[Warning: rant ahead...] One of the things i've got in the works is a plan to teach music lessons, and as part of that, it seemed good to get my hands on a few spare instruments, things that could be loaned or rented to students. So i started trolling that giant auction site, looking for likely prospects - and i found one, older, a brand i'd liked pretty well (as cheaper instruments go), and it looked to be in fair condition, maybe even (if i was lucky) playable without needing much repair work first. So i bought it and - for that last consideration - paid a little more than i might have for some similar instruments on offer, but a fair price.
And i was happy. Waited eagerly for my package to arrive. The chap sent a note saying he'd shipped it, carefully packed, via Parcel Post with delivery confirmation and insurance. The package, according to USPS, could be expected between March 2 and March 9. I mentioned to the one and only clerk at my local post office that i was
waiting on a package, that it was insured, so would likely end up with
her (they virtually always leave a tag in the mailbox for insured packages, rather than leaving the package, and we pick them up at the post office the next day).
So, late in the evening on the 8th, i decided i'd better check the tracking. Imagine my surprise at seeing USPS report that the package had been scanned and delivered on March 1.
A few things worth knowing, at this point: i live in the sticks, and USPS does not come to my door; my mailbox is a good mile from my house, where the state road ends; we've had chronic problems with misdirected mail, either getting things for people who have the same surname as my husband but live miles away, or getting things for people who live on the same road but have names not remotely like either of ours.
I printed out all my documentation about the shipment, and marched into the local post office next morning. The clerk shook her head apologetically. "We don't have it, and you'll have to check at the Purcellville post office, since the carriers all work out of there now."
I got back in my car, and headed east to the next town. The person i was supposed to contact wasn't there, they took down the information and said they'd have her call me when she had talked with the carrier about it.
So Saturday, i called back. Finally reached the appropriate person, who said, well, she'd have to talk to the carrier and get back to me. I bit back a comment about thinking that was what she'd been doing when she wasn't calling me back the day before. Some while later, i discovered a voice mail message on my cell phone, the gist of which was that the carrier remembered putting the package in my mailbox - there were, she said, two packages that day, a brown one with the insured tag, and a white envelope - and she would be back in the office on Tuesday, i could call her back with any questions then.
We went over our activities for the supposed date of delivery - who would have gotten the mail, what had been in the box. We searched the vehicles for misplaced or forgotten packages, hunted again around the mailboxes. As expected, it all came up empty. Sunday, i stewed. Tried to figure out how best to alert all the far-flung neighbors about the missing package. Tried to contact the seller to get details on the packaging, so i could tell folks what to look for.
Today, about mid-day, i headed out to run an errand, and spotted the mail truck. I was wondering whether i ought to try to flag down the carrier and ask about the package, when the truck departed with unseemly haste, leaving a cloud of dust enveloping the mailboxes. I shrugged and figured i might as well collect today's mail at least.
And when i pulled up to the mailboxes, sitting on the wooden rail next to my box i saw a black leather flute case. No box, no address, no packaging or paperwork of any kind. Just a vintage instrument left sitting out exposed to the weather and whatever else might come along. The timing is curious, no? Happily, the instrument seems pretty much intact, though the head joint had been jammed back into the case the wrong way 'round.
Now, i cannot say for certain what happened. But i'm pretty sure that a neighbor, even if - and possibly especially if - they had mistakenly opened a box addressed to someone else, would have left some kind of note and popped it in the mailbox, or brought it to the house. The only reason i can fathom for the thing appearing utterly naked - but placed next to the appropriate box - is that the post office wanted to be able to deny any knowledge of or responsibility for what happened.
I am, as you might have gathered, kinda ticked about this.
I am curious to hear what they'll have to say when i phone them tomorrow, although not especially confident that what they'll have to say will make me feel much better about it. Lots of our tiny local post offices out here do great work, even when wildly understaffed, and really help hold communities together. But some of the larger ones they've consolidated operations to, allegedly to streamline processes, are really dreadful to work with. And as a shipper, this puts me in some consternation: do i send packages by another carrier, knowing any little loss of business might be the bit that causes them to close my local post office (and that other carriers might be just as inconsistent wherever i'm shipping to) or do i just wonder whether the package i'm sending that day will be one of the unlucky ones?