One of my other roles is the editor of Facing North, a review site for all things alternative spirituality. Every month or so, I send out a pile of books and things to my group of reviewers.
I have learned to always put a ‘delivery confirmation’ on my packages, otherwise they tend to mysteriously disappear en route. (I once had thirteen, yes THIRTEEN, packages to different people disappear — an entire mailing.) This costs me more money, but media mail is pretty cheap to begin with so I just chalk it up to the cost of doing business.
Late last year, however, one of my reviewers wrote to me to say that her box of books (6, several of which were from the same publisher) had been delivered, but it had been clearly opened en route and the contents removed. We looked into it, but all the USPS could say was ‘sorry’. Especially since — that one time — I’d neglected to put a confirmation on the box, so it couldn’t be tracked.
Now its happened again. I sent a couple of books to one of my people who lives in Columbus, OH. The confirmation showed it making it to Cincinnati:
Label/Receipt Number: 0308 3390 0001 4874 7805
Class: Package Services
Service(s): Delivery Confirmation™
Status: Processed through Sort Facility
Your item was processed through and left our CINCINNATI, OH 45235 facility on April 24, 2009. The item is currently in transit to the destination. No further information is available for this item.
Processed through Sort Facility, April 24, 2009, 9:41 pm, CINCINNATI, OH 45235
Processed through Sort Facility, April 21, 2009, 9:28 am, FEDERAL WAY, WA 98003
Acceptance, April 20, 2009, 10:26 am, SEATTLE, WA 98109
I didn’t think anything of it, presuming it would be delivered the next day.
Much to my surprise, a few weeks later (yes, weeks) I got the package back in the mail — sort of. You see, I got the envelope with a form note stapled to it. The note said : “The enclosed was found loose in the mail or damaged by mechanical equipment . . . ”
I looked at the envelope, and it is clear that someone ripped it open along one side and removed the books and then tossed the envelope back in a batch to be sorted.
I called the customer service line and got a case number and a promise that someone would call me back to help me. Two days later, while I was out of town for a few days (of course) Tom from the USPS called me and left a local number. I returned Tom’s call, but he said it wasn’t him, it must be the other Tom (even though it sounded like the right guy). The other Tom was completely unhelpful, and finally I realized that my package made it to Cincinnati before being opened — why was I talking to someone in Seattle?
Back to the customer service line, and THIS time I was told that unless I insured my package, there was nothing they could do. I said “so left me get this straight: I am basically telling you that there is a thief in your Cincinnati office and I want to tell the supervisor there of this problem, but you have NO CONTACT INFORMATION to give me. I can’t even file a complaint?”
S’truth: you can no longer actually file a complaint about a theft . . . unless the item was insured, of course. (ka-CHING).
So I offer unto you, my public, the evidence of the envelope — did a machine do that? is there a thief in the system? And I ask: is there anything else I can do? I don’t even know where to send a letter!