I think the post office may have lost my mail, what can I do?
September 24, 2010 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I think the post office may have lost my mail, what can I do?

20 business days ago (8/30) my father sent me a very heavy, medium sized package full of books, media mail (across the country). It was not insured, there was no tracking number (yes, this is dumb, but the lesson has been learned and ). Included were 2 cookbooks that are basically irreplaceable so I really am willing to do whatever I have to to try and make sure I get this package.

It has not arrived. What can I do? I've called my local post office to make sure it's not chilling out there, and they said to have the sender file a claim, which I'll do. I have a hard time seeing the post office just LOSING mail outright, I imagine it's more like it got sorted incorrectly at some point, or MAYBE returned to the sender (I don't know why it would be).

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. In the future I'll definitely have the presence of mind to get tracking, it just didn't cross my mind -- I've never had a bad experience with the USPS.
posted by wooh to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Media Mail can be annoyingly random. I've had books and big parcels travel cross-country in three days, others in a month. I'd say don't give up hope yet, although it might seem like a long shot.

Did you check with your father to make sure he had the absolutely correct address?

Good luck -- hope they turn up.
posted by vickyverky at 9:55 AM on September 24, 2010

I use PaperbackSwap a lot, which means Media Mail. Some books show up instantly, while others - as vickyverky says - can take 30 business days or more. PBS won't even accept a "hasn't arrived yet" message until it's been 30 days since mailing. Media mail is low on the priority level and usuallybulky/ heavy, so if there is mail posted at a higher rate or that is easier to carry, media mail usually has to wait. I know I tend to get media packages on days when the neighborhood carrier has parked his vehicle close to my end of the street.

But, yes. Irreplaceable things and Media Mail are an anxiety-producing combination.
posted by catlet at 10:05 AM on September 24, 2010

My experience is the same as vickyverky and catlet. It can easily take a month for cross-country. Plus the post office was closed on 9/6 for Labor Day.

Good luck.
posted by Majorita at 10:11 AM on September 24, 2010

Another vote for giving Media Mail another week or so. On a couple of occasions its taken over 4 weeks for me to get package via this method.
posted by kimdog at 10:13 AM on September 24, 2010

I have a hard time seeing the post office just LOSING mail outright, I imagine it's more like it got sorted incorrectly at some point, or MAYBE returned to the sender

I agree with everyone else about Media Mail. And just a note about what happens when your mail is somehow missing. Unless something weird happened [like it was left on a porch and someone stole it] the most likely explanation after general lateness is that the package got damaged in some way or that the contents got separated from the box. This is unlikely but even if this happens, there is a system for it.The post office has a dead letter office [I guess they're called Mail Recovery Centers now]where undeliverable mail and damaged mail goes. They try fairly hard to match items with recipients. If you have your dad file a claim, one of the things they do is search the inventory of mail that has wound up there. Knowing specifically what your items are will be very helpful. After some fairly long amount of time, stuff in the dead letter office gets sold at auction.

It's very likely that your media mail is just late getting to you, but please go through steps and file a claim and be proactive with this, it will be the most effective way of making sure you get your things.
posted by jessamyn at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2010

Ok, thanks for weighing in. Hearing that sometimes it takes over a month, but that it's worth being proactive is good to hear. I will have my father do his part, but give it a couple weeks until I really go postal (droll pun intended)

Any and all advice deeply appreciated.
posted by wooh at 10:30 AM on September 24, 2010

I have a hard time seeing the post office just LOSING mail outright

I was once supposed to get a package of CD's and flyers, to put up around town, in exchange for free tickets to some show. The day of the show comes, and I realize I've still not gotten anything from the music label. I figure they must've forgotten or had enough other people, and "oh well".

A month or two later, I get a package that looks like it was shredded and taped back together, and sure enough, inside are the CD's and flyers....and someone else's very small package. Presumably, when my package ripped open, and they were gathering contents back together, they accidentally scooped up more than they intended.

Do not give up hope just yet.
posted by nomisxid at 11:11 AM on September 24, 2010

To ease your mind a bit, a co-worker sent a photo album to a friend via Media Mail. After 2 weeks she freaked out over it not arriving, after 3 weeks she gave it up for lost. Two and a half months later her friend received the box.

They live twenty miles apart. Media mail is not worth the money saved. At all.
posted by iconomy at 11:15 AM on September 24, 2010

I once got a package stamped with "Found loose in supposedly empty equipment." The (hilarious) fact that the stamp even actually exists says to me that this kind of thing happens fairly often. I do know this package was late and the sender complained. Voila, three days later, I received it.
posted by sugarfish at 11:28 AM on September 24, 2010

Just reinforcing that media mail can take *forever,* and occasionally slightly weird things happen to it. Don't give up hope! I shipped some obnoxious/embarrassing number (25? 30?) of books/CDs from Los Angeles to Alaska 5 years ago via media mail. 20 arrived within 2 weeks, 3 or 4 took 4-6 weeks and 1 arrived completely mangled and taped back together with an "Oops! Sorry!" message something like 4 or 5 months after I initially sent it.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:46 AM on September 24, 2010

On the other side of things: I regularly had mail (both packages and letters) go missing at my former address. Some mail carriers and post offices have a history of losing mail.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:52 AM on September 24, 2010

Did anything in the package have someone else's name / address / phone number on it? If the contents were somehow separated from the box, the workers may have used their best guess to get it to someone.

A few months ago, I mailed a 510(K) to an instructor several states away. She wrote comments on it and sent it back to me, but in the package that I received was a children's book called "Listen Buddy". At first I thought she was just trying to tell me something, but to make a long story short, she had never seen the book before in her life, and I figure that one of two things happened: A) The document was forwarded to the FDA (who became very confused as it was a mock filing) since the FDA's address was listed in the document itself, or B) I got "Listen Buddy" and some sad 8 year old kid got a 510(K) from grandma.
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 8:05 PM on September 24, 2010

On the other hand, I shipped 6 boxes of math books from Pennsylvania to Alaska by media mail, and only 5 ever arrived (and those were pretty badly damaged). I wouldn't ship by media mail again without swaddling the boxes completely in tape.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:46 PM on September 24, 2010

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