Post Office Offers Refund In Stamps After Delivering Priority Mail Package Five Weeks Late

“I wanted to let you and my fellow readers know about the agonizing experience I had with the US postal service recently. They didn’t quite lose my “2 to 3 day” Priority Mail package, but inexplicably shipped it back and forth across the country for over 5 weeks, missing Christmas by over a week, and then told me I did not deserve a refund!”

I mailed the package on November 27, 2007 via USPS Priority Click-N-Ship from Salt Lake City to Great Neck, NY. It contained heirloom Christmas ornaments and 25-30 year old hand knit Christmas stockings that I was sending to my daughter, as we were spending Christmas at her home this year. Although the package was insured, these items are not really replaceable, so I was very distraught throughout the whole ordeal. The total postage was around $19.

Priority Mail between here and there consistently takes only 2 days, which is exactly what the web site says as well if you price the postage. After a week I feared it was lost and started calling, and calling, and calling… Over the next 4 weeks, I made at least 50 phone calls, talked to 18 different USPS employees, including several supervisors (some as many as six times) in Salt Lake City, Denver, Jersey City, NJ, and Great Neck, NY. My package was finally delivered on January 2, 2008 to Great Neck. Here are the search results from the online “Track & Confirm” link, which detail my package’s bizarre journey:

Label/Receipt Number: XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX
Detailed Results:

Delivered, January 02, 2008, 1:24 pm, GREAT NECK, NY 11021
Arrival at Unit, January 02, 2008, 8:13 am, GREAT NECK, NY 11021
Processed, December 31, 2007, 10:33 pm, KEARNY, NJ 07032
Processed, December 29, 2007, 3:27 pm, JERSEY CITY, NJ 07097
Processed, December 21, 2007, 9:39 pm, DENVER, CO 80217
Processed, December 16, 2007, 6:46 pm, JERSEY CITY, NJ 07097
Processed, December 07, 2007, 6:44 am, DENVER, CO 80217
Processed, December 02, 2007, 12:02 am, JERSEY CITY, NJ 07097
Electronic Shipping Info Received, November 27, 2007

What happened? I am still trying to find out. The first error occurred in Salt Lake City, where the package was sorted visually by an actual person. My package was put with the bulk mail, which is processed at totally different facilities than the Priority mail. Then, every time it was scanned in Jersey City, it was sent to Denver. No one can explain why this happened. I got the number for the Jersey City bulk mail center and started calling them on December 7, when I saw that it was sent to Denver. No one could explain why it was sent to Denver. What is most baffling to me is that I was told that the scanners do not recognize packages as “Priority”, despite the fact the package was prepared online and the barcodes are full of more than enough information to figure out the package is Priority mail! Apparently the postal service does not use their own informational databases to error check their package sorting. If it is incorrectly sorted at the beginning, good luck ever fixing it!

When I explained the the package contained irreplaceable items intended for Christmas, Phil and Richie in Jersey City assured me that they would “flag” the package so it would be manually removed when they got it again. That did not happen, and they sent it to Denver again! By now I was so frustrated that I was in tears. I was calling the Denver bulk mail center and the Jersey City center nearly every day. Lillian, a supervisor in Jersey City, said they had notes all over the facility to look for the package. Finally Phil found it on Saturday, December 29th, called me, and later delivered it to the nearby Priority Mail center.

Both Phil and Lillian claimed that an old UPS label on the bottom of the box was the cause of the problem, but it was not only half torn off, but also blacked out with marker. I am reasonably sure the barcode was not readable by scanner. Besides, Phil admitted the packages are scanned only once at each facility. Since my package was entered into the tracking database every time it was processed, it was obviously scanned correctly and the mutilated UPS label was not the problem. They simply refused to accept any kind of responsibility for their repeated errors.

Every person I talked to in consumer affairs during this ordeal told me I was entitled to a refund, which I certainly agreed with. After the package was finally delivered, I called, explained the situation, and requested a refund. I was told I did not qualify for a refund, because they do not guarantee any delivery except Express Mail! Despite the fact ALL of the literature for Priority Mail says “2 to 3 days”, apparently 5 weeks seems like a reasonable timeframe to them. I had to do even more calling, escalating, and fax my copy of the label (even though their own tracking database clearly shows all of the errors they made) to get my refund. After all this, they would only refund me by giving me $19 in stamps, despite the fact I had paid for the label with my credit card on their own web site. As if I ever want to send anything with the USPS again! I contacted my credit card company to initiate a chargeback.

