7 On Your Side

7 On Your Side frees package from 'postal loop'

Friday, January 25, 2013

Anytime you put something in the mail, you know there's a slight chance it could get lost. One Bay Area man said his package wasn't exactly lost. It just got stuck in a netherworld known as a "postal loop" which can be pretty frustrating.

The problem started when computer coding said one thing and the handwritten address said something completely different. That's when the mail is sent into a kind of oblivion. It happened to this viewer's package and we helped set it free.

Roger Thoms of San Francisco likes taking pictures the old way, with his boxy Eastman camera from the 1930s, the kind you peer into with a hood over your head.

"You have a lot of resolution and you can make very nice prints," said Thoms.

However, he didn't have the right lens to take pictures from a distance. So when a collector back east offered one for $60, Thoms snapped it up.

"That began a long process of [this]," said Thoms.

Thoms laughed because of what happened after the seller mailed the lens in Massachusetts.

"Basically, it got stuck in the postal system and started going back and forth across the country," said Thoms.

Trouble began when a postal clerk put the wrong coding on the mailing label. It said the package was going to Boston. The handwritten address said it was going to San Francisco. So you can imagine the state of confusion that resulted.

"It got stuck in the loop and you know everything is automation these days," said James Wigdel from the U.S. Postal Service.

Wigdel says the package was trapped in an endless mailing loop. Every time it arrived in San Francisco, the post office scanned the barcode and sent it back to Boston.

Thom was tracking it online as it crisscrossed the country. It went from Boston to New Hampshire, out to San Francisco, then back to Boston again. It kept going in the same circle for nearly a month.

"You start to wonder how long is this going to go on. Is it ever going to stop?" said Thom.

Thoms contacted the postal service, but he says no one knew how to stop sending the box back to Boston.

"They said, 'Just wait. If it doesn't come back and get delivered after five days, give us a call back,'" said Thoms.

It didn't get delivered and the post office told him to wait some more. Instead he contacted 7 On Your Side.

"One of the concerns was this box was going to be a tattered mess with a beat up broken lens inside of it," said Thoms.

We contacted the postal service and folks there came up with a plan to rescue the box from the vicious cycle.

"They intercepted it in Nashua, and they said, 'Look, we've got the package and we're putting it on this flight as soon as it gets to San Francisco, grab it,'" said Wigdel.

Which they did. Thoms picked it up, opened the box, and found the long awaited traveling lens safely tucked inside.

"It was a happy ending, we found the package and it got delivered," said Wigdel.

"Oh, it was really exciting. I was very happy," said Thoms.

There is no guarantee a mistake won't happen when you mail a package, but the Postal Service says problems like this one are extremely rare.

The best route is to send your box by priority mail or other service that comes with a tracking code. That's how he could tell us what was going on and we could jump in and try to grab it.

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USPS, 7 on your side, michael finney
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