USPS Sends Your Package 5,586 Miles To Travel 120

Jonathan is trying to figure out why the box of records he sent from Bell to Bakersfield, CA somehow took a 5,000 mile detour across the country and back first.

His tracking receipt shows the package leaving Bell, CA, then showing up on the east coast in Capitol Heights, MD, then heading down for some barbecue in Greensboro, NC, then moseying back to where it began before finally taking the 2-hour trip down the road to Bakersfield.

When he called USPS to ask them why the package was sent 3,000 miles away, the rep said, “I cannot speculate on that.” Her supervisor told Jonathan the same thing. Jonathan wonders if he will also get the same reaction when he contacts Stephen M. Kearney, Senior Vice President, USPS Customer Relations.

Perhaps this, “explains why the US Postal Service is running a $7 billion deficit this year,” speculated Jonathan to Consumerist.


Edit Your Comment

  1. montusama says:

    Guess the Package wanted to do a cross country trip.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      It’s summer: who wouldn’t want to do a bitchin’ road trip?

  2. Crazytree says:

    Bella, CA or Bell, CA?

  3. twophrasebark says:

    I don’t mean to sound snarky, but what explanation does he expect? Obviously there was an error. It was corrected and the package was delivered. What are they going to say?

    • kdui says:


    • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

      He expected someone, somewhere, to make notes. That’s it. That would tell people the Why of what happened. I make notes at my jobs…Shipping especially.

      • anonymousryan says:

        What notes were there to make? Obviously the person who accidentally sent it to North Carolina didn’t make a note and the person who found it in North Carolina didn’t know how it got there but just sent it back on its way. I don’t know how USPS shipping works, so shipping it to California by way of Washington D.C. may have been the fastest route depending on shipping schedules.

    • Difdi says:

      And if it was not an error, and ALL packages are handled that way, it definitely would explain why the USPS is bleeding money so fast…

    • superberg says:

      Ding! Common sense wins again!

  4. PanCake BuTT says:

    This doesn’t seem so wrong to me, it is the USPS after all. I have horror stories too, but maybe not as bad as this one though. USPS has the worst tracking ever !

    • ARP says:

      I just had a Fed Ex package go from California, to Nashville, to Seattle, and finally to me in Chicago.

      It’s happened with UPS too. A little annoying that it took longer, but not that big of a deal.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        What really steams my clams is when FedEx or UPS tracking shows the package at the usual last stop and they don’t deliver it just because it’s not the scheduled delivery date. I really wish I had an option to just call up and say, “eh, that’s close enough. I’ll take it home myself if it means I can get it sooner.”

        • koalabare says:

          FedEx will let you do that (come pick it up at the station after the truck gets back,) I’ve done it over 20 times.

        • Randell says:

          The issue is based on work load. If adding your one stop for somebody who paid super saver rates would cost them extra driver over time or take them out of a smart geography it makes total sense.
          Our company uses FedEx everyday. We send everything super saver. Since we are getting deliveries daily it is much more intelligent for us to mail things to the home office the cheapest way, since the truck will be stopping at our place anyway. It is good for our company in cost savings, and good for FedEx since they can drop multiple packages rather than just one.
          I really would love to see any person who spends time bitching about the USPS, UPS, or FEDEX to spend a day in logistics for any transportation company. If ONE cog in the wheel gets changed, it can cause a tidal wave of issues that need to be resolved. I think the number that should be looked at is the USPS SUCCESS rate for mail delivery. It is considered so high that you can not use the excuse you did not receive your bill in the mail as a viable defense.

          • ShadowFalls says:

            I guess there is a worldwide success rate and a personal one… I don’t even have a 100% success rate at receiving junk mail, yet alone my actual mail. Nothing like neighbors coming together to give each other their mail.

  5. Akuma Matata says:

    There’s really no explanation other than there was a mistake. You’d get the same response if it were UPS or FedEx or whomever. People can’t be perfect all the time and sometimes packages get mixed up and routed incorrectly.