I have learned a few things from this experience:

  • 1. If you really want any accountability, guaranteed delivery times, or solid tracking, don’t use USPS.
  • 2. Be sure to plaster Priority Mail labels all over your boxes to make sure they are sorted correctly.
  • 3. Just use FedEx, UPS, or someone else!

In the end, it still seems no one has any idea why it was sent back and forth between Jersey City and Denver in the first place, and they don’t really care enough to debug their system so it doesn’t happen again.

Thanks for reading!

Really USPS, a refund in stamps? The Post Office can guarantee delivery dates, but only if you shell out a few extra bucks. If you want an extra measure of security, or a refund in greenbacks, you can always use one of the private-sector competitors—but we hear they are no better.

(Photo: The Library of Congress)


Edit Your Comment

  1. chrisgoh says:

    I understand your complaint, but my PO makes sure to point out that priority mail is not a guarantee of delivery. Heck they can totally lose the package and owe you nothing unless you bought the insurance. That said, I’ve used the express next day a few times (which is guaranteed) and almost always get a refund because it never gets there on time.

  2. timmus says:

    Yeah, I’m going to have to chime in here and say never, never, never, never, never send -anything- of sentimental or irreplaceable value unless you use Registered Mail. The registered mail service is about $4 extra but it’s money well spent as it adds a chain of signatures so that it’s possible to find out who is responsible if the package gets lost.

    I am not the first to jump in on these “blame the victim” pile-ons, but it is the poster’s fault for not opting for registered mail, or at least certified return receipt.

  3. timmus says:

    (bump to make my post appear)

  4. headon says:

    @ Timmus: Hey leave the lady alone she is right in expecting reasonable service. It’s clearly USPS fault not the poster. They should not give her the run around like that. They have got a broken system they need to fix it. Oh and lady don’t cheap out. Use next day or registered mail. Yeah you saved yourself a few bucks on shipping your irreplacable crapola but geez was it worth it. Hell no.

  5. r0ck says:

    How would registered mail have solved the OP’s problem? The issue wasn’t losing the package at delivery. It was lost in transit.

  6. laserjobs says:

    USPS has lost a box of 50 book that weighed in at 50lbs. Never contacted even though the box was clearly marked and invoices were included in the box with the books. Had one priority shippment vanish, another come back because it looks like someone drove over it and could onlt read the return address. Tryed to contact the posmaster 5 times and everytime I was told I would be contacted back and never have been. Ordered supplies, never showed. So basically nobody is accountable at USPS at least in my area. Buyer Beware.

  7. Hawk07 says:

    Yeah, I was surprised that anyone offered you a refund on the ordeal b/c Priority Mail has never been guaranteed (in recent memory) if it goes beyond the 2-3 days. Also, USPS packages carry no minimum insurance as opposed to UPS and Fedex which I think is $100 per package and you buy insurance from there.

  8. swalve says:

    Also, the scanning machine most like CAN read barcodes that are blacked out, if you look at it, the barcode is usually still shiny after it’s been blacked out.

    Seems like all of this could have been avoided by using a new box or completely removing old stickers.

  9. cde says:

    So this wasn’t a refund, it was a “get-the-customer-to-shut-up”/goodwill gesture. Besides, postage stamps = like cash for face value.

    If the package was lost and you bought insurance, then you would have had a cash/check refund.

  10. r0ck says:

    @r0ck: Oops. I confused signature confirmation with registered mail.

  11. chilled says:

    I’m waiting on a package now that was posted 10 days ago in rochester coming to n.c.!! tracking says it was mailed,but still in’ve got some real dumb fucks working at USPS anyway..UPS seems better.

  12. dualityshift says:

    @headon: Hey! Leave the poor consumerist reader alone. He was neither beligerent or caustic. In fact, he provided some possibly useful information to the “poor lady.”

  13. chilled says:

    @timmus mine was registered,no help there

  14. chilled says:

    stamps are like money in prison..

  15. AW99 says:

    I also had a bad experience with the USPS recently. I ordered a Christmas gift for through Amazon – a golf calendar. I had it shipped to my work since the mail man that delivery’s to my house will never drop anything off large than a standard envelope even though I have very large mail box and a mail slot on my front door. The shipping and tracking said it arrived at my company on 26th but my receptionist never received it. The station manger of the post office that claims to have delivered the package avoided my calls. My complaint kept getting bounced bath and forth between the Consumer Service department and the Postal Inspector. Every time I called either department, I was issued a new confirmation number to track my complaint. But each new number references the previous confirmation number. In the end, my package was never found, two mail thief complaints were filed, and I learned the different departments in the USPS don’t know how to communicate with each other. Also, the Postal Inspector is like the CIA apparently they don’t report to anyone and only it if make an arrest will you know your complaint has been investigated. Thankfully Amazon refunded my purchase

