One of the great things about bad experiences in life is that you an milk them pretty effectively for humor. When things go well, you find that the comedy cow (that's probably an actual god in some religion somewhere) isn't going to give up much, no matter how hard you squeeze those metaphorical udders.
You might take that first paragraph as an indication that my second round in the ring with Japan Post was rather less aggravating than the most recent one. This time they didn't even put up a fight. I'm happy to report that the second attempt at a different post office went the way that the first one should have gone had it not been staffed by people who apparently reside in a reality where exploding soda pop bottles are a normal and greatly feared part of their existence. That is to say that they took the box, put it on the scale, told us the price, allowed us to pay, and will be ferrying it to a magical land where people working for major bureaucratic agencies don't make up the rules as they go along (that's America). My husband and I are fortunate in that we live close to two post offices so it was possible to easily try the other one. Most people don't have that luxury and probably would just have to give up if they were faced with someone who lives in an imaginary world where life or death circumstances surround the shipping of PET bottles of carbonated beverages.
This experience beautifully illustrated one of the particular unpleasant realities of life in Japan that you will know and come to be put out by if you live here long enough. That reality is that Japanese people lie. They lie a lot. They lie often. And, more often than not, they lie transparently expecting you to want to avoid confrontation as much as a Japanese person so you won't call them on it. Lies are woven into the fabric of the culture as being not only acceptable but desirable as part of the tatamae (public face) and honne (true face) culture.
The reason they lie is because they don't have the same attitude toward lying that the West does. This may be because they don't have Judeo-Christian principles underlying their culture and aren't afraid God will smite them because he's had to put too many hash marks in the "false witness" category of his book of sins. It may be because the desire for social harmony outweighs any notion of honesty. It's likely that most principles can be sacrificed on the alter of not causing anyone any trouble, and that would include telling the truth. At any rate, the "why" is less important than the point that it is a fact of life here.
The problem with this is that there is a lot of lying based not on social harmony, but self-interest. One of the reasons I can't help but scoff when people gush about how great service is in Japan is that I've been lied to so many times when receiving or attempting to receive service here. If you ask a question and someone doesn't know the answer or isn't interested in troubling themselves to find the answer, they just lie. They'll either make up something ridiculous or say "no" or the equivalent.
This type of lying while supposedly attempting to provide a service is what the fellow at the post office was engaging in. Rather than verify the real situation regarding the safety of sending bottles of carbonated beverages, he just made something up. With a Japanese customer, this likely would have worked since they'd almost certainly not argue about it and accept what he said whether they believed it or not. The Japanese know when they're being lied to, but they tend not to challenge those lies. We foreigners, on the other hand, don't take nearly so well to it. I guess that's part of why we're such a troublesome lot.
(A little postscript to the "anonymous" person who made a rude comment on the last post without any sort of evidence or argument to invalidate what I said - seriously, you were already warned you weren't going to get through and the least you can do is make a counterargument and link to a user name with your own web site so I also get the chance to go offer insults at your posts. If you don't have the balls to stand behind your comments enough to open yourself up to the same sort of scrutiny at the very least, then don't bother. You're not getting past moderation, you big loser.)