Lost Post Office Package
August 30, 2004 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Lost package through the United States Postal Service: I sent a box to myself full of books from one end of the country to the other. One of those three boxes has gone missing, and I want it back. Do you have any ideas (other than to keep hoping it shows up...) to help me recover it? [MI]

I sent three boxes full of books from Montana to NC. I didn't buy tracking or insurance for them, since I've done this dozens of times without incident and I was a cheapskate. BUT, I did buy "Delivery Confirmation." On the USPS website, I can see that all three packages basically travelled together for the first two days to the 'sorting' facility here in North Carolina. All three left the sorting facility, but only two made it to my door.

It's now been over a month, so I'm officially allowed to file a missing mail report - Form 15-10. I can also write to two Mail Recovery Centers. Has anyone had any luck with this process? Is there anything else I can do? Each time I call the USPS office, they either tell me something different or don't offer any options unless I ask directly (such as, "What is form 15-10 and where can I get one?"). I'm incredibly upset ("going postal" comes to mind) - mostly at myself that I didn't spring for the tracking option since I know that the mail can be unreliable and I want those books. Any options? After writing this, it seems pretty clear that I am SOL but I thought I'd see if anyone has other ideas. Thanks in advance!
posted by fionab to Law & Government (8 answers total)
I'm not well versed in postal matters so please consider this as an outside option. I'm sure others will have better ideas, but it struck me that if you've a friend in Montana they could repeat your steps with another package that does have delivery tracking on it. Ship some tennis balls or something. Anyway, that'll let you establish the likely path and from there you can contact the appropriate facilities directly.

Contacting them directly might be needed if the system is broken... i.e. a mail employee stealing things, etc.. A national body might not put it together that several packages have gone missing on X's watch, whereas the local contacts might. This all seems like an aweful lot of work though. Surely there is an easier way?!?
posted by jwells at 7:49 AM on August 30, 2004

Best answer: I've spent a lot of time hassling with various post offices over various things, though often not with much in the way of positive results. The more meticulous you can be, the better. Here are some questions to think about. Do you know what the books were in that box, even loosely? Do you know about how much they were worth? Are you looking at just getting the books back, or do you want a settlement from the PO? Do you have any idea what happened to the non-arriving package? Does the USPS agree that it was non-delivered? Was your mailing address letter-perfect or was it approximate? Was the package packed in such a way that damage would be likely?

I have had reasonable luck using the USPS's email complaint form because issues sent to it get a tracking number and seem to help you get call-backs and someone whose job it is to deal with your problem. The USPS is pretty bad at dealing with anything at a national level. Once stuff leaves the sorting facility it's pretty much in a black box until it gets to the sorting facility on the other side. Of course, keep track of all of your phone calls and contacts, including names/dates/what you were told to do/etc. Make it clear to the people that you talk to that while you do not find them personally responsible, the organization that they work for is pretty likely responsible so you would appreciate their help solving the problem, not passing the buck. I know it's hard to stay civil during these discussion, but sometimes it can make all the difference in people being willing to go the extra mile for you. Good luck!
posted by jessamyn at 8:51 AM on August 30, 2004

Sometimes if you just go to the (would-be) delivering post office and tell them what the problem is, they can knock the package loose in the system.
posted by adamrice at 10:15 AM on August 30, 2004

My first suggestion is to go back in time and convince yourself to buy insurance on the box that went missing.

However, since my first suggestion is, according to our current understanding of physics, impossible, your other option is to write it off mentally and not waste any more of your life on something that you are destined to never see again. Other suggestions when dealing with the post office are simply counterproductive.
posted by kindall at 10:19 AM on August 30, 2004

No advice for you here, particularly, except that when I did this (from CA to TX) most of the boxes arrived together and the last box arrived a week or so later. The last box was basically a sphere of tape and cardboard. My guess is that it was late because it was falling apart.

Folks, this is a good way to ship books. Media rate is FAR less than what a moving company charges per pound, even UPS is cheaper than that. But yeah, insurance in USPS is very inexpensive. Consider it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:23 AM on August 30, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your suggestions thus far. I'll file a few letters, send an email, meet my local postmaster...and try to take the zen approach and remember that they're probably gone forever. There are some *great* books in there though, so I'm not ready to give up quite yet. The boxes were all real book boxes and well taped, so I don't think it would have fallen apart. The first two arrived five days after I shipped them, and the third was supposedly on the same delivery truck, so something went awry fairly close to the delivery point.

Jessamyn, thanks for the questions - I included the answers to those (and a few more!) in my letters to the Mail Recovery Centers and have started an online compliant file. I'll try to keep my cool with them during this process.

Media mail is definitely a great way to send books/videos etc., but I do need to buy insurance and track them in the future - even with those 'extras,' it's still considerably cheaper than any other method for those materials. Keep your fingers crossed!
posted by fionab at 11:23 AM on August 30, 2004

Media rate is FAR less than what a moving company charges per pound, even UPS is cheaper than that
Plus the first $100 in insurance is free.

How did you attach the address? From my experience shipping a package by UPS - always place a clear adhesive tape over the address with the tape covering a larger area. Because they can come off, be damaged by moisture, be destroyed by a sharp object or punctured destroying the address’s reading legibility. The address is your shipping key. Have received packages that were not intended for me, but had my label on it. Also have received returned packages because no address label was on package which happened a lot with those adhesive shipping envelopes (receiver’s paper work). They only made it back because of my “UPS account” stamp.
Did you have a return address?
posted by thomcatspike at 3:38 PM on August 30, 2004

For future mailings/shippings... it's also a good idea to make an itemized list of exactly what is being shipped in each box. In this case, a list of each book's title and perhaps, hardback or softback... something like that. It could come in handy, even if it just serves as a way for you to try and replace the books at a later time. Good luck.
posted by Witty at 3:08 AM on August 31, 2004

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