  16. Joe_Bagadonuts says:

    Ha, refund in stamps, that sounds familiar to me. About a year ago or so, I was shipping something at the post office, and the clerk fat-fingered the transaction on the card machine to be like $90 instead of $9. I noticed it and refused to sign the slip and asked for the transaction to be canceled and run again correctly. The clerk said he couldn’t do that and I’d have to take the difference in merchandise or stamps. When I told him I didn’t want/need roughly $81 in stamps, envelopes, or tape and asked for the supervisor he said that he’d give me stamps then he could refund me in cash for the stamps. What? Just refund the money, but he insisted that I needed to get the stamps.

    Twenty minutes later after he had physically sorted out exactly how many stamps (a whole other story) I needed to make up for the change, and handed them to me, he took them back and credited me the money. Not to mention I was in a bit of a hurry, and he took his time figuring out and physically counting out the stamps to hand to me so I could just hand them back to him. And I got the money back as cash, not a credit to my card. That prettymuch ate up most of my lunch break that day. So much for the midday to-do list when mailing something at the Post Office is on it.

    I’m pretty sure this was an issue with the clerk not knowing how to do a void/refund on the card machine, not a policy with the USPS, but still about on par for the local Post Office service.

  17. kc2gvx says:

    I have had excellent service with the USPS. For $8.95 flat rate boxes, Priority mail, you can’t beat it. They even give you the boxes, and you can use the automated machines to ship at the post office. You never have to wait in lines again. I feel for the victim, but the USPS does make mistakes. UPS Ground is more expensive, and takes about a week. Not sure how Fedex’s prices are. Out of all the stuff I sent from E-Bay sales, all the items made it within 3 days except for 2 items that took a week.

  18. rdm says:

    “If you really want any accountability, guaranteed delivery times, or solid tracking, don’t use USPS.” Well, yes. Their tracking is beyond useless.

  19. Paul_Blackstone says:

    The fact of the matter is that using one of the private companies to ship parcels often results in equally or more frustrating ordeals. Thats the nature of the shipping business, with millions of pieces being taken to every stretch of the country, you have to expect some errors will get made along the way. If you don’t then you’re setting yourself up for big disappointments like this one. And consequently, insurance exists for that very reason – use it! Regardless, USPS has a flawless record in my book, and Priority Mail is far cheaper AND faster than anything the private companies offer.

  20. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    I will say this: By and large the USPS does a fine job of handling all of my mail and getting it where it needs to be when I need it there. UPS and Fedex have much higher f*up rates in my book.

  21. fredmertz says:

    The USPS does a spectacular job and has one of the finest delivery records of an postal service on the planet. Nobody will ever be 100% and the only reason people get so annoyed at these rare mistakes is because the USPS’ record is so close to perfect. Talk to anyone who lives outside of the US before you get overly frustrated with what we have.

  22. scoosdad says:

    I’m not so sure now that Newman was a caricature of postal employees after reading this. He was the real deal!

    The USPS “tracking system” is a joke. Mostly I see that the package info was received electronically at some far-off point, then magically it arrives at my door. Nothing in between that would allow you to figure out where it is or when it’s going to arrive. I’m amazed at the amount of info that the OP got out of their system.

  23. Magicube says:

    I’m not sure what the complaint is. As the poster said, Priority Mail is not guaranteed. The tone of it is a bit on the hysterical side, as if there were a conspiracy against the package.
    USPS is an extremely inexpensive, efficient way to move mail and packages across the country. UPS and Fedex are not significantly more reliable, nor do they have a significantly higher customer satisfaction rate.
    Throw a rock and you’ll hit someone with a horror story with each carrier. I certainly have many for each. While I’m happy that UPS pays my insurance claims, I would rather they not destroy my packages. While USPS offers home pickup when I’m not home (and they can let themselves into my lobby), I wish their large, heavy box rates weren’t so high. Etc. You chose the most appropriate carrier and they screwed up. And they were kind enough to give you something for your trouble EVEN THOUGH THEY WEREN’T OBLIGATED TO.

  24. says:

    well, TECHNICALLY, stamps ARE supposed to be currency, so they should work everywhere

    …and i rephrase TECHNICALLY

  25. Aladdyn says:

    Although this story sounds like a frustrating experience it’s obviously an isolated incident and no reason to never use USPS again. The fact that the employees were helpful and as far as the OP said weren’t rude and eventually fixed it by finding a needle in a haystack speaks to USPS being a good choice.

