Last week was a great week for personal mail. Each day my mailbox revealed a new treasure, including an oversized post card from Sandra, two beautiful Mother’s Day cards (Happy belated Mother’s Day, everyone!) with handwritten notes from our daughters – thank you, ladies, for those amazing messages! – two additional personal notes from Nancy and Jane, and an article about social calling cards from Joan. Postmarks on the letters included Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, New York, Honolulu, Hawaii, and my home city, San Francisco. How much better can things get than receiving six letters and cards from friends and family, all in the same week, each mailed and received in a timely fashion?
Well, in fact, things did not get better. They got worse.
It all started with a trip to our nearest San Francisco post office in early January, where I mailed three large boxes to our daughter in Brooklyn. Around that time, due to snow, ice and generally inclement weather throughout the country, many flights were delayed or cancelled, but since there was no urgency to these packages, I didn’t think much about it until a month or so later, when none had yet been delivered.
By March, two of the boxes finally reached their destination, but the third one was still missing in action. We checked the tracking number and it seemed that this particular box was still sitting in a substation in Richmond, California, just across the Bay. I urged my daughter to call again to inquire about the status.
Last week, on May 9, the package was returned to me. The mailing label was intact, so at first I was puzzled. Why was it coming back to me five months after I mailed it? Upon opening the box, however, things became clearer. There was only one item inside the box, a kitchen pot, damaged beyond repair. Whatever else had been in the package was gone.
A form letter was enclosed. “Dear Postal Customer,” it read. “The enclosed material was discovered loose in the mail and has apparently become separated from its packaging.” The letter goes on to say that “if you feel that the entire contents of your package has not been recovered, you may request a parcel search by contacting the Atlanta Mail Recovery Center.” The unsigned sender of the form letter, sent from the New Jersey Network Distribution Center, went on to extend a “heartfelt apology,”
Somehow, it didn’t sound particularly useful, to have folks in Atlanta search for items that went missing somewhere between Richmond, CA and New Jersey. Because, you see, I had not made an itemized list of the contents of each package, nor had I insured the materials. I am unable, therefore, nearly half a year later, to remember what else was in this particular box.
Not that I believe the contents could still be found, nor that they would be in useable condition.
But still. Mea culpa.
This Post Has 6 Comments
Sharlene12 May 2014
agreed! i’m one of the rare people who enjoy standing in the lines at the post office. the post office has lost my passport not once, but twice. i was able to retrieve it the first time around, but my last cancelled passport full of memories from 10 years of traveling in my 20’s was lost forever. my danish student visa, a stamp i got for hiking machu picchu and my russian visa. despite that, i still happily stand in line at the post office to send my letters and packages.
Marcia Schneider12 May 2014
Oh, wow. Sharlene. so sorry that you lost the record of all of those wonderful memories!
Dorothy10 Jun 2014
Poor service with USPS? This Yelp review may provide a partial explanation.:
Have you ever been asked when mailing a package through the United States Postal System if you would like to insure the package?
My advice, DON’T Bother! (or at least understand what you are paying for.)
Also DO NOT mark any package FRAGILE.
Here is the explanation for my warning.
In 2008 I mailed many (50+) Priority Mail Flat Rate packages across the country. Heavy boxes full of papers and light weight packages filled with clothes arrived with no damage. Every package that I innocently marked FRAGILE looked like it took a beating. I counted my damaged items as a valuable lesson. The problem is I didn’t bother to educate anyone else as to the hazards of using Priority Shipping for fragile items or valuables.
Several years later some dear friends decided to surprise me and send me a collection of sentimental Hummel figurines. Instead of using their normal shipper (UPS) they decided it would be safer to send them USPS Priority mail. Each figurine was double wrapped in bubble wrap. Additional bubble wrap lined the entire box. Big red labels marked the package FRAGILE. The package was insured for $500. and sent on its way.
PROBLEM – The package arrived crushed and torn. I immediately drove to my local Post Office to open it and inspect the contents in front of the clerk. The clerk gave me claims forms to file via the internet. I spent countless hours filing, provided all requested documentation, estimates of damage and was finally instructed via mail to return the entire shipment in the original box to my local Post Office for inspection. Fortunately, I called before I went to find out if the Post Master was going to be in. At that point I was told on the phone that if I brought the package in I would have to surrender all of it to collect the $500. insurance for the package. All contents become property of the Post Office and get sold at auction in Atlanta. Needless to say I decided to live with the loss of one figurine, value $489., and the damage to several others in order to keep the additional seven myself.
My family heirlooms are more important than the USPS.
Marcia Schneider14 Jun 2014
Generally I find the postal service to be quite efficient and reliable. I think these stories are the exception – but still, one bad incident can be frustrating!
Dorothy18 Jun 2014
HI, Marcia. I agree with you. I love my mailman and the regularity of his cheery greetings. Dealing with the public has its joys and its frustrations. What I noticed when reading the Yelp review was that one had to surrender the whole damaged package (which then went to an auction site) in order to get reimbursement for a damaged piece. Seemed unfair! But yes, I’ve known some great mailmen and post offices. (The Port Townsend building is breathtaking, and during the holidays musical quartets entertain you while you wait in line.)
Marcia Schneider20 Jun 2014
Yeah for our daily mail carrier!