Package Vanishes Into Thin Air Inside The Post Office

Anthony’s faith in the U.S. Postal service was clearly misplaced. He dropped off a package with a prepaid label at a local post office, with the misguided belief that it would enter the shipping system, and that the delivery confirmation barcode on the label would show the package’s path through the mails. That’s not what happened. What happened was that the prepaid label, with no package attached, was returned to Anthony’s house. Where’s the package? No one knows. But it’s not the post office’s problem, since there’s no proof that he even mailed it in the first place.

I shipped a package via USPS on January 18. The package contained a laptop screen and battery I had sold on eBay. A week and a half later, the buyer complained that they never received the package. On the same day, I received a bubble envelope that contained the label from my box, that had been cut off with a box cutter, along with a “mail recovery form”. The bubble envelope had no postage on it. I called the post office immediately, and they said they had no record of the package, even though the label had a sticker attached to it by the post office that said “zip codes help speed the mails”. Yes, mails, plural. The label was pre-printed, with the zip code.

They only had proof that I purchased their label online, but no proof they accepted it. Even after I explained what I had received in the mail, the forms, the sticker, etc, they deny it went through their processing plant because there “are multiple high speed cameras, and one would have picked it up”. They told me “sir, you have no proof that you ever shipped the package”.

The auction total with postage was $70, and was not insured. Even if it was insured, they claim to have not accepted it, so it wouldn’t be covered. I have spoken to half a dozen representatives, in multiple departments, and have played phone tag, leaving dozens of messages attempting to recover this package. I submitted the mail search form 2 and a half weeks ago, but haven’t gotten a response, and when calling that number, was unable to leave a message (and redirected 4 times to end at someone’s voicemail.

When I shipped the package, the extremely rude clerk at the USPS refused to give me a receipt because it was prepaid, and for all I know she stole the package’s contents and dropped the label and forms at my house personally. I directly questioned the integrity of the post office, and asked how I could ever trust that my packages would be sent successfully, and they simply replied “they should” … That I could “hope” they get there safe and sound.

In terms of compensation, they have only offered me a postage refund of $10 (with proof of shipping). I have an eBay buyer who has been extremely patient, but is obviously getting fed up. No one in the post office seems to care, and I have filed for 2 investigstions, which both concluded that the package was never received or lost in transit.
Please help Consumerist!!

I frequently ship items with prepaid labels printed through PayPal, and when I hand them over, the clerk scans them in, showing that they were received at X post office and the time and date. I also get a receipt indicating this. If your local post office doesn’t do this for your prepaid packages, insist on it.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    USPS “they can’t be fired!” liars in 3.. 2..

  2. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    The USPS screwed up AND DGAF?!?!?

    Sofa King Surprised!

    • HotAirConsumer says:

      I see what you did there. Watch out, in 9 years the consumerist authority will come and shut you down!

  3. SemiSpook37 says:

    Had this happen back in January. Had a package coming from somewhere in TX, was tracking via USPS. Had been well over two weeks since I received the tracking number and the status hadn’t changed (especially when I had another package go through the same location at the same time and did receive that in a timely manner). Contacted the shipper, seeing as how it was his responsibility to follow up, and also followed up with the USPS. Suddenly. it miraculously appeared one morning in my P.O. Box.

  4. winnabago says:

    You need to learn how to use the SCAN form. They exist for this reason (rude USPS clerks and prepaid packages)

  5. TheUncleBob says:

    At this point, just refund the buyer’s money. You’re not getting the merchandise back. As a seller, it’s your job to get the merchandise to the buyer, and this includes making sure you have selected a proper delivery method.

    If, through following up with the Post Office, you get your money back, then great! If you get the merchandise back, then contact the buyer and see if they still want it (at or below the original purchase price) – if not, re-list it.

  6. brinks says:

    The b*tchy clerk made sure there was no proof the package was ever dropped off when she refused to scan it. I wonder if there have been any other police reports filed for theft at this location. Set up a sting!