    @ Op – Since you’re concerned about USPS losing our tax money, from one taxpayer to another, stop wasting their time and drop the matter.

    • aloria says:

      “Since you’re concerned about USPS losing our tax money, from one taxpayer to another, stop wasting their time and drop the matter.”


    • GuidedByLemons says:

      Yes, this exactly =)

    • tbax929 says:

      Well said (er, written).

    • magus_melchior says:

      (Tinfoil hat: ON)

      Some ibertarian types want the USPS to waste money, that way they can justify privatizing it or slashing its budget significantly.

      (Tinfoil hat: OFF)

      I feel perfectly normal.

  6. EdK says:

    Is it possible that they made a mistake? This happens with all carriers. What kind of answer is he looking for?

  7. johnrhoward says:

    The package got sent to the wrong place, when it got to the wrong place, they sent it back to the right place. Does the guy want an investigation into exactly how it got sent to the wrong place? Obviously, it was a mistake.

    • the_wiggle says:

      yes SOME ‘people’ do actually want that blow by blow accounting of who did’m wrong, proof it was willful or literal retardation & then a public flogging followed by execution of said peon + any associated staff while the CEO commits suicide live on CNN.

      think i’m exaggerating? spend a few weeks (not even months, never mind years) in customer service & listen for your self.

  8. Big Ant says:

    Probably just an error. Did he receive it by the date they originally told him? If he did then there is really no complaint and maybe they just sent it on a roundabout trip to delay until that time. Which is a little shady but he got it by the time he paid for.

    I don’t think this package traveling this distance is a major contributor to the deficit unless it was the only package on the plane/truck/etc. And it happens a lot. Mostly just looks like an error maybe in the software or whatever they use to calculate the delivery route.

  9. Oddfool says:

    I had the same experience once with a UPS shipment. Sent from San Diego to a location in Los Angeles. During shipment, I found out the location had moved, so I contacted UPS to update the address. Due to the change, the package was needing to be re-routed to another Distribution Center, causing an extra day delay.

    But before it could be delivered to the second Distribution Center, it got placed on a truck to Chicago. We had to wait for ground shipping both directions, as UPS turned around and placed it back on the return truck.

  10. Steele says:

    I’ve had the same thing happen to me living here in Vegas. Had a package sent from CA to NV, that went through Bell, CA, and then ended up in Greensboro, NC, then back to Bell, CA finally to here in Vegas. When I inquired to USPS CS about how this happened, they of course had no clue. Talking to my postman, he said it was incorrectly sorted at Bell, CA and sent to the wrong “DC” if you will. Bell, CA is the processing center for media mail according to my postman (and I think also bulk and flat rate, basically anything but First Class or Priority Mail). Many packages that I get go through Bell, CA before they come to Vegas and I gotta tell ya, sometimes they will sit there for 2,3, sometimes 4 days before they arrive in Vegas and then another 1-2 business days for delivery. Bell CA is notorious for being one of the worst sorting locations for the USPS.

  11. maggiemerc says:

    I remember the time FedEx drove PAST MY house and took my package to Florida for the weekend (I was in Tennessee). These things happen, though usually USPS is reliable.

  12. Minj says:

    Is this an honest question or a rhetorical one? If it is the former, it is obvious that the package was miskeyed or missorted. That is why it is so important that truck loaders check the zip codes of EVERY package. They are the last line of defense to guard from mistakes elsewhere in the system. If a package is put in the wrong truck, it can easily go across the country to another hub before the error is discovered.

  13. aja175 says:

    probably got stuck on a plane by mistake. *shrug* it happens

  14. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Best guess is that either:
    A) The computer/ocr mis-read the zip code,
    B) The sender used the wrong zip code, or
    C) Someone at the USPS used the wrong zip code.

    It got to the destination zip code, the postman looked at it, realized it was the wrong zip code, they stuck a new zip code label on it, hugged it, and sent it on it’s way.