  26. madanthony says:


    The reason the USPS “tracking system” doesn’t provide accurate tracking is because it’s not a tracking system. It’s called “delivery confirmation”, and all it promises to do is confirm that an item is delivered, not tell you where it is at any time – sometimes it will have that info if it’s scanned, but not always.

    As people have stated, Priority Mail will “usually” take 2 days, but there is no promise, unlike express mail. I’m also puzzled why the OP used a used box, when Priority Mail gives free boxes if you are shipping priority, unless his package was too big to fit in their boxes.

    I sell on eBay sometimes, and use Priority for smaller packages. I’ve generally had good luck with them, although I have occasionally had packages that took way too long. But I also buy a lot of computer equipment as part of my day job, and I’ve had UPS and FedEX both drop the ball and lose or misdeliver expensive equipment. Lets face it, when you are processing millions of packages, screwups will happen.

  27. kc-guy says:

    Sounds like the mob”
    “Of course you can pay for *protection insurance* to ensure your package arrives safely…for a small fee. Otherwise we might have to auction off your “lost” property for a profit.”

    I wish I could start a government-funded monopoly that told paying customers that it would “try” to do the job, but couldn’t make any promises. Wait, doesn’t Congress do that already?

  28. kc-guy says:

    Question for the class: What exactly does “priority mail” mean? Perhaps “We load it on the plane before everybody else’s stuff, but no rush?

  29. matt says:

    Hey, at least the post office doesn’t have to care about whether or not they deliver your package or lose a customer – they’re the government – they get their money around April 15.

  30. Landru says:

    I usually have good service with the USPS, at least with regular first class letters – but when there is a problem… Talk about bogged down with disinterested employees! They transfer calls just to get rid of them, no one ever calls back, and very often people say, “I don’t know about that. I can’t help you. I don’t know who could.”

    It seems that there are no escalation procedures – if there are, nobody knows about them, including the USPS employees.

    I use UPS or FEDEX whenever possible.

  31. skategreen says:

    USPS played hide ‘n seek with my husband’s car registration tabs. He was on an extended business trip to Florida (from NY) Wouldn’t you know, his car registration renewal was due a couple days before he was due to drive home.

    Like a good little wife, I ordered the new tabs in plenty of time, and then priority mailed them to him, they should have been there 10 days before his departure.

    Naturally, they never arrived. In the 7 days leading up to his departure I made dozens of calls and ended up being told to file a “theft report” with the FBI/USPS or some such thing. I filed it..and he drove home with expired tabs.

    Got new ones at the DMV locally…and lo and behold, 4 weeks after he arrived home? The priority mail envelope arrived at my door.

    USPS helped get my husband home safely! He had to drive a bit more carefully so as not to get stopped by the cops. Wayyy to Go USPS!

  32. ClayS says:

    If you need guaranteed delivery, Priority Mail is not the answer. The USPS does a good job for a government agency. Certainly better than UPS or Fedex, and at a lower cost. If you need your package to be delivered by a certain time, pay a few dollars more for a service with a guarantee, and stop complaining.

  33. Elvisisdead says:

    @Magicube: 100% agreed. As stated earlier, it’s pretty clear that if you want guaranteed delivery, you have to chump up for express mail.

    The other thing that isn’t clear to me is if she was going there, why didn’t she just take the things with her if they were heirloom and irreplaceable? She rolled the dice and lost. There is always a small chance that when you send anything that it will get lost or damaged. She rolled snake eyes this time around. I mean, she has cause to be upset, but temper it with a bit of reasonability and common sense.

  34. Elvisisdead says:

    @ClayS: “for a government agency”? How about their operations dwarf UPS, FedEx, and DHL? There is not another company or organization in the world that can do what they do. Deliver mail and packages to every know address in the entire United States 6 days of the week. I’d say that’s pretty good for any package handling service, private or public.

  35. scoosdad says:

    @madanthony: “The reason the USPS “tracking system” doesn’t provide accurate tracking is because it’s not a tracking system. It’s called “delivery confirmation”

    I see, I guess I just get confused when the web page for said numbers is called “Track & Confirm”.

  36. Eilonwynn says:

    @kc-guy: Actually, yup.

    NEVER ship anything irreplacable with a national postal service. (I’ve heard good things about the UK system, though).

    I will say this, however – part of the problem may be due to the whole “ordering postage online” thing. We (ebay sellers) have NEVER had good luck with “pick up at the door” services. If you actually go in there, they’ll put a cancel on the delivery confirmation signs, and tend to make sure it ends up well-coated with priority stickers, etc.

