Friday, November 26, 2010

A THANKSGIVING MIRACLE--(How NOT to mail that Christmas gift.)

My first mistake was that I was so eager to have Eleni and Emilio see the two wedding gifts I carried back from Greece for them that I decided to mail them to Miami from our home in North Grafton, MA.

They were two silver trays that I carried in my hand luggage.  One, about nine inches in diameter, was a sterling silver replica of a dish in the Benaki Museum in Athens, with medallions incised around the rim representing the twelve apostles. (The original was made in the mid 17th century in Transylvania.)

The other tray was ten inches square and had been engraved with  “E & E” (for Eleni and Emilio) and the date of their wedding—10.10.10.  It also had an inlaid  blue and white “mati” as protection against the Evil Eye   

So I found a box just the right size.  I wrapped the trays in bubble wrap and added a square cloth from Mexico embroidered with angels and the Virgin that I thought would look nice in their South Beach home.

But the box I found was a Tiffany box, so I wrapped it in brown paper so the name wouldn’t show.  That was my second mistake.

I went to our neighborhood post office where the employees are eager to help with packing, taping, sending—sort of the opposite of any Manhattan post office, where you get shunted from one line to another and generally feel you’re under suspicion.

I asked the postal clerk to put priority mail tape all around the box so it wouldn’t open, and I insured the package for $500.  That was mistake number three.

I had written Eleni and Emilio’s address on one of my husband’s adhesive package labels, which was printed with his return address.  That was the worst mistake of all.

So far I’ve sent about a zillion priority mail envelopes and packages to Miami and they inevitably get there within two days.  I mailed the box of trays on Saturday Oct. 23. Expected delivery date printed on the receipt  was  Monday, Oct. 25.  At the same time, I sent a priority envelope full of mail and clippings.

You guessed it—the envelope of clippings got there on Monday.  The package insured for $500 did not. 

I tried to track the mailing receipt number on line and failed, but my post master learned that the package had reached Nashua, New Hampshire, where all the priority mail goes to be flown out by FedEx planes.  Then it disappeared.

There ensued daily visits to the post office (mine and Eleni’s) to speculate about where it went. You have to wait for 14 days beyond expected delivery to fill out all the necessary forms and send them to the USPS Domestic Claims Center in St. Louis Mo.

I filled out and mailed forms (so did our postmaster Joe) and searched on line for a photo of the Apostles dish.  My heart sank when I learned that it costs 520 Euros.  That’s $700!  I had only insured the box for $500.  And this was the smaller of the two trays.

Eleni in South Beach and I in North Grafton pestered our post offices.  I learned that I should NEVER wrap a package in brown paper, because it can be ripped off by a machine.  All mail without an address ends up in a very large warehouse in Atlanta, GA., and no, you can’t get their phone number or e-mail address.  You have to go through channels.

Eleni got the phone number of a helpful Consumer Affairs representative named  Donna,  who quizzed me about the  trays and how they were wrapped.

Then there was nothing we could do but wait and hope.  (If an unaddressed package in Atlanta is not identified in three months, it’s disposed of.) We couldn’t nag Atlanta, so Eleni baked a cake for Saint Fanourios, who helps you find things. 

She had written the recipe for the cake in her 2006 travel memoir “North of Ithaka”, but in the book she called it a  “Get-Me-A-Man Cake.”  Now she had her man, but wanted her silver trays.

She had to say a prayer as she baked and then get 12 people to eat a piece of it.  Emilio took it to work with him. Everybody liked the cake.

Then, on Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, there was a call from Atlanta.  The trays had been found!   Should they send them to Miami?

No, we said, because the newlyweds were flying to Grafton for the holiday. And today, the day after Thanksgiving, the box came, with all sort of official stamps  and insurance labels. Under their brown paper was my original brown paper (from a Trader Joe’s bag).  The address label had come off.  It had arrived in Miami “w/o address”.

It left our house on October 23 and one month and three days later, thanks to Saint Fanourios  (and the USPS folks in Atlanta), the trays found their way back.  It was a Thanksgiving miracle!

Just so you won’t make the same mistakes I did, I’m spelling out what I learned about mailing valuables.

1.    1. Insure for the right amount.  Do research to find out.
2.   2. DO NOT wrap anything in brown paper.  Put the address directly on the box.
3.    3. If it’s an address label—put clear tape over it, so it can’t be torn off or obscured by  snow.
4.    4. ALWAYS put a copy of the address information—sender and recipient’s address—INSIDE the box.
5.    5. Make sure the flaps on the box cannot possibly come open.
6.    6. And whatever you do, don’t lose your postage receipts.
7.    7. Priority mail only gets scanned when it’s sent and when it’s delivered—if that.  Maybe you want to send it registered?

1 comment:

CJ said...

Good advice. One other thing I do is pay a few pennies more so you can track the package online. Hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday with your family.