal is a male kitten, which is very confusing because he was voiced by a woman on “Garfield and Friends.” #themoreyouknow

Joel Gillespie is an engineer and author of the “It ain’t heavy, it’s my bike” blog where this story was originally published.

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