Preservation — Found Package2017-02-23

This is the follow-up to the previous article:

Lost Package

Background

On Janury 5th, 2017, a package containing 100 PAL games was sent to me from Germany via DHL. This was meant to be a loan that I was to return.

On February 14, 2017, I received the following letter from USPS:

Apparently, their machine ripped the shipping label right off the box. And so the USPS sent me just the label in an envelope, and proceeded to berate me to ship better next time, even though I was the recipient.

How was this packaged?

The donor had sent me 100 games previously. Upon returning the games, I opted instead to use two smaller boxes, holding 50 games each.

There were several reasons for this: the smallest box to hold all 100 was much larger, I wasn't sure of the per-package insurance limits, and I figured it amortized the risk of loss to half as many games.

When the donor went to send me the next batch of 100 games, he reused my boxes and took them to Deutsche Post for assistance in packaging them up. They ended up taping my two boxes together, and then wrapping the box in thick brown wrapping paper.

This was not ideal, but please understand that this was done at the behest of Deutsche Post. The sender was not aware of the possibility that USPS' sorting machines could rip the label off. The postal workers, who ship mail for a living, really should have advised him better.

Unfortunately, the machines did in fact end up ripping off the label.

Please keep in mind at this point, that without the outer label, they were left with two packages taped together that clearly had my full name and address visible on them, along with the tracking information from the previous shipment.

It should have been easy to get this package back to me as "insufficient postage" or "already claimed postage."

What happened next?

I had actually started trying to get help for this long before February 14th. I had stopped by my local post office twice, called 1-800-ASK-USPS, filed an online missing mail claim, spoke to @USPSHelp on Twitter, etc.

Nobody would do anything but try to get rid of me as soon as possible.

When I received the letter on February 14th, I'm not proud of how I reacted, but well ... let's just say I lost it.

I truly believed it to be a theft at that point, and called it out as such.

Media coverage

Both before and after February 14th, news sites had started to pick up this story. For which I am extremely grateful.

I am ashamed at having to abuse my position and ask for help in getting this story out there. It's not something that most people can do, and in any other circumstance, is not something that I would ever do.

But given the value of the package (roughly $10,000), and the fact that I made a promise to the donor to return his games, I really had no choice.

It wasn't until the story really started to take off that on February 16th, finally a manager at the USPS Consumer Affairs department took note of the case.

And I mean that literally: he told me straight up the reason he was contacting me was because of the news articles he had encountered on this case.

So thanks to the coverage, I finally had a strong contact within the USPS who passed me to his employee who then proceeded to open an investigation and help search for the package.

Success?

On February 21st, I received an e-mail on the missing mail search I had submitted on January 30th, informing me that my package had been located!

Excited, I contacted my CA rep.

Failure?

... who then proceeded to tell me that the search had failed, and that the e-mail notification was errant.

However, she promised to request all possible locations the package could have ended up at to do one last search.

Success again?

The CA rep called me late in the day advising that someone in the Atlanta, GA mail recovery center had just now located my package!

Thankfully, the photographs I took of the packages before sending back the first batch of 100 games proved useful with exact appearance, dimensions, weight, etc being available for the search team.

Still, given all the constant ups and downs, I wanted to wait until the package was in hand before giving anyone any false hope.

Success for real!

Finally, today, February 23rd, the ordeal is finally over!

The package arrived safely, with all games in-tact.

$10,000 in PAL games

Donations

Truth be told, I truly believed on February 14th that the package was lost forever. As such, I started to collect donations to help split the costs of buying and replacing all of these games for the donor.

Yes, I know it wasn't legally my responsibility, but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't.

Now that the games have been found ... what about the donations? In total, I collected $1,020 via Paypal, plus pledges for $146 via Patreon.

For Paypal, I've contacted every single person who donated to offer a full refund. I will be sending out those refunds later today.

For Patreon, it does not pay out until March 1st, so I have received no money. I've sent a message to every patron informing them of this new development.

(technicality: I'm sending them a link to this article once it goes live, but that'll be done by the time you're reading this.)

I hope that at this point, with all of the photos of this ordeal, plus providing uncensored information to various journalists, plus the refunding of donations, that those who believed this to be a scam will now believe otherwise.

I know the circumstances seemed surreal, especially to people who didn't know me, but ... this really did happen. And I've been absolutely wracked with constant anxiety for well over a full month now. I'm now ecstatic to finally be able to put this whole thing behind me.

The future?

Given all that's happened, I've lost a lot of trust in shipping games like this, as I am sure the donor has as well.

Going forward, I'll only be accepting loans like this in much smaller quantities per shipment.

But even with the donor's games, I am still shy around 300 PAL games to complete the set.

As such, I'd like to keep the Patreon open. But instead of working to refund the donor, I'd like to use money raised in the future there to purchase the remaining PAL titles that haven't been lent to me. After preserving each game, I'll then turn around and sell them back, probably at a small loss each time. And then I'll put those funds back into the pool to buy more PAL games.

Given the expense and churn of this process, it'll probably still take a few years to complete the PAL set at this rate.

Of course, this is optional, and I won't take any money as a result of this lost package. I would also ask news sites that cover the package finally arriving to not link to the Patreon for fear of seeming improper.

But ... yes, with these games recovered, I'll declare the preservation project undead! ^_^

Apologies

Once again, I'd like to offer my sincerest apologies to the USPS for assuming the worst in that these games were stolen. I should not have been so hasty to assume malicious intent.

I'm a natural pessimist however, and if you've shared all of my disappointments in life, I suspect you might be as cynical as I am. But that's not an excuse for my behavior.

That said, this isn't a full mea culpa to the USPS.

There is a very real issue in that their machines are ripping the labels right off of packages.

There's a very real concern in that it's damn near impossible to get help when something goes wrong unless you manage to attract a lot of media attention.

The CA rep, once I was put in touch with her, was nothing short of fantastic. She was prompt, courteous, called me frequently with updates, and was ultimately successful in locating and getting my package delivered. I have nothing but kind praise for her.

Further, I understand they can't go to these lengths for every single lost piece of mail. But surely there has to be some sort of middle ground here? It should not be so impossible to escalate a case when something of significant value goes missing.

And given how clearly labeled the package was, that it made it all the way to the Atlanta, GA recovery center ... where undeliverable mail goes up for public auction on govdeals.com ... I really feel that more effort could have been made.

My package was sitting in Atlanta, GA for well over a month with my address clearly visible right on the box. Had this case not been escalated to the media, it likely would have gone up for auction in a bin with other electronics sometime in March.

As absolutely thrilled as I am to have these games finally delivered, I do still believe the entire experience reflects poorly on the capabilities of the USPS. I hope that they will improve, but ... I'm guessing that's not likely.

All I can do is caution people to minimize the amount of valuables sent through them, and to make sure that 100% of the value of their items are covered by insurance.

Infamy?

Probably the best part of the story was after I picked this up. Apparently the USPS employee was familiar with the case, and the exact contents of the package, even though there was nothing at all marked on the box to indicate what was inside.

So it would seem that I am now infamous with the USPS ;)