Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2011 Issue

Gone Missing? Tracking that expensive lost shipment

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

Just to cover all the bases I thought I’d call the cops down there and see if they’ll send someone out to confirm that somebody at that end actually got it. The Louisiana postal station was slow to respond, but the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department was speed personified.

 

At the Sheriff’s office a deputy answered on the first ring. He transferred me to a dispatch lady. She sent an officer out to the house and then called me back in Hawaii in less than a half an hour to say that the person they spoke with had no recollection of such a delivery.

 

The customer still had friends in her old neighborhood. She got one of them out to go there in person and also check. The person who answered the door had no memory of the package.

 

Meanwhile back in Honolulu the customer service rep reviewed the file and mentioned that postal reps have access to tracking computer screens the customer can not see. He pointed out that any package with an insured value of more than $200 requires a signature and that this transaction though marked as delivered had no signature.

 

He also noted that the name that showed on the tracking receipt was not the name of a person who received the parcel; it was the name of the mailman. The Honolulu rep learned this interesting information though the Louisiana office which though it did not answer the phone did reply to his email.

 

By this time the Hawaii end was thinking things were a little odd down south: five people from Hawaii could not reach a live person in Louisiana and the insurance receipt for a high value item was unsigned.  My postmaster insisted I file an insurance claim and provided the proof that the receipt was unsigned. She also initiated an internal investigation.

 

Somewhere along the line they also suggested I contact the postal inspector.

 

At this office the phone is answered by a recording which begins….”You have reached a federal law enforcement agency…press 1 to report a bomb threat………;" it goes on to give a list of equally scary options. Here I also reached a live person rapidly, though he declined to give his name or exact location (“We’re in the mountains”).

 

I learned from our conversation that this office can help you if you suspect theft or fraud, but it’s not the place to go for help in getting something back that was inadvertently sent to the wrong place.

 

Au contraire, if you send something to the wrong place by mistake I was told it is viewed as unsolicited, i.e. junk mail and whoever gets it can do anything they want with it including throw it away or “forget” that it ever came.

 

Trying to track down that package was stressful and time consuming. It was an expensive education and I definitely learned a thing or two from the experience.

 

I learned that a so “verified” address is not always really verified. I learned people do make mistakes. I learned that for high value items I want to spend a little extra time making sure the shipping information is correct. I also want to spend a little extra money to be sure that the parcel is delivered to and signed for by the actual person whose name is on the label and that I can prove it with a signed receipt.  

 

I also got a new look at the people behind the scenes at the post office. In this situation I have only good things to say about them.

 

My customer and I have now spent over a month exploring all the possible ways to find the parcel and get it back.

 

Where are those pictures?

 

So far the answer is: Nobody knows.

 

Will the post office pay the insurance claim?

 

I don’t know that either.


Reach AE writer Susan Halas at wailukusue@gmail.com

         

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