    At the USPS, postage counts as currency (it still does to some businesses, too, which is kinda neat.) They will happily offer refunds in postage, and you can take *old postage in* and get cash for it in some places, or at least you could the last time I needed change 2 years ago.

    (This only applies to the USPS. Canada Post won’t do this at ALL.)

  37. edrebber says:

    The fact that the parcel received so many intermediate scans indicates that the parcel did not get priority mail service. Priority mail will usually only get 2 scans 1 at acceptance and one at delivery.

    The customer should file the following form at their local post office for a full refund.


    Consider the postage stamps a free gift from the postmaster.

  38. winnabago says:

    I send a lot of priority mail for ebay purchases, and in my experience, there are a great number of things that can happen – I recently saw a package come up with “missent – we are trying to correct the error” under the tracking page.

    Whatever the problems, I have found that you can greatly reduce them by using the priority mail packaging (it stands out when they are sorting) and if not, put those little blue stickers all over your box – at least 2 on every side. Priority mail uses different bins, different lines at the sort centers, and many times gets airmail treatment. If it looks like regular mail, it might get treated like regular mail. Don’t trust a computer to tell the difference.

  39. bostonguy says:

    When working in a warehouse in the early 90s, I remenber flipping through the USPS Domestic Mail Manual now & then, when I was bored.

    The DMM stated that Priority Mail 2 day delivery was an internal benchmark, and was in no way a guarantee to the customer.

  40. m0unds says:

    I’ve had so many packages lost by the USPS that I’ve stopped using them for anything. I don’t even like to send letters via USPS anymore.

  41. ClayS says:


    Yes, for a government agency they are surprisingly effective. Compare them to many other government operations; they get the job done quite well and their services are priced very reasonably. I think they are better than most private carriers like UPS, Fedex, etc. Very much out of character relative to motor vehicles, the TSA, the passport people.

  42. savdavid says:

    Someone here called the writer “hysterical” in her complaint. Well, if you sent a Christmas package 4 weeks ahead of time priority mail and it bounced between Denver and where you live till a week after Christmas, I think you would be hysterical, too. How can anyone call this “inexpensive, efficient” service if it doesn’t get there? That makes it pretty much worthless.

  43. Buran says:

    @madanthony: Really now? Then why is it called TRACK and confirm? Their inability to actually do what they advertise they offer is why I no longer ship with them.

  44. MMD says:

    @fredmertz: USPS service varies *wildly* throughout the country. Maybe your service is good – and if it is, I’m happy for you. But service in Chicago, where I live, is beyond horrendous, both at individual post offices (they have 20 windows, but 2 employees working) and for home delivery (My carrier decided not to deliver on Saturdays for awhile. When enough people reported him, he started again – but guess what, he’s still my carrier, not an ex-employee).

    The original poster did the right thing by initiating a chargeback. This is the only way to get anyone’s attention, evidently.

  45. nrwfos says:

    I live in the area with the WORST post office in the state. THey’ve been the focus of numerous newspaper articles about their ineptness. Front page (it’s a small regional paper). I’ve had a lot of mishaps since my mom lives in Texas and I’m 1400 miles away. So I don’t expect reasonable service. Our post office posts that the Priority service is estimated only and they aren’t guaranteeing any delivery within a certain time.
    These days I’m thinking they are taking lessons from DHL – or maybe DHL is learning from the USPS since the USPS frequently delivers DHL@Home packages.

  46. dgcaste says:

    I’ve had several situations where I need help from the post office, and they have rocked both times.

    The first time they intercepted a package I sent at the RECEIVING post office more than 1000 miles away when I realized I sent money to a fraudulent ebay seller.

    The second time, they gave me $300 for an insurance claim that they probably shouldn’t have honored, because the package arrived broken in California and the guy sent it back to me without making the claim, and I claimed it over here in NY over a month later and any sleazy scumbag could have easily done the same and stolen that money. I, of course, did it in honesty, the package got to California broken. They still sent me the check (even though it took like 3 months)

    The post office is mostly helpful. Those guys are a lot more motivated than UPS and FEDEX (and definitely DHL) workers. At least those I have met up here in upstate NY.

  47. jimda says:

    we all have at least one story about ‘lost’ mail, but really, of the millions of items shipped each day the USPS does a good job getting them where they are going. the little snowflake out in utah thinks her package was special, it wasn’t. they are all special. overall the USPS does good work.

