As an Amazon & Ebay seller, I have shipped hundreds of items to my buyers via USPS and have not had a single problem until recently. I had a buyer order an item that needed to be shipped to Palau. I do not do international shipping on Amazon and Palau is not an international destination. It is one of the US territories.
By default, Amazon sets the shipping rates for items based on the item weight. There are ways to modify the default shipping rates but I had not done so. Because of this, the Amazon shipping charges for this 10 lb. item were only $10. To ship the item USPS Priority Mail, it would have cost close to $60. Normally, you can buy shipping right through Amazon when shipping something out. When attempting to buy shipping, I received a message on Amazon saying “we could not find a carrier for your shipment”. I have seen this before as I have shipped a couple other items to US territories but they were normally light weight items so using Priority Mail was not an issue. When you receive this message, you just have to go buy the postage yourself using the carrier of your choice.
Like normal, I went to USPS to look at the different rate choices. The cheapest one available was USPS Standard Post. The cost was $27 and the delivery time said “2-8 business days to most locations”. That seemed like the best option to me so I went ahead and decided to use Standard Post as my option.
There is no option to buy Standard Post online so I had to bring the item to the post office. I filled out the customs form, got the tracking info and sent it on its way. Once the tracking information had updated, it showed an expected delivery date of October 20, 2014. On 10/21/2014, I received an order inquiry from my buyer stating that the package had not yet been received. I did not think there were any issues at that point as it is somewhat common for packages to arrive a day or 2 after the expected delivery date. Then I went and looked at the actual tracking information…this is where the problems begin.
Looking at the tracking information, it shows that the package was shipped out on 10/8/2014 and arrived at the USPS Origin Facility in Richmond, CA on 10/9/2014. Not a single update had occurred since then. There was no indication that it had even departed the facility. I gave it a couple days to see if there would be any updates. Nothing at all…it still indicated the package was in Richmond, CA.
Since there had been no tracking updates, I decided to give USPS a call on 10/25/2014 to see if they could provide any further information. If you have called USPS before, you know how much of a hassle it can be just to reach an operator. After finally getting through, the representative advised that he would open a case and assign an investigator to locate the package and ensure it gets to its destination. I was promised a call back within 24 hrs.
By end of business on 10/26/2014, I had yet to receive a call as was promised. Since the main USPS office was now closed, I decided to give them a call on 10/27/2014, which was a Saturday. I spoke to a representative who told me that the investigations sometimes take 2 business days and to expect a call by end of business on Monday 10/29 at the latest.
At end of business on 10/29, I still had yet to receive a call. At this point, I was getting quite frustrated as I had been promised a call back every time I called but USPS never stood by their promise. I called again on 10/30/2014 advising that I had yet to be contacted from anyone besides my local post office even though I was supposed to get calls back regarding the status of the investigation. This time when I called, the representative advised that there was a note on the case indicating that they could not locate the package and someone had contacted me to walk me through submitting a claim and running an MRC trace. What!! No one had ever called or walked me through that process. She said that someone may have just added a false note to get the case closed so the representative re-opened the case and added a note that I needed a call back ASAP. Here we go again!
So, again I gave it 24 hrs. and I had yet to receive a call. Surprising right? I found it hard to believe that I had cases opened, multiple calls to the main office, an investigator assigned and not a single call back. I called again on 11/1/2014 and spoke to another representative, gave her the details and case numbers and was told that the issue would be escalated to consumer affairs. I was told to wait 24 hrs for a call and if I did not get a call back to call the USPS Consumer Affairs department in Sacramento directly and was given the direct number.
I gave it 24 hrs. knowing that I would not receive a call back but still remained hopeful. Did I get a call from Consumer Affairs. Nope! So, I called directly and it took many attempts to get through. Every time I called I would get a message saying all representatives were busy and to try again later. No option to leave a message and no option to wait on hold. I had to try about 15 times before finally getting to a representative. After explaining the details and providing the case numbers, I finally got an explanation that made since which I will explain in detail. It basically boils down to this. If you are shipping a package from the continental US to any international locations or US territories, DO NOT USE STANDARD POST! Here is the explanation that was given and we will see if it holds true as to date, my package still shows it is at the Richmond, CA facility.
The Explanation on the Delay
The representative I spoke with advised that all Standard Post shipments are sent surface mail. This means that all packages sent outside the continental US are sent via boat instead of by airplane. It is not the boat travel that takes long as I probably could have paddled a canoe to Palau in the time I have had to wait thus far. The main reason for the delay is that the packages are loaded on a shipping container once they arrive for departure and the container is not shipped out until enough packages are accumulated for a specific destination.