USPS mail processing & tracking broke down
By Sarah Vaughter. March 20, 2015.
Update March 25: New orders don't seem to be delayed, many older ones from Jan/Feb are still stuck. Some shipments arrived to our customers but their tracking status still shows: "Origin post is preparing shipment".
USPS delays for incoming itl. mail
There currently are incredible, absolutely gigantic, downright insane delays in the processing and delivery of incoming mail to the US from Europe, and it is becoming apparent that this is a deliberate (in)action of either USPS or US customs, because USPS actively hides the existence of the delays from the public and intentionally misrepresents the cause of these delays. It has now become "normal" for a package to sit for two entire months or longer in US customs or an USPS itl. sorting station before being scanned for import, and USPS pretends that the "Origin post is preparing shipment", with in large font "PRE-SHIPMENT" written next to it and a text below: "We have received notice that the originating post is preparing to dispatch this mail piece".
Three times the same lie. There is a very long Etsy seller thread on these delays with countless desperate European sellers facing US customers who do not believe USPS is to blame and or don't seem to care - they want refunds anyway. Smaller European vendors to the US have already gone bankrupt or had to take loans in order to be able to refund their seething American customers, which are - understandably - getting increasingly hostile towards our support staff and are now filing payment disputes and chargebacks. Every day, up to 40 US customers complain to us and we're constantly being called incompetent, dishonest etc. Many customers threaten to publish bad reviews. We export for almost a million dollars a year to the US, so this issue greatly damages our hard-earned reputation as an extremely fast shipper and it causes great frustration with our US customers. This situation will cause long-term damage to many businesses and there is nothing we can do except to cease selling to the United States, but that country constitutes 65% of our market so that's not an option. What can be done is warning American customers of these shamefully denied delays, which we do at every opportunity, including during the checkout process. Update March 25: We wrote "This is not an option" but we're now seriously considering limiting our sales to the US and have already started - we stopped selling our flagship product the Derminator to the US for the time being. We used to sell 150 a month to the US but we see no better course of action at this time. USPS must stop lying in their tracking status or at least make a public statement that delivery as well as tracking broke down for an enormous qty. of shipments.
Based on seven years of worldwide selling experience, we can authoritatively state that USPS has become by far the most unreliable and slowest postal service in the world for incoming mail from Europe. If the US did not represent so much of our turnover, we would not hesitate to permanently disable that country as a supported shipping destination, as we've done in the past with countries that have a much more reliable postal service than USPS but still were too unreliable for our standards. Other vendors too have suspended sales to the US:
Cause of USPS delays remains a mystery
Megan Brennan, Postmaster General.
Having tens of thousands or probably even hundreds of thousands of shipments from Europe sit for months in limbo (we have 300 shipments stuck at the time of writing!), without the slightest admission of any delays in the US can only be described as either a covered-up screwup or perhaps hacking attack of epic proportions. The USPS also has been under attack by the US Congress, that, presumably under pressure of private interests that want to privatise the USPS, legislated that USPS funds 75 years worth of pensions in a decade, which has forced USPS to close many sorting stations and reduce services. USPS may be cannibalising its itl. sorting stations in order to keep the domestic mail service going, to the detriment of itl. incoming mail. The ultimate goal could even be the intended privatisation of the USPS by corrupt officials. It seems that mainly sending countries in Central and Eastern Europe are affected. Mail from Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Bulgaria, Serbia, , Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Croatia, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic but also sometimes Austria, France and the UK simply is not arriving and can't be tracked. All kinds of possible reasons for these delays have been theorized: Hurricanes and snow storms. Strikes. Increased FEMA inspeactions. A North Korean hacking attack. Fundamental changes in ground handling routines causing a pileup of mail. A wave of Chinese packages after Chinese New Year. Covert trade sanctions on Europe to force TTIP negotiations and/or sanctions on Russia. Covert trade sanctions to persuade Americans to buy domestic and thus help balance the trade imbalance. Whatever the cause, it is sociopathically irresponsible to keep pretending these delays lie with the seller's postal service. Are you listening, Megan Brennan? Why does the USPS lie about the existence and cause of these outrageous ten, eleven and twelve-week delays, forcing a single mother in Estonia into debt so she can refund her angry American customers that ordered her homemade jewelry? We are not making this up - read the Etsy tread. And it's not just chargebacks (incl. $20 fine) for merchandise that will still arrive: It's also the negative reviews that will remain forever. These sellers are not just back to square one - they're out of business for good, unless they change their trading name. Those dispute-happy impatient/incredulous US customers will receive their delayed merchandise in the end, but experience taught us that only a fraction will then contact the seller and ask how they can re-pay. Some small sellers have already been forced out of business due to Mrs. Brennan's incompetence and lies. Skeptical customers ask us: "Why are shipments from China not delayed?". That's due to China Post's deal with USPS called the "ePacket service". It gives Chinese mail great priority over most other mail. We know that it really is USPS and not US customs causing the delays, because customs inquiries made clear that the shipments are not held by customs.
