USPS loses our mail during four-day mail hold

By | August 29, 2007

We were out of town from August 9 through August 13, and I put a hold on our mail delivery during that time through the USPS Web site. The following letter tells what happened next:

August 24, 2007

Brighton, MA  02135

To whom it may concern:

I have reason to believe that the Brighton carrier unit recently lost mail that should have been delivered to my house, and I would like you to find it and ensure that it is delivered in a timely fashion.

My family was out of town from the afternoon of August 9 until the evening of August 13. I placed a hold on our mail through the USPS Web site, indicating that delivery should stop after August 9 and resume on August 14, and that I would pick up our held mail when we returned.

There was mail in our mailbox when we returned on August 13, so the hold wasn’t completely effective. This has happened numerous times before. I wish you would fix this problem.

I went to the post office on the morning of August 14 to pick up our held mail and resume delivery. The clerk went into the back and came out a few minutes later with a stack of mail which did not seem large enough to account for two or three days of mail delivery. I figured that was just a fluke, shrugged, and went on my way.

Fast forward to ten days later, when I realized that the packet of forms necessary for our children to start school after Labor Day had never arrived. I called around to other school parents and discovered that they’d received their packets over a week before. I called the school office, and they informed me that the packets were mailed out on August 10, which means that our packet should have arrived on August 11 or August 13, while our mail was being held.

The fact that our packet never arrived, combined with the fact that the bundle of mail I was given was smaller than it should have been, suggests that some of our mail is still sitting somewhere in the post office waiting to be delivered.

If so, then please find our mail, deliver it, figure out how this happened, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Please respond to this letter.


Jonathan Kamens

I mailed this letter on Friday, August 24. A few days later, on Tuesday, August 28, we received the missing packet of forms, postmarked August 10, and another delayed piece of mail (the check we were waiting for from British Airways!), postmarked August 7. I’m sure this timing is no coincidence.

I have not yet received a response to my letter from the Postmaster.

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17 thoughts on “USPS loses our mail during four-day mail hold

  1. aka gringita

    I have this exact issue every time I go away and hold my mail. I have tried escalating to the local office as well as to the Postmaster General (to no avail).

    I find that the “lost” pieces of mail eventually show up… roughly 4 months later. In the interim, there is invariably 1 bill that has had a late notice on it because I never received it, and 1 item that had a time-sensitive response rate (last year it was the open enrollment period for my health benefits at work… the office sent in Sept; I needed to respond by Nov; it arrived in January). Utterly ridiculous that the post office cannot be trusted with – of all things – the MAIL.

  2. David Humphrey


    I retired 6 months ago and have taken 3 trips to Oklahoma (my home)

    I have put a hold on my mail for each trip and my mail was stopped

    only once. The carrier was obviously not proactive ; he would have

    needed a shoe horn to put anything else in my box. The lady at my

    post office ( 77082 ) told me I should have a PO box.

    Incompetent nonsense..

  3. Vince Lipert

    Thanks to Ms. Laberge for the email. I have been trying to resolve matters through their customer service department, but they are unresponsive. I get the impression the emails are not read. I just keep getting an electronic form letter back.

    Regarding vacation holds on mail, however, I would urge people to pick up in person and then arrange for delivery to resume. That way, no one can be completely certain when you’ll be back. You never know when the wrong individual might catch a glimpse of that form which contains the dates you’ll be away, allowing them free access to your home.

  4. Tony Santana

    Does anyone have an email address for Delore Killette?

  5. SHAN

    What a coincident I came across this blog. I did not receive mail from 10/1/08 to 10/8/08. I though this was very strange and went to USPS to find out what happened. Unfortunately, the carrier was unavailable at the time and I was told to call the next day. I was expecting a check from my school in which I shold of received at least by 10/4/08. I still haven’t received the check and has reason to believe that whatever happened to my mail during that period, included the check I am still waiting for.

  6. Debbie Alter

    I too like Marie-Claire Laberge was just denied a claim by Brian McIvor in International Claims Appeal. I had mailed jewelry which I insured as instructed by my local post office. My claim was denied because jewelry is a prohibited item. Go on USPS website and it says clearly INSURE VALUABLES like Jewelry. I even had my local Postmaster agree and not understand why my claim was denied. He even wrote a letter to International Claims. I am beside myself and don’t know where to go from here.

  7. Geobio

    I have the same problem. After being out for about 10 days with mail hold, I have received mail worth about 2 or 3 days…. The post office cannot find the rest. Hopefully they will find it in the next few days.

    As for an apology – I understand why you’d want one and why you are upset. But personally, considering that they eventually did their job, that they are just like any other office with average paid employees who are heavily worked… the postmaster (as any other person) may not care enough to reply with an apology.

    Nonetheless, I’m not saying you don’t deserve an a apology.

  8. jik Post author

    What reason did the Postal Service give for denying your claim?

