is my awesome present for someone simply lost forever?
October 26, 2011 11:23 AM   Subscribe

The US Postal Service said my package was 'undeliverable' despite the fact that I live at the address provided, and get all my mail here. They didn't make another attempt. The tracking said it will be returned to sender if possible. This was about a month ago. I emailed them, and got a response that basically said 'oops, sorry. this kind of thing can happen. we have a lot mail to deal with and don't track anything and you are basically screwed.' Do I have any recourse?

I'd be much more willing to accept the capriciousness of the situation if the address wasn't perfectly correct. Do does it matter that they mistakenly failed at delivering the package initially, or do I just accept that this relatively expensive birthday present I bought for someone is just lost to the ages? I don't have a lot of money, and if so, this is giantly disappointing.

In case it is relevant, the sender and I are both in the same city (NYC).
posted by asimplemouse to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Assuming this happened en route to you from the retailer, I would consider this the retailer's problem.
posted by jon1270 at 11:31 AM on October 26, 2011

I would try calling them. Next time, follow the tracking and call RIGHT AWAY if it says that a delivery was attempted. Also, did you have insurance for the gift?
posted by 200burritos at 11:34 AM on October 26, 2011

It is the retailer's problem at this point. I'd make noise with the retailer and ask for complimentary expedited shipping on the re-ship.

Have you been in touch with the retailer? What was the method of payment? If it was a credit card or paypal then you can dispute the payment based on non-receipt of goods as evidenced by the USPS records showing non-receipt/return to sender.

You could also document all of the USPS responses you have and communicate them to the attention of the postmaster for the post office that delivers your mail in an attempt to ensure you get all future mailings to your address.
posted by de void at 11:35 AM on October 26, 2011

I'd also want to know the reason the package was undeliverable. Package too large for mailbox and no ability to hand-deliver?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:39 AM on October 26, 2011

In addition to the above, I'd use a reliable shipper like FedEx or UPS for this kind of thing. If the retailer declines to use a reliable shipping company don't do business with them.
posted by dfriedman at 11:48 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why you haven't gone to the post office IN PERSON. Package could very well be there. Show up. Talk to someone at your branch!
posted by jbenben at 11:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

de void: "It is the retailer's problem at this point.

Technically true, but:

de void: "I'd make noise with the retailer and ask for complimentary expedited shipping on the re-ship.

I'd certainly ask them to reship, but asking up-front for them to comp your shipping is over the line. It's not their fault this happened- without knowing exactly what happened, it could technically be yours. Be pleasantly surprised when they offer to ship it for free.
posted by mkultra at 11:57 AM on October 26, 2011

Via what method was this sent? First class? Media mail? Priority?

The post office has lost stuff of mine before, I make sure to send priority and insured, if I have to.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:59 AM on October 26, 2011

I actually experience this quite a bit. I'm an online retailer and I regularly send out about 50 packages a day, most of them via USPS. Take a look at the retailer's terms of sale and see what their policy is on lost items. They might take responsibility, they might not.

Now, since you're the addressee, you don't really have a lot of control over the situation, the retailer has a few more options with USPS since they sent the item - they should have records of when it was sent, if it was picked up or if they dropped it in a box or at an office. If they sent multiple items that same day they can see if everything else was delivered, just to ensure that a whole pile of mail wasn't lost. Ask them to, at the very least, open a claim with USPS. Once a claim is opened, USPS will (or say they will, at least) check every office it could possibly be in - if they find it, they'll send it back to the retailer, if not, well then it's SOL. You should know in about a week or so.

While the retailer opens the claim, if you live in an apartment complex, go to the management and ask if someone left a package for you. This happens often, it gets marked as undeliverable, but oh hey, the front desk will take it, and no one ever bothers updating the tracking number. Failing that, go to the post office in person - do not call as it will waste your time. Explain what's going on, ask the clerk to make a quick check of things. A couple of times USPS has marked something as undeliverable, set it on a shelf, and neglected to attempt redelivery.

Failing that, after the week is up and USPS is still throwing their hands up, call the retailer, and explain the situation. My TOS state we're not responsible for lost packages, but that's more or less just to cover our asses because once it's in the hands of USPS we have no control over it. However, when I get wind of something that wasn't delivered (especially if there's proof you never got it), I always always always send it out again, even if it's not our responsibility and puts me at a loss. I'd say any reputable retailer would do the same. Generally I get the original package marked "return to sender" about two months later, sometimes I don't. In the future for expensive items, I'd definitely recommend going UPS. It is a little more expensive but the peace of mind is nice, and if something goes wrong they are quick in recovering lost items, and if they can't, they're also quick about refunds.
posted by sephira at 12:20 PM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Go to the local branch and talk to someone. I had a package recently that showed up "UNDELIVERABLE" on the tracking website. We don't have a buzzer in our apartment, so everything has to be picked up at the post office and the mail carrier wrote "NO BELL - UNDELIVERABLE" on the package, instead of just "NO BELL", which meant that it probably would have gone down the "UNDELIVERABLE - RETURN TO SENDER" route rather than being held for pickup.
posted by clockwork at 2:31 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I experience this once every year or two -- and for letters addressed to my PO box number! When I complain to the Postmaster, the result is shrugging of shoulders, "It happens, sorry." But how, why? No explanation.
posted by Rash at 3:05 PM on October 26, 2011

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