Mail lost in limbo

I saw your news about the employee at the Chalan Kanoa post office who pleaded guilty, was fined, and sentenced to two years probation for stealing one package.  That may be just the tip of the iceberg.

I have lost two packages delivered to me in the last two years via the Chalan Kanoa post office.  The CK post office has a corner-cutting “delivery” system to private mailbox (PMB) agents that is so loose that there is no proof (none provided, even to the customer) as to what happens to a package even after it is scanned as “delivered.”

CK Postmaster Harry Wilcox has himself told me that his post office scans a package as “delivered, to agent” even when the agent who would pick it up is not present, so this actually means what they used to call “out for delivery.” After that, the package may sit at the post office for hours, even until the next morning, when the agent comes (probably on a routine schedule) to pick up the day’s packages. Then the agent is only required to sign once for the entire batch of packages, and then this signed record is not released to customers, even when they have a missing package. Even the PMB agent is not allowed to view these pick-up signatures, even to help a customer follow up on a missing package. In some cases, an agent for one PMB address has taken packages that were addressed to another PMB address, but again by that time the post office record shows it has apparently done its job, even though there is no tracking information as to who actually picked up the package (and the delivery time is probably inaccurate, since it may be scanned before the agent actually arrives). Since the tracking record indicates the package was “delivered,” the USPS website does not honor insurance claims, and the local post office does not handle insurance claims anyway, so this is a very serious breach of trust.

In 2016, I ordered an iPad Mini, which I never received despite tracking showing that my item had arrived at the post office on Saipan and was “delivered, to agent.” This tracking information makes it look like the agent is solely responsible for delivering the package to the addressee; however, the Chalan Kanoa post office will not provide proof that the proper agent (or any named person at all) was the person who picked up the package, instead of a different PMB agent or a post office employee. Neither the post office nor the USPS website compensated me for the missing package (valued at over $600), not even honoring the $50 automatic insurance for Priority Mail packages. EBay also denied my claim, as the package appeared (online) to be delivered and therefore the seller had done his job. Fortunately in that case, PayPal gave me a courtesy reimbursement for the full cost of the item, only requiring that I file a report on the FBI website. But the iPad Mini that I had ordered had gone somewhere on Saipan!

Last summer, I was in the States and sent some packages to myself to pick up after returning to Saipan. Later I received all but one of the packages, and it was the same problem as the year before. The value of the contents in that package was only $50, but since the tracking record showed the package was «delivered,» I knew the USPS website wouldn›t honor my claim.  When I tried to file a claim anyway, the webpage timed out, which is very frustrating, and the claim period expired, as well. This time there was no other party that I could contact to seek compensation. The one offer CK Postmaster Harry Wilcox made to me was that he would help me appeal a claim denial, but I couldn›t even get to that point, and I was disillusioned that he would fix the broken system at his own post office. He also suggested that I open a P.O. box (at the post office instead of a PMB), but doing that would not solve the problem at hand—for the past or future—plus there›s a waiting list (and using the post office is more time-consuming and stressful).

The local post office does not take full responsibility even for packages that disappear within its own walls. It has a system that leaves PMB agents vulnerable to suspicion and scapegoating while protecting itself from USPS headquarters. Disappearance of packages without compensation lowers the credibility of the USPS, but federal laws prevent private couriers from providing similar services at competitive prices.

The above is not an opinion; it is information that is either publicly verifiable or honestly reported from my personal experience.

Winston Posegate
Chalan Piao, Saipan

P.S.: I’d like to add that Postmaster Harry Willcox told me on the phone last year that the success rate (at the CK post office) was 98 percent. That rate has also been my experience in the last few years. However, frequently or infrequently, mail is lost or stolen on Saipan and the post office has to get its act together and take responsibility. They must have and make available the records to prove who is or is not responsible. The local post office must have a system consistent with federal USPS standards that maintains the trust of the public. As it is right now, the postmaster himself told me they cannot prove or disprove whether a postal employee or a PMB agent took a missing package.

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