The term “dysfunctional bureaucracy” is a redudancy, but the U.S. Post Office exemplifies it nonetheless. Early this year, I ended up with a spare CD wallet. You know, one of those zippered pouches people use for carrying around their CDs, DVDs, computer programs, files, and the like. Since I enjoy trading on eBay, I put the thing up for sale at a nominal price, and it was won by a guy in Texas. I was glad to pass the thing on to someone who needed it, and shipped it right off via my local post office.
Couple of weeks later and I got an email from the high bidder saying that the CD wallet never arrived. I didn’t have any way of tracking the package, so after another week of it not turning up, I refunded the guy’s money. Shortly thereafter, I received a distressing letter from the “Loose in the Mails” section of the Post Office. Inside the envelope was a torn section of the package I had shipped the CD wallet in, along with a form letter explaining that it had ripped open at some point during its journey from Brooklyn to Texas and — lo and behold — the contents were missing. They also included a Parcel Search Request form for me to fill out, should I so desire.
Well, being the compulsive type that I am, I dutifully filled out the form, describing the item, its color, approximate size, brand name, etc., and sent it off to the Mail Recovery Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. I probably have too much spare time on my hands, and there’s something about a hopeless task that gets my dander up. I mean, it certainly wasn’t about the money, right? So, like I said, I sent off the form and then promptly forgot about the whole thing. This was in late February.
Well… yesterday I got a little package in the mail, from the U.S. Post Office! Inside was my Parcel Search Request, now with a proud green highlighter mark indicating the Result of Search: “Articles described above are returned herewith”. I love that “herewith” part. And inside the package was not one, but two (2) CD wallets! No, neither of them was the one I lost in the mail — the item won by the poor Texan eBay high bidder — but two totally different CD wallets! Isn’t that terrific?! I bet the person who lost these is just thrilled!
Now if I sell these CD wallets on eBay and they got lost, will I end up with 4 of them? And then 8? When will the rain of CD wallets end? And where are they all coming from?
Anyone need a CD wallet?
13 thoughts on “Loose In The Mails”
That just made me laugh out loud for the first time in a while.
I was selling a bunch of PlayStation games on eBay in 2001, before I went on my trip. Sold one to a guy in Pennsylvania, he claimed he didn’t get it, I refunded his money. Last year, it shows up in my PO box marked “undeliverable.” Both addresses were clearly labeled. What was it doing for almost three years? Where was it kept? The mind boggles.
That is beautiful. And much more concise than my sorry tale.
Someone should do a collection of all the best Post Office stories (leaving out the shooting sprees). I got a million of ’em. When I lived in Chicago in the mid-90s there was a spate of non-deliveries. Turned out one postal carrier was so overwhelmed by the volume of mail he had to deliver that he started tossing the letters into his closet. Then, when his closet overflowed, he hid under a viaduct and tried to BURN the letters. He left the smoldering bag behind and when it was found, that’s how he was finally caught.
Turned out one postal carrier was so overwhelmed by the volume of mail he had to deliver that he started tossing the letters into his closet.
God, I can totally see myself doing that. Scary.
what eles instead?
Man, imagine what they would have sent if you had described something else. A missing sock? A life-sized black, ceramic Falcon?
Post Office ought to be *selling* some of that stuff on ebay to offset the cost to the public ocffers. Ah, but that would imply a conflict of interest, wouldn’t it?
this is a great story!
it has made me so happy.
i don’t need any cd wallets, but happy is always useful.
shucks. happy to oblige.
Isn’t that how Amway Quixtar got started?
I would laugh if I wasn’t busy punching walls. The Postal Service makes me cringe. The only thing as important as air, water, and love, is mail [and comix].
Why do they bother?
just so you know the incompetencies are not limited to the USPS, here’s a great UPS nightmare (having to do with KEYHOLE #3), from when I lived in Chicago:
March 13, 1997
United Parcel Service
55 Glenlake Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30328
re: tracking #: 1ZE78340089995 6371
To Whom It May Concern:
I recently was the victim of a very distressing series of events with your company. I am a comic book publisher whose printer is in San Antonio, Texas. On Thursday, February 18, my printer informed me that a box of the newest issue had been sent by UPS to me here in Chicago. I looked forward to the arrival of the books with great anticipation.
