My Very Important USPS Package Is Doing Laps Around New York City

A piece of registered mail left Hong Kong on December 7th, and is on its way to Michael in Manhattan. While it has reached the correct city, tracking information shows that the envelope is currently doing laps from Queens to Manhattan. Michael just wants to show up at a post office and pick the darn thing up, but no one can intercept it or even tell him where it is until his neighborhood mail carrier attempts to deliver it at least once.

I know it’s the holidays and the mail can be a mess, but the least the USPS could do is allow me to help them by picking up my package somewhere.

As you can see from the attached screenshot of my tracking progress, my order from Hong Kong is travelling between Queens and Manhattan with no regard for logic. For what it’s worth, it’s going to Manhattan, but not anywhere near where it briefly ended up in Manhattan


I called their help line and spoke with a representative who was annoyed that I was bitching about this package saying it’s only been in transit to the destination since yesterday… without acknowledging that that is the same status it has had since last Thursday. All I want to do is pick the package up at a location. FedEx or UPS would be thrilled if I asked to pick it up. But not the USPS. They cannot provide me with any information until a delivery attempt it made.

Consumerist, what can I do to get my package (obviously not gonna happen before Christmas, though)?

Any postal insiders out there with advice for Michael? It sounds like he’s out of luck until his envelope finishes its laps and is put on the truck.


Edit Your Comment

  1. nopirates says:

    the USPS tracking mechanisms are horrible. i get out-for-delivery notifications two days after the package was delivered.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      You too, huh? I think USPS tracks packages, just not in “real time”. They do just enough work to hopefully know that the package was delivered. (even if you don’t find out it’s been delivered until a week later when you’ve realized the package was stolen/lost from your porch.)

      Bravo, USPS.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      This is true. I’ve never had a problem with the actual delivery of an item, but the tracking system is abysmal.

    • nevesis says:

      It’s not just the tracking. USPS package delivery is a joke. In the past 3 months, one package was marked delivered but arrived 4 weeks later (after filing numerous ignored complaints). One package was redirected to the neighboring suburb, redirected back, redirected back again, and finally delivered. And one package, shipped two weeks ago, has been stuck on processed through sort facility ever since. **I will never ship USPS.**

  2. PLATTWORX says:

    There is truly nothing that can be done. The USPS does not use “tracking” so they can’t tell the exact location of a package, they can just tell where it passed on it’s journey and when. That is what makes Delivery Confirmation so unacceptable to most people.

    I had a package I shipped to Hawaii go to Chicago, then Hawaii, then Guam (yes, Guam) and then back to Chicago before reaching my customer who was indeed in Honolulu. My local post master was equally puzzled but could do nothing but shrug his shoulders while we hoped the USPS would finally deliver the box.

    I have to say that it is no wonder the USPS is in such trouble. The clerks are often rude, lines are long with few windows open while other staffers wander around watching the public queue up and my local carrier admits he sits in his car for a few hours a day and most of Saturday because his route is done but he is required by the union to put in X number of hours.

    A friend said this week “Remember to tip your mail carrier” and I thought she has lost her mind. TIP? Tip someone who is probably paid more than most of us each year, has outstanding benefits and gets to sit around wasting time while being paid to give poor service (I often get neighbor’s mail)? I think not. People, the days of tipping or giving gifts to your friendly neighborhood letter carrier each holiday are long gone.

    • wiz561 says:

      I’m a fed and we’re not allowed to accept tips over 20 bucks. They actually recommend not accepting any tips because it could lead into a conflict of interest type situation. Granted, I’m not a mailman, but mail delivery people are feds, so I would think the same rules apply.

      Maybe I’m just sour on tipping. I can understand waters/waitresses and people that have to “earn” their tips. I don’t understand people that provide a service to somebody and expect something in return. This would include ups, fedex, mail deliver, garbage men, etc. But who knows, maybe this is why I’m wondering where my package is too… :D

    • CreekDog says:

      So a story about a lousy USPS tracking system leads you to justify not tipping your mail carrier?