    • RandomHookup says:

      There you go. Once a package or letter enters the system, there’s a little bar code on it that tells the machines where to send it. If the zip code gets misread, then the code sends it somewhere else until the point where someone reads the label again. The whole system is automated and very hands off.

    • wild homes loves you but chooses darkness! says:

      So long as they hugged it, I’m OK with the whole thing. I just don’t like to think of my packages travelling cross-country alone with no love.

  15. Tom Foolery says:

    When i worked at RPS loading trucks, management would regularly toss packages on the wrong conveyor, to spot check if you were confirming addresses. Miss too many, and you were out a job. Could have been something like this…or an error on the label, or scanning equipment not reading a bar code correctly, or someone reading the “CA” as “VA” and sending the package to another sorting center, or any of dozens of other things that still didn’t stop the package from being delivered on time.

    • Oddfool says:

      Did they watch to see if the packages were missed by the sorters, and grab the boxes before they went off incorrectly? Or did those “lucky” customers have to wait for delivery after management introduce errors?

      Kinda like testing airport security with “fake bombs” and the then the fake bombs actually get placed on the planes.

      • Minj says:

        I had this very job and yes, you’d wait to see if the loader tossed the package out of the truck and down to the incompatibles belt. If it didn’t show up in a few minutes, I’d go up in the truck and start tearing down his wall until I found it. Then I’d explain the importance of checking every zipcode and what it meant to customers if a package was misloaded.

  16. azzie says:

    FedEx has same issues… If you mail a letter from Boston to New York, it is routed through Memphis!

    Here is tracking example:

    Picked up

    • Framling says:

      I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure everything FedEx handles goes through Memphis. If I remember correctly, they picked Memphis because it averages the most flyable days per year in the United States.

    • Megalomania says:

      It’s the hub/spokes mentality that works particularly well for air travel. There are rarely two places that are far enough away to require shipping that have enough shipping between them to justify a direct route, so instead stuff gets sent up to a hub then sent back out.

      While it’s less efficient in this particular case, there are still overall efficiencies that trump that. Damn confusing when you look at a map though and connect the dots.

    • scoosdad says:

      Looks pretty normal for just about any overnight or air FedEx delivery from north of Boston to the NYC area to me. Picked up by the local driver in Burlington, taken to the closest FedEx truck depot in Wilmington, driven by truck to the nearest FedEx airport station (East Boston- Logan Airport), flew to the FedEx Memphis hub (as all FedEx overnight or air delivery packages do), then put on another plane north to Newark, where it went by truck to the New York City truck depot in the Bronx, and delivered in New York City.

      Did you think a truck picking up in Massachusetts was going to just drive it down I-95 to NYC? It might, if it were FedEx Ground, but that’s like an entirely different company that runs those ground routes.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      woah. A mention of my hometown – Burlington, MA

  17. Dyscord says:

    Apple did this when I first ordered my iPod. They used a distributor that I imagine would be faster if I lived anywhere else. However, I live near Pittsburgh and it shipped from near Philly. It went PAST pittsburgh to KY, then back here before it was handed off to the post office. This story is a little extreme though.

    If course, the tracking info could be wrong. I had cables delivered to me that, according to the site, were out for delivery in Philly.

  18. dreamfish says:

    Obviously their routing algorithm determined that was the optimum route

  19. mythago says:

    They really, really, really didn’t want to go to Bakersfield and were dragging their feet.

  20. veg-o-matic says:

    I got an international envelope (to Oman, I think) returned once after what.. a year..? with little black tread marks on it and stamped all over with something like “Recently Found Parcel Stuck in Machinery.” They have a special stamp for that.

    I thought it was kind of funny. Mostly because it reminded me of Jiffy Express.

    Also because, for once, this lost mail wasn’t a result of the Mexican Postal Service’s Black Hole Routing Systemâ„¢.

    • Not Given says:

      That happened to me when I was receiving test packages for the post office’s secret shoppers. They were mailed from all over the country by secret shoppers who reported on the post offices they sent the packages from. About a month after everything else came, one came stamped that it was recently found stuck in machinery.

  21. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I recently had to report a package tampered with, and the contents stolen. Based on other major trouble I’ve had (and everyone else in my neighborhood has had) with the carrier, including packages that never arrived (despite proof of sending), apparent retaliation for filing complaints (packages sent back to the sender on the day they were supposed to have been delivered), mail-order medicine (in my case, diabetes medication) going missing, and so forth, I finally broke down and called the mail fraud division (1-877-876-2455). They said it was a criminal matter and gave me a number for the Office of the Inspector General (1-888-877-7644), but that office is only open to take calls from 11 to 3 EST. I was looking for another way to contact the Inspector General when I came across a third number (1-866-644-5696) that is available 24 hours a day. Thought I’d pass it along.

  22. SerenityDan says:

    I work in a mail room, and we are all the time getting things not for us that are from a diffrent state from mine (PA) to yet another state all together. I would not recomend USPS to my worst enemy, too cruel.

  23. rhys1882 says:

    Give me a break. It’s called a “mistake” – heard of those? It doesn’t cost them any extra to accidentally ship your package to Maryland – all their infrastructure is already in place. They are running a 7 billion dollar deficit because they run an extremely complex and comprehensive letter/package delivery network 10 times the size of any private company and do it for pretty f-ing cheap. Seriously – for 44 cents they come to your house, pick up a piece of paper, and deliver it anywhere in the US. Name a private service that comes to close to that.

  24. coren says:

    Perhaps it’s ridiculous paying into funds they don’t need or use. Unless this sort of thing is widespread, it’s not likely a significant drop in the bucket – but logic takes away snark.

  25. mitpatterson says:

    Just a theory, but i see it says package service, i’m assuming mabey Parcel Post? which if it works like UPS Basic or Fedex Smartpost, and other “Ground” services, they stick it low priority and stick it where ever they have any room, and mabey they just happened to have room on a truck/plane heading there and stuck in on and knew one would be coming back to the area? Which is why it is a cheap service, its low priority

  26. ajlei says:

    While I find it amusing that the package had its little road trip, if I were waiting ten days for a package to travel what amounts to a two hour drive, I’d be annoyed too. Probably not enough to call several times, but annoyed all the same.

  27. elangomatt says:

    I wonder what speed of shipping the OP paid for. If he paid for some kind of Priority Mail type service with a guaranteed time frame, then the OP can rightfully be upset. If however, the OP went for the cheapest possible way of shipping, well you get what you pay for. Anyone ever use FedEx “SmartPost”? That is basically a cheap way of sending it where FedEx moves the package to a USPS sorting facility near the recipients house then gives it to USPS to deliver. I have had multiple packages get within 70 miles of my house, only to take a detour to the other side of the country before it came back and got delivered.

  28. TVGenius says:

    Some of the stuff I’ve bought from woot! that was shipped SmartPost (a joint clusterfrak between FedEx and USPS) has made similar journeys. Woot! is near Dallas, I’m in Arizona. One package made a swing through the midwest, over to the east coast, back to Dallas, then a trip through the south before finally heading my way. I’ve had USPS-only shipments take long detours too.

  29. scoosdad says:

    I want to know what Consumerist intern was charged with the task of calculating precisely how far this package travelled, and how it was done. Was the topography and curvature of the earth taken into consideration? Was it a “line” or “path” in Google Earth?

  30. mommiest says:

    Did the package contain one of those little gnomes that like to travel around?

  31. nitroburn says:

    This is unusual?