On Monday, February 24, I returned home from my part-time job at about 9pm to find a Service Notice on my door informing me that UPS had attempted to deliver the package. Needing the comics as quickly as possible, I called customer service. I was willing to drive to the regional office and pick up the package that night, but the customer service representative said the office closed at 6:30pm and no one would be there. She said my options were to:
(a.) have the package held for pickup at the Customer Counter,
(b.) wait to have it redelivered at my home on Tuesday, or
(c.) re-route the package to another address.
This rerouting, however, would take 48 hours. My weekly schedule requires that I work my part-time job on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and am at home on Wednesdays and Fridays. Rerouting the package would be pointless – I would be at home on Wednesday when the package would be redirected. Since I wouldn’t be at home the next day (Tuesday), I figured my best option was to take the first part of Tuesday morning off from work and pick up the package at the Customer Service Counter. The customer service representative informed me she would have the package held and directed me to go to 1400 S. Jefferson on Tuesday morning to pick it up. So far, so good – or so I thought.
UPS letter part II:
The next morning, Tuesday, February 25, I drove down to the regional office and found my way to the Customer Counter, where I asked for my package. (As an aside, I noticed a sign on the door which posted the hours the counter was open. It is only open until 6pm, not 6:30 as the customer service representative had told me.) After about 15 minutes, an employee told me my package was nowhere to be found. I was very concerned and upset
by this and asked to speak to a supervisor. After another 15-minute wait, I was given a supervisor to talk to on the phone. This gentleman (whose name I never took down) informed me that the package had never been held because the message had come in too late. It seems that any messages which come in from customer service after 9pm do not reach the regional offices in time for them to do anything. So, ignorant of my need to hold the package at the center, it was again loaded on a truck to be delivered to my house. Needless to say, I was very upset to hear that my loss of valuable work time was entirely pointless.
The supervisor was contrite and offered to have the package rerouted to my job that day. He said there was no way of getting in touch with the drivers (why is that?), but if the driver called in, the supervisor would direct him to bring my package to my job. The supervisor promised to call me in any event, to let me know what would be happening. I gave him all the appropriate information about my work place, including my phone number, and left. I went to work, anticipating the arrival of my package, even waiting there until 8pm, on the off chance that the driver would make my office his last stop of the day. Needless to say, it never showed up. What was even more galling was, despite the supervisor’s promise, I never heard from him. To top things off, when I got home that evening, I found another Service Notice attached to my front door. All my requests had been totally ignored.
Now it was Wednesday, February 26, and I was royally steamed. Not only was I facing an emergency situation with the need to get the comics, but I had no idea when, where or even if they’d show up. Worst of all, I had a sneaking suspicion that finally, on the day I actually was at home, the initial message telling the central office to hold the package would actually be honored. So I called customer service again, with the tracking number of the package, to see. The customer service representative told me that everything was fine and the package was due to be redelivered that day, Wednesday, at my home address. My fears were momentarily assuaged, but when 3pm rolled by and still no package, I began to get concerned again. The previous two attempts had both been between 2 and 3pm, so why was the delivery truck late today? Now the horror really began.
I called customer service again and spoke to a representative whose name I believe was Audrey. I explained my dilemma to her for what seemed like the tenth time, giving the requisite information about the situation – my address, the package’s tracking number, my phone number, ad infinitum – and she brusquely told me that the computer indicated that the package would be delivered as scheduled. When I asked “Audrey” if she could call the office directly and confirm that the package wasn’t sitting there waiting to be picked up, she told me that she had no way of contacting the regional offices except through the computer system. By now, it was far after 3pm and I was concerned that the books would not arrive at all. I had explained the entire debacle from beginning to end, and felt as if I were hitting my head against a brick wall. At this point, I admit I lost my temper, telling “Audrey” that UPS obviously needed to fix their system in some way since they had failed me repeatedly, leading me astray, giving me false information, and still not delivering the package.
