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Return address, nah, that's just for show.
March 26, 2012 8:05 AM   Subscribe

What's the best recourse when USPS loses a package (espicially when things may not actually be their fault)?

tl;dr at the bottom, but really only looking for answers that are 'official' or have worked for someone in the past, also caveats are included, so anyway.

So, I'm getting married soon and should have asked this question weeks ago. Our budget is such that we're doing things on a bit of a shoestring and we're doing alot of stuff on our own.

My fiance's sister is of the crafty sort and made our invitations for us. By made I mean she did everything but cut down the trees and process the pulp. She made the paper by hand, printed them, did some designs/stamping/calligraphy, everything basically. She packaged them up and sent them to us for the final wax sealing and signatures.

The sad thing is that they never showed up. We started checking and it turns out the receipt from the post office shows an incorrect TO zip code {the incorrect zip is for Atlanta of all places...}. The rest of the address is fine/valid, as is the return address.

Silly us, we figured the post office would A) figure out the mistake and get it to our mailbox or B) use the RETURN address to, ya'know, return the package. We waited, waited, waited. Weeks passed. Her aunt called the dead letter office in ATL and they 'asked people via intercom to look for the package' and we went to our local offices and got nowhere.

No dice. So we've already remade them and are sending them out this weekend but they're not as cool as they could have been. I figured I'd go ahead and posit this in hopes of saving someone from this same situation.

I'm not interested in purchasing insurance/confirmation/tracking as that's obviously the trivial, proactive fix to the situation. We weren't on that side of the equation. For better or for worse, this package shipped without those things and crying over spilt milk is of no help here.


tl;dr version: If the post office doesn't deliver a plain-jane, package*, what can you do help to find/claim it?

*plain-jane package in this case is defined by no insurance/tracking/confirmation with known INCORRECT zip code but proper return address.
posted by RolandOfEld to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
In my experience (a couple of pairs of custom shoes worth a few hundred dollars), there's nothing you can do except keep your expectations extremely low and start putting Plan B into action, whatever that might be. The Postal Service might perform a cursory search or ask the carrier what happened, but that's about it. There's not a lot of room for customer service, especially in an age in which the USPS is looking at massive budget cuts and layoffs.

We started checking and it turns out the receipt from the post office shows an incorrect TO zip code {the incorrect zip is for Atlanta of all places...}. The rest of the address is fine/valid, as is the return address.

It's probably too late now, but I would have tried writing to the unintentional recipient and offering to pay for return shipping.
posted by jedicus at 8:44 AM on March 26, 2012


Have you spoken to your local post office? Sometimes a box will just be clattering around in the back somewhere.
posted by adamrice at 8:53 AM on March 26, 2012


The return might take longer than you think. My girlfriend shipped something that ended up not being delivered. We thought it had been lost but it showed up back at our place (the return address) over a month later.
posted by ghharr at 8:57 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


For all the joking, USPS is actually pretty damn good at moving stuff from point a to point b. However, given their volume, even 99.99% accurate with 700 million pieces of mail a day means a significant amount of stuff gets lost. It sounds like your wedding invitations, unfortunately, are in that small percentage. Given that there was no tracking on it, I don't think there is anything you can do.
posted by COD at 8:58 AM on March 26, 2012


jedicus: The unintentional recipient is pseudo-me at the wrong zip code. I don't see how writing another doomed letter would go anywhere productive. If I've misunderstood please clarify what' you're getting at.

adamrice: and we went to our local offices and got nowhere.

ghharr: Yea, we hoped the same thing, it's been more than a month... sucks that this is time sensitive, oh well.

COD: Yep, we figure the same thing. We're not angry, just frustrated. And I really don't understand the purpose of a RETURN address if things don't get returned. Seems like an avoidable way to fill up the dead letter office pretty quickly.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:00 AM on March 26, 2012


It's possible that the package was damaged in such a way that the return address is no longer legible.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:07 AM on March 26, 2012


It's probably not in the Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta yet (unless it has been damaged?) - it's probably still rattling around in the system somewhere, probably in a stack of packages/letters that need to be looked at by a real human being when someone gets the time to do so.