  32. zyphbear says:

    I have to say that USPS has been really bad about packages like this.
    About a year and a half ago, I ordered a small part (to be specific, a replacement trackball for my blackberry). I ordered the part and the seller always sends the item priority mail. (Early Nov) So he sent it out from Dallas, TX to Pittsburgh, PA, and 3 days later….nothing. The tracking only showed that the item was received and that it left the facility. I tried going through USPS to get any resolution, but nothing happened, they just said to contact the person who sent it. I did, and since I was leaving on an extended weekend vacation about a week later, the seller just sent out another one, which I got 3 days later. He said if I get the other one, to just keep it. I took my vacation, came back, and forgot about it.

    In Early January, I get the other trackball in the mail. I look up the tracking information through the USPS website, and apparently…it was shipped from TX to PA by way of HAWAII. With about a week and a half wait in each step. I contacted the USPS, they had no answer about the issue and just said “Priority mail SHOULD get there in 2-3 days, but there is no guarantee it WILL get there in that time frame. If it was an important item, you should have had the sender use Express Mail instead.”

    Since that time, I always hesitate using USPS for anything with any kind of value since they could always lose the item so easily and no one even caring that it should not have been anywhere near that area for shipping.

  33. Eli the Ice Man says:

    Friggen google maps!

  34. Razor512 says:

    They thought they were taking a shortcut but their plan backfired.

  35. spazztastic says:

    I sent a ‘3-day’ package via FedEx from New York to Camden, NJ and it went via Memphis.

    • Randell says:

      EVERYTHING in the FEDEX system will go through Memphis. If you had sent it ground it would have been cheaper and arrived the next day. YOU made the decision to go air. They are two completely different entities. The traditional FEDEX is an AIR delivery business. FedEX ground does all of their work on the ground. If it is just across town, or actually within your FedEx Ground zone you are better off shipping it with ground. It is next day delivery and usually cheaper.

  36. JSK says:

    Not to pile on here but I have had numerous issues with the Bell, CA sorting facilities. Between eBay sales and online purchases I have had more issues with that sorting center for the USPS over the years than any other location across the country.

    I don’t know if its the size of the place, crappy employees or what but I have routinely had packages routed through there that have gone on to the wrong destinations, some that have even gone back to Bell, CA USPS and then gone on to a second incorrect destination.

    Its really fantastic when you have FedEx using the USPS for some mid-shipment transportation, even stuff I have ordered from Newegg has gotten misdirected via Bell.

  37. ellemdee says:

    I had a package shipped from across the country and it was within a few miles of my house, so I figured delivery would take place within a day or two. Nope, took a detour through the deep south before finally returning to Michigan again a week later. No wonder USPS keeps needing to raise stamp prices to “cover costs”.

  38. PupJet says:

    Ha! I have the same thing happen when I sent a package from Olympia, WA to Tacoma, WA. It decided to take a cross country tour (and about a week and a half), but yet from Washington to Ohio (where I live now) it took less than 3 days for standard mail. It’s mind boggling I tell ya!

  39. Shonky McShonk says:

    but did it bring back enough q for everybody?

  40. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Assuming the records made it to their destination in one piece, I’d just be grateful for that.

    The last time I had an issue with the USPS, they completely disavowed all responsibility for marking my package “delivered” while it sat in some dark corner of the local post office.

  41. lmbrownmail says:

    The problem is with the Bell, CA sorting facility. I’ve done ebay for years and the only problems with shipping I ever had was when the packages had to go through Bell. To ebayers it’s a well-known problem.

  42. Bruce says:

    I have had this happen twice using Fed Ex and it wasnt a mistake, it was their policy which makes it worse. I had sporting events tickets sent from Anaheim, Ca. to Riverside, CA a distance of 33 miles. When i didnt get them on time, i inquired and told that they were in Memphis, Tn. and held up by a snow storm. You never here about a Fed Ex or UPS parcel delivered to the wrong house(that happens a lot) but if it is the USPS everyone is in an uproar.

  43. mdovell says:

    A long time ago when I worked at a place that did tracking I had to reroute something from fed ex.

    It was going to La Port Indiana

    It ended up in Louisiana!

    The only thing I can think of is dyslexia. Probably just thought to LA and confused the town with the state.