Thursday, February 23, 2006

Goin' Postal

I felt like this when we got the letter from the U.S. Postal Service. I'm not sure how Lynné felt, but it couldn't have involved smiles.

Try to follow these events carefully, and see if you can come to any other conclusion than the one we figured: the Sleimans in Washington getting screwed by the Post Office.

Lynné hand-knit a wedding shawl from her own hand-spun thread. I would post the picture, but I can't get a digital version of it. Trust me, it's beautiful. More than that, it represented over three months of work. Not just any three months, mind you. Lynné was pregnant(with morning sickness) during the move to 922 York Avenue, #2... and this shawl was her work in the spare and off-time (between bouts of sickness). It was intended for one of my best friends in Texas, Jessica Cleckley; specifically, for her wedding. Even more specifically, a wedding we wouldn't be able to go to since it was scheduled on a day too close to LilyAnne's due date. This shawl was a little bit of us, our hearts (and Lynné's own sweat) to be on our friend's special day.

In August '04, to make sure it arrives in time for Jessica's dress fitting, Lynné mails the wedding shawl. We don't figure there's much hurry, but we are very anxious that it arrives. We make sure it is sent by "delivery confirmation." I can remember Lynné wondering aloud (worrying aloud, that is), "What if it does get lost in the mail?" That's why we insured it for $300 dollars. After all, even if it does get lost... we'll get the claim money. Isn't that what everyone thinks when they purchase US Postal Insurance?

By late August of '04, the tracking number for the wedding shawl, via an Internet site, indicates that the package has arrived. Oddly enough, there's no signature box. Yet, when we talk to Jessica on the phone, she says no shawl has arrived. We have her investigate while we investigate our end. Our side turns up nothing, except a form for claiming a lost item. Jessica's side brings up the most fruitful (and condemning to the Postal Service) information. That is, her regular postal employee was out sick... that there is no signature for an item requiring a signature... that the shawl, package and all, is nowhere they can find.

One baby and one wedding later, Jessica Locklear sends the Sleimans a letter saying she didn't receive it. Here is an exerpt from her letter.
"I cannot describe the value my husband and I place on that gift [the wedding shawl]. Not only is the piece worth a great deal due to the fact that it was entirely handmade, but there is also the sentimental value. It was made specifically for my wedding gift, to wear on my wedding day. .... And more than any other item I wore or carried on my wedding day, the shawl was to me going to be the biggest heirloom of all to pass down to my daughters, and granddaughters for their wedding days. Now, not only has my wedding passed, but it also seems we will never see the shawl again."
Pretty scathing, isn't it?
Lynné and I put together the package to give to the Post Office Claims desk. We thought that since the shawl didn't arrive, we hoped to use the insurance money to buy her something that we know she would really like (such as a spinning wheel). Just so that you all know, you cannot turn in this form to just any post office. In each city, there is one claims office. We wait in line, hand over the picture of the shawl, the letter, and our hopes for the claim. No one in this office really wants to conduct the business we're doing. We, after all, would have much rather preferred to have the shawl arrive. They, we guess, never really want to pay up the insurance they sell. We ask the lady as we hand her the forms, "Do you think it'll work out?"
"I don't know," she replies. "It's kind of questionable."
Final event. Today. The arrival of a check from the United States' Postal Service. We did not get the Insurance Coverage of $300. We did not get the cost of insurance, $4.20. Instead, we received the cost of postage, $1.09. This face says it all.

We are pretty frustrated. Jessica Locklear, the newlywed, suggested I take the Postal Service to court. After all, what case can they make? They accepted the $300 risk of loss, they lost the shawl, they refused to pay.
But, here we delve into some paranoia of Youssef's mind, what are the chances of actually winning? And if we win, what will the government pay? Only $300 to me, and my lawyer's fees? Will there be a precedent set--that all postal services must make good on their insurance claims--or will a different precedent be set, that the government can do whatever it wants because its bigger, stronger. Think about that draconian picture... and think of the weaker man's reply, "There must be some other recourse. Let's use FedEx or UPS from now on." If the postal service can bully us around, pickpocketing anyone who is dupe enough to pay for insurance, why can't we bully them around? I feel like the little nerd who, after so many pushes, has finally thought of pushing back. So what if Bruno, the 8th grader who shaves, breaks my nose, humiliates me in front of the class? Despite my pain, I've unmasked his tyranny before the other students. So what if this government appendage escapes on a technicality, that they didn't say they would pay the 300... that 300 was only a limit to the value of the item... that 1.09 was all their underwriters could find in their frigid hearts to give to the honest request? Despite our pain, we've unmasked their tyranny before the other citizens.
Together, we can put the USPS out in the cold where it has left so many of us.

I have been able to digitize a picture of the shawl. Enjoy.

No comments: