Hazards of Landlording-here’s one you never thought of

We’ve been offline for a couple of weeks, during which we experienced a lot of what all of you have- the cellphone outage. out-of-town visitors, more visitors, family reunions, and gaining five pounds from all the eating out. We’ll catch up little by little but I wanted to tell you first about a lesson learned re: the US Postal Service.  This lesson may save you some grief.

I have a 3 BR/2 BA house and for several years I have rented out the extra bedroom and bath.  On the same day that we had visitors from New Jersey,  one tenant moved out and another moved in.  Meanwhile my friend from LA , with whom I was planning a road trip to British Columbia, also showed up and realized he’d left his passport in LA. He got a friend to fetch his passport and mail it to my place using certified mail.  I use a PO box for 90% of my mail so I didn’t notice we weren’t getting any mail in the mailbox.

After a few days his passport hadn’t shown up so he accosted the mail carrier, who told him that he hadn’t delivered any mail to us for a few days because the house was vacant. Vacant!  Never mind the cars in the driveway and parked in front! Never mind the well-tended and watered planter box next to the mail box! Never mind that there were three adults and a dog living here the week this happened! Never mind that the house has not been vacant for even a day since I bought it in 1993! He thought the house was vacant.

Why?  Because he saw the forwarding order from the tenant who moved out and concluded that the house was empty. He apologized profusely for his error but by that time the passport had been sent to some kind of postal clearing house in Sacramento. We called the post office on Clark and they advised us to wait a few days. We did and nothing happened. To make a long story short, we went down there twice and enlisted the help of a supervisor named Eley,  The passport finally showed up this past Saturday, after being lost in the bowels of the USPS for almost three weeks. The stress on both of us was extreme.

The USPS is like any other organization- only as strong as its weakest link. Every supervisor we talked to at the USPS said the carrier “needed to be talked to”. How ’bout he should be retrained??  The lesson learned is that certified mail, which costs $3 and change, is useless.  If you have something valuable to send, send it REGISTERED which costs $12 but at least they can locate it. Registered mail is signed for at each stage of its journey, much tighter tracking.  I notice that Fed Ex has a small package option for $8.  I suspect that when Fed Ex loses something, they find it pretty quickly. Again, they have a signature for each transfer.

Next time, Fed Ex for sure. And folks, don’t bother with certified.  It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.  If you have any stories about lost mail and the USPS we’d love to hear them.


3 thoughts on “Hazards of Landlording-here’s one you never thought of

  1. The only late mail story I can think of happened a few years ago. A customer was behind in paying me to the tune of $300.00. I usually just send out postcards as bills but finally decided to actually send her an invoice, envelope and all. I even included a post paid, addressed return envelope.

    Figuring she’d have no excuse not to pay it at that point, I figured if I didn’t get payment by the end of the month, I’d cancel her account in good conscience. By the end of the month she hadn’t paid so cancelled she was.

    Two months later that letter was returned with a yellow sticker on it saying “Not at this address”. That couldn’t be true as I’d driven by her house and seen her dog still out front. I wondered if maybe she figured out some way to fool the post office and make me think she’d moved, but something seemed odd about that letter.

    I took the letter to work with me and ran into a mail carrier right away. I showed him the letter and asked him if he could think of a way someone might fool them into thinking they’d moved even if they hadn’t.

    He said he couldn’t and quickly pointed out the letter didn’t look as if it had even been delivered as there was no writing on it from the mail carrier (that’s why I thought it looked odd). Usually they make a note if it was undeliverable. He went on to say he thought it was likely flagged in the main distribution center using optical character recognition, thus the yellow sticker. Sounded right to me.

    I felt guilty at that point since she never got the letter, thus I couldn’t say she had more than enough warning. No hard feelings from her, though. Despite not having done her house in over three months, she never called to ask why. Didn’t really expect her to.

    • Ironically, FedEx delivered a wrong package to this address yesterday and I can’t get them to take it back! I called them, read them the tracking number and my address then they wanted me to stay on the line. I told them- again- to come get it and hung up. It’s still out there to day.I’ll make one more call then it goes in the trash.

  2. I’m pretty tolerant of the post office if only because nobody- and no organization- is perfect. I even had USPS help me out when I worked as Xmas help for UPS.

    Was trying to find a house on Pine Street. Kept walking back and forth totally frustrated. Finally a USPS mail carrier came along and I asked her if she knew where the address was. She said, “I don’t know, but we’re on California, not Pine Street. You might go one block over and look there”.


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