      They have one of the harder jobs in the system –and not well paid if you ask me. Among their job duties –designing and creating the tracking system is not among them.

      As for long lines, again…this justifies not tipping your mail carrier how? USPS *management* pulled out all the stamp machines so you now have to wait in lines to buy stamps. How is that the fault of the front line employee? How does that justify not tipping your mail carrier who is working today mind you, when it’s a Federal Holiday.


      • Jasen says:

        Who the hell tips the mailman? Who started that? I’m nearly 40 and have never heard of tipping the mailman before. How’s that for justification.

        What other government employees are we supposed to tip?

        • BBBB says:

          “Who the hell tips the mailman?”

          When I was a kid we always did. This was a medium sized town with letter carriers who stayed on the same route for a decade or more – Everyone knew the local mailman and the mailman watched out for the neighborhood. In my current area, no mailman has stayed for more than a couple of years and most of the time they are changing a few times a year.

      • nevesis says:

        HA! I’ll tip my mailman when I have the 99.9% “uptime” that every other profession requires. I’m lucky if I don’t have to swap mail with the neighbor every week.

      • dg says:

        All due respect, but you’re either a Mail Carrier or know one pretty well. Do they have a hard job? Hell yes. So do lots of other people. Are they working on a holiday? Yep. So are lots of other people. Do they have shitty managers? Yep. So do lots of other people. Do they make between $45,000 and $55,000/year? Yep. So do lots of other people.

        How are they any more special than anyone else? Oh wait, they’re Mail Men – who still believe that no one has other options besides them. News to the clueless: You’re wrong. We have options. They’re better. We’re using the better options. Your method of dealing with it? Raise prices. Increase line lengths. Decrease staffing. Offer to cut delivery days. Cut office hours. Take demented circuitous routes and when asked about it by customers – answer with a shrug.

        Buh bye.

    • nopirates says:

      i have been wondering why my local (brooklyn) USPS branch has six windows, but only three open last friday, the friday before x-mas. i have NEVER seen more than three open…

      • LastError says:

        Many branches have gone to one or two windows open and also removed the postal vending machines. The idea for both was to force people to stand in line as much as possible and then try to upsell them extra stuff like delivery confirmation and insurance.

        The result is that the line ends up out the door, and since the USPS has rigidly adhered to the 9 to 5 hours when most workers are at work, most of those people are put in a situation where actually using the USPS becomes really difficult.

        I may pay Fedex $10 to overnight a business letter but Fedex open early, and stays open until 10PM and there’s no line. For packages, the cost for Fedex Ground is really close to USPS anyway. My time is not as expensive as it might be for some people but it still well worth the extra cost.

  3. azzie says:

    I don’t think Fedex or UPS would allow pick up. My experience is that they require first delivery attempt before they can put the package on hold. If the package is in transit, they can not hold it for pick up. I have to wait until the delivery guy passes my house, then check that status changed first delivery attempt, then call UPS to hold for pick up.

    With USPS, on the opposite, if you know the package reached your local postal office, you can go talk to supervisor of the sorting facility (not post office) and they usually will help you out.

    • Mom says:

      Fedex and UPS indeed allow pickup. I learned this when I lived in a shady neighborhood where all packages needed signatures, and I worked all day. Once you have a tracking number, you can call and get it rerouted to the pickup facility.

    • anime_runs_my_life says:

      Oh yes they will. As long as you know when the package reaches the receiving city depot, you can call and request the package be held there for pick up. How do I know? Because I’ve done this numerous times and I’ve never had a problem. All you have to do is show up during their business hours and show ID and you have your package.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      Actually, at least with UPS I have been able to do this. I just called ahead with the tracking number, and they were happy to let me come and pick the package up.

    • LastError says:

      Fedex does allow for in-transit holds, redirects and even delivery cancels.

      I work with a client who ships a large daily volume and have had occasion to deal with cases where the client decides they don’t want the end recipient to get the package, for whatever reason. (For example, the client forgot to sign something or they want an executive to review the shipment, etc.)