  7. foodfeed says:

    Report the theft? File a formal complaint after finding out the name of the employee you handed it to? See if a cop will join you on your visit to ask if they have cameras at the desk in the post office? It’s probably gone forever, but you can waste a lot of time making their days pleasant.

  8. Dover says:

    USPS won’t give receipts for certain types of prepaid labels. This makes it hard to prove that you dropped off a package, makes no sense, and makes me angry. How can folks like Anthony prove he shipped the package when you won’t provide him with a receipt or any other proof that he did so?

    • Hoss says:

      You hand it to the clerk. The clerk scans it and tracking begins. What use is a receipt?

      • elangomatt says:

        The receipt is useful to prove that you dropped it off. Without the physical receipt you can tell whoever you want that you sent it but the PO will just say “nuh uh!” I am sure that a clerk wanting to steal your package could figure out a way to scan it in a way that doesn’t actually put it in the system. If they don’t give you a receipt you have no way to prove you actually dropped it off.

        • Posthaus says:

          “I am sure that a clerk wanting to steal your package could figure out a way to scan it in a way that doesn’t actually put it in the system.”

          Acceptance scanning does not work that way. If it’s a prepaid label it already exists as data in the system, the acceptance scan merely starts the clock acknoeledge in it’s been accepted by the USPS. You can’t spoof a PAS terminal or a handheld scanner. You can enter it incorrectly under the wrong function,but those will pop up in the scanning reports in the office’s main terminal (they even differentiate between whether an entry is scanned or typed in manually!)

          Now there is leeway for operator error, the aforementioned scanning it under the wrong function (although that should be caught by supervisor down the line.

          There is also an instance where at least handheld scanners will accidentally scan and take the destination barcode on a prepaid label (just a slight barcode on the bottom of the address simply denoting the delivering zipcode and the plus four digit) instead of the tracking barcode (be it Del Con, Sig Con, Insured, etc) but whomever is using the scanner should be paying attention to what the scanner has taken instead of breezing through the process. It shouldn’t happen, but it does from time to time.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Folks like Anthony can use delivery confirmation. The package gets scanned and he gets the ticket with the tracking number. Problem solved.

  9. az123 says:

    My guess is the OP printed the label and dropped it into the drop box at the local PO rather than going to the counter (seems like good way to save time) There is likely someone at the local PO who figured out till it is scanned it is not in the system and is lifting packages.

    Not that it will help get money back or the items, but if what I said is what was done… I would say the OP should go to the local PO that he dropped it off at and ask to speak to the postmaster for that station. Calmly and politely explain what happened and that evidently because it was not scanned you cannot get anything, however all you want to do it bring to their attention that you did drop the package off there and how, and that somehow the package went missing. Take the label in and show that it looks like it was cut off with a box cutter and just say “I wanted to let you know that a package was dropped off at your PO, the label seems to have been cut off and the package vanished, perhaps you want to make sure this is not something that is going to continue happening”

    You can also call the postal inspectors office and report the same thing, again you are not going to get your money back, but if they have a thief in your local PO they may catch them

    • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

      Dear god, RTFA. He specifically mentions the clerk not giving him a receipt…

      • Vox Republica says:

        Likewise, RTFC. There is not a single mention of the word “receipt” or anything along those lines. What is mentioned is the label–you know, the label that is explicitly mentioned in TFA: “I received a bubble envelope that contained the label from my box, that had been cut off with a box cutter, along with a ‘mail recovery form’.”


        • Gally says:

          “When I shipped the package, the extremely rude clerk at the USPS refused to give me a receipt because it was prepaid”


          Meaning he didnt use a drop box.

          • Vox Republica says:

            And again, the *comment* is about how one addresses the USPS *without* ever once mentioning a receipt and focusing on what the consumer actually has to show. Is it We Don’t Read Things Day around here or something?

      • BBBB says:

        My local Post Office refuses to scan packages with pre-printed labels. They inform you that they will be scanned when processed at the distribution center.

        Having it scanned doesn’t matter since they won’t assume any responsibility unless you buy insurance.

  10. Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

    I too am taking a similar stance as the USPS in my personal life. Because I’m tired of: “remember when we were in the Russian prison and you did that dance to distract the prison guard so I could steal his gun?”

