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mailing from Canda to the US : lost radioactive minerals

Posted by Maggie Wilson  
Maggie Wilson June 26, 2010 11:08PM
Twice in a row, after hundreds of successful transactions, two of our packages to eBay customers have gone "missing". This is mystifying as we have packed them according to UN2910 - and, up until now, we haven't lost any. Also, we've had no trouble at all mailing items to the UK or Europe.

In your experience, has there been an increase in the level of scrutiny in the last couple/three months at the US post office?

My cynical mind makes me wonder if there isn't some shenanigans afoot as far as the eBay buyers are concerned... but maybe I am being... well, cynical!

Lesson learned: tracking MANDATORY from now on, and that means extra cost for the customer, unfortunately, and makes us less competitive due to OBSCENE Canada Post rates...


your thoughts?
Jon Mommers June 28, 2010 12:55AM
Hi Maggie,
my sympathies, both with the parcels going missing in the US ( have had the same experience recently) and also with outrageous postal charges and ours are about to go up again at the end of the is absolutely crazy, please don't get me started on tracking costs..................I wish you all the luck in the world, give DHL a call they are offering very competitive rates in Australia for overseas mail.
Dana Slaughter June 28, 2010 03:40AM
Hi Maggie,

I am both a part-time mineral dealer (a couple shows and eBay) and also a US Postal Service letter carrier. I agree that international tracking is expensive and can deter many customers. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way around this. In the US, delivery confirmation tracking is FREE with Priority Mail parcels paid via Paypal through eBay and only 19 cents for other classes of mail. This is dirt cheap but the cost is FAR greater if one has to use Registered Mail for international parcels. Delivery Confirmation is not available for international parcels---one must use Registered Mail to get a signature and confirmation of delivery.
I've worked nearly 25 years as a letter carrier and can say that parcels very rarely get "lost." Most likely, they have been received by the customer who then denies receipt of the package. Or, the parcel could have been stolen by virtually anyone at any point during its voyage through the postal system. Or, the item may have been left at the door by a letter carrier and the parcel was stolen by a passerby. I would suggest that the first and last scenarios are most likely....and that the first is probably the most likely of the two. A good mail carrier doesn't leave First Class, Priority Mail or International parcels where just anybody can get them. Of course, we have (and all countries have) a fair number of poor workers who care little about the service they provide and just drop off just about anything! Idiots.
Also, please consider that ALL customs parcels (to my knowledge) are subject to inspection. I almost never place an invoice within an international parcel as I don't want a snoopy customs official to get any idea as to the value of the piece(s) enclosed. Let's face it...customs workers worldwide have a spotty reputation---deserved or not.
I do know that the USPS is on its letter carriers to scan each trackable parcel to ensure that its delivery time and date are recorded for both the sender and receiver to track online. Discipline is handed out to those who fail to properly handle such items and each hand-held scanner is traceable to any specific user for that day. I could go on and on but I've probably rambled on too long as it is! Good luck in the future.

Best regards,

PS--I just noticed that you specifically lost radioactive minerals. This could change the ball game a bit. It is possible that these were seized either in Canada or the US by customs. I don't know how you are sending them but I'm sure that you're aware that there are restrictions. I've never had a problem mailing them domestically or internationally---all have arrived safely. Still, I would think that if the parcels were opened and seized that someone would have contacted you to put a stop to the flow of parcels? I don't know. If you mail a lot of radioactives, it could be that it was snagged by your six-fingered postal person;)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/28/2010 04:29AM by Dana Slaughter.
Maggie Wilson June 30, 2010 11:38PM
Thanks for your replies -

Jon - I will check into DHL - I notice that many of our purchases from Europe are shipped by DHL. Sorry to hear you are having the same trouble. Part of the cost of doing business... but that is cold comfort.

Thanks, too, to Dana - it is VERY helpful to get your point of view as a postal worker. We have sent dozens of packages of radioactive material with great success, following UN 2910 guidelines. Sometimes the material is shielded with lead, always double boxed so that the surface readings are acceptable. And, yes, one would HOPE that the parcel would be returned or a notice sent to alert us that the postal service had concerns, but that has not been the case.

What is particularly irksome in our current case is that a package of material for swap was sent to another mindat member . It was received without issue during the same time as the commercial transaction: The eBay customer did not get his material. It does not make sense.

Tim Jokela Jr September 15, 2010 10:25PM
If either the US or Cdn gov't seized the parcels, they'd surely notify you of it. Taking the odd hit is par for the course in mail order, as is losing stuff off your table at any show. It's just another overhead cost.

Shipping into the US is such a pain, and so damn expensive these days, that one begins to wonder about how to work around it, eg. via a US partner or something. Most people don't realize that free trade doesn't actually apply to the little guy, and no Americans realize what a pita it is for Canadians to sell to Americans - land of the free or no land of the free.


Dana Slaughter September 16, 2010 08:32AM
Hi Tim,

I've heard that complaint many times and sometimes I've decided not to purchase specimens from international/Canadian dealers as the postage costs are unusually high. The strange thing is that sometimes it is actually CHEAPER here in the US to mail to Canada than to places within the US; for example, a 14 oz. parcel to Canada ships at $5.01 for First Class Mail International and ships for $5.35 to my former home in Michigan if I mail from my current home in Arizona! Shipping to Canada is remarkably cheap and is a great deal and I'm always amazed at how cheaply things ship to Canadian addresses.

Regarding postal loss, I recently had a mineral book literally "disappear" and assume that it was stolen. I mailed it on July 30 with Delivery Confirmation service and actually dropped the book off at my own work station (I'm a letter carrier for the USPS) on that morning. It was never scanned as accepted and was never delivered. I suppose that someone within my own station stole the parcel as it was far too large to have been "lost" or misdirected. The fact that it wasn't scanned at all leads me to believe that this is the case. I've tgken precautions since this time and now scan the items personally so that it shows that the parcel is within the system and I actually wait until the end of the day so that I can mix my parcel(s) with all the incoming packages that are moved for distribution near the end of the work day.

As you mentioned, I suppose that at least some percentage of loss or theft must be considered as part of the business but it is nonetheless disheartening, especially to those collectors anxiously awaiting some good rocks or a good mineral book, etc.

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