      With Fedex, we can issue a hold any time right up until the driver delivers it. And we have done exactly that: pulled a package back at the last moment while it was out on the truck for delivery. Literally, we can stop it right until the driver hands over the box. If that hasn’t yet happened, we’re still in control.

      Once we have issued our command to stop delivery, we can have it sent back to us or sent to a different address (for example to one of the client’s field offices in our case), or we can have the package sent to a Fedex office to be held for someone to go pick it up.

      There’s no reason other shippers can’t do this, if they have the precision ability to track and redirect packages like Fedex. Most of the shippers can’t -or won’t.

      UPS is probably capable of the same things. I am just not very familiar with what they can do because we have worked so well with Fedex.

  4. Commenter24 says:

    I’ve had this happen before. The package had the wrong zip code on it and bounced back and forth until I spoke to someone at the office that had it for the moment who just manually fixed the zip.

  5. jpdanzig says:

    Here in NYC, I’m still waiting for a CD I ordered from a vendor in FL at the end of November. He claims to have mailed it out the day after the order… This is the second such incident I’ve experienced with vendors in FL. Either the state has a truly “Bush league” postal system, or the state’s reputation for harboring scammers has bitten me in the ass…

    • PLATTWORX says:

      If you are speaking of eBay and/or paid with Paypal you are running out of time to file a claim with either and get a refund. No package should have taken this much time from Florida. Wait if you choose, but you rights are fading away if you want your money back.

      • sonneillon says:

        Also speaking to his credit card company can yield a similar result. It also pisses off paypal so that is a plus.

  6. slim150 says:

    WTF This article reminded me of a package I was supposed to get today (its a Xmas GPS).. It was in Orlando yesterday (I live in Tampa).. but now I look and its in New Jersey!!!! WTFF

  7. swedub says:

    I had a package shipped Priority Mail on the 8th, should have arrived by the 11th. It was stuck at the same Sorting Facility for 12 days, getting scanned in almost each day it was there. It finally arrived yesterday. When I called and got a case number they said they would call back in 2 business days but never did, even after a requested follow-up more then 2 days later. Their delivery time quotes for Priority Mail the past 2 weeks have mostly been ignored. Except for the weather delay this past weekend FedEx has been mostly on time.

  8. kwjayhawk says:

    Very troubled with my postal service in my area. Missing paystubs and sent out a gift card to a family member this week only a county over- still hasn’t arrived. Seriously am losing faith in sending anything important via USPS.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      My mom sent me a card with picture prints in it, and she’s been calling daily for 3 weeks to find out if it came. No sign of it. I wonder if the fact that UPS and FedEx are sending packages to local post offices for delivery is overloading the USPS this year. It’s been a horrible year for shipping altogether.

  9. MeowMaximus says:

    The USPS is useless for anything important. I had a friend send me a package from Ohio to Colorado (within the US) with “Guaranteed 2nd Day Delivery”. It took a week. I sent a package to my niece in Upstate NY via UPS 2nd Day air. It got there the next day. Both of these packages were shipped in the last week, so they were both shipped during the “busy” time of the year.

    The important difference is while UPS was able to tell me exactly where my package was, and when it was delivered (along with the pleasant surprise of it getting there early), USPS was unable to determine where my incoming package was, or why it had been delayed.

    Furthermore, the USPS does not really guarantee delivery dates – despite my package being massively late, there was no refund for my friend. In the past when UPS has been late – which happens very rarely, they has always given me a refund, no hassles, no problems.

    This is why the USPS is dying.

  10. funder says:

    LOL, you’ll never get it. My parents sent two boxes to me for my birthday in October – one arrived, one didn’t. They resent the missing box with a tracking number, and we’ve been helplessly watching it bounce around the country every since. It circled between Reno, NV and the sort facility in Richmond, CA for months – now it’s gone back east to visit Atlanta, GA. All customer service reps and postal managers have been utterly helpless. (Needless to say, the address info is correct and I get mail here every single day.. just not THAT mail.)

