When I checked my mailbox yesterday, I received a photocopy of the front of a Christmas card I sent nine months ago that looked like this:
Bizarre, right? (But don’t you love my “Hello, Kitty” themed address labels?) I opened the envelope to find this letter inside (transcription below):
Dear Postal Customer,
Pursuant to an official investigation into the theft of U.S. Mail, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Memphis, TN, recently recovered mail either addressed to you or mailed by you. Photocopies of your mail are enclosed, the original(s) are being held as evidence in this case, generally for the purpose of laboratory examination. The original documents may be chemically processed for fingerprints, and due to the type of chemicals used, which are potentially toxic, the documents will be destroyed at the conclusion of this investigation.
If you sustained a financial loss, such as missing gift cards, cash, personal checks, etc., please contact me at the telephone number listed below. When calling, please have documentation readily available, such as receipts with gift card serial numbers, check numbers, etc., as well as, any other information that may assist with verifying financial losses.
The Postal Service apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused you. If you have any questions regarding this letter you may call me at the number below between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and reference the case number at the top of this letter.
(Name removed for posting on my blog)
That’s right, y’all, the Grinch stole my Christmas card. Not only that, the post office is going to destroy the card if they haven’t already. The war on Christmas is real. (Kidding!) Between this and the package that went missing last year and my lazy mailman, I’m starting to seriously question the capabilities of the US postal system. Should I start using FedEx for everything?
The postal inspector who sent the letter included her phone number and said I could call with any questions. Normally my phone anxiety would prevent me from following up with her, however I really wanted to know the story for this blog entry, so I gave her a call. (Thank you for making me brave, dear readers!) I was greeted by an inspector with a charming southern accent who was able to tell me a little about the investigation.
Evidently when you mail a letter with the US postal service it’s not uncommon for it to be sent to a FedEx sorting hub in Memphis. Someone at that facility is suspected of stealing “quite a bit” of mail. They’re now fingerprinting the contents of the mail to see if that suspect’s fingerprints are on any of it, thus proving he or she opened the mail and sorted through its contents. This now concludes our episode of CSI: Postal Service.
So the answer to my question is, no, I definitely should not start using FedEx for everything. My last hope seems to be UPS.
The inspector mentioned this falls under the category of contract fraud, I’m assuming because FedEx has a contract with the postal service, so it was that contract employee who committed the crime. The Inspector General’s site says there were 205 contract fraud investigations in a recent reporting year which resulted in 10 arrests and “nearly $95 million in monetary benefit to the Postal Service.” Wowzer.
The card in question was part of a holiday card exchange I’d signed up for, so I didn’t personally know the person I mailed it to, but I felt bad that she probably thought I stiffed her in the exchange. I emailed her and it turns out she was so busy last year that she didn’t send any cards out, so that was a relief. But now I’m wondering, do I know for a fact that the rest of my cards didn’t get stolen? I mailed them all at once, so the ones headed westward could have been in the same batch of cards that got stolen in Memphis. I only received this notice of the theft because I got the address wrong for the recipient and they had to use my return address to return to sender. Does everyone on the holiday card exchange list think I’m an asshole? I’m also now more convinced than ever that the package I sent to my mom last year was not lost, but stolen, maybe by the same person!
The notice came in an envelope that has a message on the back stating, “We Care.” If you Google “We Care Envelope” you’ll discover this message pisses people off more often than not. There’s also this strange story in which the post office mailed someone the tear-off portion of her Netflix envelopes which she’d thrown away. I suppose my experience shows they actually do care a bit since they’re investigating this theft and will hopefully nail my Christmas card thief’s ass to the wall. I looked up similar cases and it looks like the maximum punishment is a 5-year prison term for each count, but in several cases the defendant got off with probation and a fine.
All in all I’m glad nothing valuable was stolen, but I’m also left rather confused. The Amazon package that my mailman didn’t bother to deliver to my door last month was shipped across the country via UPS, but then handed off to the postal service to deliver locally. Now I learn that the Christmas cards I dropped off at the post office were sent to FedEx to sort. I’m left with the conclusion that there is no way to know for certain who is handling my mail in the various stages of its journey, and how trustworthy they are. It feels like there is a 60 Minutes expose lurking somewhere in here.
I hadn’t had much trouble with the post office for most of my life, but now there have been several incidents in the past year. Until we’re able to develop affordable, reliable, person-to-person teleportation, I guess this uncertainty is something I’m going to have to live with. Ultimately I have to trust some company or government agency to send my mail, yet they all seem to be coordinating with each other, so is there really much of a difference in who I choose? I just have to cross my fingers and say a prayer that my mail gets where it’s supposed to be going, like sending a message in a bottle out to sea.