See the tear standin' in my eye
June 15, 2008 12:53 AM   Subscribe

The USPS lost the contents of a media-rate package. Many books within. What are the odds I'll get any of it back?

A couple weeks ago I shipped a box, shortly before moving to a new address. Today I got a letter saying the contents were found to be missing, and included the original address slips from the box, and a form letter asking to provide info on the contents, to be sent to a mail recovery center.

I'd thrown a ton of random books in there, but I'll probably be able to figure out most of the titles. All in all, everything's replaceable so it's not a complete nightmare (although I'd like the Calvin and Hobbes one back in particular), but has anyone had success getting their stuff back in a case like this, especially when nothing was personalized or really unique? I've looked around online on the matter, and some have suggested trying to find a number to call the center directly. Whatever I do, I'm kind of skeptical they'll put that much effort into tracking everything down.

Considering two of my other packages seemed to have endured a lot of rough handling, I'd hate to see what actually goes on during the course of the shipment process.

And one of the frustrating things was the letter advising me to, in the future, include contact info within the package itself. Wish I'd thought of that earlier. (slaps forehead)
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
I shipped some books media mail and the USPS sent me a letter saying that the books were lost and asked me to fill out a form with what the books were. Sounds like you got that same letter though.
posted by k8t at 1:56 AM on June 15, 2008

Not to defend media mail too much, but I shipped at least 300 books last year and only 1 got lost.
posted by k8t at 3:03 AM on June 15, 2008

As a Canadian who runs a business working primarily with US companies and who receives packages daily from the US sent (by my request) via USPS, DecemberBoy's comments should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. And how. In five years of business, one package has gone missing.

To file an insurance claim, here's more info:
posted by twiki at 5:59 AM on June 15, 2008

I've shipped many items, and had many more shipped to me. We're talking hundreds of DVDs, CDs, and books, with maybe one out of forty going missing. I chalk up some of it to naughty sellers. One thing I have noticed is, if it is lost, I never, ever, ever get the package at some later date. Assume it enters some black hole.

I should start tracking this kind of thing.
posted by adipocere at 6:21 AM on June 15, 2008

If they were just lost (ie, the box got somehow destroyed and the contents were scattered), you probably will get them back sometime. The USPS takes an almost perverse pleasure in delivering mail that's mangled. I've gotten things that were torn in half. The postmaster of the station where the damage occurred most likely keeps a list of missing things through his office, and when things turn up, they'll send them where they belong. It can't hurt to send them a list of stuff.

However, if there was any malicious activity (someone got mad at the heavy box or wanted one of the book in there) the perpetrator probably made the stuff disappear.
posted by gjc at 7:25 AM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Media mail is the bane of my existence. I've had two packages I've shipped via media mail not turn up at their destination points. Don't count on your stuff being found.
posted by at 7:51 AM on June 15, 2008

I've had them lose stuff and I've had some packages delayed for over a month.

How do postal workers steal stuff? Aren't you surrounded by other employees?
posted by mecran01 at 8:07 AM on June 15, 2008

My first purchase from eBay many, many, years ago for a large collection of vintage magazines sent via USPS media mail resulted in an battered and empty box delivered to my door. I was aghast; the seller was mortified. Since the box actually did get to its destination, sans content, the odds of me ever receiving those magazines were slim. I was especially upset that USPS would just dump the sorry looking mess of cardboard on my doorstep without saying anything or leaving a note, since the weight printed on the label stated that the package was 20 lbs.

While USPS never did find out what happened to the contents, the process for filing the insurance claim was surprising smooth. I got my money back for the full stated value of the magazines + shipping quickly, and didn't have to jump through any hoops for proving the value of the content.

Since you never received a package and the USPS recognizes that it's lost, there's still a tiny glimmer of hope that they might recover it. But since nothing in there is irreplaceable, filing an insurance claim (it's insured, right?) is going to be super easy, and a check for the full amount of the books should be on your way.
posted by agenais at 10:50 AM on June 15, 2008

When I was in the Navy I shipped a bunch of books home via media mail...never saw hide nor hair ever again...but I was stupid, these were 1st edition D&D and the like, so I'm sure some mail worker was made very happy with the cash derived from the sale of them. Hopefully since yours appear to be more run of the mill, you'll get them back.
posted by legotech at 11:12 AM on June 15, 2008

If there are a bunch of loose books lying around some post office somewhere along the path of your parcel, you'll get all the titles you can name. (It might even be that they have all your books ready to return to you, but they need the direct confirmation that they did come from your parcel).

It seems to me that if a parcel goes missing, then it's probably gone somewhere outside of the post office's domain (e.g. it's been misdelivered, stolen, or lost somewhere outside of the post office). But if they still had the parcel without the contents, then the contents were probably spilled within a post office building somewhere -- and books are relatively hard to destroy and easy to identify.

In any case, the chances that your books in particular we be found are probably not strongly correlated with the general opinion (or the experience of users) on Ask Mefi. :-)

Either your books are already sitting somewhere waiting to be claimed or they aren't (I doubt that they're hiding undiscovered somewhere where the post office could find them if they hunted) and the only way to find out is to fill in the forms.
posted by winston at 11:42 AM on June 15, 2008

Well, yesterday I received a magazine from the package that fortunately had my current address on the cover. Kinda makes me wonder if leaving a note with my address in the original shipment would've been of any help. But it gives me some hope that everything else might yet be salvageable.

Still too lazy to send in my item listing though. But thanks to everyone for responding.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:17 PM on June 17, 2008

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