Going postal over delivery failures.
December 26, 2011 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Here we go again: This is now multiple times that the wonderful USPS has, given a package sent to me through their service, made the tracking unavailable until after the date they supposedly delivered and then claimed that it's been delivered when I've had no sign of it. Where do I actually find out what the handling policies of the USPS are supposed to be, and who can I complain to that's higher than my local branch?

The last time, the item somehow magically arrived at the shipper's again two weeks after they sent it, the tracking still claiming it had been delivered to me and the post office with no idea where it was the whole time. This time, it was supposedly delivered the 19th; I was home all day that day and the next, then went out of town for Christmas and told my neighbors to be watching my mailbox. They never saw anything.

It was not shipped with signature confirmation; this wasn't really my choice, sometimes when getting stuff online I'm sort of stuck with whatever the place offers. But again, I was home all day that day and saw no sign of a delivery. The only way I can think that they could have delivered it without anybody letting them in or just leaving me a pickup card would be essentially to just have dropped the thing on the sidewalk in front of my building, which seems like it would not constitute any reasonable definition of "delivery", but I have no idea what their actual rules are. We also (the previous seller and I) were never able to figure out last time what had happened or why it got sent back, but I suppose that's quite possible this time, too. Different seller now. I don't particularly think my local branch will do anything this time other than the same playing dumb that they did last time; they already refused to give me more direct information and claimed there was no way for them to know what had happened, which doesn't seem right somehow.

Clearly there is some real incompetence going on here. I've already started getting everything by UPS/Fedex when that's possible, but again, it isn't always. What can I really do to fix this situation and get the post office to stop treating delivery as optional?
posted by gracedissolved to Shopping (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What service are you using? Regular parcel post, or Priority Mail? I believe there are different handling guidelines.

The tracking number thing is between you and the seller; if they aren't getting a tracking number when they drop off the package for shipping they are doing it wrong.
posted by gjc at 6:57 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's a lost cause. You can have things sent to your work address, if that is possible. I'm in Philadelphia and the USPS is criminally negligent and inefficient here.
posted by carter at 6:58 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

This happens to me all the time! Sometimes, the box just shows up a few days afterwards, but there's really nothing you can do except call your local post office and be very, very nice.

Btw -- Philly has one of the busiest sorting facilities in the country, so stuff is always getting lost there.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:17 PM on December 26, 2011

I have a very good friend who is a postmaster. First, call your post office and ask to speak to the postmaster. Not a supervisor, the postmaster. In a bigger city, there may be multiple branches all under one postmaster; they should give you the number or transfer you. Postmasters take calls from the public and answer exactly questions like this. Do be polite and do be calm; postmasters deal with crazy all day (and I mean CRAZY-crazy, like, "the aliens keep sending me probes through the mail, I blame you" and "I only have ten attack dogs roaming loose in my front yard, why will you not put packages on my front step?" and my friend who is a postmaster has had to call the FBI twice this year because of crazy people with actual crazy plans and being violently crazy through the mail is a federal crime, and that's a small-town post office. Twice this year. Twice. City of 33,000. Two different people.).

Explain to the postmaster what you've explained here. It sounds like your delivery person is not doing his or her job. I had a mailperson for a while who basically hated mail and would routinely toss it in the bushes in the general direction of my house, or just not deliver things, or, on Harry Potter release day, she was so pissed about all the book boxes that she was THROWING them at people's front doors while -- get this -- we were having a neighborhood garage sale so we were all sitting outside watching her throw things at our (glass) storm doors. Anyway, you may have to report failure to deliver or carrier misbehavior a few times, but eventually it will get investigated. They will carry out actual stings to catch the carrier drunk or dumping mail or whatever. (The USPS has its own law enforcement division.)

Most people who rise to the level of postmaster are pretty dedicated to their jobs and to the USPS, so you won't run into many who can't be bothered, though you will run into some who don't deal well with angry members of the public (see the crazies, above) or who don't bother to deal with the red tape to fire a bad employee and instead shift them around and around. But you have a right to have your complaint heard, and your postmaster will (should) want to know about repeated delivery problems in order to (attempt to) fix them.

(Aside, I am a big fan of the USPS but their tracking services do kinda suck.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:49 PM on December 26, 2011 [13 favorites]

PS -- you can report non-deliveries as mail theft to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (i.e., mail cops) using this online form.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:00 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

After spending most of my life marveling at how awesome the concept of USPS was, in the last few years I agree with most of the posters above - they just suck. You can call 1-800-ASK-USPS and they will give you someone to talk to, however an experience I had recently went as follows:

1 - ask postmaster politely to stop a certain action
when they continued:
2 - inform postmaster they were in violation of postal code
when they continued:
3 - went in-person to manager of branch with copy of the postal code
when manager of branch accused me of making up (!) the postal code
4 - call ASK USPS and ask for details about the postal code (was I misinformed?)
after being told I was reading it correctly and the postmaster WAS violating the code
5 - reported the manager/branch for the violation
after a few days
6 - received a message from ASK USPS saying they were declining to take any action.

posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 10:03 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

While there are contact options, I have never had any of them pan out satisfactorily (i.e. the package is never delivered, and neither I nor the recepient is reimbursed for anything even if insurance was purchased). The worst experience I've had was sending my friend an iPod; I got insurance and delivery confirmation. It claimed to be delivered so the insurance was useless. Calling USPS was useless.

Bottom line, if someone working there wants to still your stuff, they just have to mark it delivered and no one has to pay for it. And if it wasn't stolen they don't care or make any efforts to take responsibility for it being delivered to the wrong address.
posted by Nattie at 10:52 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

er *steal your stuff
posted by Nattie at 10:53 PM on December 26, 2011

Sadly, have had no real results from quite a number of phone calls, and even after just having complained, when another package arrived that didn't fit in the mailbox, they *did* just leave it sit on the sidewalk. I am, at another suggestion, trying to figure out how to put a card on my mailbox to tell them that I want all packages held. The stupid thing there being that they insist there is no possible way they can tell my mail carrier to do this only for my unit as a matter of course, so either *nobody* in my complex can receive packages at their door anymore (which any other tenant could change back by calling the post office, evidently) or else I have to leave some kind of notification every time, and then maybe they'll follow it.

Part of the trouble when I moved up the chain seemed to come from the fact that we seem to be designated as a "bad neighborhood" because this is not the better part of town, and that therefore it seems to be treated as routine for things to be "stolen" because of course there are random roaming hoodlums going through our mailboxes in broad daylight or something in a place where nobody's even rifled my cupholder change when my ancient car's door won't lock.

I think I have to admit defeat, here. I might try to have stuff shipped to my office in the future if they'll let me, but I'm definitely not messing with home delivery in this city anymore.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:36 PM on December 31, 2011

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