  11. powerrose says:

    Start calling your post office and the sorting centers and asking to speak to a supervisor. You can also email usps and they are required to respond (eventually).
    Finally, yes, definitely tip your mail carrier and get to know them.

    I know everyone hates on the post office, and for good reasons, like ineffective tracking. But, its not the postal workers fault and if you get to know your mail carrier, they can do miraculous stuff for you. Case in point, a couple of days ago, my mom (who is a mail lady) spotted a package for one of her customers in the ‘mystery’ bin the other day because the address was wrong and she drove in a snowstorm to deliver it special that day.

    The flip side is that the post office is out of money so they hire a lot of temps and seasonal workers these days. Also, veterans get priority for postal jobs, so there’s a lot PTSD crazy dudes at the post office (my mom used to have 4 guys at her PO with steel plates in their skulls). Its also near impossible to fire bad postal workers. So basically if you have some young temp worker or Newman for your carrier, you’re SOL.

  12. JReedNet says:

    The post office at 11405 is a customs facility
    The post office at 10199 is the v. large James A. Farley post office across from Penn Station
    The post office at 11430 is at JFK Intl Airport.

    So what seems to have happened is your packaged was delivered by airmail at JFK (Jamaica), sent out for domestic delivery (Farley), and then sent back to be air mailed domestically (the second visit to Jamaica, JFK, again.)

    I hope this clears things up. It may not be the smartest thing for them to be doing, but it technically makes sense. We’re working with a quasi-government agency here, so do you expect anything less from them?

    • JReedNet says:

      I just realized YOU are in Manhattan?? Then I don’t know why they sent it back to the airport…

      • JReedNet says:

        I’d expect your package accidentally got sent back to the airport. With the large number of outgoing packages from the city going to families across the country, and the large volume in and out of that office, it could have gotten mixed up and placed in the wrong bin back to the airport.

  13. TasteyCat says:

    How important could it have been if you’re ordering it from Hong Kong 18 days before Christmas? I’d be worried even testing my luck with Amazon.

  14. Klay says:

    Go to your local Post OffIce and wait in line. When it is your turn, nicely explain your situation and ask to speak to the Postmaster at that office. They will try to give you the runaround but stand firm. Postmasters can call and email other Postmasters and do amazing things behind the scenes. Unfortunately, we only hear about the few parcels that don’t make it on time to their destination not the millions that do.

  15. stevied says:


    You did not pay for courier service, you paid for normal package handling. This means your package is mixed in with 100s or 1000s of other packages.

    Isolating a single package can be done. YES, it really can be done. But it is a major act of God that will require disruption of the delivery of all those other packages. Bottom line, USPS (or UPS/FedEx) ain’t about to screw over 100s or even 1000s of other people so you can get your package early/special.

  16. TasteyCat says:

    When trying to locate a Maine to Massachusetts Fedex package recently, I found out that they send everything to Memphis for sorting, then they send it back up to the northeast for delivery. All for a package that takes 2.5 hours by vehicle. Even still, it’s just as quick or quicker to get it done this way.

    On their website, they say a package going from Asia to Europe must go from its origin to LA to Memphis to Newark to Paris to its destination, just about completing a full circle around the globe.

  17. FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

    Same thing happened to me with a christmas gift last year. It had no fewer than a dozen location scans as it bounced between two postal locations for the better part of a week before I was finally able to get a postmaster to PERSONALLY grab the package and set it on their desk so I could pick it up.

  18. Coles_Law says:

    My guess is the ZIP code is illegible or incorrect. It hasn’t bounced around too much yet, so it will likely show up soon.

  19. PsiCop says:

    The problem with all of this is that the Postal Service doesn’t use the same kind of tracking that Fedex and UPS do. Really, no one — not even in the USPS — has any idea what has happened with it. The listed route could be a complete fantasy.

