Package returned postage due but had enough postage. Reasons/options?
November 13, 2020 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I shipped an insured media mail package via USPS. The transaction was done at the counter where a worker weighed the package and applied the (supposedly) correct postage. Despite this, the package was returned to me "postage due". I was wondering if anyone who's dealt with a similar situation might know why the package was returned when the postage was correct, and/or if I have any options in fighting this and/or getting reimbursed for the postage.

I sold a bunch of CDs to someone on eBay, and shipped the package via USPS media mail and with insurance. The transaction was done at the counter with a USPS worker, so the package was (supposedly) properly weighed and the correct amount of postage applied. The package managed to make it to the next processing facility according to the tracking info. However, despite the above, the package has been returned to me with the postage label (and sender's address) peeled/cut off and "Postage Due $1x.xx" written on the package. So now I'll have to reship the package and spend more $ on postage/insurance (methinks the buyer would react negatively if I ask him to spring for a second round of postage fees).

This is admittedly a new situation for me. I'd be interested to know how a package could have been returned postage due even if the (supposed) correct postage amount was applied by one of their workers at the counter. (Granted, if the worker is who I remember it being, I could see him just putting on the tracking label and spacing on putting on the postage label ). I'm also wondering (or more likely hoping against hope) if I have any options in terms of fighting this or being reimbursed by USPS for the postage or whatnot (since it was the package was returned due to their error), and if the fact that the package was insured would help in any way. (The tracking still shows the package at the other facility so in theory it could be considered "lost", but I'd prefer to just do a claim for the postage instead of the entire package, and then just resend the package to the buyer).
posted by gtrwolf to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you keep your receipt? It should have all the information needed to see if you can get your money back, but at $1x.xx, it wouldn't be worth my time.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 11:20 AM on November 13, 2020

Does the box appear to have been opened? Was there anything at all in the box besides the CDs and a packing slip? Media mail restrictions are notoriously strict and it sounds like USPS may have inspected the box and decided (fairly or not) that the contents were not eligible for media mail.

I once tried to ship a big box of books via media mail, and the postal worker at the counter refused to send it because there were a couple of notebooks thrown in with the books.
posted by mekily at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if it was opened. I opened the box up myself to check, and it doesn't look like anything was disturbed. I didn't include any correspondence or even a packing slip in the package. It was only CDs, bubble wrap, and (blank) packing paper.
posted by gtrwolf at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2020

Media mail is more restrictive than regular mail. According to this article, CDs would not be considered eligible for media mail.

I suspect your unintentionally non-compliant contents were discovered and your package returned.
posted by rw at 1:02 PM on November 13, 2020

The thing is said article mentions that "sound recordings" would qualify as media mail, thus CDs should be considered media mail. (I've mailed CDs via media mail before and told the clerk up front (including this time) that I was shipping CDs - with one clerk even once opening up the package in front of me to see if it qualified as "media mail" - and it hadn't been a problem up to now).
posted by gtrwolf at 1:16 PM on November 13, 2020

According to this page from the USPS, CDs of sound recordings qualify for Media Mail.

Note: the domain is owned by the USPS, as is
posted by jamaro at 1:18 PM on November 13, 2020

According to this article, CDs would not be considered eligible for media mail.

The article specifically says CDs are allowed (and so do other sources from the USPS).

Were they professionally released with all the album art, etc. (i.e. not looking like blank CDs)? Idk, maybe you just caught the postal inspector on a bad day -- this is really odd, it seems like your package should have been fine.

The only other possibility I can think of is that the clerk made an error with the scale when printing the postage and accidentally undercharged you.
posted by mekily at 1:27 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Granted, if the worker is who I remember it being, I could see him just putting on the tracking label and spacing on putting on the postage label

That would matter and would be my best guess as to what happened. If you're within the guidelines of Media Mail (i.e. look like sound recordings and not just blank merchandise) I'd take it back to the post office if you have the receipt and ask them what happened. I've had stuff returned postage due when stamps fell off, maybe this is a version of that.
posted by jessamyn at 1:37 PM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Have you weighed it yourself? There is a method of theft where the item is weighed and requires say $4 to ship, the employee takes the $4 from you, takes the package, attaches a $2 label, keeps $2 and throws the package on the pile. I would just out of curiosity see if the weight matches the postage.
posted by InkaLomax at 2:09 PM on November 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Take it back to the same Post Office and explain what happened. On Paperback Swap, people often tell stories of post office mistakes like this and they almost always just resend it with no more payment needed if they can verify the amount was correct. The label being peeled or cut off is the odd part and that is why the postage is now due. Normally when postage is due, the label is not purposely removed, partly so it is obvious how much was put on initially. If you have the tracking number, hopefully you also have the receipt and you should bring it along.

Insurance is not applicable here - it is for lost or damaged goods and not postage problems.
posted by soelo at 7:36 PM on November 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

It should be pretty easy to tell if the postage is attached or not ā€” is it? If my memory is correct it should look something like this, a little printed label with a dollar amount and a QR-code-like symbol (not a standard barcode). Though Iā€™m not sure whether the media mail label looks different. In any case there should definitely be a label with a dollar amount indicating postage paid ā€” if not, then yes the postal worker forgot to attach the postage.

The tracking label is a standard barcode.
posted by mekily at 6:55 AM on November 14, 2020

I weighted the package and compared it against the weight listed on the receipt, and they just about match, give or take a couple of ounces (not enough to kick up to the next pound). So either someone opened up the package and mistook a CD in a digipak for a magazine, the postage label fell off, or the original worker blanked on putting the postage label on (though that would mean that he'd have to at least put a separate tracking label on - which was torn off on the return trip - because I managed to track the package to the next facility).

So I'm going to follow soelo's advice and take the package back to the post office and explain the situation in hopes that they won't charge me for a second round of postage. Which leads me to my next question: USPS wrote "Postage due" in large letters on the box as well as slapping on a "We regret to inform you that your mail is being returned to you due to issues with the postage or format applied to the shipping label. Contact your PC Postage vendor for assistance" sticker. Can I leave the sticker, etc. on the box so when I take the box back to the PO (along with the receipt), I can show them that they returned it to me in error (and hopefully won't charge me to ship it again?). I would think the answer would be 'yes', but I'm no longer taking anything for granted.... (I'll include a packing slip inside the box as well to show that everything inside the box qualifies as "sound recordings")
posted by gtrwolf at 9:42 PM on November 15, 2020

Yes leave everything the way it is when you bring it back. I think they will be able to remove/obscure the markings and make it postable again. You might bring some scissors, tape, and a big marker so you can do it yourself if they won't. Try to go at a less busy time if there is one you know of. Saturday mornings are very busy at my local, but most weekday afternoons are light.
posted by soelo at 9:26 AM on November 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I took the package back to the post office today and, after the worker and manager discussed what to do (it's probably rare they deal with a situation like this), they let me reship the package (with the original amount of insurance) without charge. (I opened up the box to show them it qualified as media mail, but overall there wasn't really any hassle). Knock on wood the package makes it to its destination this time...
posted by gtrwolf at 10:22 PM on November 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

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