Postal Limbo

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Michelle Phillips

Not one, not two, but six packages that I sent more than a week ago seem to be lost in postal limbo. Some of these packages just contain a variety of candy that I spent an entire Saturday crafting. Each year I send tins full of treats to my relatives and, in I have no idea how many years, they have never been lost. 

In addition to the treats, which are not that big of deal, it’s the other presents, which included some holiday gifts and also my brother’s birthday present that I am displeased about. These are the items that will have to be replaced and will not make it in time for either his birthday or maybe even Jesus’. 

Now, I am a long defender of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and use their services often. For years I have been selling vintage jewelry on eBay, mostly as a hobby, but also to fuel my own jewelry habit and fund a few vacations. Over the years there have been a few mishaps. For example, I received a photo from a buyer of a box that had clearly been run over by a vehicle–you could see the tire marks–and the bracelet that had been in it was long gone. A couple of times thing disappeared with no trace and on other occasions arrived damaged, but overall, it was a very low percentage of items.

One of the most troubling things about the packages that are currently missing is that they were never scanned. That means there is no way to know if they ever left Madison.

When I went into the Post Office, the line was massive and there was one person working. One person in December? Really? After waiting in line for nearly 30 minutes, according to the Waltham clock on the wall, a couple was called back over by the solitary clerk to complete their passport application. It was at that point that I decided to do what I normally do with packages that are labeled and ready to send, stack them on the counter with the others. On this day there were dozens of prepaid packages on the counter, but I thought nothing of it and left them there because I couldn’t wait 30 more minutes.

A couple of times I have had a package that is not scanned show up at its destination, but with the reduction in postal staff and increased shipping, I am starting to lose hope that a package going as close as Cedar Rapids has not arrived after nine days. I could walk it there and make it back home in that amount of time.

I also know from experience that postal insurance is virtually useless. The handful of times I have had a claim for something lost or damaged, it has ALWAYS been denied. Always. Therefore, I have no expectation of replacement or monetary payment. So, in addition to the $80 in shipping that I am out, I will likely eat the cost of the lost gifts. 

This is not a financial hardship for me, mostly an inconvenience, but it is the principle. I mean, the postal service and I entered into an agreement that I would pay their outrageous priority postage and they would get my items there in two to three days. One of us has not upheld that contract. (Hint: It wasn’t me.)

Patience is typically a quality I possess, but every day when I check the tracking and it says “Pre-shipment” and that the Post Office is awaiting them to be dropped off, it makes me angry. Angry that we are not staffing the USPS, angry that the packages were never scanned and angry because with no tracking it as if the packages don’t exist in the eyes of the postal service.

I implore President-elect Joe Biden to fund the USPS and keep fostering this valuable service. In spite of their negligence, I still support a government-run central postal system. I believe it is the best way to deliver to the entire country, and still more affordable than its for profit competitors.  Next time, though, I think I’ll wait in line.

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