We recently expanded the shipping options for our online business to include shipping to Russia via the US Postal Service. Like most people who run a business, we chose to mitigate risk of damage or theft of our products during transport by purchasing insurance from our logistics provider(the USPS). Having experience dealing with private logistics companies such as Federal Express and DHL, we were under the impression that, in the event of a loss, our insurance claims would be paid. With USPS, nothing could be farther from the truth.
All the shipping and customs paperwork was filled out properly with a representative of the US Postal Service providing guidance every step of the way. Several packages arrived without issue, but when the first package went missing, we started the claims procedure.
Mind you, the claims procedure cannot even be initiated until 5 business days after the date of mailing, 2 business days to arrive at the international dispatch, and three business days to be "inflight" to the package destination. At this point the USPS has, and takes all of, 30 days to do an initial investigation as to the status of the lost package, at which point, determining the package is lost, they send out printed claim forms. The printed forms always take 5 days to arrive, despite the fact any other piece of mail arriving from Washington DC arrives overnight. After filling out the claim forms and mailing them back, the USPS acknowledges posession of the claim 5 business days later, despite the fact they receive them next day.
At this point, no less than 45 business days, or two months after your package has been lost, the USPS considers your claim official. For international shipments, they commit to render a decision as to whether or not they will pay your claim within 60 days of this point. Based on personal experience, and everything that I have read on the internet, 9 times out of 10 they do not pay the claim.
Sadly, if you oppened up a new international destination for your online business, it will take three and a half months for you to discover that the insurance you are paying USPS for is completely worthless. The lost packages are still coming in, but I expect our losses will exceed USD$8,500 by the time we are done.
The excuse they handed us was that our packages contaibed cell phones, a product supposedly on Russia's prohibited item list, rendering our insurance null and void. Amazing that the claims adjuster was able to render a decision within 24 hours of having the claim escalated on day 95 of the claims process, while the USPS representative who aided in filling out the customs forms decided to withhold that information. Even more curious is the fact that 66% of the packages we sent arrived at their destination, and cleared Russian Federation customs without any issue whatsoever. More curious still is the fact that any of our packages that disappeared on the Russian side of the logistics process simply disappeared without any statement of govt seizure or rejection. The icing on the cake is the fact that several of the "lost" packages, never even made it onto the plane to Russia.
I put myself in the shoes of a US postal worker, looking at a package with a $400 street value, knowing that the agency they work for will take no action to investigate it's loss, and I wonder every participant to the process would not steal every package they can get their hands on.
Considering that 66% of our packages arrived at their destination without issue, I also think about the money we paid for the insurance on those packages that the US Postal service quietly told us is worthless. If it is worthless, why have they not refunded, or even offered to refund, the amount we paid for insurance? Answer: Fraud.
The US postal service knowingly charging its customers for a product that they know is worthless. Even after they are forced into telling you the product they sold you is worthless, they will not issue you a refund for the product. This is the very definition of fraud.
Sadly, the US Postal service cannot be sued in small claims like any other legitimate busines. One has to file their claim in Federal court and pay for legal representation. The process can take up to two years, and often ends in failure, as it seems the federal government is not real big on cracking down on itself. I put in a call to the FBI this morning to determine if they would be willing to pursue an investigation into criminal charges. They flatly rejected the idea and referred me to the civil courts.
Where does this leave us? It leaves me eight and a half thousand dollars poorer after being ripped off by the US Postal service with quite literally no recourse whatsoever. It leaves the US postal service selling a product they know is worthless to millions of people every year in order to prop up their failing organization. It leaves the employees of the US postal service, and all parties to that supply chain, a license to steal without consequences.
As it sits now, I've filed a freedom of information act to get at actual statistics indicating how many claims are filed and how many claims are actually paid out of the US Postal service. I also plan to write my Senators, my Congressmen, my postal service representatives, and whoever else will listen, to put an end to this criminal activity.