  20. Danjalier says:

    Registered mail requires a signature from each person who handles it. I don’t know if a customer is privy to the names on that list, but be sure to tell your regular carrier that you are expecting a registered piece of mail and it’s online status makes it look like it never makes it to your post office. Ask that they speak to the “accountables clerk” to see if he or she ever signed for it. It might not make much of a difference, but people lose their jobs over registered mail not arriving at it’s destination. So put the idea in their heads and they will keep an eye out.

    On the processing center side of things, I’m clueless. Good luck.

    • Gone2 says:

      Just before I retired from a PO mail processing plant two years ago, I was told the rules for foreign registered mail had been changed. Forgein Registers are not considered registered when it enters the USPS mail stream. So, sending registered mail from a foreign country to the US is a waste of money. That piece of mail you thought was secured in a cage is being processed with the regular first class mail. Yes, the PO is going down hill.

  21. woolygator says:

    I too had a bad experience. My package went from Rutherford, N.J. to Walpole Ma. to Milford, Ct. even though I live in a suburb of New York and Rutherford NJ. is also a suburb of New York.

  22. Yorick says:

    Other members of my family, when they ship items to me, always put an additional mailing address card inside the box, which I’ve generally thought of as pointless and dumb. This is the third story I’ve seen in two months about mail being damaged & repacked. I’m thinkin’ maybe I should start doing that too.

  23. redline says:

    Regular mail and Priority Mail is not a guaranteed service. If I ship anything of value, I always purchase the minimum insurance amount as a hedge against theft. Overall, Priority Mail works great; with an occasional theft of items that are not insured.

  24. ojisan says:

    Unfortunately, if the piece of mail originated in a foreign country, it is treated as ordinary First Class Mail and is dumped into the regular mail processing stream. This policy of treating Foreign Registered Mail was unilaterally startedin August 2008. People in foreign countries assume that their mail is being handled as Registered Mail when it arrives in the USA but the sad truth is it gets dumped in with ordinary mail once it gets here to reduce processing costs by the USPS. (Another one of many Postal dirty secrets.) I work registered mail in a postal processing facility so I know what I’m talking about. Good luck in tracking down your mail as it is no longer required to be scanned at each facility it passes through. My personal apologies for the arrogance and stupidity of those who made thispoor decision.

  25. It could be you says:

    I’m a postal clerk in a registry section. Incoming International registered mail is no longer handled as registered until it reaches the delivery unit. It gets mixed with first class and loses the ability to track. Signatures are no longer required until it reaches the delivery zip. I assume the barcode on the piece is being read by sorting machines. Cross your fingers.

  26. yautja says:

    FedEx’s tracking isn’t any better. It said something was currently 2 hours away from where I was at, and it had already been delivered to me an hour before.

    UPS also uses hubs, too, which can be pretty stupid. If I ship something to the business next door, it has to go to a central hub which is 1.5 hours/58 minutes away, and then back the next day.

  27. dg says:

    don’t worry – your DealExtreme “gift” will get there soon enough :-)

    As for the USPS – they can’t go out of business soon enough…

  28. invisibelle says:

    I hate USPS like fire and avoid them at all costs. A couple of years ago I had a piece of jewelry shipped to me via USPS from a jeweler, because all research said that it was supposed to be the safest way to go.
    They delivered it to some random business a mile from my place. I probably wouldn’t have gotten it back if I hadn’t been completely hysterical on the phone with them – the package included the diamond my dad got me for my 16th birthday. I thought it was lost forever, all because I foolishly chose USPS. Definitely up there as one of the worst days of my life.

  29. RobofNYC says:

    Here is my package from Hell. It was never delivered and each time I called someone said I would get a call back in two days. Only once did that ever come. Still package never arrived and never will. Fortunately the company I purchased it from (WOOT) stood behind their service and shipped a replacement. We will see if that gets delivered.

    It left Texas on 12/3; arrived in West Virginia 12/6; Arrived NJ on 12/7; and then NY arrive 12/8 and the last comment is out for delivery – and Post Office Hell ever since then. No one knows where it is, or how to find it.