Delivery Confirmation Consternation

Posted: October 15, 2009 in Business, direct marketing, Misleadership
Tags: , ,

The other day my wife and daughter and I went for a walk. It had been raining on and off, and now the sun had broken through the clouds and we needed to get outside.

As we walked past one of the units in our garden apartment building, I noticed a USPS package in front of the door to Unit A.

Since I was expecting a package, I went up to check. We’ve only been living in this apartment for about a month, but in that time the Post Office had delivered Unit A’s mail to us in Unit C more than once, so I figured it was only a matter of time before the reverse happened.

The package was actually in the right place, Unit A, except for two minor details. First, Unit A was empty and had been for over a week since the tenants moved out. But more importantly, the package had a Delivery Confirmation label on it.

Now I don’t expect the U.S. Post Office to be mind readers. If someone moves without filing a Change of Address notification, I don’t expect them to peep into a window to find out that the residence is empty. (Although, in this case, since the blinds were up and the apartment was clearly vacant, it wouldn’t have been that hard to guess.)

But I do expect them to deliver on the specific features of a service someone paid extra money for. Here’s the U.S.P.S’s own definition of Delivery Confirmation, from their website:

Verify delivery with Delivery Confirmation.

Our low cost Delivery Confirmation service gives you the date, ZIP Code™ and time your article was delivered. If delivery was attempted you will get the date and time of attempted delivery. You can easily access this information with our Track & Confirm tool.

And from their Delivery Confirmation FAQ:

The customer will be provided the following information about items mailed with Delivery Confirmation:

  • If item was delivered:  the date and time of delivery
  • If delivery was attempted but not successful:  the date and time of the attempt

By what definition is leaving a box in the rain in front of an empty apartment a successful delivery?

I assume it wasn’t an attempted delivery, because that implies that the box wouldn’t have been left there. Although, technically, I guess it was an attempted delivery after all, but probably not in the way the sender was expecting.

As a direct marketer, I’ve had my share of unpleasant surprises from the Post Office. We once did a mailing in the Phoenix, AZ area where the variety of reasons for returned mail was so astounding and inconsistent that our regional rep could only laugh and offer some potential off-the-record explanations that could get them in trouble if I repeated them here. And we all remember the bad old days when Postal Carriers were getting busted for dumping catalogs or storing commercial mail in their lockers and garages.

But for me, this was over the line. I’m not going to get into comparisons with FedEx or UPS, because if you’re like me, you’ve been confounded by their occasional screw ups too. And I’m not going to conflate this into an indictment of  government incompetence and the “public option” like some congressmen or pundits have been doing these days.

But can someone please explain to me what was going through that mail carrier’s head when he or she chose to leave that package in the rain in front of a vacant apartment in spite of the sender having paid extra to know when it was delivered, or if not successful, when delivery was attempted?

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