UPS letter part III (almost the end!):
A few hours later, at about 5pm, I began to panic. It was obvious that the package was not going to be delivered and I had a premonition it would never arrive at all. I called customer service for at least the fourth time and spoke to a representative named James. After relating my situation again, he interrupted me to inform me that “I” had requested that the package be returned to the sender!!! I was dumbfounded. I realized with horror that “Audrey,” in a sick attempt to get revenge on me for my losing my temper, had attempted to sabotage me. There was no way “Audrey” could have misinterpreted anything I said to her that would have made her think I wanted the package returned to sender.
I insisted on speaking to a supervisor, but when James put me on hold to get one, he mistakenly disconnected me! I was in shock, but at least I figured UPS would call me back since they had my number (which I’d given to them 100 times). No such luck. I waited at least ten minutes and no one called. Finally, I called the 800 number again, demanded to speak to a supervisor immediately, and, again, after a five minute wait, Sharon Perez
of your Tampa, Florida office, got on the phone.
I don’t have any complaints about Ms. Perez specifically, but at this point, I was so upset that any additional delay was unconscionable. Not only did I have to tell her the entire story all over again, but it took forever. She put me on hold to look up my record. She put me on hold when she finally decided to contact the regional office directly. After twenty minutes of these delays, she returned to tell me that yes, indeed, the package never had left the center and had been sitting there the whole day. Ms. Perez had the nerve to blame me for this, saying that all the messages on the computer had “confused” the employees at the regional center! Whose fault was that? I had been very clear in my directions from the start: I just wanted my package. It wasn’t my responsibility that the first customer service rep had given me false information, that the first supervisor had lied to me, that “Audrey” had tried to sabotage and spite me. In regards to “Audrey,” I insisted that Ms. Perez find out who she was (obviously it was whichever representative had entered the fraudulent “return to sender” message in the computer), but she hemmed and hawed about being able to track down the culprit. I work in the computer industry: I know that each entry is recorded by whoever handles the order.
Anyway, Ms. Perez offered me two options. She said I could either drive down that night and pick up the package (if someone was going to be there late, how come they couldn’t have let me pick it up way back on Monday?), or I could have it delivered first thing Thursday morning. Both these ideas were unacceptable. I was not going to get in my car and drive to the south side again to pick up a package which had been paid for to be delivered to me. Similarly, I wasn’t going to miss work again in the hopes that the delivery would come Thursday morning, when in my eyes it might never come at all. I insisted to Ms. Perez that she have someone bring the package over that night. Again, I was put on hold, but finally she reluctantly agreed to have the package delivered that night, “when one of the regular drivers comes back from his route.” She sounded as if I should be grateful for this grand gesture on UPS’s part.
UPS letter part IV (the end!!!!):
Well, to end this epic tale, the package was finally delivered that night, at about 7pm. The next morning I was contacted by Mario Diaz of the Chicago regional office, who apologized for the “inconvenience” and gave me his phone number in case of future problems. He admitted that UPS’s customer service department needs reorganization and that the current computer setup is inadequate. I couldn’t agree more! My experience points out some major problems with United Parcel Service’s organization. The fact that the customer service division has no actual contact with the delivery centers, except through a ponderous and ineffectual computer system, is obviously a major part of the problem. Another serious issue is the fact that employees like “Audrey” can be allowed to sabotages customers’ packages. This absolutely can never be tolerated. Finally, the fact that drivers on their routes are totally unreachable is another problem.
I appreciated Mr. Diaz’s call, but his gesture came much too late. All of the above issues need to resolved before I would ever consider patronizing UPS again. This is not the first time I have had major problems with UPS – and I plan on it being the last. I will be sure to ask anybody I do business with in the future to explore other delivery options, anything from the U.S. Post Office to RPS to others of your competitors.
I look forward to any reply you may have.