US Postal Service Priority Mail

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Not Reliable at Christmas Time

Dec 22, 2005 (Updated Mar 7, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Disappointing

  • Punctuality:
  • Damaged Goods:

Pros:Works well sometimes.

Cons:Two to three days delivery is not guaranteed.

The Bottom Line: Hit or miss in my experience. Priority not really placed on deliveries. Rude customer service.


Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It looks like the United States Postal Service fooled me twice, because for the second year in a row, I’ve used Priority Mail during the holidays. And for the second year in a row, the Post Office is taking far too long to deliver my shipment. Then too, they did lose an Ebay shipment once. But to be fair, Priority Mail seems to work fine the rest of the year, and I’ve usually gotten deliveries in a reasonable amount of time.

But not during the holiday season..

The rates for priority mail are fair enough. A flat-rate envelope can be sent for $3.85, two flat rate boxes with dimensions of 11" x 8.5" x 5.5" or 13.625" x 11.875" x 3.375" are available for $7.70 (rates go up in January of 2006). Most of the rates for priority mail are reasonable, especially when compared to FedEx or even UPS.

You can purchase additional services like delivery confirmation for about 50 cents, and be able to see when your shipment is delivered. If you prefer, you can set up an e-mail alert when you buy delivery confirmation, and be advised that way when delivery is made. Automated stations are available in many post offices so you can ship 24/7 with a credit card.

The Post Office claims delivery should occur in two to three business days. However, keep in mind that this is not a guarantee. If you need a delivery by a specified time, a better, if more expensive, option would be Express Mail or FedEx. That will be the route I go next holiday season as well, if I need delivery by a certain date.

My Bad Experiences

Last year, Christmas of 2004, I sent my brother’s family a package via Priority Mail a little more than a week before Christmas. I was assured that with Priority Mail, the package would make the trip in time and be delivered before Christmas. I paid the extra 45 cents for delivery confirmation, and tracked my package each morning.

And each morning, I was disappointed. Right on up to Friday, Christmas Eve, the package wasn’t there. I called my brother. No, he hadn’t gotten it, he said. Finally, the following Wednesday, a full twelve days after shipping, the package was delivered.

I could have sent it UPS ground, saved a little money, and had it delivered earlier. But did I learn? No. This year, Christmas of 2005, I sent a letter Priority Mail to Valley Forge, PA, again from Atlanta. That was last Friday morning. The clerk assured me it was just a letter, and would be delivered no later than Tuesday. Today is Thursday morning, and my letter still has not been delivered. I could have sent the mail normal delivery for 37 cents for this kind of service.

Update, Next Day
(Sound of Bruguru tapping fingers in an annoyed fashion).
It's the next morning, Friday, December 23rd. Let's check to see if out letter made it to its destination, shall we? {Saracasm}Surpise! Still no delivery!{/sarcasm}. That makes a full week to deliver a letter (an it ain't there yet). And this is priority?

Update, Once Again
Today, Saturday, December 24th, Christmas Eve, makes eight full days since my letter was mailed. Guess what? Still not there. Meanwhile, my brother mailed a box full of gifts from Rhode Island via UPS ground Tuesday-we got it yesterday. Why can't the Post Office deliver one Priority Mail letter?

It gets better. When I got the mail today, a letter my mom mailed from RI with a 37 cent stamp got here in three days-but my priority mail is still out there in limbo. I called the Post Office again. "What are my options?" I asked.

If your mail is lost.....after 14 postal days, you can file a complaint. Won't get you your shipping fees back, but I assume it will make you feel better. And if you happen to have shipped a postal money order, you get to pay a $3 "investigation fee" (for the money order they lost) and get your money back in 60 days. Maybe.

Still another update.... It's now Wednesday, December 28th as I type. Still no delivery. I've just verified the Delivery Confirmation number again. Maybe I should call it the Non-Delivery confirmation? Mapquest has the distance about 807 miles. So far, that's 67 miles a day. Must have sent this on the Pony Express.......

And Yet Another Update
Two weeks later, still no delivery. However, since fourteen "Postal Days" have not elapsed, Post Office will take no action.

Final Update
My parcel was finally delivered after almost three weeks and an escalation on my part with the post office.

Customer Service
Both times I called the Post Office customer service number, and a representative answered who was entirely indifferent to my plight. Realistically, I didn’t expect them to be able to do anything, but they weren’t even polite about it. “Not guaranteed” they said. Try again tomorrow, I’m sure it will be there. Not even an apology.

I will never use this service again during the holiday season, and I am not so sure I would use it any time at all.





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