This past holiday season I mailed a birthday gift to one of my dear friends. Her birthday is right around Christmas time and I wanted her to have something special to celebrate her special day.
I wrapped up my gifts in fun paper and enclosed them in a box big enough to hold the treasures. I added packing so nothing would get jostled and taped it close on all ends so nothing slipped out.
I traveled the mile or so to reach my post office and stood in line to wait my turn. When the Postmaster asked “Would you like tracking on this?” I assured him I did. I wanted it to arrive in time for my friend’s birthday.
When I got home I sent her an email and told her to be on the lookout in her post office box for something special. I hoped she liked it.
Days went by and she emailed me telling me she would be leaving for the holiday soon and still nothing had arrived in her PO box. Where was her surprise?
I went online and tapped in the tracking number the Postmaster had given me and this is what I found:
Delivery status not 12/22/10 1:05am
Out for Delivery Her Town 12/21/10 11:05am
Sorting Complete Her Town 12/21/10 10:55am
Arrival at Post Office Her Town 12/20/10 11:14am
Processed through Sort On the way to Her Town 12/19/10 6:47pm
Processed through Sort Closer to Her Town 12/19/10 2:19am
Acceptance My Town 12/17/10 9:42am
Wait a minute! My friend has a post office BOX! Unlike Elvis, this package never should have left the building! So I picked up my handy cell phone and called the post office in Her Town to find out what the story was.
At first the Postmaster there told me there was no such PO box number. And I laughed because she has received everything else I’ve ever sent to her using this same PO box number. Then he put the regular carrier on the phone with me and she swore that she delivered the package to my friend that day. And I laughed again because how could that happen with a PO box? I asked her to describe my friend and she hemmed and hawed and finally said “Um, she blonde?”
I called this Postmaster back everyday asking about the package. He went from clueless to snarky in no time at all. He finally told me that he didn’t know what to tell me.
Not knowing what to tell me, however, did not stop him from calling the post office in My Town and trying to place the blame of the missing package on them. He told them that they never sent the package to Her Town and that they were to blame. My Postmaster was having none of this guy’s bullshit and pointed out a HUGE hole in his claim. If they never sent the package, then how did it get scanned in as received at his post office?
After receiving no help at all from the post office in Her Town, and with the encouragement of my post office, I decided to file a formal complaint with the United States Postal Service. It was already January when I called their office and spoke with a nice gentleman, told him my claim, received a case number and was told that someone would be back in touch with me within 24 to 48 hours.
A week later and I still hadn’t heard a peep from them.
I checked my tracking number to see if there were any updates and lo and behold there were!
Label/Receipt Number: zeropackagedelivered
Status: Insufficient Address
Your item was returned to the sender on December 30, 2010 because of an incomplete address.
In hopes that this was indeed a fact, I called my post office to see if they had the package there. They did not. Furthermore, they told me that had he actually sent back a package on the date in the computer, I’d have it by now. More research revealed the update in the system had been entered manually and not scanned. If the Postmaster in Her Town had found the package and returned it, he would have scanned the tracking already on the package. He wouldn’t have had to enter anything manually. This made everyone suspicious.
I wonder what the penalty is for entering fraudulent information into a government computer?
I wanted to hear this Postmaster’s side of this story so I called him to ask. And this is what he said to me “You never put a PO box number on the package!” Really? So the first time I called this guy and asked about the package and he told me there was no such box number…what was he talking about? And does he really believe that my post office would allow me to add tracking to a package that did not have a number listed for a PO box address? And none of that even begins to explain why this package ended up on their delivery truck.
And the worst of it…he knew my friend had been in his post office several times looking for her birthday gift…why not just let her have it? Why send it back? Why not be a good neighbor and allow her to finally celebrate our friendship by opening her birthday present? Why be an asshole?
I called the Complaint Department at the USPS that afternoon to follow up on my claim and to report this latest development. They had referred the case to the Consumer Protection Agency based on information they received from my post office.
I was called back the same afternoon by a nice lady at the Consumer Protection Agency. I told my story to her again. The woman helping me was incensed. Why hadn’t they been involved from the beginning? I told her I was just following the directions I received from the USPS and no one there ever said anything about contacting her office in the beginning.
I spoke with her again today. It is almost the end of February. I mailed my friend’s birthday present on December 17th. Nothing has been done to find it. So a description of the items enclosed has been forwarded to the Mail Processing Claims warehouse. This is where all dead mail is supposed to go. If it is found I will be notified. The claim against the post office in Her Town has been forwarded to the Postal Inspection office. That post office is now under investigation.
My friend has asked about the package numerous times on her trips to her post office. One afternoon the Postmaster told her “Next time buy insurance!” in a very sarcastic tone. It’s obvious to both of us now that this guy has never tried to find the package. He probably doesn’t even care that it’s missing.
And so that’s where it sits for now.
I wanted to do something nice for my friend’s birthday. When I picked out the pretty, shiny baubles I had no idea that instead of giving her something nice, I would end up making both of us Go Postal.