The Samovar

Our beloved USPS

David Jay - 3/7/2009 at 21:01

Has anyone else recently had the experience of having a parcel with philatelic material held up for a long period in customs?
I bought an ebay lot with many pages of stamps. It was mailed
registered (fortunately)from England by a seller I have previously dealt with, and who seems to be totally OK. The item was
sent 10 Feb. When I started tracing it via the USPS web site
a couple of weeks later, the web site insisted that the parcel
"being prepared for sending by the country of origin" or something of the like. Finally about 1 March, the web site admitted that it had arrived 12 Feb in NY, but it has not moved since. I'm not sure whether the poor web posting is just that the USPS isbeing overwhelmed by, or if it is some sort of silly security thing.
When I called the info line, I was told that I could do
nothing (only the sender could initiate an attempt to locate it), and that they had no more info than the web site. When the sender inquired in the UK, he was told that US customs was
creating major delays for parcels with new security procedures. Has anyone else experienced such delays? Are
Russian stamps suddenly subversive? I guess one lesson is
that everything from abroad needs to be registered. This doesn't avoid delays, but makes it harder to just disappear the package.

cec71 - 3/9/2009 at 09:39

Similar experience. Recently purchased a lot of Russian stamps from a seller in Romania. Was posted the day following the end of the auction. I received the stamps 3 weeks later. Again fortunately the mail was registered. On the positive side have received lots from Poland, England and Denmark remarkably fast.

David Jay - 3/9/2009 at 10:53

OK, thanks. As of tomorrow, it will be a month since posting.

Jeff - 3/9/2009 at 13:46

Hi David, I have not had any difficulties with USPS and receiving mail from overseas. I do have an eBay lot enroute from New Zealand and have not seen it. I won the lot some time in January I believe. This could be a seller issue rather than a USPS issue. I guess I should ping the seller!

jlechtanski - 3/9/2009 at 13:49

I have had long delays with customs both personally and at work, and it has gotten worse these last few years. The success of specialized shippers (like FedEx) with customs has been good. Even with Express Mail, the delivery time guarantees are void in the event of customs delays.

From the US Customs (CBP is Customs and Border Protection):

"If CBP has detained your package for some reason-for example, lack of a proper invoice, bill of sale, or other documentation, a possible trademark violation, or if the package requires a formal entry, the CBP International Mail Branch holding it will notify you of the reason for detention (in writing) and how you can get it released. When you have fulfilled the requirements necessary to effect release, CBP will clear the package, note how much duty is owed, and return it to the Postal Service for delivery. Usually, you will receive notification in a matter of days, but it can take as long as 30-45 days."

"If your package is long overdue or you think it may be lost in the mail, you should contact your local post office and request that a parcel tracer action be initiated to locate it. The Post Office often advises callers to contact CBP. However, we do not track packages into or out of our facilities, and unless you have a detention notice from CBP with a number to refer to when you call, we will not be able to locate your package even if it is being held by CBP."

"If the post office has a tracking number that indicates the package went into CBP, but no record of it exiting the facility, you might ask their customer service representatives to work directly with the CBP facility to see if it is still there - although the absence of a record is not proof that the package is still in the CBP area. Packages exit the CBP facilities on a conveyor belt and the post office's electronic scanners do not always catch the bar codes on packages as they exit the facility."

Unhinged - 3/9/2009 at 16:27

Well, jlechtanski, you seem to have acquitted our beloved USPS. It's not their fault, as they have no influence over the vagaries of the CBP. I'm pleased to learn this. What we need to do now is find a way that the USPS CAN have some influence.

David Jay - 3/9/2009 at 23:52

An update -
the item arrived today, only a little beat up, contents fine. No indication of detention. The contents
were wrapped in saran-like plastic. It occurs to me to wonder whether this wrapping perhaps triggered
concern r.e. biological weapons? Would that get detected by their system, I wonder?

It is also interesting that CBP says you can ask the USPS to try to locate the item -- the USPS
person in New York maintained that it was not my business to try to locate a package -
only the sender could do that; I was not eligible. That stance sounds like an excellent way to avoid dealing with customers -- how often is someone in another country going to brave the wait to get a real live human on the phone?

Lacplesis - 3/10/2009 at 03:12

Quote: Originally posted by David Jay  
An update -
only the sender could do that; I was not eligible. That stance sounds like an excellent way to avoid dealing with customers -- how often is someone in another country going to brave the wait to get a real live human on the phone?

The sender does not deal with the mail service of the destination country, his countrys mail service does, since they would have to pay the insurance value in case the item is lost (no matter on what point of the way).

jlechtanski - 3/10/2009 at 09:21

Was the "saran-like plastic" beat up or did it look like it wrapped a package that was already beat up?

I have received such packages in bad condition that were obviously wrapped by the post office. I could tell because in that case the stamps on the package were canceled under the wrap.

A free service of our beloved post office.

David Jay - 3/10/2009 at 11:22

the saran was inside the package, wrapping the pages before they were put into the "shipping
envelope." the shipping envelope was one of those things that don't seem to be used in this country -
cardboard on the back for stiffness, paper on the front.

stamplover - 8/8/2009 at 17:15

I had a postcard purchased at Ebay for about $100 and sent from UK. The seller sent it by the so-called "Airsure" service (an equivalent of certified mail, no signature of the recepient required). The item arrived to NY and then disappeared. He initiated investigation with no rsults: Royal mail is not responsible for sent items beyond foreign points of entry. My lessons:
1. UK sellers must use their "Signed for" service, an equivalent of our registered mail. Strangely, it is cheaper than Airsure.
2. I paid by Paypal and thought I am covered by their protection. Fat chance! They denied my claim on the sole basis that the seller had a proof of mailing.
3. Paying by Paypal, I used my Discover card, not my bank account. After Paypal denied my claim, I filed a dispute with Discover and got my money back in full without any problems. Moral: never use your bank account paying through Paypal.
4. Keep in mind that private mailing services like UPS and Fedex don't cover any collectibles.

jlechtanski - 8/9/2009 at 17:23

Use a credit card with PayPal -- best advice I've heard in weeks. Thanks.

David Jay - 8/25/2009 at 11:48

Given the recent behavior of credit card companies, I wonder about the wisdom of making insurance
claims on small items. As with car insurance, aren't they likely to retaliate? With car insurance, they
find an excuse to raise the rates. Here, they can bump up your interest rate.

Credit card disputes

stamplover - 8/26/2009 at 14:09

With deteriorating quality of almost all kind of services, I file disputes with credit card companies rather often, and never got "punished" in any way. I have to add that I always pay the balance in full on time, so I don't care about the interest rate, don't even know what it is.