Friday I was faced with a dilemma I wasn’t expecting which brought me to question how my values differ from the rest of mainstream society. It got me thinking how you would have handled the situation.
Earlier this month I ordered a couple of books I couldn’t find locally either new or used or at the library and raw sunflower seeds which aren’t available here either. The expected date of delivery was Friday but when it didn’t arrive I checked the tracking information and found my package had been marked as delivered on Thursday.
I called the post office to see if they recalled the package arriving and if it was delivered. I was assured by my carrier, a woman I adore, that she in fact put it next to my door. Well, I didn’t have it. I was told to call the police as they have a good record of solving the situation in town when this happens. To make a long story shorter, after checking with a few of my neighbors I did in fact call the police.
The answer I received was to watch ebay and Craigslist as stolen merchandise usually ends up in one of those two places. But the next piece of advice shocked me. The officer told me to contact the post office and Amazon (where I purchased the items) and ask them to reimburse me for the missing package.
Here’s where my values were in conflict with the advice I received. Once Amazon fulfilled the order and was informed delivery was successful, I believe they were no longer responsible for the merchandise. Same would go for the post office. Once they set it by my door, assuming the package was intact and not damaged, they were no longer responsible for what happened to the package.
In the end, I decided to write a letter to post on the wall in both the laundry room and next to the mailboxes. It read as follows:
To the person who picked up the package sitting by the door of apartment (*)
You may not know me, so I’d like to offer you a bit of back ground. Being in a wheelchair I am unable to get out to purchase items I feel are needed for my well-being during the winter months. If you have my package, I would appreciate it being returned. I am sure you have opened the box by now and if you are willing to return the contents but noticed an item you would like for me to share with you and are comfortable meeting me face-to-face I would be happy to share the items with you. If not you are free to leave the box outside my door anonymously, with no further inquires on my part.
If you feel you need these items more than I do and choose not to return them there is nothing I can or will do about that, nor will I press charges should I learn who you are. If this is the case I hope you get as much enjoyment from them as I would have.
I was just about to post this letter when I received a call from the college student who lives above. He had just returned Sunday morning from a sporting event. He found a slip in his mailbox informing him he had a package waiting pick-up at the post office. But when he went upstairs to his apartment he found my package sitting at his door.
The entire thing was a simple error by the mail person who trying to stay on schedule had his apartment number in her head and left my package at the wrong door. I am relieved I waited two days to post the notice which basically accused one of my neighbors of theft.
While this had a happy ending, I find myself still reflecting on the advice I received to insist one of the parties involved in the shipment of my purchase cover my financial loss. Why do we feel it is okay to place blame on a blameless person or business? Had my box been stolen it would have been a result of a bad egg in society, not the two parties who successfully carried out their end of the transaction.
Here’s the other part which bothers me. The purchase didn’t strain my finances, it was a want more than a need, if I am being honest here. I made a special arrangement to have any deliveries left at my door rather than inconvenience another person in inclement weather to run an errand for me. The policy of the post office is not to leave packages in apartment buildings to prevent possible thefts. So had my package been stolen it was on me, no one else.