Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2011 Issue

Gone Missing? Tracking that expensive lost shipment

Chinapackage

This package made it to Shanghai and back - insufficient address.

This is my 32nd year in the antiquarian business as a small dealer based in Hawaii. Up until May of this year I used to boast I’d never lost a shipment.

 

Certainly I’ve had packages that were delayed and sometimes returned, especially those sent to international destinations. I had one Canadian customer who didn’t want to pay the extra $3 for priority air so his book went by sea all the way to Newfoundland and then took the boat home to Maui because Canadian customs rejected it. It only took six months, but it came back. Likewise, a recent package to China bounced for insufficient address. Here it is on my desk again six weeks later after taking a very long trip.

 

But in May I had my first shipment ever go missing:

 

The root of the problem was the address supplied by Paypal was the wrong address.

 

The customer, a former New Orleans area resident had moved after Hurricane Katrina and forgotten to take her old address out of the Paypal data base. According to the company she had two live valid addresses on file. When she bought over $500 worth of antique gravures from me she paid via Paypal and supposedly inadvertently clicked on the wrong shipping information.

 

I shipped them off to her “verified” address in Louisiana, when really she lived in Minnesota. I only learned that the package had been sent to the wrong address when she called asking worriedly – “Where are my prints?”

 

Being in the middle of the Pacific I ship priority mail and for more valuable items I always insure. So I was reasonably sure that even though the prints might be lost, at least we’d recover her money.

 

Incorrect, or shall we say, at that point, unlikely.

 

Though shipping via priority using the USPS web site provides a receipt and a tracking number, on my first round of calls I learned that the post office thinks it has done its duty when the package is delivered to the destination.

 

In reality you are not shipping to a person, you are shipping to an address. The way to guarantee that the person on the label gets the package is to add the “restricted delivery” option, which means the shipper pays an additional fee, but only the person named on the package can sign for it. The post office also now offers for a lesser fee an option which requires that the person signing must be an adult.

 

Although the package was insured for the full value the post office records showed it was delivered to the address and, at least as far as my preliminary inquiry, the verdict was Sayonara – end of story..

 

Naturally I called Paypal too.

 

Paypal advised me that only the buyer could initiate an investigation. The service rep also said she didn’t think the error was their error. She thought it was the buyer’s error, however she said – if you want us to do something have the buyer contact us. I called my client, she called Paypal.

 

Within minutes they debited my account the full amount and froze it until it was paid in full by me -- the seller.

 

Fortunately the customer was an incredibly nice person and she and I were able to work it out to our mutual satisfaction. So by the end of the day the hold was off my account. But not because Paypal had investigated or helped find out why the wrong information was still lurking in their files even though the customer had been using her right address with them for years.

 

I learned that Paypal only protects the buyer, the seller is presumed to be at fault - so for a naïve seller like me turning to Paypal (and probably any other online money transfer operation) is not a productive option.

 

No, it worked out because the customer was reasonable if heartbroken. She called to say those words so rarely uttered, “It was my mistake.”

 

We decided to keep trying. I called the Post Office again.

 

Over the years I have not been the biggest fan of the USPS, but this experience changed my mind. I found their customer service was terrific: a live person came on the line within two minutes. That person contacted my home post office and someone from my home post office called me back in less than 20 minutes.  Within a week I had progressed from a clerk, to a supervisor, to the postmaster and each of them was polite and helpful.

 

They all tried to reach the post office in Louisiana, where the phone was (and is still for all we know) permanently “busy”. When none of them could get through they bumped me up to the customer service office in Honolulu. I began phone and email communication with a diligent and helpful rep. It would be hard to imagine better service.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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