How to solve the USPS delays?
Yesterday, a customer of ours suggested we stop selling to the US. She said US-domestic delays of her mail from Europe was our responsibility. She also called us scammers who were trying to drive her into desperation. Many of our impatient American customers demand refunds for hundreds of dollars each, and threaten to report us to every organization imaginable that deals with business reputation or fraud and to drag us through the dirt on every forum that deals with health & beauty. Other American customers say they believe USPS' tracking status over our explanation. So we're under great pressure to solve this situation before Mrs. Brennan's USPS ruins us. We decided we will not (for now) stop selling to the United States. Instead, we display a red warning to US customers, warning them it can take two months for their orders to arrive and that USPS lies about the tracking status and denies any delays occur. We signed the online petition to ask USPS to stop lying about the tracking status. Suing USPS for damages, a class action suit on behalf of thousands of sellers to the US? Unlikely to succeed. USPS is sparse with information. To the British Royal mail they disclosed: "A change of Ground Handling Services for one of the airlines has caused a buildup of mail". That chaos started months ago and is still ongoing, according to the Royal Mail's website. USPS never is to blame. Another excuse of theirs is: "Due to Chinese New Year, we are deluged with parcels from China" (with which they have a priority-delivery agreement). Next time it will be a strike or a hurricane or stricter FEMA inspections. We do not think that the situation will ever significantly improve, at least not for long.
Refund policy for missing US-bound shipments
We refund non-US customers when a shipment has not arrived after three weeks. But since the USPS catastrophe, as per our T&C, US customers will only be refunded when one of the following conditions has been satisfied: (1) A postal inquiry yields a "package lost/missing/unknown" result. This usually takes longer than USPS needs to finally deliver the shipment. (2) We receive the shipment back, but not as a result of the customer refusing the shipment. (3) Twelve weeks have past from the date of sending and the order still hasn't arrived. If you do not agree to this policy, do not buy from us. We refund 25% of the purchase immediately when, after 20 days transit delay, a US customer writes a snail-mailed letter of protest to the Postmaster General:
Megan J. Brennan
111 Stonegate Drive
Canonsburg, Pennsylvania 15317
How we handle payment disputes for slow mail
We warn US customers everywhere on our site that extreme USPS delays can occur and we provide evidence that it's really USPS to blame, and that their tracking status really is incorrect. We tell them with bold red text that if they click on "proceed with order", they accept that shipments can be extremely delayed. When a customer decides they want to cause us grief and "cancel" the order when USPS messes up and pretends our postal service is delaying shipment: That's OK - we privately blacklist the customer and refund them and ask them to refuse the package so that it will be returned to us. If we receive the package damaged or if we never receive the package at all we ask the customer to pay us. If the customer declines, we publicly blacklist the customer as fraudulent. As to payment disputes about USPS-delayed shipments that a customer escalates to our payment processor or their bank: That's immediately treated by us as a crime, with immediate, serious consequences. Our T&C, to which customers have to agree with before they can order, spell out clearly how we respond to payment disputes we consider unjustified: We publicly blacklist the customer with all data we have available. Including their telephone number, email address, IP address as well as the details of the dispute. If they own or run a company, we'll mention that too, as a warning to other companies they do business with. Other vendors, also US-based ones, may use that public database to decline purchases from troublesome customers. Anyone who obtained a refund through a payment dispute who does not return the merchandise untouched plus refunds our cost of shipping will also be reported for mail fraud with the US Postal Inspection Service. The phenomenon of a credit card chargeback is unknown in Europe and considered fraud here and we treat it as such, with immediate and possibly irreversible consequences. As soon as such a customer threatens us with complaints to 3rd parties, we blacklist that customer publicly on our own site and on 3rd party sites. Sometimes we make a permanent web page about a particularly troublesome customer. We even temporarily expose heinous fraudsters/libelers on every page of our website, which gets millions of visitors per year. Blacklisting is usually permanent, irrespective of further threats or actions of the customer, even when the customer fully compensates us for their actions. We are very sorry about these delays but we are not responsible for them - the political party Americans voted into power is. If your orders are delayed, direct your frustration towards the perpetrator, not a fellow victim. We have a feeling that The Postmaster General's (Mrs. M. Brennan) phone number is unlisted, otherwise it would be a good idea to regularly call her and ask: "Where's my package?". To show that we really mean it well, we offer a 25% refund to our US customers affected by these delays when they snail-mail a complaint to the Postmaster General (Megan Brennan), politely asking her to stop lying and suggesting she may want to get her ass into gear. That's a $50 refund for a delayed Derminator, for example, to soften the pain of having to wait for it to finally arrive. A delay over 20 days qualifies, because when everything goes as it should, shipment takes only ten days, on average. We feel we are justified in these terms because we are very honest and very quick and fair with refunds and replacements. But we are not prepared to take a bullet for USPS.
Update: While USPS still uses weasel words and strongly suggests we are to blame for their three-month delays, they finally admitted that there were several domestic issues that caused delays: