Category Archives: Shipping–Mailing

Missing package? Package missing its contents?

If you have a package that

  • is missing en-route,
  • has Delivery Confirmation that says it’s delivered but the customer doesn’t have it,
  • you suspect was stolen,
  • has been rifled through or
  • has arrived without its contents

it may be time to contact the post office.  Shipping times may vary for different times of the year as well as different regions throughout the US, but if it’s been three weeks and you didn’t send it “Media Mail”, it’s probably time to look for it.

First, we ask the receiver to look around their porch, back door, garage, etc., and to check with the neighbors to see if the postal employee left it with them. It might seem obvious, but often packages are left where you wouldn’t expect to find them, and sometimes well-intentioned neighbors hold onto a package accidentally for a month. (Feel free to share the odd places you’ve found packages in the comments below!)

If you purchased Delivery Confirmation (DC), insurance or paid for one of the higher end services that includes a tracking number, you should start by calling one of three places:

  • the post office you sent it from,
  • the post office you sent it to or
  • the USPS toll free number 1-800-ASK-USPS

They will call each other about the missing package to see if it’s in either of the post offices. They can track the package using the DC number, even if you’ve already checked on-line, they are privy to more details that might help.

We had a package that was missing, and when I called the destination post office and the toll free hotline number they both saw that the package had arrived at the destination post office though I couldn’t see that online using the DC number. The destination post office said that they didn’t know what happened to it after that. The toll free number folks said all they do is call the destination post office, and, well, I already knew what they had to say…

When I asked the hotline person what happens next, they said nothing, that’s the end of the line. They told me that unless I bought insurance there is nothing else that can be done, but I found out that’s not true.

I asked the hotline person if the info was gathered someplace, so if lots of packages go missing they get an idea of what location/route was having issues. They said no, that’s it.

I just couldn’t believe that this information was unimportant, so after a good deal of research that I found the US Postal Inspector’s website. I don’t know why it was so hard to come across this information, nor why the USPS Help Hotline wouldn’t have directed me there when there was nothing else they could do, but it was and they didn’t.

Happily our package turned up–I think had I not been persistant with keeping the post office looking for it I would have had to re-send the shipment and take a business loss.

Even if you didn’t purchase insurance or delivery confirmation, you can report your missing package/missing contents to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by filling out this form:

If you prefer to mail it to them, you can print out the mail theft report–it’s a PDF file:

You may not get your money or goods back, but you can help the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and thereby everyone who uses the US Postal Service, by reporting any of the issues at the top of this post. If they aren’t made aware of problems, they won’t have a chance to fix them.

You can contact them by phone also by calling 1-877-876-2455 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in all time zones:

or check out their entire website for more info:

For more shipping tips see our main “Shipping” page–see the gold links on the right or click here:
Shipping Basics

Marking Your Package "Gift" on the Customs Form

Occasionally you’ll have an international buyer request that a package be sent with the “gift” box checked on the customs form, rather than “documents”, “commercial samples”, or “other items”. If the package isn’t a gift, I won’t mark it as one.

First off, marking your package as a gift will not automatically make it exempt from customs fees, from the site:

“Items declared as gifts may still be subject to duty and taxes.”…

Secondly, I prefer to run our business as legally as possible, which means not taking part in activities for which I could end up in legal trouble. In each section of the Postal Service Employee’s Acceptance rules for international packages it has the following info:

123.712 Postal Service Employee’s Acceptance of PS Form 2976
The Postal Service acceptance employee must do the following when accepting PS Form 2976 from the sender:
a. Instruct the sender how to complete, legibly and accurately, PS Form 2976, as required. The sender’s failure to complete the form properly can delay delivery of the item or inconvenience the sender and addressee. Moreover, a false, misleading, or incomplete declaration can result in the seizure or return of the item and/or in criminal or civil penalties. The Postal Service assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information that the sender enters on PS Form 2976.


So rather than risk criminal or civil penalties, we’ll be checking the appropriate box for the order. How about you?

For more shipping tips see our main “Shipping” page–see the gold links on the right or click here:
Shipping Basics