  48. ClubDebit says:

    Interesting… I had a package lost by the JERSEY CITY, NJ USPS processing center aroud the same time. I sent back an item to an online retailer with a distribution center in New Jersey. They say they never received my package. My Click-N-Ship record indicated that he made it to processing center but did not show and record of delivery.

  49. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    This doesn’t surprise me – last August, I sent a package from British Columbia (Canada) to New Hampshire. It finally arrived in December, by way of Australia (according to the “opened by Australia Customs” sticker on the package.)

  50. coreyander says:

    Hmmm.. that sucks, but hardly calls for a boycott of the USPS.

    I have a contact in direct marketing consulting who assures me that USPS’ reliability is much higher (at least according to the statistics available) than that of the private shippers, although USPS deals with a much higher volume of mail going to homes. I rather believe him, at least based on my personal experience.

    I worked in mail order for years and had to initiate claims when packages went missing. It was a small business, so I went through the standard procedure that any customer would, no special corporate treatment. First of all, we never had a package from the USPS not show up eventually — even overseas. Every claim we initiated was eventually resolved when the package was found. I can’t say the same thing for UPS; they actually completely lost several packages over about a ten year period. (Also not a bad rate, to be perfectly honest!) But the claims process was beyond ridiculous and never resulted in a reimbursement that covered the cost of the merchandise or the amount for which the package was insured.

    Further, all of the weird shipping stories I have accumulated involve the private shippers, not the post office. The funniest, to me, was the time that UPS decided to “correct” the ZIP code on a package (of course earning us a “ZIP Code change fee”) to an incorrect code, sending a First Day Air package to the wrong county. Even after the package was mis-delivered, they continued to insist that we had used the wrong ZIP code and refused to refund the cost of the First Day Air shipping. We had to issue a call tag at our expense and send a duplicate order out to our customer via Express Mail.

  51. Paul_Blackstone says:

    Here is a thought experiment:

    Think of how many pieces of mail your receive at your home each day. It can be anything: bills, greeting cards, books from Amazon, magazines, etc. In a given week you probably receive dozens of pieces of mail, in a month, hundreds. Now think of how many pieces of mail have been “lost” by USPS in the past year. Even if you’ve received particularly bad USPS service and they lost 10 pieces of your mail, that still puts their accuracy up around 99% – not bad in my book, when you considered how bad it could be.

  52. swalve says:

    @kc-guy: The USPS is owned by the govenment, but it does not receive funding from it. It is paid for completely by postage.

    There ARE special delivery options, but they aren’t inexpensive. Registered mail is da bomb, short of carrying the item yourself.

  53. AlphaWolf says:

    I have had some delays by the good old USPS before, nothing this bad though!

    Nothing though, NOTHING compares to the attitude behind the counter when trying to mail a package. After last week, and the disgruntled lady who blamed me for forgetting delivery confirmation (I did tell her I needed it) it is either UPS delivery or I will use the automated postal machine in the lobby.

    I would rather send out my packages at Best Buy, and that is saying a lot.

  54. aristan says:

    @swalve: The problem is that the scanners may be able to read old barcodes, but that would not update her tracking number. Her tracking number is connected to the new barcode.

    If the old barcode was scanned, it would not have update her tracking information. Rather than knowing it was in Denver, it would have simply disappeared into the ether.

  55. Sidecutter says:

    I’m not saying there wasn’t a lot of fault on USPS here, but the OP and some of the comments bug me badly. On a site like this, I would really expect more people to know what the services are and what they do. Delivery Confirmation is NOT a tracking service. It does not CLAIM to be a tracking service anywhere. It is exactly what it says, confirmation that the package was delivered and when. It’s puspose is not to tell you where the package is, or when, or when you should expect to get it. If you want *tracking*, they have a service that does that step by step. Buy that instead.

  56. RottNDude says:

    I had a situation where my local postmaster signed for an insured, delivery confirmation package which I never, ever saw (an expensive, unlocked mobile phone). He even used his real name, which helped me put two and two together after doing some research.

    This was an eBay purchase. PayPal didn’t care that I never got the package, only that someone had signed for it so I must have received it.

    My recourse consisted of making a ton of noise at the postal inspector’s office, and disputing the credit card charge through PayPal (never, ever let PayPal do a bank transfer, always use a credit card!)

    As far as I’m concerned, the entire USPS can suck my cock. In my experience FedEx has been the least inept and most careful in handling of the letter/package companies.

  57. jamar0303 says:

    Oh my $deity- this is why I prefer to do in-person pickups for all my purchases and why I only buy from people that will do so. Shipping has been a pain in the arse.

