The Great Homosassa Hassle: or A Trip Through the Wonder World of USPS Insurance Claims Adjustment
By Frank Bequaert
My wife Lucia and I run an antiquarian book business in Fitzwilliam New Hampshire. Our shop is a quarter mile from the Post Office which makes it convenient for mailing packages for our internet business. Our local Postmaster is always helpful and has endless patience in dealing with both our problems and the idiosyncrasies of the U. S. Postal System. For 17 years all went well until last January.
We sell books on a number of internet services including Alibris. If Alibris receives an order from overseas for one of our books, we ship the book to their facility in Sparks Nevada. They then ship the book to the customer. This system is nice for the bookseller as it eliminates the need to request extra postage or cancel a sale because a service has not collected sufficient overseas postage from a customer. Even though Alibris provides postpaid labels for shipping books to Sparks, if a book is worth more than $100., we usually insure it and eat the cost of postage and insurance. Hence this tale.
At the end of January 2007, Alibris ordered 2 of our books worth over $200. each for shipment to Sparks. We put both the books in the same box and shipped them off. We insured the package for $200. Several weeks later, Alibris returned one of the books to us stating that the book condition was "not as described". They also cancelled the order for the other book stating that they had "not received the book". When the returned book arrived in Fitzwilliam it was badly damaged and appeared to have been mauled by a major piece of Post Office equipment. We figure that when the package got chewed up, one book got lost and the damaged book and the remains of the package made it to Alibris. The insurance form on the package was apparently lost as it had not been scanned after it left Fitzwilliam.
Assuming that we had a straightforward damage claim, we filed a claim for $200. for the damaged book with our Postmaster. She duly shipped off the paperwork to the Claims Office. Unfortunately, that claim got lost in the mail so we had to refile the claim two months later.
The second time the claim was sent in it was processed and rejected. We were told that the proper procedure is for the recipient of a damaged item to take that item and the damaged package to their local Post Office where it can be inspected. However, if the recipient does mail the damaged article back to the sender, it has to be sent via U. S. Mail. If it is sent by another carrier (e.g. UPS) the Postal Service can claim that the article could have been damaged by that carrier. Alibris sent the book back via UPS.