  9. Marie-Claire Laberge

    how nice to recieve an appology! our experience with the usps has yet to be treated with an ounce of ‘customer service’. long story short, upon mailing our rings to canada for repair, they lost our wedding rings! They were insured, and usps is denying the claim, and the appeals thereof. my letter of plea was sent to the claims office, and denied. I was directed to Ms. Killette, and was answered by a completely different office, Brian McIvor in International Claims Appeals.
    I say it’s a pity when corporate america has infiltrated even something so public service oriented as the post office. it’s ups for me now…

  10. Pingback: Something better to do » Blog Archive » Abject apologies from the USPS

  11. jik Post author

    I got this response yesterday from the USPS:

    October 1, 2007

    Mr. Jonathan Kamens
    [address elided]

    Dear Mr. Kamens:

    This responds to your recent letter to Vice President and Consumer Advocate Delores J. Killette concerning the late delivery of your mail.

    We are sorry to hear of the problems you have experienced with your local delivery service. Certainly, such a report is not good news to us.

    This matter is being referred to your local Consumer Affairs Manager, [name elided], at [phone number elided] for further review and appropriate action. In reviewing your situation, we realized your case will require the knowledge of our managers overseeing Post Offices in your area. Accordingly, we have forwarded the information to them for their review and investigation. Please understand our referral does not reduce the scope of the review in any way, rather, it helps focus it. The managers who will receive your letter are those with both the authority and responsibility to ensure their local customer’s [sic] issues are promptly and dully [sic] addressed.

    Mr. Kamens, we are truly disappointed that we are not providing you good service. I want to assure you we will make extended efforts to improve upon our performance. Thank you for writing and bringing this to Ms. Killette’s attention.


    [name elided]
    Consumer Research Analyst

  12. jik Post author

    September 7, 2007

    Vice President and Consumer Advocate
    United States Postal Service
    475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
    Washington, DC  20260-2200

    To whom it may concern:

    When my mail is delayed at my local post office causes for two weeks, and the delayed mail isn’t located and delivered until I complain to the local postmaster, I think it’s reasonable to expect an apology.

    I wrote to my local postmaster on August 24 about mail that I knew to be missing. A copy of my letter is enclosed.

    On August 28, the missing mail arrived, with an August 10 postmark. Unfortunately, this was not until after the sender had paid to send another copy. Another piece of delayed mail — a check for a substantial amount — arrived the same day with an August 7 postmark.

    What has not yet shown up is a response from my local postmaster, despite the fact that I explicitly asked for a response to my letter, and despite the fact that a response would have been warranted even if I had not done so.

    Delaying our mail in the first place was unacceptable. Not even having the courtesy to apologize for it just makes it worse.


    Jonathan Kamens

  13. jik Post author

    The USPS is no different from any other major corporation — there is a corporate culture that trickled from the top down, and there are variances from that corporate culture to a lesser or greater degree at different branches.

    It sounds like the Sharon branch is pretty good. I wonder if that is at least in part because the suburban branches are more desirable postings (where would you rather have to walk every day: through a loud, smelly city with some dangerous areas, or through a calm, peaceful, suburban landscape?), and hence they can be pickier about who gets to work there.

    All the city branches in whose territory I’ve lived have refused to deliver held mail at the end of the hold period — every single one of them has demanded that I come pick up held mail before resuming delivery. I think this is due to more than a little laziness. However, another possible explanation is that since the urban routes are more compact, the urban letter carriers end up carrying more mail every day, so it’s harder for them to cope with the extra volume resulting from a big bundle of held mail.

    Returning to the question of corporate culture, I think the USPS’s is very poor. Poor service, treating symptoms rather than root causes, and buck-passing all seem rather rampant. This isn’t terribly surprising for a semi-monopoly run by unionized, civil-service employees.

  14. Merril

    This might be a problem with your specific post office. Online I put our mail on hold for Aug 18-25 with the accumulated mail being delivered when the hold was removed. It worked flawlessly even though I did this with only 2 days notice. I know this because I came back 1 day during the hold and the mailbox was still empty. When we returned on Sunday, August 26, it was still empty. On Monday, August 27, we received a boat load of mail that definitely looked like a week’s worth.

    Kudos to the Sharon Post Office.

  15. John

    I’ve never had mail holds work correctly.

    My problem is that even though I check the, “deliver all the held mail and resume normal delivery at the end of the hold,” box, my normal mail delivery NEVER resumes without my physically going to the post office to ask them to remove the hold. I ALWAYS have to go pick up my held mail and ask them to resume delivery. Even if we’re gone for just one or two days.

    What’s funny (in a small way) is _their_ workload would be less if they did what I asked. Resuming normal delivery would require net less energy than all the time/energy required by their desk cleak waiting on me, going to the back of the office, coming back out with my mail, etc.

    Since my ZIP Code doesn’t share any digits with your ZIP Code, I think we can just conclude that the US post office ain’t optimally run.


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