  58. madanthony says:

    @Buran: and @ sccoosdad

    The track and confirm is a misnomer – they probably use it because you can track multiple delivery attempts, and because Express Mail does actually have tracking.

    While the USPS Priority mail site does use the “track and confirm” term, the actual description of the service only promises that you will know if and when it’s delivered:

    Verify delivery with Delivery Confirmation. Our low cost Delivery Confirmation service gives you the date, ZIP Codeâ„¢ and time your article was delivered


  59. AlexJP says:

    The UPS label is what did it. Sure, it was “half torn off [and]
    blacked out with marker.” Obviously, the scanners can read through the

    I suspect that the root of her problem is that the ZIP code barcode
    on the old UPS label was still visible. It is this barcode that drives
    package routing, and the USPS uses the same format of barcode (in
    addition to the Postnet barcode). It is very possible for the “find ZIP
    code barcode” scanner in Jersey City to find the old UPS label
    repeatedly, while the “find delivery confirmation barcode” scanner
    found the USPS label and entered the tracking information in the

    Since the ZIP code barcode formats are identical between UPS and
    USPS, a stray USPS label can cause similar problems on a UPS shipment.
    I have seen it happen.

    Unless new information is present on what, exactly, was on the UPS
    label remnants, I have to blame the customer in this case. Their
    failure to properly prepare the package by ensuring that contradictory
    address information was removed completely caused the delay.

  60. vastrightwing says:

    I’m sorry Mr. Poster, but the blame is on you for not taking responsibility for sending the package in a manner designed to arrive at its destination.
    Clearly you should be well aware that big government is never responsible for anything, it’s always the civilian who is wrong. Consider yourself extremely lucky your package made it to its destination at all. Considering that it wasn’t damaged makes you one very fortunate man. Plus, you managed to get stamps out of the deal? If only I was as fortunate as you are!

  61. mon0zuki says:

    It’s interesting that people talk about USPS’s “perfect record” – yes, they can usually deliver mail with some reliability and/or within reasonable time. HOWEVER, there is VERY little customer service and essentially NO backup in the case of error on their part. It’s impossible to check up on a package if you haven’t paid extra for special services, and even if you have it’s difficult. My family has had many pieces of mail delivered to us that was not ours – that were, in fact, supposed to be delivered to the other side of the US. The biggest issue is that nobody is held responsible – there’s no way to pin the responsibility on any one person or the postal service itself; there’s no way to get your refund, customer service, or help.

  62. I’ve had a package stolen in transit, though it was listed as having been delivered… At my home city, rather than the destination. It contained a gift card, which when I checked had been used. I’m very sure the package was stolen by a USPS employee.
    Sad fact: USPS hires many, many temporary employees for the Holidays season. They are not properly screened, a fact that permanent USPS employees have complained about.

    Since I neglected to get insurance on my package, I can’t get a refund. I reported the incident to the inspection service. I don’t expect to get an immediate resolution but I do hope they eventually catch the thief.

    As has been pointed out, Priority Mail is not guaranteed, only Express Mail. However, you’ll find most package delivery companies do not guarantee their services, except for the most expensive. Getting $19 worth of stamps is essentially “store credit”, so that’s not a bad deal.

    And USPS does clearly state in many places, including their website, that Priority Mail packages should be clearly labeled and not contain other markings or labels. This situation is the reason why.

    All that being said, FIVE WEEKS for a priority mail package is absurd, especially since she was in constant contact with multiple USPS employees during the time.

  63. Bobg says:

    I once mailed a letter from Cumberland, Md. to Baltimore, Md. (154 miles) and it took 28 days to get there. The mail sat in the box on the street corner for 4 days (the Postmaster said that was impossible.)

  64. Roginator says:

    USPS now has a new way for mailers to let you know the carrier has actually picked up the parcel from them.

    When they prepare a click-n-ship label, they are offered the ability to also prepare a manifest for all the parcels. On that manifest is a barcode for the postal employee to scan when they pick up the parcels. That scan should show up the next morning to let the purchaser know his package is actually on the way.

    Now when you see “electronic shipping info received” it means the company may just be trying to shift the blame for not having a product in stock to the USPS.

    That being said, the USPS does a poor job of alerting mailers to this feature. I’m a mailman and I’ve never seen a customer use this feature. I even told one customer about it and they never used it.

    The most likely explanation for this shipping delay is another old address label on the box. If I see a delivery address on one side of a possibly 50-lb box, I’m not likely to flip it over to search for other addresses. Likewise, if you want delivery confirmation service – don’t put the barcode on the BACK of the piece.