Have you called the actual post office associated with the incorrect zip code? I would probably call over there and ask what the procedure is if they have an address that doesn't match a zip code (I doubt the answer is "send it straight to the MRC"). Then, start following the trail.
posted by muddgirl at 9:12 AM on March 26, 2012


I think jedicus' point was that the package might have been delivered to someone who neglected to return the package (in other words, that it's *not* at the dead letter office), and that perhaps sending a letter to the same (wrong) address might get that person to respond and be helpful.
posted by katieinshoes at 9:13 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


re: damaged package interfering with return label, that is actually the best thought I've heard yet.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:13 AM on March 26, 2012


Also, we have contacted all 4 post offices that serve the incorrect zipcode.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:14 AM on March 26, 2012


I'm curious if the address you sent it to is a valid address in Atlanta. For instance, I've lived in a particularly "boring" address of the form xxxx yyth St that is valid is most every city in the United States. If that is the case, jedicus' suggestion makes a lot of sense - the USPS generally doesn't pay much attention to the name on the package if there's no change of address in effect; if the zip code and address match, there's a chance your package might be "mis"-delivered.

For what it's worth, similar things have happened to me, although in my case, the other address was a couple blocks away and we'd just swap mail every once in a while.
posted by saeculorum at 9:14 AM on March 26, 2012


katieinshoes: Man, anyone who received, kept, opened, and didn't forward this package has some mega bad karma... I can't help but hope human decency would prevent people from doing such a thing with something so valuable to us and so useless to themselves....

saeculorum: the address isn't valid in atlanta fwiw. nothing even close.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:16 AM on March 26, 2012


If it went to a similar address in a different zip code area, you can write to the person at the address to try to get it back. It just had this happen to me. We wrote a letter to the incorrect address and they apologized for keeping it. (they intended to return it, but just hadn't gotten around to it yet, they weren't stealing it) It is definitely a way to go. Google that address without the city/state, but with the incorrect zip, and it should give you information on the address it might have gone to.

It was actually my lovely customer who did the leg work. I made the mistake. Thank you, lovely customer.
posted by Vaike at 9:55 AM on March 26, 2012


I think you need to file an official claim, so I went to usps.gov and was surprised to find out there is no form for doing that unless you have some kind of tracking number. But I think you can call and file one:

I know you said you have called the Atlanta DLO and the POs serving that ZIP, but have you called 1-800-ASK-USPS? This page says "1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) is for customer service regarding filing of documentation for lost or delayed mailpieces, questions about Postal policies, and other general information." It is possible that the package was waylaid before it got to Atlanta or on its way back to your sister and they would have a better idea of where.

You could also try sending a letter that does have tracking to the exact same address that was used on the package and watch it to see where it goes.
posted by soelo at 11:24 AM on March 26, 2012


Vaike: we may do that. It's a bit late in the game for that to help us. C'est la vie.

soelo: That number has been called by 3 separate parties on different occasions. We were told that the process is that it will be sent back. We were also told that it would likely arrive here. Yay contradictions!
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:50 AM on March 26, 2012


Man, anyone who received, kept, opened, and didn't forward this package has some mega bad karma... I can't help but hope human decency would prevent people from doing such a thing with something so valuable to us and so useless to themselves....

In my case the package contained custom shoes for medieval reenactment. Almost certainly useless to whoever received it and quite valuable to us. Don't underestimate the power of laziness, especially when sending the package back requires not only a trip to the Post Office but also money out of pocket.
posted by jedicus at 1:10 PM on March 26, 2012


...but also money out of pocket

Is that how "return to sender" works? I guess this is straying from the topic at hand a bit but couldn't someone get this sent back for free at least? Seems like a dangerous way to scam for free postage to me...

I can see the possibility for scam potential there but in cases like this where the person could say something like "Hey, I live at 4564 Not-Real Ln here in Atlanta, not 4564 Not-Real Avenue in Other-town, could you either forward this on to the correct city or send it back to the return address?" without being met with a request for postage?

I suppose the nature of human laziness is as much a cause for concern as anything. *sigh*
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:18 PM on March 26, 2012


Is that how "return to sender" works? I guess this is straying from the topic at hand a bit but couldn't someone get this sent back for free at least? Seems like a dangerous way to scam for free postage to me...

Return to sender does mean you don't have to include postage if you are sending back something to a business (for example) and it is in the original, unopened condition and you put "Return to Sender" on it. And you know that you can do this! Which not everyone does.

Someone might have kept your package out of ignorance. In one case I know of, there was a TV Guide magazine delivered to the wrong address. The people that had it just didn't know what to do with it. But the right address was on it and it was local, so I said, "Um, how about just putting it back in the mailbox?"

In your case, it was sent to a postal code in another state, and those people have no idea who you are. I'd say trying to contact whoever is at that address is the best way to get results here.
posted by misha at 3:35 PM on March 26, 2012


Follow up: it is months later and the package is still lost. On the off chance that it ever shows up here or at the return address I will update this askme.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:44 PM on July 3, 2012


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