Ryan Carmelo Briones

mostly harmless

Consumer Warning: Priority mail not guaranteed. December 22, 2007

This is a warning to everybody looking to send anything, especially Christmas gifts, via USPS Priority Mail.

This year we had the great opportunity to be with our family for Christmas. You see, we currently live in Columbus, OH and most of our immediate family lives in either Zephyrhills, FL (Tampa Bay area) or Madison, FL (45 mins East of Tallahassee, FL). My mom was gracious enough to pay for flights for us to come down and be with them. Since we have so much family down here, it seemed best to have Christmas presents shipped ahead of our arrival. So, we worked hard to get our Christmas shopping done earlier and get everything packed up in to two boxes. Thursday Dec 13th, I went to the USPS facility in on Twin Rivers Dr in Columbus, OH to get our packages sent out. I set them up to be delivered via Priority Mail, which is 2-3 day delivery. "Of course that's plenty of time for the packages to be there before we arrive on Dec 18th!", I say to myself. I also asked for "tracking" on both, but the closest analog USPS offers to this well known service of UPS and FedEx is "delivery confirmation". So, for $0.65 per package, I figure it can't hurt.

That night I decide to start checking online to see what kind of status I could expect from this. It showed this:

Label/Receipt Number: [redacted]
Status: Acceptance

Your item was accepted at 10:18 AM on December 13, 2007 in COLUMBUS, OH 43216. Information, if available, is updated every evening. Please check again later.

That looks like it could work. So I setup some bookmarks so I could check these easily and sent the links to Stephanie so she could check them as well. We checked again on Friday and Saturday, no change. That was a bit worrisome, but being that this was a "delivery confirmation", I guess this is the best I could do. Then, to our surprise, package #1, delivered to Zephyrhills, FL on Sunday Dec 16th! Success! Delivered on a Sunday even! Now that's service. We continued to track package #2 as the week went on: as we left on Tues Dec 18th, all week while in Zephyrhills until Dec 21st. No change. We even had Stephanie's mom go to the Post Office on Friday to see if they could do anything while we were en route to Madison. Their response: "We can only check what you can. Look on the website."

As we were getting close, Stephanie started to work the phone to see what she could do about this. Her attempt led her in a bunch of circles and no luck. So when we arrived I made in my personal mission to find out what was going on with this thing. I started by calling up the originating post office in Columbus, OH. The people looked the tracking number we had in the system and confirmed that the box had left their facility. She suggested we talk to a supervisor in the destination facility. So, next thing was to call the Madison, FL post office.

Post Office: Madison Post Office this is [Person]. How may I help you?
Me: Hi, my name is Ryan I...
Post Office: The post office is closed. Please call back tomorrow.
Me: Umm...ok. Bye.

What the heck? I'm REALLY frustrated at this point. I have not been able to get ANY answers as to what has happened to this package. I plan to go to the post office as soon as they open on Saturday.

I end up being the third person in line Saturday morning. I got up to the counter and gave the whole story to the person there. Response: "I can't really check anything." Frustrated, I give her more story. Response: "Well let me see what I can pull up.", as she sets the delivery confirmation receipt to the side. "I have to wait on these other customers first though since I'm the only person here at the front." Great. After we wait for 5 minutes or so, we move around so that we can remain in the sight of the counter person. When she sees us, she hands our delivery confirmation receipt to another worker standing there who disappears to the back. A few more minutes of waiting and we hear: "They're standing over there by that door." A lady steps out. "As you can see here", pointing to a report printed from their internal tracking system, "the package is still in Columbus, OH." Excuse me? I talked to someone in Columbus last night and they confirmed that the package had left their facility. "Oh yes, that's what I said it left Columbus, OH on Dec 13th and it's somewhere in between. You know, there's no guarantee on Priority shipping, right? The only guarantee is on Express shipping" I understand that now, yes, but it has been 9 days since I sent the package. That's more than a day or so late. "Well, sir, it's Christmas. There's a lot of mail going around right now." Well the package I sent to Tampa, FL (200 miles south of Madison) made it there in 3 days... "I don't know what to tell you sir. We're delivering on Monday (Christmas eve), we can only hope it will be here by then."

Wow. Thanks for nothing USPS. I will not being using your service ever again to ship a box. With UPS and FedEx I get an updated status if someone sneezes on the box INCLUDING when it gets delivered. At least they know where the package was at last when something happens. USPS response: "It's somewhere between where you sent it and where it's supposed to be delivered. That's all we know." Great.

The moral of the story here is: if you HAVE to send a package and you expect it to end up where it needs to be delivered to either: pay the extra amount to get a "guaranteed" delivery via Express Mail or send using something else. Personally, I'm going to send using something else.

Update: The package arrived the morning of Christmas Eve to much rejoicing! We will be sending the presents we received in Florida back to Ohio using UPS.