    No, I don’t, pics or it didn’t happen. Consequently a large portion of my past is slowly disappearing like fog on a beach as the sun rises.

    On a more on topic note, it seems like this is a lost cause, unless you can some how make them show you video footage from when you dropped off the package. Why would someone just walk away from something important in the post office?

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      It was Albanian prison. And you stole his knife.

      • Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

        Like I said, I’ve done many things to many prison guards all over the world but if you can’t prove it then I ain’t buyin’ it.

        Oh, yeah and wasn’t Albania the place where you SHOT ME IN THE FUCKING ARM?!

        • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

          I had to, you were coming at me with the knife!

          Ahhhh, those were the days, though, amirite?

  11. winstonthorne says:

    Eat the $70. You’re never seeing that merchandise again.

    Going forward, use only UPS or FedEx to ship packages; adjust your item price or shipping charge to compensate.

  12. fsnuffer says:

    Now we know where all the TSA baggage inspectors found new jobs. The USPS.

  13. Hi_Hello says:

    i use to drop off packages with preprinted labels on them at UPS. They never had a problem and I never got a receipt… unlike last month… when i drop it off they told me to wait, printed a receipt and gave it to me..

    strangest thing..but I figure stuff that is happening to the OP must be happening a lot..

  14. mobiuschic42 says:

    Oh god, this reminds me of my somewhat recent USPS nightmare:
    I was applying to teach English in Japan with the JET Program and it had a very strenuous application that you only had a month to complete (they release the application in early November, it was due December 2). This application was seriously more difficult than my college applications.
    I had all the pieces I could complete on my own done by November 20, but one of my references was really busy and could only get his letter to me at the last minute.
    So, I went to his office with all my other materials in a prepaid, USPS Express mail envelope ready to go. I got his reference, and dropped the package in a USPS mailbox right outside a post office. This was Monday night, in Boston, and my application was due in DC at 5PM Friday – hard deadline, no exceptions.

    So, I wake up Wednesday morning and check the tracking and…the first message is that the package is in Phoenix, AZ. :(

    It took calling customer service 3 times before an agent realized that it shouldn’t be 2500 miles away from its destination. When I finally got through to someone, they were very helpful, and my package did end up making it to DC on Friday, but those were some very nerve wracking days, thanks to the USPS.

    Long story short, I had my interview a week ago, and now I get to wait even more, but, Jesus, the USPS did NOT help my stress level.

  15. Guppy06 says:

    “The auction total with postage was $70, and was not insured.”


    “When I shipped the package, the extremely rude clerk at the USPS refused to give me a receipt because it was prepaid,”

    Certificate of Mailing: $1.15

    “and for all I know she stole the package’s contents”

    “I have an eBay buyer who has been extremely patient, “

    You fail at customer service. The moment you got notice that the package was missing, you should have offered a full refund.

    • Vox Republica says:

      Certificate of Mailing is not evidentiary proof of contents or of mailing. Our company got burned on this one once: see, e.g., Finch v. Barnhart.

  16. incident man stole my avatar says:

    I mailed some cds that I sold on eBay in late November from Bodymore,Murderland to a small town in central Pa. It was logged in at the local office and the next scan showed it in South Carolina where it sat for 30 days before I received the label neatly removed from the package with a note explaining that the packeage had been damaged. I’ve filed multiple complaints and asked for my money back and the cds from the dead letter office but have yet to get anything. I say it’s some ticked off USPS workers striking back.

  17. sirwired says:

    FYI, Delivery Confirmation does NOT show the packages path through the system. It may get scanned here and there, but often it’s only going to get scanned upon delivery.

  18. Kaleey says:

    Most POs have cameras somewhere within them, like at the door. The problem here is that the footage is probably long since gone, since it happened six weeks ago. (Not that someone intentionally got rid of it; they just don’t keep those things forever.) Six weeks is a long time – my guess is that you’ll be sol in the end either way, but give it a little bit more, just in case. (I know the six weeks has been spent playing phone tag, so no fault there, but that’s just the breaks.)

