It finally happened for the first time in my entire life. The USPS lost a package I sent back to the US through APO (military) and then regular US stateside mail. Okay, fine, I had it insured. Of course it had the customs slip. But of course it was a birthday present to my MIL….whoops, and that’s where I got all sweaty.
I never really thought of the chain of events that happens when the post office loses your package, and you are faced with having to make a claim. I’ve never HAD to file a claim. It all started when I called my MIL for her birthday, and she never mentioned the gift. Before we wrapped up the conversation, I gently asked if she had gotten a package from us…”what package?” was the response…uh-oh. I told her I would investigate. This was last Spring.
I went to our local APO about a month after I shipped the medium size and weight package to Florida, trying to find out where it might be. They tried to track it in their system with the insurance number and could not find it…anywhere. I was told to come back in 60 days to actually file the claim and not a day sooner (so much for my MIL’s birthday). I was also told to bring not only the insurance receipt but the cash register receipt too. You know, I never thought to keep both of them but I did because I paid with a credit card. As a sidenote, I keep those receipts for a year and longer if they are something for our home property inventory (scan them into your computer as they fade). I even brought my customs form back for good measure. But wait, there’s more…..I was also asked to bring either the original sales receipt of how much the item cost and barring that, a page from a catalog or online that shows the price of the item.
So I never thought of that either. I thought the process would be as simple as whatever amount I wrote down as the insured amount is exactly what I’ll get back plus postage. Evidently, I was smoking dope, as it is more complicated than that.
After exactly the 60 day mark, I came back and the lady behind the counter immediately says, “oh, hello lady-who-had-the-package-lost” and oh, BTW, I am forever known as that lady at my local APO. I guess that’s a good thing, cause maybe there aren’t a lot of other ladies who have had their packages lost?
I filled out their paperwork, produced my insurance and payment receipts and then oooops….I had forgotten my original receipt for the item I had purchased for my MIL. They allowed me to sign an affidavit, SWEARING that the price I had listed on the insurance form was the actual price. Of course it was. I am that honest. At least this is an option if you don’t have your original receipt anymore. Can you imagine a box full of second-hand items or just a bunch of items? Do they expect you to have the receipt for each individual item?
About three weeks later, I get a check from the USPS in my little APO mail slot. I did the math…added up the cost of my item, the original postage plus insurance and damned if the totals didn’t match. The USPS’s check was for a few dollars more. No matter how I manipulated my fingers or my calculator, I could not get them to match. I guess I should just be glad that they possibly overpaid me rather than under?
You can bet the next time I mailed something, I chose delivery confirmation too. I don’t know if it was a fluke or just me…even the mail people seemed surprised they couldn’t find the package in the system with just the insurance tracking number.
Be sure to read about the forms and the process on the USPS website. I see there is also an option on filing a claim online.
And to sum it all up in a nutshell, here’s what you need to know about mailing your next package:
- Write the mailing and return address in clear letters (I like Sharpies) with ink that doesn’t run when it gets wet, clearly and legibly on the outside (and not on a seam).
- Put a copy of the mailing address INSIDE the package too. You’d be amazed at what can get ripped off the outside.
- When mailing from an APO, I like to tape the side seams very nicely but not too much that the person trying to open it at the other end is cursing you and it cause they can’t get it open. Also take the tape and go once around the circumference for good measure and to hold everything together. Some of these second-hand boxes can be very flimsily taped on the bottom…a place that most of us really never look.
- I now ALWAYS use delivery confirmation.
- If I’m sending food, I don’t insure it….just delivery confirmation. It makes no sense to insure food.
- For valuable items, I definitely insure it…anything over $20 usually.
- For packages with items worth more than a few dollars, I now take a photo of the contents before I pack them in there.
- I take a stack of those insurance forms home with me and fill each one out as I fill the package with goodies. It’s amazing how we forget exactly what’s in there just 5 minutes later, and it cuts down on extra things you would have to do at the post office.
- I don’t know if it’s something we can do, but I noticed some of the electronic items we got for Christmas just had the model #s written on there. For example, my ipad package said nothing about there being an ipad in there. It had some long model-looking-number on the customs form. I guess it’s worth a try for next time.
Do you have any tips for filing a USPS claim or sending things back stateside?