    And while I’m making suggestions – if you plan to ship a parcel with USPS, be aware we have some pretty antiquated methods for handling parcels. Imagine your parcel is the one at the bottom of a 6-foot container full of possible very heavy parcels. Pack it accordingly. And if you mail a small parcel, it WILL be tossed like a basketball into one of these containers. (I cringe when I see this, but managers look the other way. My bro works at UPS and had to make signs to tell employees not to do this – so this is not relegated just to USPS.)

    If it absolutely has to get there on time, use Express Mail. Then you can at least get your money back. I’m actually surprised you got stamps back. The manager may have taken that out of his/her own pocket (or more likely the office morale budget – hah)

  65. ExtraCelestial says:

    Oi. That’s the thing about USPS. I usually choose their overnight guarantee because it NEVER gets their overnight and I get reimbursed for shipping but I have to go through hell to prove it.

  66. ExtraCelestial says:

    USPS will also fib about who signed your package. They’ll always say that it was signed by the first initial and last name of whoever it was that you sent it to and by something before 12. It’s not until you request the actual scan of the signature that you find out the real details. I’m not sure if this is some sort of default or what, but it ALWAYS happens and I send packages USPS express at least once a month.

  67. s25843 says:


    TRACK is for the Express Mail (which provides free TRACKING), CONFIRM is for Delivery CONFIRMATION, pretty clear to me…

  68. s25843 says:

    @Bobg: When a carrier is dispatched on a route to clear out street boxes, CPU’s, mail outlets, and the such, they usually need to scan a barcode on the inside of the street box, or in the premises to prove they picked up the box.

    So, it very well may be impossible that your letter sat in a box for 4 days, unless it was late on Saturday with a Monday holiday thereafter

  69. Balisong says:

    This person is pretty darn lucky to get a refund – Priority is not guaranteed to be there within any amount of days, and many people will tell you it’s a ripoff. There’s nothing “consistent” about it. Not blaming the victim, this sucks that this happened, but that’s the facts.

  70. Propaniac says:

    Even if Priority shipping isn’t guaranteed to get there within a few days, I feel like when something is obviously mishandled this badly, some supervisor should have the common sense and decency to say, “You’re right, this is way worse than anyone could reasonably expect, and you shouldn’t have to pay for it.” I mean, she mailed it a MONTH early.

    That being said, that issue with the UPS label has made me feel a lot less paranoid for wrapping all my packages in heavy brown paper before shipping.

  71. ladylarkoflunacy says:

    Sorry folks but I think the USPS does a fantastic job handling millions of packages a year, most without any problems. I buy and sell on e-bay and am always amazed how quickly I get my packages delivered and received. I get free boxes, I print the shipping label at home, my packages are picked up at my house (FREE) and in the last 6 years, 1 package was lost. The incredible thing is it showed up 8 months later! And at CHRISTMAS time???? They KILL themselves! Let’s not forget how pieces of mail we all get daily and how many pieces we send out! How many get lost?
    Ok they screwed this one up AND she deserved a refund. My only words of wisdom is “always ask for the supervisor’s manager first, and work UP from there!

  72. President Beeblebrox says:

    @ladylarkoflunacy: I would agree with you more if USPS had any notion of customer service. Because they’re The Government, they apparently believe they can get away with hiring surly window clerks, incompetent telephone support personnel, and doltish PO Box personnel – all three things I’ve dealt with in just the past few months. To be fair, I think USPS is *trying*, because they know they’ve got a lot of competition from the private shippers, but they need to do a hell of a lot more to win me over.

    It’s hard for me to get excited over the USPS when I’m getting local mail at my business PO Box that’s anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks old – and the only thing the supervisors can give me as a reason is that “we’ve got morons working here.”

  73. Anonymous says:

    i retired from the usps in ’96. i was a mailman for years, then when i could no longer walk a route, i became a mail handler, doing everything from sorting mail to cancelling stamps to loading and unloading trucks. sadly the story is not only believable, but all too common an occurance. from my own experiences, i have learned that the post office is a whole other world, and they have gone from being the kind and gentle friend to the postal patron of the good old days to the greedy and uncaring monster they are today. a good part of the reason for postage increases is that they keep purchasing equipment that is often outdated by the time it is built and delivered, so they end up storing it, as no one wants to spend the money to break it down even for salvage. 2-day delivery coast to coast USED to be called REGULAR SERVICE. I have not sent a package by usps since i retired, and have never had a problem with ups, and their rates are not that bad, and you can track your package, and get answers when you call that make sense.