My recently new energy efficient refrigerator requires that I change the water filters about three times a year. I order the filters online and there has never been a problem until this summer. The yellow light appeared — the notice that replacement filters were needed — early in July. I dutifully placed an order for three replacements. But never received them. I contacted the outfit which takes and fills orders. They gave me the tracking number which showed the filters had been delivered on July 25 by U.S. mail.
The next morning I arrived at my local post office at 8 a.m. only to find that it did not open until 8:30. Luckily I had a copy of the Daily Journal to read while waiting. Once the doors opened I spoke to the clerk behind the counter but had to wait for someone higher up. A very nice woman, whom I guess handles problems like this, said their records showed the filters had been delivered on the 25th and she would check with the carrier and call me.
She never called, so I returned to the post office the next morning. I was told my regular carrier wasn’t on duty on Monday, July 25 and that her substitute was away. But someone would call. No one did. By now the light on the refrigerator had turned red, which means definitely replace filters. I was getting a little panicky. I put a note on our mail box asking the carrier to please ring the bell because I had a question about a missing parcel. All day I looked for the carrier. But no luck. Later that evening, we found the mail in our box. The carrier, whomever it was that day, lifted up my note and deposited our letters and magazines and spam mail in the slot. No one wanted to claim responsibility for the missing filters.
Finally several days later I saw our regular carrier coming up the hill. I waited for her to emerge from her mail truck to ask her about the filters. She said they were delivered by mistake to the neighbors across the street. But why hadn’t the neighbors returned the parcel to us? It was a sizeable box, not easily missed. These neighbors are new to our block so perhaps they did not recognize the name. But the address was the right one. So I went across the street to inquire. The neighbors said the filters had arrived but since they also order filters from the same company they never bothered to look at the address, assumed it was theirs and brought them to some apartments they rent out in San Francisco. The neighbors offered to get them back or pay for new filters but by then I had already ordered another set.
They arrived by United Parcel Service.
I feel sorry for the post office and this isn’t an attack on them. I always use the postal service to mail packages and nothing has ever been lost or not delivered properly. The main post office in San Mateo has a big sign announcing “We Are Hiring.” I don’t know about the pay or the hours but we all know the post office is in financial trouble and does not get the financial support it needs to deliver six days a week in rain, snow, sleet, et al. Sometimes we don’t get our mail until after 8 p.m. It seems some of the carriers are on a late shift. Meanwhile, the public gets mad when the post office tries to become more efficient and cuts back on offices and hours.
The other problem is people not looking at their mail carefully. We often receive mail for other people and we get it to them right away. This case was a unique situation and our new neighbors could not have been nicer once the mistake was discovered. The case of the missing filters was finally solved. The new filters are in. The lights are back to blue and I don’t have to go through this again for another year.
Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs in the Monday edition. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.