    See the manager in charge of the office. Ask him how he thinks the label form got back to you if the office had not touched it – it was attached to a box at some point. Ask about security footage – the door may have a camera on it that can show you bringing in a package and leaving without it. (Don’t hold your breath, though.) Obviously that package did not go through the processing plant down the belts. But that does not mean that you did not bring it in to be shipped.

    You might try a higher person than that – like a regional level manager.

    Do not directly accuse someone of stealing the package – that’s the fast track to a stonewall. Please tell me that you copied the mail search form – you should keep ALL documentation regarding shipments that go awry just in case.

    Refund the buyer’s money, apologize profusely, and explain that it is a shipping problem that you simply can’t get resolved in a manner timely enough to justify making him wait any longer.

    And next time, insist on a receipt. If they scan at the desk (some units don’t), don’t leave until the clerk scans the package. Just browse through the collectible stamps case.

    Finally, for anyone who says “Use Fedex or UPS!” – they ahve problems like this, too. If you switched carriers, never to go back again every time the one you were using screwed up, you’d probably run out of carriers in 3-5 years. Not that this is acceptable. It is not – however, the only guaranteed way to get a package where you want it to go is to hand deliver it yourself.

  19. ancientone567 says:

    I do prepaid for eBay auctions as well but you have to stand in line and make sure they scan your package in or it is your own fault and some more unscrupulous USPS employees will know this too and might take your package. Your package could have even been taken by a customer. I see people come and place the packages on the counter with nobody there and just leave. I THINK WOW THAT WAS STUPID!

  20. dullard says:

    Google “USPS Leadership Team Directory”

    The fourth entry down will be

    «FirstName» «LastName» Format: Microsoft Word – Quick View
    USPS Leadership Team Directory Updated 12/29/2009. Drew Aliperto. Vice President, Pacific Area Operations. United States Postal Service. 400 Oyster Point …

    Click on the listing and you will download the names and telephone numbers of various executives at the USPS. The names may be different as this list is from 2009, but you should be able to use the telephone numbers to contact a high level executive for your area.

    • scoosdad says:

      Names may be different because this is from 2009?

      Man, those guys are in it for life! They’re all still there, and their pay has likely doubled since 2009.

  21. Gorbachev says:

    “I frequently ship items with prepaid labels printed through PayPal”

    You got to be kidding. A Consumerist editor/writer using PayPal???

  22. Tank Fuzzbutt says:

    Tustin USPS sucks beyond belief.
    Just saying.

  23. dush says:

    It’s only going to get worse now that Congress is strangling the Post Office.

  24. ShreeThunderbird says:

    I’ll try to keep this story short. Several years ago my wife wanted to have a special quilt made for her mother as a birthday present. I shipped the materials to a friend of mine who made quilts in another town via USPS. Then for several months we heard nothing from the friend on either arrival or progress. I talked to her and she said it had never arrived. USPS could not trace it, but “thought” it had arrived at the destination. About five years later we received a postcard from the destination post office saying they had found the boxed quilt items and asked what we wanted them to do with it. We had the “PO” send it back. We had to pay for the return shipping. End of story? Not quite. My wife had another friend complete the quilt. While my wife and her mother were having lunch (after which she was going to give her mother the quilt) the quilt was stolen from her truck.

  25. WyomingGunAndHuntingEnthusiast says:

    I don‚Äôt trust the USPS, I have had numerous packages that were being sent to me not make it and end up being returned to the original shipper because “it wouldn‚Äôt fit in the mailbox” or “didn‚Äôt accept the package” why the hell wouldn‚Äôt I accept a package that I paid for? I have also been trying to get my mailbox key changed since my neighbors key works on my box and vice versa but they want to charge both my neighbor and myself $20 for their f-up.

  26. jheyneman says:

    I’ve had clerks refuse to give me a receipt, it is a load of BS. I have been asking so frequently that they now offer me a receipt. Just demand one or ask for their supervisor. I always make sure they scan it in before I leave.

  27. Mknzybsofh says:

    Rule number one when dropping anything off. GET A FUCKING RECEIPT.